Interview by Jim Testa
Usually, Jersey Beat reviews music books, but we do make exceptions. Jon D'Amore used to be a musician, so there's that; but more importantly, he and I were classmates at Weehawken High School. Jon's first book, a memoir entitled The Boss Always Sits In The Back, took a comic look at his brush with the Mob (he had a cousin who was "connected") and I've been a fan ever since. Me & George, Jon's sixth novel, combines science fiction with American history in a way that's both entertaining and unique. I enjoyed it; you will too. Now a longtime Californian (but still a Jersey guy at heart,) Jon took the time to answer a few questions from his former classmate. (Editor's Note: I got better grades, Jon got all the girls.)
Q: Your Foreword sets out that the idea for this book dates back long before you decided to pursue writing and that it took decades for it to germinate into a novel. What was the precipitating event?
Jon: I was still a musician when the idea for Me & George came about. Because I had written for the Herald News as a music and concert critic/reviewer, I obviously had the ability to write. Besides, when a story like Me & George is within someone, regardless of how long it takes to be put on paper or in a computer file, the potential author should be able to convey the premise and make it entertaining. To me, thatís primary. I had written sporadic chapters of Me & George over the decades. After I released Rubdown in December, 2020, and knowing the pandemic would prevent me for getting on the road in 2021 to promote it, I knew I wanted to write another book, plus, my fan base expected one, so I opened up Me & George and dedicated my time to completing it.
Q: Although the book technically qualifies as science fiction, since it involves time travel, you don't spend a great deal of time on the ďscience.Ē In fact, it's probably as much a historical novel, although it's not really that either. When you were writing the novel, who did you see as its target audience?
I donít write for a target audience. Thatís why no two of my books are of the same genre, though each has been well received. My goal has always been, and I expect it always will be, to write stories that will entertain the reader regardless of the genre they may enjoy reading. Period. I enjoy coming up with these premises and then I fill them with interesting back stories, plots, subplots and above all, humor. As for Me & George, those who will enjoy it most are those who appreciate American history, but then there is also the science fiction aspect thatís briefly touched on, too. The reviews are saying that those who enjoy either topic will find Me & George very entertaining.
Q: There's quite a bit of interesting history in the book about things that most of us never learned in grade school. Is everything we read here about the 1700's factual? How much research was involved?
Nearly everything regarding the 18th Century thatís in Me & George is factual. I spent as much time researching the era and the people mentioned as I did writing the actual text for the book, and I had as much fun and enjoyment with this story as I had with any of my other books. As any good author would do, I took some literary license on a couple of things to make the story more believable and enjoyable, but I certainly didnít stray far from the truth or the facts.
Q: On the same note, you've written books about mobsters, zombies, vigilantes, the advertising world, prostitution, and now George Washington (and time travel.) I know that some of your books are based on your own life experiences, but is research usually an element too?
Research is ALWAYS a major factor with my stories and within my writing. Even in my memoir, The Boss Always Sits In The Back, though I lived every minute of it, I needed to research the background of the primary characters, the laws and rules about gambling, the history of Las Vegas and its New Jersey and New York mob affiliations. I even had to research members of my own family that came from Italy at the turn of the 20th Century. As for my other books, an extensive amount of research needed to take place to know and write about each subject within those stories: the locations, weather, food, the list is endless. A good writer should be more knowledgeable about the subject they write about after they finish their story. Iíve personally learned a lot regarding the subjects I wrote about in each of my six books.
Q: I've been a writer my entire life and I've never been able to sit down and start on a book. I'd love to hear about your work process. The author in this novel (when he finally gets around to it!) sits down and writes for several hours a day the way many people experience going to work. Do you treat writing as your job when you're working on a book, or do you write in streaks when inspiration hits?
Dedication to yourself, to the story you want to write and to the unknown audience you want to entertain with your words, that is the premise I use when I sit down each day to write. Driving myself to achieve a goal has always been one of my strongest objectives. Whether if it was as a musician, a corporate executive, a script doctor or an author, my goal has always been to provide the most professional product to the masses. That way, it will never come back to bite you, plus youíll earn the appreciation and respect from the readers who valued what youíve done for them in some fashion.
As for me, I start my writing process every morning with a cup or two of coffee, and music that goes from The Beatles to Mozart to Frank Zappa and everything in between. To date, I have a ďWriting MusicĒ library of 2,829 songs chosen to inspire and motivate me as I create and write.
Since I love what I do, I never see it as ďa job.Ē My dedication and discipline to the process of writing a book is what makes it all worthwhile. I never let a day go by, unless itís for a damn good reason, that I donít get at least four hours in front of the screen to write, or to edit printed chapters by what I call ďpaper edits.Ē
The best advice I can give anyone who truly wants to write is to not think about writing in a linear fashion. Thanks to computers, one can write via their ďstream of consciousness.Ē Thereís no rule that says the writer needs to start with Chapter 1, followed by Chapter 2, then 3, etc. Just to get the story, or stories, out from within you. Write whatís in your head at that moment and get it out. There is no rule that says you canít write Chapter 7 on Monday, Chapter 9 on Tuesday, and Chapter 2 on Wednesday, etc. The story doesnít need to be fully assembled until the writer is ready to make that happen.
Of course, what works for me may not work for everyone. But if one wants to write their story, they just need the knowledge of the storyís beginning and the end, plus the dedication and discipline to make everything between the beginning and end make sense, tell an interesting story, and above all, write to entertain the reader.
Q: Your writing style is very descriptive, almost visual. Your fiction often resembles screenplays for movies or television. Is that a deliberate choice, the result of previous experience, or simply the style you developed naturally?
Thatís a great and interesting question. For me, itís a combination of each of those possibilities. Itís a deliberate choice because thatís how I would personally enjoy reading a story. As for it being based on my previous experiences as a screenwriter and script doctor, Iíd give it a 50/50 split. I think my visual style from writing helped my ability to write screenplays, and what I learned as a script doctor help me become even more visual in writing my manuscripts. Because of all of that, I certainly developed my own style. One of the recurring comments and compliments I hear is how the readers feel theyíre right in the midst of the location or the situation being detailed on the page as they read. That alone is a wonderful compliment.
Q: Given the eclectic nature of your books, I'm curious about what you like to read. Who are some of your favorite authors or genres of books, and are there any writers you consider influences or mentors?
I have no favorite authors. When I read a book, itís usually a biography of a person or group of people that Iím interested in knowing more about. I prefer magazines. Specifically, I prefer to read magazines on subjects that interest me, such as history, science, archeology, music, and especially articles about what makes humans act as insane as they do when they assemble in large numbers.
I truly and openly claim that I was never influenced by any author, and Iíve always detested the word ďmentor.Ē A person can help another without such a title.
When I started writing, I sought knowledge, information and guidance from those I respect, and who knew much more than I did. I never saw them as ďmentors,Ē nor did they desire to be considered as one. In the past 10 years Iíve helped at least two dozen authors bring their stories to life. I was there for them from the first word to having the final product printed and published, and the most I would ever consider myself, or would want to be references as was simply, ďSomeone who cared enough to help someone who needed it.Ē
Q: And the inevitable final question: Are you working on the next book? And can you share what it will be about?
Yes, Iím already ten chapters into my next book, which is an all-out sci-fi story that takes place during 2024. Letís just say that when help comes from afar, the religious leaders of Earth realize their eons-long scam is about to come to an end, and it doesnít turn out well for our planet. Iím hoping to have it ready for release by November or December.
Q: Where can people find your books and what else do you have in the pipeline?
My six print and e-books can be purchased via my website, www.jondamore.com, where Discounted Combo Packs are available, and all print books come autographed. Unsigned books are available through Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com. On Friday, March 4, I begin a ZOOM JON-A-THON! On Friday, March 4th, Iíll be reading Me & George at 7:00PM (ET), Rubdown at 8:00PM (ET), and As Long As I Hve Lips at 9:00PM (ET). On Saturday, March 5th, Iíll be reading The Delivery Man at 4:00PM (ET), Deadfellas at 5:00PM (ET) and The Boss Always Sits In The Back at 7:00PM (ET). The Zoom link for all readings is here www.zoom.us/j/93089679153, and the password is 1234.