HOPress-Shorehouse Books is pleased to be helping Philly author Ron Neumer get the word out on his novel Once in a While in Philadelphia. Today, we are featuring a print interview with the author and down the road we have some fun things planned. Get to know this author and his wonderful book. You can follow Ron on facebook and twitter and also visit his website.
Tell us about Ron Neumer:
I guess you could say I am your basic regular Philly Guy. A real city person who has who has some knowledge about the sounds of the city and what goes on there. I don’t think living in a small town would do it for me. I grew up on the 4600 block of Melrose Street in the Frankford section of Philadelphia. There was a church down the street, just row-houses between our house and the church, and the church bells would ring out twice daily, once at noon and at six in the evening. I learned to play chess on the steps of the church with my friend, Tommy Gross. My dad was a plumber at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and my mother was a stay-at-home Mom instilling great values in me and my brothers Ralph, Robert and Rick. Our social gathering place was hanging out in front of a corner grocery store with the other guys from the neighborhood. It’s a real city thing. Some of the guys who hung on the corner are friends of mine to this day.
I graduated from Father Judge High School and I attended Pierce Business College and Community College of Philadelphia. My favorite subjects were English and Creative Writing. I guess that started when I was a kid buying comic books and sport magazines at the corner variety store with money I earned on my newspaper route. Also, my Uncle Ted was an English teacher and he explained Macbeth for me. My first job was mapping streets for the City of Philadelphia. The salary was really bad so I left. For years I was in retail management in Center City Philadelphia and I developed into a real people person. I always say I walked in off the street to become a newspaper reporter and columnist. It happened this way. I took an article I wrote about an art exhibit to the editor of a newspaper that covered Northeast Philadelphia. He liked it, and he printed, and I went on from there. One achievement I am proud of is winning a Philadelphia Press Association award for a tragic story I wrote. To win an award from the prestigious association was indeed uplifting. I am grateful to my former editor, Don Brennan, for helping me achieve the things I did. Writing is a great profession to be in.
To be honest, at present I am not exactly a city guy. I now live in the Philly suburbs with Ginny, my wife of eight years. My wife is not a city girl so that’s why I had to move. I have two daughters, Lisa and Jennifer, and four grandchildren and I always try to do the best for them. Ginny and I live on top of a hill overlooking hundreds of trees. I go out on our balcony and I look out over the trees and try to be creative. And it seems I always write about the city. I guess it comes down to this; to some degree you write about what you know.
What was your biggest challenge in writing the book?
Being a perfectionist was my biggest challenge. Especially when it comes to writing. I want everything perfect. When I was a newspaper reporter, I would review my copy over and over again before I turned it in to my editor. My goal was to turn in copy and my editor would make no changes. That never happened, not once, but I kept on trying for perfection. I did the same thing with the book writing process. Together with my editor and publisher, Dr. Janet Cunningham of Two Suns Press, we went through five proof copies of my book until we felt everything was right. I believe in this: Edit! Edit! And Edit some more. Go over it again and again. I like to play with words so that everything clicks and sounds right together. I strive for cool sounding names like: Bobby Cee, Johnny Marra, Arlene Marie Denali and Rico James Paradise. I would always read parts of the story out loud. I believe if it sounds good when you hear it will, it will sound good when you read it.
There was one challenge I could not overcome. I tried to obtain the rights to use the lyrics for a song or two as a backdrop for two of my stories. I wanted to use the lyrics from the song, “I Only Have Eyes for You.” I hit a brick wall at every turn. Just to find who owned the rights to a song proved a daunting task. And when I did find out, I received a flat rejection. Finally my editor advised me, “Ron, why don’t you write your own song?” So that’s what I did and everything turned out okay.
Who is your favorite character and why?
I have quite a few favorite characters because I knew many of them and I liked some of the ones I made up. I really like Rico James Paradise because of his cool sounding name. I actually borrowed Rico’s name from a fellow soldier I met years ago at Ft. Jackson South Carolina. I think my favorite character though is Johnny Marra when Johnny was twenty-one years old. I gave Johnny Marra what I had at the same age. I had a neat convertible and I was seeing a beautiful girl named, Roseann. Some of the guys who hung on the corner were envious of me and some of them wished they could have been with her. Things were golden for me then and all I wanted to do was to be with Roseann. We would take rides down the New Jersey shore with the top down and the hot hit’s radio station playing on the loud side. Roseann would be by my side and the wind would be blowing through our hair and it was a great time. So when I read about Johnny Marra when he was twenty-one years old I think back to a wonderful time in my life.
What was your inspiration for the book?
The inspiration for me to write “Once in a While in Philadelphia” came from the blue-collar neighborhood I grew up in and the people who lived there and things that happened to me in my life. It was a colorful, off-the-wall, combination of these things that are ingrained in me. I believe this, I really do: Some neighborhoods just give you the stories, and the Frankford row-house section of Northeast Philadelphia is certainly one of them. It would be hard to make up stories about a guy, nicknamed Tiger, who on a blistering summer day tried to catch a falling air-conditioner from a second story window on Tacony Street and guys with street corner monikers like Taboo, Slave Driver and Ronnie the Big Cad unless, of course, it was given to you. I just took all of this in and I knew some day it would come out in some form. This was my goal.
Then my inspiration was jacked up a few levels when I became a newspaper reporter and columnist covering Northeast Philadelphia. The skills I gained from this gave me the foundation to go to the next level. Also, being an avid reader, from the great Philadelphia columnists to the books I read, I just wanted, in a small way at least, to be a part of this select group. My thought process was; you have some skills, you have stories to tell. Go ahead and do it. Don’t have regrets later.
What inspired your characters?
Some of the things that happened in my life inspired my characters. When I was twenty-one I was seriously dating a girl named Roseann. Roseann was beautiful and it was magic just to be with her. I had this convertible and we would take rides down to the New Jersey shore. We would have the top down, the radio tuned to the hot hit’s station playing on the loud side driving through the sunshine. It was a golden time and I think you always remember your first love. Roseann would tell me she only wanted to be friends but I loved her so much. Then one night, out of the blue, she asked me if I loved her. I gave her the answer I thought she wanted to hear but it was the wrong answer and everything fell apart. So for a long time I had the ending for a story about letting love slip away. Then I wrote a story about Rico James Paradise and Arlene Marie Denali and I took them to that ending. Many of the other characters in my book were inspired by all the people who came into my life along the way. Some of them did things I will always remember. All of these things I took in and, thankfully, the book was the finished product. I think everybody has a story to tell. Especially if you grew up in a colorful inner-city neighborhood where rumor has it some guy tried to catch a falling air-conditioner from a second story window on Tacony Street.
Do you have another book planned?
I really want to follow this book up with another one. I think it is a thrill to be a published author so my goal is to do it again. One thing I am working on is trying to turn the story about Rico James Paradise and Arlene Marie Denali into a play. So far, I have found this out. Writing a play is a lot different from writing a book. I must say I am feeling pretty creative about the play and some other things so I will see what happens.
What can readers take away from your book?
Actually, I do have a few messages I would like readers to take away from my book. Some are serious. Some are off-the-wall. And I should have followed some of them myself. Here goes some of them:
- Don’t come up small when you have a chance for something in your life.
- If you set up goals for your life, don’t get stuck along the way trying to achieve them.
- Try to achieve conditioning of the self.
- If you have someone in your life you can embrace when things are falling apart, whatever you do, don’t risk losing it.
- Try to meet an uptown girl with high cheekbones and intelligent eyes.
- Never take a date to a taco place after bowling for dollars.
- Never take a friend’s sister to a dance.
- Always do the right thing and try to have a good life.
- Marry someone who loves you.
- AND THE LAST AND MOST IMPORTANT IS THIS,”WITH LOVE IN YOUR LIFE YOU CAN DO GREAT THINGS.”