"I'm the fifth Hush McGillen named after the Sweet Hush apple, but the only one who has thrown a rotten Sweet Hush at the First Lady of these United States."
As soon as I wrote that opening line, I knew that Sweet Hush was going to be a fun book. Novels tend to take on a unique personality during the writing process, and the best ones "talk" to the author, but rarely does a story start giggling on the very first page.
It was a natural set-up for a rambunctious tale: A Georgia apple farmer, Hush McGillen, finds herself in comic battle with her new in-laws -- who happen to be the President and First Lady. A lot of readers have asked me who my models were for the First Couple -- interestingly, most readers guess wrong. So here's the scoop: President Al Jacobs is a cross between Al Gore and Martin Sheen. First Lady Edwina Jacobs is a cross between Hillary Clinton and a Tasmanian Devil.
Once I had those images firmly set in my mind, all I had to do was turn Al and Edwina loose in Hush McGillen's arena. Hush was more than a match for Mr. and Mrs. Leader Of The Free World. Picture a wry, drawling redhead who survived a turbulent marriage, got her beloved son into Harvard, built a small business empire on the fame of her family's "antique" apple variety, and has successfully hidden some unhappy secrets about that afore-mentioned marriage. Until now.
On top of that mix I added an unlikely romance between Hush and the President's nephew, an ex-Green Beret with some controversial baggage of his own. Lt. Colonel Nick Jakobek was such a wonderful character -- and such a great match for Hush -- that this year I decided to follow up Sweet Hush with a short story about Nick and Hush's White House wedding.
You'll find that story only in the Sweet Hush paperback edition. I wrote it during the height of the war in Iraq, so it was interesting to send Nick to the Middle East on an emergency mission that could have come straight out of the nightly news.
The new short story isn't the only bonus that fans of Sweet Hush can expect. Readers should be sure to check out Hush's "diary" on my website, DeborahSmith.com. Hush will be telling more great stories and anecdotes about life among the White House crowd, including visits from celebrities in the President's circle of supporters. I expect those celebrities will include Stone Senterra, the world's biggest action-adventure movie star.
Stone is one of the most pompous, outrageous, hilarious characters I've ever written. He has a featured part in my new novel, Charming Grace (Little, Brown & Company, February.) I can imagine Stone having the same aggravating effect on Hush that he has on Grace Vance, who's determined to stop his film about her late-husband's life.
In fact, Grace has so much to say about her fight with the ultimate Hollywood He-Man (picture a New Jersey born Arnold Schwarzenegger) that, like Hush, she'll also be talking to readers via a diary on my website. There was so much potential for wonderful squabbles in Charming Grace that I couldn't include even half my ideas in the book; so now, Grace will get to tell the rest of the story.
On a different note, those of you who have written me to ask about a sequel to my 2002 Warner I-Publish e-book, Alice At Heart, will be happy to hear that I'm writing the sequel this year, and the title will be Diary Of A Radical Mermaid. Check my website this spring for the publishing details.If you're ever in the vicinity of Dahlonega, Georgia, my mountain hometown - near the apple country featured in Sweet Hush and the real-life setting for Charming Grace - stop by the Dahlonega Antique and Collectibles Mall on Main Street, just off the square. I rent a tiny booth there, where I sell autographed copies of all my books. The profits go to the local humane society, a cause which is near and dear to my heart, since I live with a houseful of adopted cats and dogs who began their lives as abandoned animals.