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Matthew Daddona’s first novel was eight years in the making. (Photo credit: Randee Daddona)

Matthew Daddona’s literary career runs the gamut of poetry, fiction, ghostwriting, book editing, feature writing and more — and now he can add novelist to his curriculum vitae. 

Daddona started working on coming-of-age story The Longitude of Grief (Wandering Aengus Press, May 2024) at 26 years-old. “The Longitude of Grief is character driven, it’s emotional, it’s heartfelt — it’s sort of a love story baked inside of, like, a community mystery,” Daddona says. “There are things that I want to say in the book that I’m obsessed with from an intellectual level and so the book allows people to read into that or read into the curiosity I have from a literary perspective.” 

The story follows a boy named Henry Manero as he untangles his complicated relationship with his family. Through themes of growing up, familial bonds, boyhood and generational trauma, Daddona says the story is told in a few parts and from the perspective of characters in various stages of life, with the main events of the book taking place at the beginning of the story and the latter section Henry’s reckoning with the consequences of those events. 

“The first few parts are written in a third person point of view, that is following [Henry], several of his cousins, his mother and this whole cadre of characters,” Daddona says. “Then in the last part of the book, it catches up with [Henry] and it’s his perspective five years later.” 

The Longitude of Grief released in May and is available at BookHampton. (Image courtesy of Wandering Aengus Press)

Eight years ago, Daddona began the writing process with a series of “pseudo book reports” in the voice of the main character and imagined Henry was writing these reports with the goal of sharing his intellectual endeavors with others. 

Daddona presented these works at various readings in New York City and the more he read, the more he wanted to write. 

“I was kind of honing in on a voice that I liked and I felt really comfortable writing,” he says. “That just compelled me to figure out ‘how do I write more? Where’s the backstory? What happens next? Who are these characters he’s surrounded with?’”

The author added that East End readers may recognize some of the establishments named in the book and relate to the theme of “a small town that’s also undergoing a lot of change.” 

Daddona attended Temple University on a journalism scholarship but transferred after two years to Brooklyn College. With newspapers and magazines feeling the brunt of the financial crisis of 2008-09, he saw a future in book publishing and interned at Penguin Books.

The North Fork native formerly worked as a book editor for Penguin Random House and then senior editor at Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. His work has appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Newsday, Whalebone, Tin House, The Southampton Review and Fast Company

In 2020, he published his debut poetry collection “House of Sound” — a cultivation of 28 poems Daddona previously described as his “biggest personal creative milestone.” In addition to writing, he shucks oysters, installs irrigation systems and is a volunteer firefighter for the Southold Fire Department. 

His passion for writing was sparked in elementary school — thanks to the support of several teachers who recognized Daddona’s talent at a young age. As he has gotten older and more experienced, Daddona said he has learned there is no such thing as “good or bad” writing.

The key to becoming a better writer is writing something “you yourself will love,” he says. 

“You just have to write enough of a novel — even if it’s bad — just give yourself no excuse to turn around or stop,” Daddona says. “I believe in following whatever idea you have until its eventual end and sometimes the eventual end is a finished book, and sometimes it is putting down your pen or [taking your] fingers off the keyboard and saying I don’t want to write this anymore — and that’s okay.”  

The Longitude of Grief is available at BookHampton, 41 Main St., East Hampton, 631-324-4939.