Before becoming a writer, Tony O’Neill started off as a noted rock musician. Fresh out of public school, he blew off an enrollment interview at a university in order to audition for a band. His musical career lasted through the Marc Almond Band, Kenickie, and the Brian Jonestown Massacre before getting derailed by his addiction to heroin and crack.
In an interview, Tony admitted his music career “encouraged all the worst, most excessive parts of me. Being a musician was unrelenting. You’d be touring for extended periods of time and it was all one big party. Then, you’d be dropped off at home and have months of nothing. So you’d get wasted to fill the time in.”
He began writing more as therapy than with the idea of being a published author.
“I had reached a point in my life where I felt as if I had hit a brick wall. I made the decision to come off methadone and heroin because my life was a complete mess. Writing—at the start—was literally something to do while I was detoxing. Something to keep me sane. At the start, I sat by the computer in tears…dope sick…shaking…throwing up in trashcans. And I wrote through it. Once it started coming, I couldn’t stop. I took a job in the basement of a Virgin Megastore when Vanessa (his wife) was pregnant with Nico. I’d disappear off, grab a bottle of cough medicine, drink enough to feel normal, and sit in the cafe during my lunch break, writing onto napkins or pieces of paper stolen out of the boss’s office. Then, I’d go home and transcribe them."
The book, DIGGING THE VEIN, was published by Contemporary Press. He has since published two other books, SEIZURE WET DREAMS: SHORT STORIES (Social Disease Press), and SONGS FROM THE SHOOTING GALLERY: POEMS(Burning Shore Press).
While all three books were published quietly by ultra-independent presses, Tony has been rapidly gaining attention as a young writer of rising notice.
Tony now lives in New York City, where he reads regularly at the KGB Bar in the East Village and other reading series throughout the five boroughs. Tony recently returned from The Hague, where the Crossing Borders Festival honored him as a guest writer. Past Crossing Borders honorees include Douglas Coupland, Alain de Botton, and Dave Eggers.
The August 2007 issue of Esquire (UK edition) classified DIGGING THE VEIN as the “IT” book of the decade. The article placed it in the company of ON THE ROAD, their designated “IT” book of the 1950s, followed by FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, LESS THAN ZERO, and TRAINSPOTTING.