J Dominic was born John De Pasquale on New York’s Long Island. When John was five, his family moved to Rhode Island.
While enrolled at Lindenwood College in Saint Charles, Missouri, John worked in the theater department and in 1976, he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication arts. He then went on to “stage manage” and “floor direct” television news, and studio shows at the NBC, ABC, and CBS affiliates in Providence and Boston.
In 1982, John moved to Idaho and its Ketchum-Sun Valley ski resort. He performed and directed local theater, served as a tour guide, cut trails, planted flowers, washed dishes, was a food-purchasing agent, a restaurant manager, a lift attendant, and the last, officially-posted, U.S. Forest Service fire lookout atop Ketchum’s Bald Mountain.
John earned his second bachelor’s degree in 1989 and taught English & drama in several Idaho public schools.
During a 1993 Community Library event in Ketchum, John met award-winning novelist Tom Spanbauer, who encouraged John to study “Dangerous Writing” at Portland State University.
After two summers in the University’s extension program, John was invited into Spanbauer’s distinguished Dangerous Writing workshop where expectations were high, challenges daring, and humanity central.
John credits being an author to these vibrant workshops, and to the unwavering reassurances of a beneficent friend.
Reaching Montaup is J Dominic’ s first novel.
Want something good from something bad? Boise author J Dominic has a few things to say about that
By STAFF WRITER
For Press Adaptation
BOISE, Idaho — John Dominic knows a secret for enjoying the good things in life: he carefully selects his metaphors.
He’s been to foreign lands and he has traveled extensively throughout the USA.
As a seasonal employee at Idaho’s Sun Valley Ski Resort, he has literally opened doors for the rich and famous. And in a few instances—one in particular—the “door opening” was reciprocated.
While dining in the Sun Valley Lodge, Dominic had the opportunity to offer deeply personal testimony to a particular guest who was so stirred by Dominic’s narrative, the guest pledged both the critiquing and the financing Dominic would need to publish the story.
The crux of Dominic’s story is this: in 1969, when Dominic was a 16-year-old foreign exchange student, camping in the Peruvian Andes, he successfully fought off a U.S. Catholic priest who was attempting to molest him.
Essentially—after escaping semi-clothed, alone and with limited Spanish ability—Dominic was stranded in the mountains and had to find his way out of the desolate terrain; he then had to navigate his way through the chaotic streets of Lima; and finally, return to the coastal-suburban home of his unsuspecting host family.
Since that horrible night and the subsequent day, J Dominic has used that experience as the primary catalyst for gleaning good things from bad things.
Throughout many years of indulging in two of his favorite pastimes—traveling and exchanging stories—J Dominic has shared his firm belief: “Emotional understanding often blooms in the midst of contradictory forces.”
This “balanced opposition” is his central metaphor.
Challenging stuff indeed
J Dominic rejects the passive cliché, “It is what it is.”
Instead, he embraces the more active, “It is how we make it.” He says, “More than likely, good things come from bad things when we work really hard to make the good things happen.”
And work really hard he did.
From 1985-1989 while employed as a television stage manager at the NBC affiliate in Providence, Rhode Island, John simultaneously attended college and earned his second bachelor’s degree.
Yet, upon graduating, he doubted his ability to write well enough to publish a memoir. Nevertheless, the confidence to complete his project steadily grew with the unwavering encouragement of his Sun Valley benefactor and from the adage, “If you want to learn, then teach.” So J Dominic began a twenty-two-year, public school career of teaching drama, creative writing, and English.
During both the school year and the many summer breaks from teaching, Dominic enriched his writing passion with other activities.
He drove his small car across the country.
Spent a summer fishing on a forty-foot trawler off Alaska’s Kodiak Island.
As a seasonal Sun Valley employee he worked as a tour guide, performed and directed theater productions, cut trails, planted flowers, washed dishes, was a food-purchasing agent, a restaurant manager, a lift attendant, and the last, officially posted, U.S. Forest Service fire lookout atop Sun Valley’s Bald Mountain.
Eventually, John became a Boise resident and in the course of two Boise springtimes, a couple of jarring things occurred. One of them involved the Boise Catholic bishop.
Apathy: the worst sin?
In 2002, after the Boston Globe’s Spotlight revelations, Boise Bishop Michael Driscoll extended an invitation through the local newspaper for all victims of clergy abuse to come forward with their stories.
At this time, John Dominic was living in Boise and he had completed the manuscript of his personal narrative.
However, the narrative needed an essential detail: the offending priest’s full name. During the ensuing decades of the Peruvian event, Dominic had forgotten the priest’s last name. Dominic could only remember the culprit’s superficial title: “Father Louis.”
Dominic now wanted to learn the legal identity of that U.S. American priest who, in Peru, had assaulted him. So Dominic responded to the Boise bishop’s open invitation.
As soon as Bishop Driscoll realized the wayward priest committed his offense in South America, the bishop told Dominic that the Diocese of Boise lacked the resources to contact the appropriate offices in Peru.
Dominic was dumbfounded.
He was raised a Catholic and he knew the word “catholic” means “universal.” He also knew the church was powerfully resourceful. And to be fair, the Diocese of Boise of which Dominic was not a member, did extend counseling benefits that Dominic eventually used. All the same here was this bishop saying a few well-placed phone calls or Internet exchanges would tax the church’s resources.
At a minimum, Dominic thought the church leader would want to be pro-active and learn if the offending U.S. priest had ever visited, was from, or was currently serving in the Diocese of Boise. But Bishop Driscoll wasn’t the least bit interested. Regardless of the fact that the deviant priest was a U.S. American citizen, the priest had not perpetrated his offense in Boise, or anywhere else in Idaho—or for that matter, the United States. End of story.
Then the bishop “educated” Dominic saying, “Little league teams and the Boy Scouts of America have a higher ratio of adults abusing children than does the Roman Catholic Church.”
Dominic, an experienced middle school teacher and very familiar with adolescent “buck-passing,” says he looked the seated bishop in the eyes and said, “Shame on you.”
Dominic then walked out of the bishop’s office certain of only one thing: the non-fiction manuscript wasn’t necessarily going to remain that way.
Fiction: the lie that reveals the truth
During a summer-extension program at Oregon’s Portland State University, J Dominic painstakingly transformed his brief non-fiction manuscript into expansive fiction.
Within each daily writing session, the fictional protagonist “Jate Tavino” and his friends “spoke” to burgeoning author J Dominic. At first, Dominic recorded only bits and pieces of their revelations.
That’s when Dominic’s writing teacher, Tom Spanbauer, pointed to Dominic and said, “Start listening to those voices.”
Many times Spanbauer would paraphrase a quote attributed to both Picasso and Camus: Good fiction is the lie that tells the truth. Spanbauer would also emphasize, “Police reports, and academia, come from the head; art comes from the heart.”
And in J Dominic’s “art,” the victim of clergy abuse was now going to receive justice from a metaphorical avenging spirit—a sympathetic mobster—not an apathetic bishop.
Angel in the rafter
While re-drafting the climatic Easter-weekend scenes of his manuscript that had the working title “Reaches”—an allusion to the Andes peaks—J Dominic found a good deal of inspiration from the pews of Saint Mary’s Church in Boise.
The first time Dominic visited the Boise church for a Holy Saturday pre-Easter service, the various wood carved statues found a special place in his heart. They were the exact opposite of the garishly colored plaster figures that stood in the churches of his Rhode Island youth.
When J Dominic happened to glance up at the Boise Saint Mary’s ceiling, a particular carving captivated him. Perched at the edge of a rafter, sat a snoozing angel.
The meticulously carved wooden angel (still slumbering there today) projected a humorous, heart-stopping innocence contrary to the avenging sword-wielding warrior—Michael the Archangel—who was becoming central to J Dominic’s fiction.
Once again a balance of opposing forces was manifesting itself and Dominic became intently inspired.
There in the Boise church, amidst the solemn pre-Easter ceremony, Dominic strengthened his resolve to fictionalize the true account of the offense waged against him in his adolescence.
So far away; yet, a homecoming
The fact is—while in the Portland, Oregon workshops—J Dominic had transposed the story’s setting from Peru to Rhode Island.
And in the few years after that angelic encounter in Saint Mary’s, J Dominic diligently continued to edit and re-edit his manuscript. The novel’s working title “Reaches” evolved into the more symbolic—New England specific—“Reaching Montaup.”
“Montaup” is the indigenous name of Rhode Island. “Montaup” means “rocky shore” and it was on Rhode Island’s rocky shores, sandy beaches, and tidal marshes J Dominic spent a good deal of his childhood.
He also spent lots of time on docks & boats where it was essential to speak the maritime lingo: rope is “line;” sails, “sheets;” and turning direction may be “coming about, jibbing or tacking.”
One specific nautical term that resonated with Dominic was “reaching.”
On the water “reaching” means sailing forward in a crosswind; advancing in the face of resistance. And when a sailboat is reaching a rolling swell, or chopping through the spindrift, safe navigation requires vigilant, continuous action.
For J Dominic, the metaphorical title “Reaching Montaup” suggests that success is often determined by one’s ability “to sail with the gale” and venture past life’s rocky shore.
And what always surprises J Dominic is the way in which landlocked Boise, Idaho, and all of America’s landscapes, cities, towns, and villages offer—metaphorically speaking—“such vast, great seas for sailing.”