MA: My guest today is the author of The SIN of Addison Hall, Jeffrey Onorato. In 1968, at the age of 5, Jeffrey Onorato used construction paper and Elmer’s glue to create what he believes was the world’s first graphic novel, Feelings in Baseball. During his high school years he tried to woo girls he liked by penning them haiku poems; however, they were awful and his attempts were largely unsuccessful. In 1982 while attending Lehigh University, Mr. Onorato wrote an award winning essay, The Rapes of Grath and followed it up in 1984 with another award winning essay, Baseball is an Ass. The seed for his debut novel, The SIN of Addison Hall, was planted in the fall of 1999. While in his twenties, Jeffrey visited the gym religiously, and one Sunday morning, as he pulled into his gym’s packed parking lot, he noticed that the lot of the church next to his gym had more empty beer cans than cars. It occurred to him that toning his body was more important to him then nurturing his soul, and obviously he was not alone. Seven years later, writing primarily in overpriced coffee houses and Irish pubs, Jeffrey finished a novel that warns of the dangers of carnality. Mr. Onorato lives in Westchester County, NY with his wife and two young children.
Welcome, Jeffrey. You obviously have enjoyed writing from an early age, but it wasn’t a career until later. What did you do leading up to writing your first novel?
JO: I spent most of my adult life in sales, traveling lots. Waiting for planes and sitting on planes gave me ample time to write. According to my tally I spent time writing it in 23 US cities, four European cities, and three Caribbean resorts.
MA: I can see how your essay writing experiences evolved into novel writing. Where there any other influences that led you to it?
JO: I chose to write novels because I enjoy reading novels and I am a big fan of dystopian literature. I like stories that are darkly humorous and provocative and stories that make my reader’s reflect upon their own value systems. After reading my first novel, The SIN of Addison Hall, one reader told me she cancelled a botox appointment and threw her Crest Whitestrips in the garbage.
MA: Tell us about the story.
JO: Residing in a country where beautiful people are considered superior, Addison Hall is an anomaly. A mildly repugnant man, he is forced by the twisted hierarchy of his dictator to live in less than adequate living situations. The days become increasingly arduous as he toils in an unpleasant job, stricken with the disappointment of his current situation. Besides the dark comedy of his disastrous attempts at romance and his friend’s antics, Addison’s life is fairly dull. Then he meets Otka, a beautiful woman who owns the local coffee shop. After witnessing a chance encounter where Addison risks his life to save the life of a dog, Otka takes an obvious interest in him. Addison is perplexed by her reciprocated intrigue. Past experiences with such a valued creature of the opposite sex has left him tainted and doubting her motives.
The SIN of Addison Hall entrances the reader with delicious conflicts of human wanting and wavering uncertainty with an ending that will leave you begging for more.
MA: You told me earlier that your protagonist is a bit autobiographical, but did any real life experiences factor into the story line at all?
JO: Not my real life experiences, but The Holocaust was the underpinning for the story. My wife and I visited Auschwitz in 2003, so a lot of the imagery came from that visit. I also lifted verbatim from Nazi propaganda. My reasons for doing this is to convey the message that whenever a society devalues a segment of its people, horrible things can accrue.
MA: That’s a good message we should all keep in mind. Do you have any future novel-writing plans?
JO: I am currently on my third re-write for a novel that lampoons overt materialism. The working title is Betty Boop’s Skirt is Frayed. I expect to send the manuscript to my publisher by beginning of May 2010.
MA: You do come up with some clever titles for essays and books! So, there won’t be a sequel to The SIN of Addison Hall?
JO: I am also working on the first draft of The Redemption of Addison Hall, an obvious sequel to The SIN of Addison Hall. My goal is to have the manuscript off to the publisher by Christmas 2010.
MA: That’s good to hear. If you would like to read more about Jeffrey Onorato and The SIN of Addison Hall, please visit: http://www.blockislandbooks.com/
Thanks, Jeffrey, for stopping by!