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Sweet Potato Queen talks about her first novel

On her latest book tour, Jill Conner Browne, known as the Sweet Potato Queen, is traveling in her own decked-out bus.

"I'm really excited about it," Browne said during a recent phone interview. "It can only be different. It can't be any worse than regular book tour."

Browne, who is the author of several guides to the Sweet Potato Queen way of life, travels often to meet with her fans. For this tour, she wanted to avoid airports and hotels.

"I'm just completely over hotels and restaurant food," Browne said.

Instead, she plans to cook in the kitchen on the bus, which also has two bathrooms and a bed that Browne describes as "very comfy."

"You have to see this bus," Browne said.

On the tour, the bus will be parked outside wherever she happens to be signing books. On Monday, Browne will visit a Barnes and Noble in Alpharetta. On Tuesday, she'll discuss her work at Georgia Perimeter College in Clarkston.

Her latest book is "The Sweet Potato Queen's First Big-A-- Novel: Stuff We Didn't Actually Do, But Could Have, and May Yet" ($22.95, Simon and Schuster). The book was co-written with Georgia author Karin Gillespie.

"The Big A-- Novel" is Browne's first work of fiction. Her other books include "The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love" ($13.95, Three Rivers Press) and "The Sweet Potato Queens' Big A-- Cookbook" ($13.95, Three Rivers Press).

Browne began working on the book after being encouraged by her agent. "She had the idea and nagged me about it," Browne said.

Though the book's title character is named Jill and she starts a group called the Sweet Potato Queens, that's where similarities end, Browne said.

"Everything is made up," Browne said.

The book follows Jill and her best friends from high school through adulthood, as they help each other with problems large and small.

In the book, the Queens make a float for the St. Patrick's Day parade in Jackson, Miss. The parade, held in Browne's hometown, is one of the few things in the book that is most certainly real. In fact, Browne's book tour is scheduled around it.

"We have to come back to get ready for St. Patrick's Day," Browne said.

She issued an open invitation for fans and readers to come to Jackson on March 17 - not only to see the parade, but also to participate in it.

"Ours is a people's parade," Browne said. "It's the only one that anybody can be in."

While visiting Atlanta, Browne wants to see a mini-parade here. She's hoping that the Seed & Feed Marching Abominable, a volunteer marching band that puts on spectacular and often spontaneous shows, will play at one of her book signings.

The volunteer marching band showed up unexpectedly to Browne's first Atlanta book signing and she's loved them ever since. One year, she even paid them to travel to Jackson for the annual St. Patrick's Day parade.

"I just adore them," Browne said.

If you go

•What: Jill Conner Browne, author of "The Sweet Potato Queens' First Big-A-- Novel," will discuss and sign her work.

•When: 7 p.m. Monday

•Where: Barnes and Noble at Mansell Crossing, 7660 Northpoint Parkway in Alpharetta

•Cost: Admission is free.

•Info: Call 770-993-8340.

•When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

•Where: Jim Cherry Lecture Hall at Georgia Perimeter College, 555 N. Indian Creek Drive in Clarkston.

•Cost: Admission is free.

•Info: Call 404-370-8450, ext. 2246 or visit www.georgiacenterforthebook.org.