I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Jon De’Lisle this week and to learn all about him and his work!
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Jon De’Lisle, and I live in New Mexico. The Dantone Project is my first published (self-published actually) novel.
I guess that first, I would say I have quite an eclectic taste. My friends, family, and people who have known me have commented to me over the years that I must have an old soul. I am an only child, having been born to parents who were already in their 30’s. I like to say that I’m a unique mixture of Golden-Era and modern present-day life, thrown into a blender.
I have had an active interest in the Golden Era, and Film Noir for most of my life. I grew up reading mysteries, watching detectives on television, and playing computer games involving mysteries and detectives. I also have a fascination with old time radio shows from the 1930’s through the 50’s, and have collected thousands of individual episodes ranging from comedy to mystery and thriller, and detective. These sources are where a lot of my inspiration for writing comes from, and for writing mysteries in particular.
I keep myself pretty busy most of the time. I have a pretty demanding full time job. Following in the footsteps of my novel’s character, James, I am a licensed private investigator. While being a PI is currently not my “day job”, I do still work in the field of investigations. My typical work day is always different, and somewhat chaotic. Still, it’s something that I’m used to, and at this point, I’m unsure as to whether I could be content with anything less chaotic. Outside of work, I have a good group of friends and family and a partner I live with that fills my free time. I enjoy vacationing, and can find myself having fun in large cities like New York, or relaxing in a popup camper in Durango, Colorado.
What is one thing not in your bio, something totally random that only a few people know?
Both of my kidneys are on my right side, fused together in a horseshoe shape. However, they do function independently of each other.
What made you decide to write? If it even was a decision. And what kept you at it?
I’ve always had a creative side, and an interest in creating stories. Back in grade school, I wrote fictional stories for classes whenever I had the chance, and also enjoyed recording stories on audio cassettes. These stories revolved around a family of talking cats, and the adventures that they would get into.
The Dantone Project is my first novel, that I began writing in my sophomore year of high school. I actually began writing it as more of a journal for me to express my feelings on paper. I’d realized within that year that I was gay, and had not yet come out to anyone. I created a character, somewhat like me. I had no idea the direction in which the story was going to head, but somehow I kept progressing with it for the three years that it took me to write my first draft.
Throughout my college years, The Dantone Project spent a lot of time on my hard drive, untouched. Upon finishing my degree, I began editing the novel off and on in my free time, although I found this process a lot more challenging and less fun that the writing part. The rough draft changed formats several times before I finally decided to release it to the world.
To this day, I find writing fiction an enjoyable escape from the real world. Still, I do find it difficult sometimes to allow my mind to “roam free” after living in the real world of facts all day long. I believe it’s important for everyone to have a creative outlet of some sort, in which they can lose themselves in. I think it is an important element to keeping your mind sharp.
Who has been your biggest inspiration and support in writing and in publishing? Doesn’t have to be an author or anything, and yes, it can be your mom or dad.
For me, my biggest supports have been my friends and family. These include the close friends I went to high school and college with, and my mom and dad. They are the ones who have known about my writing, and in particular, The Dantone Project. They are the ones who have nagged me off and on the past few years, telling me that I need to do something with my work, instead of just transferring it to a new hard drive every time I got a new computer.
One of my largest supporters was my friend Maeve. We went to high school and started college together. She was also one of my biggest advocates once I came out, and she realized we would never date. Maeve passed away from Leukemia one year into our college careers. The Dantone Project is dedicated to her, as she truly was a good human being who died too young.
Why is it that you are an independent author? What prompted the decision to publish with a small press publisher, and how has that experience been?
I suppose the largest reason that I decided to self-publish was because it was easy. Being someone new to the published author world without any real clue, resources, time or money to pursue a publisher, on top of working a full time job, I realized that, at least for now, self-publishing was a very real, and do-able option. Self-publishing and the invent of E-readers have opened the door to a lot of individuals whom may not have become published authors otherwise.
My second reason for self-publishing would probably be due to the subject matter, and genre of my book. When I first began writing, and naturally before I was out to anyone, I did not realize a large and thriving community of LGBT authors and books truly existed. The fear of being rejected transcended into more than just my personal life. I figured if society rejected individuals for being gay, there was no way in hell a piece of LGBT writing would be accepted. This is when I was truly writing the novel for myself, and felt certain no one else would ever read it.
Of course, when I did discover there was a whole world of LGBT authors and novels, and even more so, a whole sub-genre of gay private investigators, I was pretty shocked.
Tell us a bit about The Dantone Project, without spoilers of course.
The Dantone Project begins with the main character, James, feeling at a low point in his life. Like many private detectives of the film noir genre, he’s out of work. On top of that, he has no real human connection with anyone. He’s gay, and he’s never been able to accept it, nor come out to anyone.
Over the course of the first few days of the novel, his life begins to spin around. For the first time in, even I don’t know how long, James gets hired by a new client, Clint. Clint’s brother, Damen, was in charge of a top secret project, and has gone missing. While the police have turned a blind eye, James has been hired to find Damen and the reason behind his disappearance. Throughout the story, James meets some pretty interesting characters; some of them rather unsavory. Clint and James also begin to learn more about each other, and James begins to learn some hard lessons about accepting himself and letting another human being into his life.
If you could meet one character in real life from The Dantone Project—who would it be and why?
Well, my partner may not like to hear this, but my first choice would be Clint Brussell. Clint is James’ client. While writing the book, I visioned Clint as everything I could look for in a boyfriend, or partner. He’s a very patient, and caring individual. He puts a lot of faith and confidence into James’ detective work, in addition to being patient with him while he’s coming to terms with himself. He’s also extremely loyal.
What do you do when you get stuck in your writing? What happens when that nasty writer’s block sets down and refuses to budge—if you believe in writer’s block that is?
I definitely believe in writer’s block, and it sucks! For me, the only solutions seem to be either taking a break from writing completely, for even just a little while, or working on a completely different project. Unfortunately, there are some days after work when I just don’t feel any creative spark. In times like these, my writing has to take a back seat, as I don’t want to write when I am not feeling creative. I feel as though I’m hurting my work more than anything if I contribute to it while not “in the zone”.
Would you mind sharing some of your ups and some of your downs about writing and about publishing? Any advice to new and upcoming authors?
I think my biggest advice to new authors is just to keep writing. This is something that I know Tony Hillerman used to say, and it’s true. I think for most authors, they feel that ninety-five percent or more of what they write is pure crap. I think the writing that authors create that doesn’t go anywhere helps them to perfect their art.
Editing is probably the largest pain in the butt when it comes to writing. For me, it took longer getting The Dantone Project through the editing stage than it ever took with the first draft.
While the downside with self-publishing is that it’s harder to get noticed, I do feel that self-publishing provides new authors with an entryway for their books. Authors are no longer bound to the rules and editing choices that mainstream publishers require them to make.
Here’s a more serious question. What is it like to write in the LGBT realm of craziness that we all support? What’s it like to dip the toe into the rainbow through writing and publishing?
For me, writing in the LGBT genre is rewarding, as it is a large part of my identity. I feel it is humbling to be able to contribute something to this genre for others to enjoy. This feeling is amplified, as part of my novel was written during a time in my life in which I was struggling with my own sexuality, and dealing with coming out. These are very real situations that everyone in the LGBT community can relate to at some time.
Why focus on the LGBT genre? What are the plusses and what are the minuses of doing so?
Writing in the LGBT genre is a mixed bag. In a way, it is a very small, close-knit genre. Of course, this in itself is a pro. Although the community is smaller overall, it is probably easier to get noticed over time than it would be in a larger, more mainstream genre.
I find writing in the LGBT genre to be a fun experience.
1. Dog or Cat?
2. Favorite color?
3. Favorite junk food?
4. Favorite musician?
The Alan Parsons Project
5. Favorite curse word?
Shit. I say it way too often…especially at work.
6. Favorite quote?
“You must not lose faith in Humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Mahatma Gandhi
7. Rolaids or Tums?
Rolaids for sure.
8. Short or Tall?
Both…but not at the same time.
9. Favorite body part?
The eyes. They are the window to the soul, after all.
10. Favorite holiday?
Probably Halloween. It’s in the fall, which is my favorite season of the year.
The Dantone Project is the ten year project of first time author Jon De’Lisle. The story evolved through various forms before being released under its official title. In his everyday life, Jon is a working investigator with an active interest in film noir and private eyes of the Golden Era. He lives in New Mexico.
James Warner is at the verge of a breakdown. He’s a 27-year old private investigator working at a mom and pop diner just to make ends meet. He’s also gay, and with the exception of his out of town high school friend Shawn, he doesn’t have a friend in the world. All that is about to change, however. A biological weapon project has fallen into the hands of the wrong people, and the project director, Damen Brussell, has gone missing. His brother, Clint, has hired James to find his brother, and the reason behind his disappearance. In one week’s time, James will resuscitate his private eye skills, as well as face his inner demons about what, and who, he truly is. James will encounter true love, as well as pure evil, in this missing persons’ investigation that will take him through Colorado, and into the canyons of Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. James and Clint will both learn so much more than just what exactly is so dangerous about The Dantone Project.