Newly minted author Michael Middlechurch uses the everyday drama of doing Congress' bidding to propel the trio at the heart of his Hill-centric novel, "The Buddy System," into the nightmarish side of politics.
The former House page handler told HOH he began writing his debut novel the day after the longstanding educational program was shuttered in 2011, weaving together the stories he’d so eagerly collected from participating high schoolers with a story arc developed for his own edification.
"I wanted to create a fictionalized account for why it ended," Middlechurch explained, noting that he and many of the other instructors were left unsatisfied with the party line about budget constraints and modern conveniences rendering the program useless.
"The Buddy System," the first book of a planned trilogy, was designed to delve into a "deeper reason that is more intriguing." The main story line focuses on a trio of congressional pages and what they do in their off hours — "I created this apartment in Dupont Circle where they party and have a good time when they’re not in school," Middlechurch shared — which, naturally, leads to a series of misadventures. (Paging Florida Republican Trey Radel!)
Although the novel is clearly fiction, Middlechurch said many of the characters and situations are rooted in reality.
To wit, he suggested that some former co-workers have taken to trying to connect the dots between players in the novel and actual Hill colleagues. "The novel is very, very close to what actually took place," Middlechurch said. "Of course, I embellished heavily."
He said he’s heard from a few page program alumni who were bowled over by his insider knowledge ("Oh my goodness, how did you know?"), while another was saddened that the story focused on scandal (imagined or otherwise) rather than casting the now-defunct program in a better light.
Still, he’s excited to have Hill types pick it apart.
"It’ll be interesting to see what happens when it gets in the hands of people who can be truly critical of it," Middlechurch said.
He said he is planning to release the next book, tentatively titled "Morning Hours," around August 2014.