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Detroit Lakes graduate Jayne Jones, left, and her friend Alicia Long co-wrote 'Capitol Hell.' Submitted Photo

DL grad takes humorous look at life in D.C.

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Though she may not be able to officially call herself a Detroit Lakes "native" -- she was born in Anoka, Minn., and spent some of her early childhood years in Bemidji and Brainerd -- Jayne Jones definitely still considers the community as her hometown.

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And the 1992 Detroit Lakes High School graduate will be making a special return visit to that hometown this Wednesday, Sept. 5 -- to sign copies of her new book, "Capitol Hell."

Jones and the book's co-author, South Dakota native Alicia Long, will be at Book World on Washington Avenue from 10 to 11 a.m. to sign copies of their debut novel, which takes a humorous look at the life of a Congressional staffer on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Both Jones and Long were working on the election campaign of future U.S. Senator Norm Coleman when they met in 2001, while Coleman was in the final months of his term as mayor of the city of St. Paul.

Their connection was immediate, Jones said. "We've become best friends. Norm's very first campaign slogan was 'Bringing people together to get things done,' and we always laugh that he actually brought two people together."

Long and Jones both eventually ended up working in Coleman's office in Washington, D.C. -- and it's their experiences, as well as those of their fellow Capitol Hill staffers, that form the basis of the novel "Capitol Hell."

"We were sitting on a couch in my St. Paul condo," Jones said of the genesis of "Capitol Hell."

"We always reminisce about all the staffers' stories, and we always end up in laughter. Four years ago, on that couch, we decided we were going to write it all down," she said.

"Alicia wrote the first chapter, I wrote the second, and we just piggybacked on each other that way for the entire book," she said. "We had no outline, and no notes, and we never talked about where the story was going... it took four years to write it."

Though "a good girl never kisses and tells," Jones did acknowledge that many of the stories in "Capitol Hell" were drawn from personal experience -- both hers and Long's.

"But there's a lot of embellishment, and some things we've completely made up," she said.

Also, not all of the stories are theirs.

"We have a lot of friends on Capitol Hill, and they've told us different stories over the years," she said.

So the fictional tale of best friends Allison and Janet -- who, oddly enough, hail from small towns in South Dakota and Minnesota, respectively -- is a conglomeration of all those stories rather than a simple retelling of their own personal histories on the Hill.

But because "we both love Minnesota so much," Jones said that she and Long decided to make it the home state of the fictional Senator McDermott, whose presidential election campaign Allison and Janet become embroiled in during their time on his staff.

"McDermott decides to run for President after his first year in the Senate," Jones said, explaining the plot of the novel. "He does a campaign swing through Minnesota, riding on a Zamboni, and they stop at Janet's house in Detroit Lakes -- where her mom makes venison tater tot hotdish for the senator."

As a tie-in to the book's plot, Jones and Long decided that their first publicity tour for "Capitol Hell" -- which will be officially released this Tuesday, Sept. 4 -- would make the same stops as Senator McDermott's fictional campaign tour.

"We'll go from Rochester (Minn.) to Albert Lea, Willmar, Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, Park Rapids, Grand Rapids and Duluth," she said.

The book tour will eventually end up in the Twin Cities, where the duo has planned a book signing at Garrison Keillor's bookstore, as well as an official St. Paul book launch party, on Thursday, Sept. 7.

On Friday, they will head to South Dakota for a lengthy run of press and television interviews, before heading to Wisconsin and eventually, New York and Washington, D.C., where a second book launch party is planned.

For more information, visit the book's official website, capitolhellbook.com.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

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