My guest today is Jon De’Lisle, an author who really is writing what he knows. Many thanks Jon for visiting ad for answering my questions so fully.
First, Elin, thank you so much for having me here today. It’s always an honor and a privilege to be hosted on an interview.
My name is Jon De’Lisle, and I live in New Mexico. The Dantone Project is my first published (self-published actually) novel. I began writing the book in my sophomore year of high school. It actually started as more of a journal for me to express my feelings on paper (or a computer screen). I had realized within that year that I was gay, and had not yet come out to anyone.
I created a character, somewhat like me, by the name of James Warner. I’d had a passion growing up to work in the field of private investigations. The beginning chapters of the book reflect the turmoil and emotions I was feeling at that time. It was actually very difficult for me to type out the words making my character gay for the first time. It was as much of a struggle for me as speaking those words about myself to another human being, only about a year later. In the beginning, I did not know where the story of The Dantone Project would lead. I wrote it off and on and finished the first draft the summer after I completed high school. I edited it off and on with various re-writes throughout my college years, before finally accepting it as it was and building up the courage to release it to the world.
Elin : Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
Jon : I keep myself pretty busy most of the time. Following in the footsteps of my character, James, I’m a licensed private investigator. While that is currently not my primary “day job” right now, I do still work in the field of investigations. Working with victimized populations and using my brain is what keeps me going, even though I have a love/hate relationship with the field. It’s chaotic, and unpredictable, which goes against the half of me with an OCD type nature. Still, I’ve been doing this kind of work for so long that I expect the chaos. The difficulty I find is returning to the land of fiction in my head after chasing facts all day. It’s hard to tell my brain to just make up stuff, and that whatever rules I conjure up are valid.
Elin : When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
Jon : In regards to art, or creativity, writing is probably my strongest activity. I’m not musically inclined at all, although I do enjoy listening to the music of others. My drawing is pretty horrific too; even my stick figures would give someone a nightmare.
Elin : What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?
Jon : As a writer myself in the sub-genre of gay detective fiction, I admire quite a few authors who write in this genre as well. My favorites would have to be the Donald Strachey mysteries, by Richard Stevenson, and the work of John Peyton Cooke. Mr. Stevenson’s Donald Strachey is a gay private investigator in New York State who investigates a lot of gay-related cases.
Mr. Peyton Cooke writes gay themed mysteries and thrillers, some of which are historical pieces. My favorite is the novel Torsos, which takes place place in Cleveland during the 1930’s, and revolves around a historically accurate serial killer. Peyton Cooke’s The Chimney Sweeper and Haven: A Novel of Anxiety are also really good.
Elin : In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?
Jon : With The Dantone Project, the character most definitely came first. James was developed as a reflection of myself, with the story developing and evolving around him. I think the answer of “which comes first” is very individual, and somewhat dependent on the individual work. I think most authors are inspired to write different works for different reasons. Whatever the inspiration is probably has some influence on what parts of that individual work are developed first. I have several other works on my hard drive in which the character has been developed at the same time as the situation. Most of these are still in their infancy, and haven’t been developed into anything very solid yet.
Elin : Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
Jon : My characters seem to develop over time. In fact, there are still things I’m figuring out about James and Clint (the main characters in The Dantone Project. I’m still developing them which beginning my work on the sequel to the novel.
Elin : Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake? What inspired you to write about a private investigator?
Jon : For the time being, it appears my genres of fiction revolve somewhere between detective fiction and thriller/horror. I have a few projects I’m working on in more of the horror genre. I’m not sure how much I would care to write romance fiction, or at least, purely romance. There were some periods of time while writing The Dantone Project that I had to take a break. Even though it is not a purely romantic story, after a few failed relationships in my personal life, my characters’ fictional romance and interactions seemed too disgusting and sappy.
My inspiration to write about a private investigator came from my passion for film noir and “old time detective stories”. I grew up watching movies like The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep and others, and playing adventure computer games with detectives as main characters. As I got older, my interest expanded to old time radio shows from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. As The Dantone Project began to develop in my mind, I desired to blend the feel of a film noir story with a gay character. In a nutshell, this is how the story began to develop beyond the creation of the character, James.
Elin : Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one where the romance is a sub plot?
Jon : I’m going to try to answer this question, although I don’t really consider myself a romance writer. I would believe there to be some structural differences between a relationship driven story and a sub plot romance. In The Dantone Project, the romance is a sub plot. It develops in the background, dependent on the interactions between James and Clint (James’ client), and the course of the investigation that James conducts, which is the main plot.
I would imagine the roles of the main plot and sub plot to be reversed in a primarily romance-plot driven story. In these stories, I would imagine any sub-plot would be dependent on the development and outcomes of the romance within the story.
Still, I believe the basic elements of any plot to still be existent in both types of stories. There still has to be a introduction, and conflict introduced in order to make the story interesting, and to eventually lead to a conclusion.
Elin : Put together your ideal team of men/women – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?
Jon : I would like to be rescued by the heroes I have in my everyday life, because they are the ones who would truly save me. These heroes would be my boyfriend, parents, and my close group of friends.
Elin : Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?
Jon : There is something to be said for the villains that we cannot see. Growing up, the horror movies that I found the scariest were the ones in which the nemesis was unseen. I think that it is the fear of the unknown that makes these the best villains. If you cannot see your villain, you do not know what it is, and even worse, you do not know how to defeat it.
As a mystery writer, I also treasure villains who are psychopaths. These are the enemies who hurt people, and commit crimes without a conscience, nor any remorse for what they are doing. These are the kinds of criminals who, if caught, cannot be rehabilitated, and leave society no choice but to lock them up for life. I find it fascinating to delve into the minds of these types of villains, to see how they tick. they’re desirable, because in a way, they are not human.
Elin : What kind of research did you conduct for The Dantone Project, and James’ PI business?
Jon : The research that I conducted was pretty basic. I began my training as a private investigator in real life during my writing of the book. In so doing, I was able to use my knowledge of real life private investigators in my story, at least for the most part.
For example, when I began writing the book, PI’s were not licensed in the state of Colorado. However, in 2012, voluntary licensure was implemented. This was something that was re-written in my editing of the book, prior to officially being released. James’ use of a gun is somewhat more of a fictional liberty taken on my part. Not all private investigators carry guns, and in many states, a concealed carry license is separate from a PI license, or at the very least, two different types of PI licenses. In my own state, I’m licensed solely as a private investigator, with no permit to carry a gun.
The biggest challenge I found in my writing of the book was developing the story in Denver, Boulder, and the town of Niwot. I’ve never personally been to Niwot, and my experience in Denver is limited. I relied heavily on online maps and websites during my research. Even after completing my research, it took a great deal of convincing my brain to take such fictional liberties, to create my story in a real place I had not thoroughly explored first-hand.
Elin : What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.
Jon : I’m currently working on several short stories that I hope to release on the Kindle at some point. I am also working on the sequel to The Dantone Project, picking up where it leaves off. It’s still in the beginning stages of development, but I’m hopeful my progress will be quick. I’m excited to see where James and Clint progress at this point.
Elin : Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Jon : The excerpt I’m including is the first interaction between Clint and James. This gives readers a sneak peek into James’ mind, as well as an introduction to the main plot, and the investigation he will be conducting.
With a sense of alarm, I straightened myself up, and ran over to the security control panel on the wall in the office. I turned on the outside front door camera. From what I could see on the small screen, it was a white Toyota. As the occupant got out of the car, I could begin to make out his physical appearance. He looked like he was probably in his mid twenties…my age give or take a few years. He appeared to be fair complected, with either blonde or light brown hair. His build looked slender, but it was hard to tell for sure as a bulky coat was wrapped tightly around him. I hardly had time to think when his face appeared at the front door and I heard the knock. I saw the silhouette of a figure against the foggy glass.
My heart skipped a beat and I seriously considered not opening the door, but instead tiptoeing away and pretending not to exist. Wiping the newly formed sweat from my brow, I turned to the door. I opened it, and got the first look of who would turn out to be my most interesting client yet.
“Are you the private investigator?” The man spoke in a calm, soothing, and seductive voice. His face was in the form of curiosity and suspicion. I wondered why he needed some low life like me.
“Well…” I said, observing my door. “either I am or it appears I’m in the wrong apartment.” was my only reply. “What can I do for you, Mr..?”
“Brussell. Clint Brussell. I called earlier. May I come in?” With only the slightest hesitancy, I moved aside to let Clint in.
“Certainly, Mr. Brussell, please come in and take a seat. My name is James Warner, you can call me James.”
“Thank you, James. Call me Clint.” Clint looked at me with a sort of curiosity in his eyes. Somehow, I felt a little nervous around him. Like he was seeing through my thick skin and scanning my soul. I found it hard to look him in the eye; as if doing so would reveal every dark secret I had instantaneously. Dammit me! Stop this! A person can sense someone else’s fear. If I don’t act confident, he will discover my weaknesses…
Clint came in and sat in one of the chairs I had in front of my oak desk. I closed the office door and walked over to my squeaky old chair. “Well Clint, why are you in the need of a PI?”
“James, I…I’m sorry. It’s hard for me to try to tell the whole story.”
“Take your time Clint, I’m here to help.” There was about a thirty-second pause before Clint seemed to get his nerve up to talk.
“My brother, Damen, went missing about five days ago.”
“Go on.” I was having a hard time listening to him and paying attention. The biological side of me, naturally being messed up, was making me feel attracted to him. I felt lightheaded, and somewhat of a tingling sensation began coursing throughout my body. The biological part of my mind felt a strong desire to get to know him better. The logical part of my mind told me to listen to his story and help him, and the angry side of me was yelling at me for being attracted to him. He was just so…perfect. What else could I say?
The first thing that really caught my attention about him was his eyes. They were the bluest, most pure eyes I had ever seen on a guy. His pupils remained trained on my very own eyes as he talked to me; observing my every move with curiosity. He had sandy brown-blonde hair that waved in and out across his head, in beautiful proportions. His nose was perfectly symmetrical to his luscious lips and his eyes; it was a perfect size, not at all smudgy or ugly. His ears were made of the best skin, all smooth and very appealing. Beneath his head, his strong neck appeared very alluring and disappeared into his collared button-up shirt…
Next, my eyes moved down to his arms and took their appearance in. I could tell they were strong, the muscles beneath the skin not bulging, just enough power in them to be quite desirable. The hands at the end of each arm had five fingers which all appeared quite delightful and interesting. I wondered what it would be like to hold them.
Just about the time my mind began to wonder just how tasty his legs might be I remembered just what I was supposed to be doing and interrupted my bliss. I rubbed my eyes and let out a groan. Clint asked if I was okay, and after a quick nod of my head, he continued.
“Damen and I have always been close. When times are rough, we always help each other out. We always share everything. We have a great trust in each other. We can even sense when the other one of us is in trouble and feeling bad.”
“Clint, could you give me the age relationship between you and Damen?”
“Certainly. Damen is five years older than I am. He’s thirty-one and I’m twenty-six. Like I’ve said, we have always trusted one another. However, about three weeks ago, I sensed a change in his character. He was quieter than usual and kept to himself a lot more. He became jittery and clumsy, especially when the phone or doorbell rang. One day, I approached him and asked him about all of this. He really wasn’t acting normal. He tried to convince me that everything was fine, and that he was just feeling down about himself lately. He said that it would be okay and I should not worry. He thanked me for my concern and caring and then left.”
“Do you and your brother live in separate homes?”
“Yes. We each have an apartment over in Boulder. But, since we care about each other so much, we talk at least three or four times a week. Of course, we each have our own lives and jobs. I’m a web site designer and he works for a small business he started which does scientific studies of different sorts.”
“Does he have many competitors?”
“Well, I really don’t know. He hasn’t really shared a lot of information on the fine details of the company.” Clint started to change positions and cleared his throat.
“I apologize, Clint. Would you like some water?”
“Yes, thank you James.”
I got up and went over into my kitchen and filled a plastic cup with tap water. I returned to Clint and handed it to him.
I heard a noise to my right. Shawn entered the room dreary eyed and in some lounging clothes. He paused and looked surprised at the two of us. “A client, Jim?”
Yeah, Shawn, this is Clint. He’s requesting my services. Clint looked a little startled at Shawn and then looked back at me.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Clint, this is my high school friend Shawn. He just arrived earlier today to visit for a while.” Clint seemed to relax a little. Shawn was starting to look more awake.
“Oh, I thought maybe he was your brother or roommate or something.” Clint raised his eyebrows at me. Shawn didn’t seem to really notice, or he didn’t get it. “Jim, do you have any coffee?”
“Sure. It’s in the cabinet. Go ahead and put another pot on. I’ll be done here in awhile.” Shawn headed off to find a drink, and I resumed my talk with Clint. “So, why don’t you tell me how Damen went missing, and why you’ve requested my services?”
“It was about five days ago. We were arguing on the phone and I demanded to know what was going on. He told me that everything was fine and I didn’t need to make a trip down to his place. Well, of course I was concerned. I quickly got in my car and headed down there. Something didn’t feel right and my fears were confirmed when I got to his block. There was a white van spinning out of the parking area close to his apartment. I knew that it was important so I got the li-cense number. Of course, it could be wrong, but I have nothing else to go on.”
This certainly was intriguing. I awaited the rest of the story as Clint licked his lips. I noticed the tingling sensation coming back. Chewing myself out in my head, I managed to get it to go away again.
“Please continue, Clint.”
“The license plate was from New Mexico. I tried to follow the van but lost it fairly quickly; so I returned to his apartment. I was stopped along the way by his landlord who told me I couldn’t go into his apartment. Something to the effect that Damen had left and the door was locked. I was really concerned by this time. I pretended to be leaving and when the landlord left, I headed back to Damen’s apartment. The door was busted down. From what I could see there was a mess inside and that was all. However, on the floor I found a slip of paper. Opening it, I found this letter typed in plain font.” Clint pulled out a note that read:
Clint, I hoped the day would not come when I would have to bring you into this mess of which I appear to have become the focal point, but if you are reading this, there is no other choice. My work has gotten out of hand, and lives are at stake, perhaps including my own. If anyone comes asking you about me, pretend we had a falling out. Tell them you haven’t seen me in five years…ten years. Whatever you have to. Just make sure they leave you alone. I’m so sorry. I did not mean to bring this evil into our lives. If we never have the chance to see each other again, I want you to know how much I love you, and am proud to be your brother. Be kinder to yourself, and take good care of mom for me. Damen
“Is this all you found?” The note certainly didn’t give much information.
“Yes. I started looking around his apartment more but I was interrupted quickly by his landlord again.”
“What did his landlord do?”
“I tried to ask him what happened. He asked me who I was and when I told him I was Damen’s brother, he acted like he didn’t believe me. He threatened to call the cops on me if I didn’t leave right away.”
“So you left?”
“Well he could have been bluffing, but I didn’t feel like risking it. Of course I contacted the police after I left and they did their own search. They’ve classified it as a standard missing persons case, but they haven’t found any leads.”
“Well. I think you’ve given me something to work on. I’ll need to make a copy of this letter, and I’ll need to get some other information. Details on Damen’s work and his apartment address. I’ll need to get in there and look around.”
“That’s fine. How much do you charge?” This was a tough question. The problem being that I was very low on money, so I really should charge a good amount. But would that be honest?
“I charge four-hundred dollars a day, plus expenses.” Clint didn’t even blink.
“I can probably manage most of it…” He pulled out his wallet.
“Give me a decent amount to start with, the information I asked for and a number to reach you at.”
“Okay.” He gave me all the information I needed. As for a number I could reach him at, he only gave me an address. I got the feeling he wanted to see more of me. My paranoid side told me to ditch the job right away and get the hell out of there. My logical side said, “Hang on bud, let’s just sniff around a bit.” As for a retainer, he gave me two grand. Not bad.
“I’ll be in touch, Clint.”
“Yes, I hope so.” He stood up and stuck out his hand. As I shook it, he took his left hand and placed it over my right. He then slowly slid his hand across mine. All this was starting to turn my knees to jelly so I quickly pulled back. I just hoped I didn’t look too nervous. He turned around and walked out leaving me alone, but with hope…
Elin: If we would like to follow you online, do you have any social media links that you are pre-pared to share?
Jon : For now, my spots on the internet are pretty humble. I have a basic website, a Facebook page, GoodReads profile, and my Amazon Author’s page. Here are my links:
I would like to also give credit to my amazing graphic designer, and the incredible job he did on my book cover – Damien Shay
The Dantone Project by Jon De’Lisle
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.