I've always been curious to see what it would be like working on Capitol Hill. Maybe it's because I'm a TV junkie when it comes to shows like "Veep" or "Scandal," but a little insider knowledge is always a treat.
So of course I had to take a peek when I came across a book entitled Capitol Hell by former Congressional staffers and friends Alicia Long and Jayne Jones (who seemed to have fictional counterparts in the novel). They detail the lives of the young, underpaid staffers who work round the clock (and watch budgets go towards hair and make-up teams for the Senator's wife, but definitely not towards their salaries), who suffer an often thankless and demanding job. Think The Devil Wears Prada, but in the political world of D.C. And of course, there's a little interoffice romance as well.
I was lucky to sit down with them and ask them a few questions about life on The Hill. Here's what they had to say:
Q: The details in the book of working on the Hill are really engaging - how many of these stories did you pull from your real lives?
Jayne: So thrilled you found the adventures of Allison and Janet engaging! You know a good girl never kisses and tells, right? That's the fun part of Capitol Hell - trying to figure out who happened and what we made up. The book is based on our own stories, some we have twisted a bit and many others from different congressional hill staffers.
Alicia: A lot of the book is pulled directly from either our own experiences or from stories told to us by other Hill staffers. Part of the fun of the book is to read it to see if you recognize any character traits and to try and figure out what you think is true, what is embellished, and what is completely made up!
How did you decide to collaborate on the book together? Was it difficult to mesh styles?
Jayne: We met while working on a Senate campaign and became fast friends. We had to share a desk! We share the same morals and sense of humor. We both were remembering our stories one night and decided it was time to put fingers to laptop. Alicia took a stab at chapter one and emailed it to me. I gushed over it and added some sparkle and dazzle. I sent her back chapter 2 and we piggybacked that way till [spoiler alert] Senator McDermott wins the Iowa Straw Poll! I like to joke that we not only shared a desk, but now we share a brain! Alicia finishes my sentences and jokes. We do however have completely different styles, (as in fashion).
Alicia: We get asked this a lot, and love this question. After we left the Hill, we would always tell stories about how crazy our time on the Hill was. After hearing about all of the madness, people would tell us we should write a book. Finally, I was on winter break from law school, and decided to take a shot at it. I wrote the first chapter, sent it to Jayne, she added her take on things, and we were off! We literally took turns writing each chapter, sending them back and forth, and surprisingly, it was pretty easy to mesh styles. Jayne and I have known each other for over ten years. We've worked, together, we've lived together, and we've become like sisters. So taking on this feat was a fun new challenge.
Did you ever have an office crush like your main character Allison? If so, how did you handle it?
Jayne: Oh, Lord, I did have a crush on a politician like Janet does. I didn't handle it very well! Live and learn, right? I guess it is true you kiss a lotta toads until you find the prince. Say, do you have any mouthwash?
Alicia: I think we've all had office crushes. I know I've had one or two in my time. Sometimes, when you have tough working environment, your office crush is the only thing that keeps you going into the office everyday!! I can't say I have ever really "acted" on an office crush. But, I have definitely enjoyed the flirtation that comes along with it, including the coffee breaks, the lunches, and of course the little office pranks like changing your crush's screen saver on their work computer to something silly! (PG-13 of course. After all you are in the office!)
Since I write a dating column, I have to ask about your dating experiences in D.C. Did the high pressure of your jobs make it hard to meet people? Did you have a hard time forming relationships like we experience here in fast-paced L.A.?
Jayne: Ugh, I messed around online a lot. But, really congressional staffers are buried up to their eyeballs in work and meeting the high demands of the Senator and his family. I didn't really venture off the Hill, I learned to love the file cabinet. I also really enjoyed a dose of reality TV more than meeting new people. Sad, but true. Lessons learned.
Alicia: I think DC is actually one of the EASIEST cities to meet people in. Most people aren't from here, so they are always looking to make new friends, not to mention it is a city full of social climbers and networkers. There literally are about 100 happy hours, social gatherings, or events to choose from on any given night. That being said... It is a city full of social climbers and networkers, so it can be tough to find someone you WANT to date. So, in that respect, I think it can be hard to form long-lasting relationships. But, then again, I might just be picky.