NJ DISCOVER SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: An Illuminating Afternoon with Author Jon D’Amore; NJ Roots, National Reach and Down to Earth. October 8th 2018 By Calvin Schwartz
Customarily, I like to start off with the etiology of an interview; how things evolved, how I met Jon, mechanics, sharing authoring stories as I too began as a novelist; therefore, extant commonality. Four years ago, just before Halloween, Jon was on a national book tour for his memoir, The Boss Always in the Back, which landed him in Metuchen. Jon, the consummate, energized, writer, promoter, public relations guru, knew of my work at NJ Discover. Suddenly, I was in Metuchen, a local book store, attending his book reading, captivated with his words and storytelling. End result; friends and admiration for his work ethic, determination, passion for being an author (which is a hard rain in this crazy world). But he does it so well.
Scene Two. My kitchen table. Jon tours two months of the year (having just self-published his third novel, The Delivery Man). I asked why he tours so much. “If you’re going to self-publish, you’ve got to do it right. You have to be everything. The warehouse, the distributor, the accountant, the booking agent, be an agent, make hotel reservations…. You’ve got to do it all. That includes finding a company to professionally format your manuscript fir print and e-books, and an artist for the front and back covers and the ever-important spine. Then four to five months before the book is published, you need to start booking the tour to properly promote your product. I travel across the country in the most time and cost-effective way by filling my trunk and car with books and clothes for seven to eight weeks.”
After ‘The Boss’ was published, Jon recalled how hard it all was. “The first year, very few bookstores would have me. Some wouldn’t take my calls because I was unknown and self-published. By the second year for the same book, I had accumulated press clippings and links to radio show and TV appearances, so suddenly many people who had previously passed on me were now happy to book me.” He wrote ‘The Boss Always Sits in the Back’ in 2001, then it sat in his computer for a decade.
Born in Union City, he lived there 12 years, moved to Secaucus for another 10 years. From 18 to 23, he played the Jersey shore scene in garage bands, then worked as a session musician. The Rip Tide in Point Pleasant was one of his favorite places to perform.
Jon’s life’s travel took him to Los Angeles where he became a script doctor which he described as being an editor with no film credits. “But I got paid….and that was a reward in itself. Then in 2011, people pushed me to self-publish ‘The Boss.’ That’s when I took a year off to immerse myself in self-publishing. What I learned is that there is only one person to depend on during this process. Me.”
When the first 2000 hard cover books of ‘The Boss’ were delivered, he climbed on top of the pallet and opened a box. “It was such a great feeling to hold my own published book and find there was nothing wrong with them. Everything I worked hard at to make sure they would be perfect paid off.” The third year of his touring, man more book stores were more receptive and anxious to sign him for readings. “What was sad, was that for every new store I visit, two old ones have closed.”
The content of ‘The Boss;’ when and how. “In the mid 1980’s, the title came to me. I wanted to write about a scam these guys were doing in Las Vegas between 1975-77.” Somewhere in my memory bank, I heard about members of his family being connected. “My father, his older brother and his son (my cousin and Godfather) were connected.” I had to ask, “Jon, is it alright for me to write about this?” “Sure.”
A topic wrestled with a long time, so I asked, “Do you think they (relatives, organized crime) were bad people?” His response was rapid fire, as if anticipated. “In 2008, big corporations, run by supposedly very smart people ran their businesses into the ground. We had to bail them out. Most wise guys from the 1940’s and 1950’s never graduate high school high school and certainly never attended college yet ran their multi-million-dollar enterprises without computers, records or files.”
In 1975, the idea for his book came to light. Words floated that it would make a good book. “But my Godfather made me promise not to write until the three people involved were dead. He was the last to pass in 1999.” This Las Vegas scam was half the book. The other half was knowing “the guys,” including the boss.
Because of the great success of ‘The Boss,’ four years later, he wrote a parody regarding New Jersey mobsters who accidentally invoke an ancient spirit, then rise as zombies in his book, ‘Deadfellas.’
Logically, next I asked about the notion of screenplays and if ever approached. “Yes, the screenplays have been optioned for The Boss Always Sits In The Back and Deadfellas. The writer gets paid for that. If there’s no sale and if the film isn’t made, the rights revert back to the writer. It’s a long process and you have to get your work in good hands.”
His current book, ‘Delivery Man,’ started as a screenplay from 15 years ago. It’s about a vigilante that many of us would like to know. He settles scores for people unable to do it themselves. Jon is imaginative, pulling from life, zest and absorption.
“Jon, do you have a message to convey to NJ Discover readers and beyond? He smiled, knowing the message. “If you’re a writer, you may want to write the great American novel, but remember the public wants to be entertained. Give the reader something entertaining. Like when we were musicians and played our original songs. We’d get fired because people wanted to hear covers, the music they liked to dance, sweat and drink to. Give the public what they want if you want to sell your product. Never depend on anyone, not family, friends, but yourself. And always those who either don’t know you or dislike you, read your manuscript if you want an honest opinion.”
Jon D’Amore is a warm, worldly, honest, enthusiastic slice of life with Jersey roots, adding charisma. Someone’s going to come along and write a book about him. Time around the kitchen table, while he consumed two regular Pepsi’s “with sugar and no chemicals” was priceless.
About to stand, say goodbye, I asked five more minutes, “to look further into the molecular make-up of Jon D’Amore.” He laughed.
“Living or Dead, who’d you like to have dinner with?” “John Lennon. I was with Jed DeFillipis, the night John was assassinated. Jed had just signed to be Lennon’s Tour Manager. It was devastating.
“Five things you can’t live without?” “Women. Weed. Music from 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Friends. Ability to create.”
“Before I leave this earth, I won’t be satisfied until I….?” “It won’t happen. But have dinner with John Lennon.”
“Favorite movies?” “LA Confidential. Gunga Din (we both got goose bumps talking about this movie). Beau Geste. Original King Kong. Standing in Shadows of Motown.”
“Best time and worst time in life?” “Best was the two years with the guys from Jersey pulling off scam in Vegas with being a session musician. The worst when John Lennon was killed and when my father died in 1994.
“What keeps you awake at night?” Fear of knowing people who are supposedly looking out for our best interests, aren’t.”
Scene Three. Goodbyes and a warm hug. Each enjoyed the other’s company for two hours that took four years to orchestrate. And an invitation to go west someday. And so it goes.
CONTACT INFORMATION: There are deals on purchasing all three of his books. Check it out.