It is a historical novel of intrigue, suspense and forbidden love. Its principal characters are some of the giants of the Renaissance; Leonardo Da Vinci, Niccòlo Machiavelli, Ludovico Sforza and Çesare Borgia, depicted, not like the mythical figures they became, but as they were, men driven by passion; working, loving, striving and simply trying to survive one of the most exciting periods in history.
About the Author:
Someone said once that Joseph Orbi either has led a very interesting life or he suffers from
delusions. Truth is, no one else can claim they have played “fetch” with Rin-Tin-Tin, tried to buy the entire Air Force of the Dominican Republic, warned a Department of Defense spokesman
against selling F-14 to pre-Islamic Iran, predicted Israel’s raid on Entebbe, met Argentina’s Juan Perón for breakfast, performed as a clown in a circus, worked in Hollywood, was consigliere to an opera company, became a successful advertising executive, and even appeared twice as principal guest in two Phil Donahue shows.
It is those eclectic and zany life experiences that have given form to Joseph Orbi’s fascinating and unpredictable writing that somersaults between black comedy, historical drama and political thrillers. Literary works by Joseph Orbi include: Peter’s Choice, Pendejo, Murder A Capella, McQuicker’s Place, The Bet, ¿Por qué se reía la gente?, and Diplo.
When did you decide to start writing?
I started writing for tv in my teens, when I was 18. It was for a local station that was doing a special for the Columbia Pictures' release of “Oliver” (1968). In 1990 my agent suggested I turned an idea I had for a play into a book because, as she put it: “I'll get it published before you get the play produced.” She was right. The result was “Peter's Choice.” My second novel was “Cenacolo” which has to do with 2 very upsetting weeks in the life of Leonardo da Vinci.
What is your genre and why did you decide to write a novel in it?
I don't write in one genre because I write about things I find interesting. For example: “Peter's Choice” is an international thriller dealing with the war in the Balkans and the involvement of the Holy See in Croatia during WWII, which I knew nothing about (now I do) :). “Cenacolo” is based on a play I wrote a few years back.
The process of writing a novel from a play is rare because it usually happens the other way around – you write a novel, then adapt it for the stage. The setting is Italy in the 1490's and it deals with the lives of Leonardo da Vinci, Machiavelli and the Borgias. “Cosa Nostra” is black comedy about some very colorful and funny (I think) folks that inhabit the world of opera in NY, today.
“Soldeluna” – which I am yet to complete – begins in 1865 in a Spanish colony in the Caribbean
and it tells the story of 5 generations of women in a family.
I do tend to lean to historical fiction because I enjoy reading history. The catch is that in order to write good HF one must be diligent with research so it rings true.
Were you worried about the word count of your work?
I never worry about word count and I think no author should. I understand that it is a reality of the publishing world but writers should not allow having limitations imposed on their works, that includes subject matter or length. If the book is good, people will read it. That should be the most important criteria for a publisher.
Do you have any writing quirks and what are they?
I tend to write lots of dialogue between characters and sometimes don't pay enough attention to the narrative. That is a product of writing for the stage and for television.
If you can describe your novel in one word, what would it be and why?
“Cenacolo?” Fun. People who have read it tell me they were unable to put it down. One fellow missed two days of work because he was so determined to find out what happened in the end.
How did you decide on the title and what does it mean?
The translation of the Italian “Cenacolo” is “circle” but it is also what they call Leonardo's “Last Supper.”
The title of the play produced was “Leonardo's Last Supper.” Most people thought it was a religious play – which is definitely not – and many people stayed away. That's when I decided to change the title to Italian, because although it means the same, folks do not immediately associate it with religiosity.
What do you hope your readers will get out of reading your novel?
To me it is very important people are entertained, and if as a result they also learn about the history of the Balkans or the Renaissance, great. I guess it is one of the reasons why several of my books have been assigned in literature courses at a couple of universities.
Tell us a little about your road to publication.
I've had many encounters with publishers. I even negotiated “Cenacolo” with the folks who published “... Code” before that book was published. After months of going back and forth I felt they wanted something that had more fiction and less history.
Finally, my agent contacted some folks interested in publishing and so far they've been very accommodating.
What advice can you give other aspiring authors out there?
Write for yourselves and never stop. The only bad novel/play/poem is the one that is not on paper.
Thank you so much, Joseph, for giving us your time for this interview. Also, this interview would not have been possible without the help of Sebastian Black. So, I'd like to give a shout out to him as well. If you want to know more about Joseph Orbi's latest book, you can click here.