About Award-Winning Author Jon LaPoma
Kicking off our first #IndieLove Week is award-winning author Jonathan LaPoma. He has gone from favorite author to friend. Without further ado - let’s welcome Jon LaPoma!
“I’m a novelist, screenwriter, songwriter, and poet from Buffalo, NY, where I spent most of my childhood reading, writing, and playing basketball. I was one of those kids who was always writing jokes or stories and sending them to magazines, and hoping they’d send back a “Congratulations!” letter with a fat, life-changing check. This, however, never happened, which isn’t surprising given that I’d ripped off most of my ideas from books or TV shows (the jokes were always original, though). Nintendo rejected my video game Football/Baseball: Super Bowl/World Series, which was basically a knock-off of TecmoSuper Bowl, and Nickelodeon rejected my TV series, Toon Adventures (guess where I got that idea?), even though I drew all of the characters by pencil on lined notebook paper. I also wrote eight or nine short stories, which I still have, and they’re so laughably bad, I’d grab them first if my house ever caught on fire.
When I began high school, however, I stopped writing and focused mostly on basketball, homework, and partying. I didn’t get back to writing until college when I bought my first guitar. I started writing songs and poetry, and after moving to Mexico when I graduated, I got the inspiration to write my first novel, Understanding the Alacrán. I handwrote the first draft of the novel (a rookie mistake), filling 3 three-subject notebooks, and after checking out the word count once I’d finally typed it on Word, I decided to put it aside until I’d learned how to cut it almost in half (the original draft was over 200,000 words, which isn’t quite War and Peace but it’s nearly halfway there).
When I was 26, I moved to California with the intention of becoming an actor, writer, and musician, but due to mental health issues, I didn’t yet feel ready to take on Hollywood, so I settled in San Diego instead. I took a teaching job, and figured I’d be out of there in no time, but when I began therapy, I realized I wasn’t going anywhere soon. I decided to use my time in limbo to write my mental pain into the world, helping me to make sense of it and release it. I taught myself how to write screenplays, then wrote my first, A Noble Truth. The script was loosely-based on a road trip I took with a friend after we’d graduated from college in 2005, but 90% of it came from imagination, mostly based on the psychological changes I was going through at the time. After that, I wrote another script, Dellwood, which suffered the same problem as Understanding the Alacrán: it was too damned long.
After reading scripts and studying films, I learned how to cut down Dellwood, and I used my screenwriting/editing skills to write my second novel, Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story, which was half the size of Understanding the Alacrán. I figured Developing Minds had more commercial appeal, so I submitted it to a publisher, and they accepted it for publication.
After that, I continued to write, finishing eleven more scripts, three more novels, and hundreds more songs, poems, and jokes. I kept opened notebooks and pens all over my apartment and would stop to write a joke or song on my way to the bathroom, or wake up in the middle of the night and write a poem that had come to me in a dream.
I always intended to move to LA when I felt healthy enough to get back out into the world again, but the healing journey was slow, and I grew even more depressed seeing my life passing while feeling helpless to do anything about it. I felt trapped inside of myself and desperately needed to break free. My scripts and books won awards, and every so often a film producer or director would contact me, interested in reading my work. A few have attached themselves to my projects, and I’m hoping for good news any day now that one of my scripts or books will be made into a film.
This past October, I decided that I needed to force myself back into the world again, so I quit the teaching job where I’d been for nearly eleven years, sold almost all of my things, and moved to Mexico. I’m currently living in Mexico City where I’ve formed a band and have started taking acting classes. I plan to continue writing books and scripts, but now that I’m feeling better than ever, I want to focus on putting my art into motion. For all of these years, I’ve been building a mountain of words, but I want to bring them to life.
It’s been a long journey, but I don’t think I’d change anything if I could. I’ve learned more from my suffering than I could have ever learned from a book or teacher, and I hope to use the lessons I’ve learned to help other people to better understand themselves and make peace with their own suffering. I wrote my latest novel, The Soul City Salvation, about this healing journey I’ve been on, and I’ve filled it with everything I’ve learned, hoping that it can serve as a sort of emotional/psychological roadmap to help other confused, scared people to find the light in their own lives.