By Liz Greenawalt, Army Contracting Command-Rock IslandMay 20, 2016
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois -- For someone who grew up longing to be a writer, Jason Tanamor would make his younger self proud.
Tanamor, a contract specialist at Army Contracting Command-Rock Island, not only spends his workday enveloped within the word-dense profession of government contracting, he also dedicates much of his free time to writing, already having published five novels and contributed to numerous publications.
"I always wanted to be an author," said Tanamor. "I thought it was the coolest job. As a child of immigrant parents, it wasn't ever something that they promoted. They always wanted me to do something practical."
Tanamor graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting in 1998 and became a public accountant. However, the creative spirit is a restless one, and he quit his accounting firm in December 1999 in order to start performing stand-up comedy and freelance writing. From 2000 to 2004, he freelanced full-time while doing stand-up. In 2006, he returned to the accounting profession but continued to freelance for local and national publications.
After a few years of becoming familiar with the Quad Cities entertainment scene, Tanamor met Sean Leary, who was the long-time entertainment editor for the Moline Dispatch/Rock Island Argus. Leary recruited Tanamor to start writing stand-up and concert reviews.
Between 2003 and 2009, Tanamor worked for the Dispatch/Argus, started his own online magazine -- Zoiks! Online -- wrote for several entertainment publications such as Cinema Blend, Celebrity Café, and Strip Las Vegas magazine, and was a featured contributor for Yahoo from 2011 to 2014.
"I religiously wrote stuff for Yahoo TV, music, and movies," said Tanamor. "I had a chance to interview the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins, Dane Cook, Pete Rose and just a bunch of people I never ever thought of meeting."
As if a day job, online magazine publishing and freelance writing wasn't enough, Tanamor's passion for fiction writing remained a powerful pastime as well.
Tanamor's most recent novel, "Drama Dolls", was published in late 2015 and recently turned into an audiobook. The book is about a middle-aged man who recently lost his wife and is in a unique grieving process, including dressing in cheerleader outfits with some friends.
Partially synopsized as "… an intimate, dark comedy about loss and obsession, survival and grief, and the need to take control of your own life," Tanamor said the writing process for the book started simply with a Facebook pop-up.
"One time, someone posted this weird documentary from Europe about a bunch of grown men that dressed up as dolls," said Tanamor. "During the interview, it was clear that in their minds they thought everyone was staring at them because they were beautiful, but then the juxtaposition was the majority of people who were going, 'What is that?'"
Tanamor said he was struck by this odd account and began thinking about what type of life event would trigger that behavior.
"I thought, well, if a spouse died, maybe someone could be on the verge of doing something like that, so that kicked off my thought process for the book," said Tanamor.
Tanamor's first published book, "Anonymous" -- which was star reviewed by Publishers Weekly -- was the combination of "truth is stranger than fiction" and the efforts of an online writing class he took that was taught by "Fight Club" author Chuck Palahniuk
"I took a writing class with him and after each lesson, we had to write a short story," said Tanamor. "Each short story had kind of a common thread and eventually it became the book called 'Anonymous.'"
Tanamor wrote this book, published in 2008, by combining of two bizarre news items that he saw online: One, about two gangsters in prison who communicated through the prison's drain pipes after bailing all of the water out of their toilets, combined with another article about a man who was impersonating Britney Spears' manager in order to embezzle money from restaurants.
"That's basically where the idea came from," said Tanamor. "A bunch of prisoners are bailing out their toilets and telling their life stories anonymously -- true or not -- throughout the book."
Tanamor said the most difficult aspect of writing is addressing the market for his type of writing, as he has no interest in writing something just because it would appeal to the masses.
I'm trying to get reviews of [Drama Dolls] now and I've had people say that it's about grief, I don't want to read that," said Tanamor. "The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography reviewed it and basically said this is great if you like bizarre fiction. The most difficult thing is trying to get people to open their minds up a little bit. You're reading fiction, you should be able to open it a bit."
Next up for Tanamor is a slight departure from his typical off-the-wall fiction, hearkening back to his younger years in his new book "I Heart Superhero Kid." The book, illustrated by Tanamor's son, is intended for children and middle schoolers and is about a child who -- alongside his teddy bear -- fights against his arch enemy.