The High School English Teacher Who Sold His Debut Novel for a $1 Million

Jen Doll
The High School English Teacher Who Sold His Debut Novel for a $1 Million

High school teacher Matthew Thomas, 38, has sold his debut novel for an impressive sum. And he seems like a really nice guy, too. According to Page SixWe Are Not Ourselves, which took Thomas more than 10 years to write, "got more than a $1 million advance in North America, and closed a six-figure UK deal at the London Book Fair" after a bidding war ensued over the 700-page manuscript. 

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Simon & Schuster editor-in-chief Marysue Rucci acquired the North American rights to the book, and publisher Jonathan Karp said, “Every publisher dreams of being able to herald a major American novel. For us, this is the one." Fourth Estate took UK and Commonwealth rights after a 7-way auction.

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Publishers Weekly reports that Thomas, "an Irish American with an Irish passport, has a B.A. from the University of Chicago and also studied fiction at Johns Hopkins with Alice McDermott." He's the father of twins, and has taught English at New York City's Xavier High School for the past seven years. At, he's received reviews from students like "This guy is the maannnnClass is easy as long as you do your work and study for the vocab tests which are madd light" and "Loves to have fun in his classes whether it is talking about sports or throwing things around the room! Though he does get serious at times..."

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We Are Not Ourselves was dubbed by some at the London Book Fair as "the Irish epic," according to PW. Simon & Schuster reveals that the novel, set in the second half of the 20th century, "is a sprawling portrait of the Irish-American Leary family—Ed, Eileen, and their son Connell—as they move from Jackson Heights, Queens to Bronxville, New York in pursuit of the American dream. Eileen's unblinking determination to better the family's status is challenged by her husband's dedication to teaching—and ultimately, devastatingly, by a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s."

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Thomas told Page Six, “I’m humbled . . . Working on it for more than a decade, I faced a lot of self-doubt and threw out hundreds of pages.” Writer Joshua Ferris gave early praise to the book, saying “it’s humbling and heartening to read a book this good." Thomas' agent Bill Clegg of WME called him “one of the nicest, most humble guys ever," and said "sometimes the good guys win.”

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Publication is expected in 2014. 

Image via Shutterstock by Christian Delbert.