BY JOE MARVILLI
Although Queens-born author Matt Thomas has been writing since he was 10 years old, he had never released a full-length novel. Until now, that is.
Thomas’ debut, “A Breach in Death,” was released last month through Boxfire Press, an independent publisher based in Washington D.C. The book tells the story of Arc, a new Grim Reaper whose first day on the job does not go smoothly. Throughout the tale, which takes place in Astoria and Manhattan, Arc and his fellow reaper/guide to the underworld, Lucy, learn that something has upset the balance between life and death in a way that threatens everyone.
The idea for this piece of literature came from his time in graduate school at Syracuse University, where he earned a Master’s Degree in English. He took a fiction workshop with Robert O’Connor, the author of “Buffalo Soldiers,” who asked him to write two polished short stories. Thomas decided to write a third one as well, which was the genesis for “A Breach in Death.”
“I always thought that a realistic take on the Grim Reaper myth would be an interesting angle, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it,” he said. “I started thinking, how would one get assigned that job? How would a new Grim Reaper react to being thrown into such an unearthly situation?”
That writing exercise became a short story called “The Saints That Burnt Crosses,” which was published in 2005. Thomas was not done with that storyline though. As time went on, he started writing chapters and scenarios to expand the plot into a full-length tale. He found a match with Boxfire Press, who was looking to switch from publishing short stories to focusing on novels.
This transition to a full-length novel was a long time coming for Thomas. He wrote his first story as a child, about two brothers running into an escaped convict during a vacation to Mount Rushmore. After finishing college, he worked as a writer and submitted articles for various magazines, websites and newspapers.
“It didn’t necessarily influence my style, but it did have a tremendous impact on the way I approach each piece,” Thomas said. “It’s made my writing cleaner, more disciplined.”
From there, the author had a few short stories published, such as “Crossover” and “Happiness, USA,” both of which were nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
“Short stories require a tempo and rhythm that can maintain the reader’s interest while offering a sense of completion in a very narrow space,” he said. “Novels are a different animal. I need to outline and plot.”
Many of Thomas’ works have had a fantastical or science-fiction theme, an interest that came from years of reading classic literature and graphic novels.
“I look at ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ with as much revere as I do “Of Mice and Men,” so I wanted my own stories to reflect that influence,” he said. “Each piece I write is character driven but usually built within a world that allows for the fantastic.”
“A Breach in Death” is currently available at major retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
“I’m very proud of it, and I want to share it with readers who love character-driven genre fiction as much as I do,” Thomas said.
Reach Reporter Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.