TNA: Hi, Jon, thanks so much for being here with us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself: hobbies, interests, odds and ends things that make you, you.
Jon: First, I would just like to say thank you so much for this opportunity. As a new author, this is a new and exciting process for me.
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, and 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.
TNA: Who would you say is your biggest influence as a writer? Do you have a favorite author(s) who inspired you to become a writer yourself?
Jon: I can’t think of one particular author who has inspired me to become a writer. However, I would have to say that my favorite author of all time is Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone “alphabet series”. I was introduced to her writing in my senior year of high school. I was interviewing the private investigator, who would later become my mentor, for a research paper, and she told me about the Kinsey Millhone mysteries.
The biggest thing I find fascinating about this series is how humble and realistic Ms. Grafton writes the stories, while making them engrossing. She writes Kinsey Millhone as a realistic PI. She isn’t superwoman, and she doesn’t carry a gun around shooting up places and bad guys. She does real investigative work: talking to people, observing things, researching newspapers and police reports, lots of waiting and watching, and writing lots of reports. Aside from the common perception that PI’s only investigate infidelity, the character of Kinsey investigates fraud, and missing persons’ cases, and cold cases; other realistic cases that PI’s take. The information she gains makes sense, and it fits into the conclusion of the story perfectly.
TNA: The Dantone Project is your first published novel. How long did it take you write the book? Did the idea for the story come to you slowly, or was it more a sudden burst of inspiration?
Jon: Actually, writing the book took a considerable amount of time. I started the book when I was a Sophomore in high school in 2002. I completed the rough draft of the story around 2004. The story then sat on my hard drive for close to four years while I was in college.
Strangely enough, even I am not exactly sure how the story developed. When I began writing the book, I was in a dark place in my life, mainly due to the struggles of trying to find my place in the world as a teen turning into a young adult. I had also known for several years that I was gay, although I had not come out to anyone yet. I started writing the book solely for myself, and as a way to process the emotions I was feeling inside. In fact, when I first started the book, I did not know if I wanted the main character to be gay. I actually sat staring at my computer screen for some time before I could type the words. It was almost as traumatic as the first time I uttered the words out loud to an actual person.
When the story began, I had no idea where it would lead, as I had not bothered with a layout or outline of the plot. Over the few years of writing, the story unfolded into what it is today, at least for the most part. I did not make too many changes to the actual plot of the story from the rough draft to the final released version.
TNA: Your protagonist, James Warner, is a private investigator hired to solve the case of a missing person. What well know literary PI would you say James most closely resembles and why?
Jon: Thinking about James’ personality, I actually think he’s a combination of personalities, represented over the course of the story. James is in a very dark place during the first part of the book. I’d say he’s just short of suicidal; he’s bitter and angry, and a drunk. In this, I think he is the epitome of the hard-boiled PIs’ persona, with the major exception of being a “womanizer”. James doesn’t trust anyone, and sees the world as a dark place. This attitude is shown in the personas’ of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, and Dashielle Hammett’s Sam Spade.
Once Clint, James’ client, begins to tear down his wall of isolation, James can’t help but begin to feel that bubbly, lighter than air, feeling that attraction and having a crush brings. With that, while James maintains the somewhat cynical and skeptical investigative trait that Marlowe and Spade have, I’d say he also develops a slightly comedic personality trait. The closest comparison I can make to this trait would have to be in the characters of Nick and Nora Charles in The Thin Man series (except without as many cocktails), or even the character of Richard Diamond, in the 1950’s radio series, played by Dick Powell. These detectives, being hard-core crime solvers, also try to take a light-hearted approach to tracking down the bad guys.
TNA: If you could describe James in just a few sentences to give us a good idea of what sort of man he is, what would you say?
Jon: He’s definitely an introvert, like me. To an extent, he’s a product of his environment, being skeptical and critical of society. His parents died when he was young, forcing him to grow up quickly, and without having the opportunity to be wholly embraced and accepted by his family. Although his job as an investigator is a hard one, and he’s often broke, he doesn’t know what else he would do; he has a love/hate relationship with his chosen profession. Assuming that someone could reach him and obtain his trust, he is fiercely loyal, and would do most anything for someone he cared about.
TNA: Are you planning to bring James back in a series of books? If so, how many books do you have the series plotted out to, or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?
Jon: There is a definite possibility that James will be brought back in a sequel. I do fly by the seat of my pants when writing, however, I do have the concept of a series in my mind for the characters. Without giving too much away, the end of The Dantone Project does line things up pretty well for a sequel, of which some writing and plot development has already been done. Still, it is in the very beginning stages, so only time will tell where it goes from here.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from the book with us?
Jon: Sure! Here is an excerpt from the later part of the book. While the majority of the book is written in first person, there are several parts I wrote in third person to describe the mystery going on outside of James’ realm. This excerpt gives readers an introduction to the main antagonist, as well as the conspiracy that makes up The Dantone Project.
Blurb: James Warner is on 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.
Excerpt: There is a little research station on the outskirts of Los Alamos, New Mexico; in a national park known as Bandelier. The town of Los Alamos was quite a scene during the testing of bombs and other weapons in the early 1940’s. Atomic research, that’s what it was all about. This quaint little city has a population of about 11,000 people, many of which work in the research laboratories. Considering this city’s history and its current status, it’s no surprise that it could be just the perfect place to keep another biological weapon project under wraps.
It was a fairly cloudy autumn day in Los Alamos when a white van pulled up to this research station and parked. A slim man in a dark suit got out of the driver’s side and walked casually around to the rear of the van. Banging his fist against the rear door, he waited until he heard a voice from inside say something about being “all clear”. Opening the door, two more men in dark suits climb out.
These two men are holding another man blindfolded, gagged, and handcuffed. The three men bustle toward a crevice in the side of the rock wall. One of the men places his hand under a crevice. A mechanical beep emits from somewhere within the rock wall and the crevice slides open into the Frijoles Canyon wall. The four men enter and the door slides shut again, hiding the inside station from the common public and other non-privileged onlookers.
Some say that the inside of this research station looks similar to the inside of the bat cave in the old Batman shows. The old lamps resemble the type found in mines from the early twentieth century. Even though these lamps are placed somewhat around ten feet apart from each other, the inside space is still very dark and unpleasant to be inside. The lamps are powered by a bay of twelve volt car batteries that gather their power from solar panels built into crevices in the stone outside the facility.
If you were to enter through the security door that these four men passed through, you would find yourself in a guard area. Two guards are usually stationed at this point to catch anyone who somehow managed to break the code and pass the fingerprint scan and gain entry. Don’t get cocky about this however; these aren’t K-Mart style guards. In fact, guards like these are more highly respected than even the SWAT and the highest level detectives on the pay scale. Hired by the government, they belong to a prestigious group, ordered to protect the area they are assigned to, or die trying. The guards in this facility are the brothers of the security guards you would find in other such places like the Pentagon. In times of war, their positions are promoted to Lieutenants, Generals, and in general, fighting machines. If you were to try to take one of them over, or hold a gun against them, you would find very quickly that they are skilled in several forms of karate, martial arts, and street fighting. You might as well not even try to mess with them. You don’t want to even try.
Past this security station is the main research area. Somewhere around two hundred computer terminals occupy this area, all networked and readily capable to hack into almost any other network that exists. On the contrary, these systems are designed to act like phantoms. They exist, but not in the eyes of any outside network. They are completely untraceable. Perhaps this is why nobody knows this place exists. All the machines in this area create a considerable amount of heat. For this reason, cooling systems are in abundance in this area and keep the room at about fifty degrees. This is for safety reasons, otherwise the systems would overheat and the fire risk would be too great. Evidently, the sum of the humming of these machines makes it nearly impossible to hear your own thoughts. And these aren’t personal computers either, but supercomputers produced by companies that the general public doesn’t even know about. You wouldn’t want one, you can’t surf the internet or do word processing or play your favorite action game on them; they aren’t designed for that at all.
Past this bank of supercomputer intelligence is a hallway leading to the rest of this facility. The first rooms off of this hallway contain a few offices and storage rooms. The offices are used by a staff of researchers whom stay at this facility for extended periods of time. You must understand that this station is not regularly occupied, but instead is used when certain government projects require it to be used. It is then that these offices are occupied by the heads of research.
Besides these offices, there are also living quarters. These living quarters fall under the same rules as the offices. The scientists and researchers that work here are required to remain in the facility until their job is completed. This is why living quarters are included.
Beyond the living quarters exist a food storage bin and a cooking station. The food bin can hold enough food to feed a group of twenty-five researchers for six months. If more time in the facility is required, food is brought in by secret via trucks.
Beyond the living quarters, there is one final area to this research station. This area is not supposed to ever be used, but instead exists in the event that there is no choice but to use it. Another security guard station leads to holding cells. These cells are used in the event that one of the people living in the facility commits a crime or kills another worker. It is also used in the event that the government wishes to detain someone that is involved in one way or another.
Oh yes, and there is one thing I have forgotten to mention about this place. While the government owns this facility, and had it built for their purposes, it is not necessarily strictly used for their projects. This facility can go unoccupied for long periods of time and is also prone to being used by other groups, assuming that they have access to it. In the case of Markus Jase, he is one of these men. Using his position, he obtained this facility and has been using it as the heart of his force. Considering the vast hatred that runs through his veins, it is unsettling to realize he works for someone else. Someone even more powerful than he. Markus Jase works for a terrorist group in the country of Iran. In a battle of money and guts, this group, using Jase as their puppet, and the United States have been fighting over the Dantone Project.
The three suited officials enter the first guard station with their captive. After showing an ID card to the guards and quick salutations on both sides are made, the four make their way into the main research area. The fourth man is still blindfolded and stumbles along uncertainly along his path. The three suited men guide him forcefully and gracefully toward the hallway.
On their walk through the facility, other people in the facility glance in the direction of the four with puzzled and amused looks on their faces. A few others follow the four momentarily before one of the suits brushes them off.
When the four get to the holding cells, a guard is waiting by an empty, open cell. He opens a wide, crooked smile to the three suited men and a sneer at the blindfolded man, although he is not seen by him. The blindfolded man is stuffed unceremoniously into the cell and the door is slammed shut. The guard brushes his hands on his black pants and walks off to the food bin.
The facility workers gather around the cell to stare in awe at the man, still blindfolded, as if he were a rare animal in the zoo. One of the suited men smiles, proud of his work. After a moment, he speaks. “Friends, this is the moment we have been waiting for.” He turns toward the mob. “We do not have long to wait now!” A few laughs and cheers resonate from the group and a slight applause starts up. The man in the cage darts in the direction of the sound, trying to determine what is happening on the other side of the blindfold.
The group begins to spread out as the facility workers return to their work. Some go back to the computer bank; others go to the food bin for a break; and yet others go back to the offices and the living quarters. Within a matter of minutes, hardly anyone is paying any attention to the stranger in the cage. There is too much work left to be done.
Hours pass and the lone stranger is still handcuffed, gagged, and blindfolded in his new home. His shirt, once a fine dress shirt, is now rumpled and torn in several places with sweat and blood stains. His pants are in the same state: bloody and torn and covered with dirt. His dirty blonde hair is rumpled and unbrushed with blood caking in his scalp. His face is beaten and torn; more dried blood spots around his mouth, nose, and ears. He is tired, his hands uncomfortably bound behind his back for hours and hours on end. He is now leaning against one side of the cell bars, breathing roughly and nervously. He is too afraid to sleep. Then, there is a voice.
“Enjoying your stay Mr. Brussell?” The suited man is back at the cell door, observing Damen Brussell with curious eyes. “I promise it will get better. Almost everyone here has already forgotten about you; but don’t let that bother you. We’ve been waiting a long time for you Mr. Brussell.” The suit pauses, and brushes a fingernail against one of the iron bars before continuing. “You’re a guest of honor. And do not worry, we have no wish to harm you. We don’t want to hurt you or kill you. You are here because you can do something for us. Markus is counting on you. He’s been waiting a long time for what you’ve promised him.”
The suited man waits for a moment to let his spoken words sink into Damen’s mind. He smirks with every jerky, nervous movement of Damen’s. “You’ve put Joseph Mosely in quite an uncomfortable position, Damen. You’ve left him responsible for your bill, and it’s quite a large one.”
For the first time, the suited man removes a key from his pocket and unlocks the heavy iron door to the cage detaining Damen. He steps inside and closes it behind him again. He walks over to Damen with an air of confidence and causally sits on the hard bunk which Damen is leaning against.
“You now have a difficult decision to make Damen. You can either continue your work on the Dantone Project here in the comfort of our very own lab; or you can put this thing in the hands of Joseph Mosely. The first choice is probably better for you health wise; however I take it not morally wise.” He places a strangely loving hand on Damen’s shoulder. “You warm my heart Damen. You really do have good morals; unfortunately you’re playing with the big boys now and they have a completely different set of rules to follow. So you are either going to have to change your morals and ideals to fit in with us, or you will face being trampled by us.” He removes his hand from Damen’s shoulder and stands up. “I’m sure you will want some time to think this over. Mr. Jase has some other dire matters to look into for the next day, but he will be here as soon as he can make it. I suggest you have made up your mind by then.” The suited man walks back over to the door to the cell and turns back around to Damen to say one more thing.
“If you do put this into Mosely’s hands, I hope you have faith in him, because you’re risking your life as well as his.” The suit opens the door, exits the cell, locks it back and walks off leaving Damen completely alone.
Mr. Jase did indeed show up at the facility two days later. Damen was kept in the cell for the entire duration of these two days. Although he was fed and cared for well, the handcuffs and blindfold remained in place for the first day, and just the handcuffs for the second day. His meals consisted of instant soup mixes, his captive’s logic for making sure he got plenty of nutrients and vitamins to sustain him and keep him healthy. Along with the soup, Damen also got as much water as he wished to drink. All he had to do was get the guard’s attention and ask for it, and it would be brought to him in a rusty cup. For the two nights, Damen slept on the hard bunk. Or at least he tried to sleep, but his nervousness and the general uncomfortable hardness of the bunk made it hard for him to get comfortable.
Every so often, the suited man would walk by the cell and briefly ask Damen how he was feeling and if he needed anything. Damen bravely refused to say anything each and every time. The suited man would try to get Damen to talk for a few minutes, then shrug his shoulders in a sad and defeated way and walk off back to whatever he was working on.
Damen sensed when Markus Jase arrived at the facility. It would have been hard not to notice. All of the workers conglomerated in the main research area and cheers and greetings were heard. Markus Jase’s deep voice was also heard as he responded to each greeting and began to ask for status reports and other items of his interest.
Markus was aware that Damen had arrived as he had been the one to initiate his kidnapping and gave his subordinates the order to bring Damen to their base. Still, it was several hours after Jase’s arrival before he finally took an interest in Damen. He stood at the cell door, gleaming as he observed the sight inside. He finally spoke and Damen jerked nervously. “Hello Damen.” He said.
Damen didn’t say anything and after a short minute of just observing him, Jase finally unlocked the cell door and entered. “I know what you must be thinking Damen, and I can’t say I blame you at all. I’d be pretty ticked too if somebody knocked my teeth loose and made me wet myself.” Jase approached Damen, and for the first time in two days, his handcuffs were removed. Damen glanced up and gave him a not so warm look.
“Come now Damen, you can’t stay mad at me forever. You and I are going to have to work together, and we’ll accomplish our goals a lot more smoothly together if we can be on better terms. Now I apologize for smacking you around like that at your place, but the fact of the matter is that it had to be done. You needed punishment my friend.”
An unknown rage was starting to boil within Damen. Before the kidnapping, Damen had been scared of Jase and his men as if they were the Mafia, anxious to use him for target practice. Now he was just plain angry. In his mind, he had finally determined that the odds of getting out of his situation alive were probably very slim, and he didn’t plan to spend his last moments alive curled into a ball. “You sick fuck.” Damen finally spoke in a quiet yet firm tone. His vocal chords scratched, having been unused for several days. It took Jase by full surprise.
“I’m going to try to be patient with you Damen. Though if you continue to insist on being rude and vulgar to me, don’t think that I won’t shove your head around some more. Maybe I’ll knock some more teeth loose.”
Damen’s cold glance finally left Jase and his eyes began to search his location, taking in what had been his home for two days. He spoke again. “I don’t give a shit.”
Jase sat down on the bunk and entered a mode that could only be described as ‘father’ mode. “You are truly a troubled boy Damen. I don’t want to hurt you; I didn’t want to hurt you back at your apartment. The fact of the matter was that something had to be done. You were slacking and it was my responsibility to get you back on track. Now that you are here, you can accomplish your goals and finish what you started.”
Silence filled the cell for a brief moment before Damen spoke again. “It was bad enough when the U.S. Military got involved with us and made me start this damn project. Then you just waltz in there and start killing people to get us to stop. Then you force us to work for you. God I hate politics.”
Jase laughed. “Come now Damen, surely you see the good in what you’re doing. It doesn’t matter that you’re playing for the other team now. You know my team will support you and pay you dearly for your time and efforts. Once the Iranians declare war on the U.S. and use your lovely creation against them, you’ll be safely moved into Iranian territory and given a nice home there. You and your family. I’m willing to work with you here. You should be thankful.”
“I guess I’m just the only one who sees something morally and devilishly wrong about all of this.”
Jase shrugged and attempted to pat Damen’s shoulder, but he moved back in retaliation. Jase shook his head. “Life just isn’t fair. Sometimes we all end up in situations that we would rather not be in.”
Damen’s anger filled expression was replaced by a more curious and suspicious one. “Why exactly are you interested in my project? Why did you take it over?”
“Okay, so you’re interested in what I do and why I’m here. Okay, I guess I’ll tell you some things. About five years ago, I came into contact with some higher ups in an Iranian movement group. They finally took me into their confidence about a year ago and told me that they would make me a fantastic offer if I found a way that they could crush the United States to its knees. That’s when I joined forces with their members and created my own team here. Through the espionage grapevine, I hear about BioTech and their plan to create a biological weapon much more advanced than any previously used. I figured that this was my lead. That’s why I’m doing this, and why you’re here.”
“But you’re American.” Damen replied.
“Yes, yes I am. But I’m sure you know that we all aren’t necessarily loyal to our motherland. We all do what we must; and this is what I must do.”
Damen and Jase were quiet for a minute. Jase passed the time examining his fingernails and pruning them with his teeth when necessary while waiting for Damen’s response. Damen just sat in his spot glancing around with a miserable, angry look. When it began to look as though Damen was done talking, Jase got up and headed toward the door. Then he turned and spoke again.
“Don’t think too long Damen. Time is of the essence, and if you won’t help us, you’re less important to us than yesterday’s left-overs.” Jase opened the door to the cell, and left, locking it behind him.
TNA: If you could bring one of your characters off the page and into the real world, who would you choose and why?
Jon: 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 envisioned 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.
TNA: What would you say are the best and worst parts of the writing process for you?
Jon: For me, I would say the worst part is the editing process. It’s not nearly as fun as the first draft, when the ideas come to you and you develop the plot. Naturally, the editing part took the most amount of time when I look at the writing process for The Dantone Project as a whole. A close runner up would have to be the beginning of the plot development, before the momentum is really moving.
The part of the process I enjoy the most is developing my visuals and imagery. I find a lot of inspiration for imagery in my writing during my everyday encounters with people, and it’s enjoyable to develop these images into my writing.
TNA: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
Jon: I would love to be able to fly. Being able to go anywhere I wanted and anytime is probably one of the most freeing ideas I can imagine.
TNA: If time travel were possible, where would you go and why?
Jon: With the exception of the lack of social progress during this time period, I would like to see the Golden-Era: pretty much any time from the 30’s and into the 50’s. I have a fascination with the clothing from that era, especially fedoras, and even common appliances seemed more artistic and unique. I also think that society did a better job of truly communicating with each other back then. As great as modern day technology is, I believe a lot of highly important social skills have been lost behind computer and smart phone screens. Society was a lot more cohesive back then for the most part than today. We don’t know our neighbors anymore, and don’t generally help strangers out of a fear of being conned.
TNA: And finally, Jon, would you kindly share with us all the places we can find you on the internet?
Jon: So far my spots on the internet are pretty humble, but may expand in the future. For now, I can be found in the following places:
Readers can contact me through my Wix website, and find me on Facebook.
THE GIVEAWAY: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED