At 21, Paul Antonucci has joined the company of writers whose first works appeared while they were still young. With his debut novel, “The Truth Behind the Lens,” Antonucci hopes to take his place alongside authors like Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Charles Dickens, Graham Greene and James Joyce, who all published their first works in their teens or 20s.
The 2016 graduate of Seaford High School began writing in a third-grade poetry class. “I don’t write poetry anymore,” he admitted, adding that even then, “what I wrote wasn’t poetry.” He began writing again in middle school, and hasn’t stopped since. He lives with his parents, Pauline and Michael, who he says are very supportive of his career choice. In addition to his writing, he hopes to join the Seaford Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter.
Nothing remains of Antonucci’s earlier efforts as a novelist. “The Truth Behind the Lens” is his first completed work, and he still seems to be finding his approach to writing. He started a number of other projects, “but the ideas weren’t going anywhere,” he said. “Then this one happened.”
“Truth” is a conspiracy thriller in which three former government workers — Paul Mitchell, Matthew Pierce and Amanda Knox — become aware of a cover-up of elements in the Sept. 11 attacks on the twin towers. The three work for a government organization similar to the National Security Council.
In the fictional account, they are given a folder by an anonymous source — “it kind of just falls into their lap,” Antonucci said — and they’re enticed into the conspiracy. “They find it goes all the way to the top,” he said.
Antonucci was inspired by a dream, he said, emphasizing that the work is fiction, and that while he believes that many of the details of the 9/11 attacks remain unclear, he is not a conspiracy theorist.
Once he had the idea, the book took less than a year to write. “I started writing in a notebook in 2017,” he said. “Then I transferred it to computer.” The original manuscript was nearly destroyed by a computer virus, but he managed to recover it.
After that came the arduous and sometimes discouraging work of finding a publisher or an agent willing to represent the work. Antonucci submitted the manuscript to a number of literary agents who, though encouraging, nevertheless rejected it. Finally, he found a publisher on Staten Island, Page Publishing Inc. “They read it, liked it, and it got published,” he said.
He said that “Truth” had possibilities as a movie or a TV miniseries.
Antonucci is working on a number of new writing projects. In one, a U.S. Navy vessel accidentally shoots down a space shuttle, and a filmmaker inadvertently catches the friendly-fire incident on film. Many of Antonucci’s ideas are in the mystery or conspiracy genre, which comprises the bulk of his own reading, although he is also sketching out a story about a post-apocalyptic dystopian community. And he also enjoys historical works and science fiction, he said. His favorite authors include David Baldacci and James Patterson.
Antonucci describes his earlier efforts as “parts of a book.” He explored various characters or scenarios, he said, but they either didn’t go in a direction he found interesting, or he simply became bored with the story or its characters. “If I don’t like what I’m writing,” he said, “how can I expect my readers to?”
In retrospect, he realized that he was learning about the building blocks of the novel, the elements he’d need for his first full-fledged work.
Antonucci said he believed that “anyone can write a novel, and if it’s the right [book at the right] time, it’ll be successful. It’s like running for a political office.” But not everyone can sustain writing as a career, he said.
The book, published by Page Publishing Inc., is available on amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and most online booksellers.