Ridgewood-based author Matthew Kressel has already been nominated for several awards for his short stories, and this October he will delve into a new realm when he releases his debut novel titled “King of Shards.”
Kressel has written more than 20 short stories in his career, including “The Sounds of Old Earth” and “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye,” which were both Nebula Award nominees for Best Short Story in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
“I’ve written a bunch of short stories, but this is my first novel,” Kressel said. “It’s very different. Novels give you obviously more space to explore ideas, you can take time with certain aspects of the story and plot that you can’t do in a short story. In a short story, every word has to count. And it’s not that it doesn’t count in a novel, it’s just that you have more breathing space, more room to play.”
Being an avid reader since his youth, Kressel got into writing after a friend suggested that he take a writing class at The New School in Manhattan. It was during this class that Kressel learned how to create short stories and many different aspects of writing.
“It was my intro to writing short stories, how to get critiqued … that was the first time where someone said, ‘Hey, we like where you’re going here but it’s not quite working,’ and as a writer I think it’s important to be able to take criticism of your work,” Kressel said.
“King of Shards,” which will hit bookstores on Oct. 13, was inspired by the Jewish myth of the Lamed Vav, Kressel said. In Lamed Vav, which literally translates to “30” and “Six,” there are 36 hidden saints in the world, and if anyone of them stops being righteous the world will cease to exist.
“I started being really curious about that myth and what it represents,” Kressel said. “The idea is essentially, you never know who you’re going to meet so you should always treat them as if they are upholding the world, as if they are the righteous person. And you yourself could be one and not know it. So it’s like a motivation for yourself to be kinder and more righteous.”
In his novel, demons discover who these righteous 36 people are and want to kill them to destroy the universe. The main character, who is one of the 36, must work with one of the most evil forces in the world to save the cosmos.
Kressel moved to Ridgewood three years ago and already feels part of the tight-knit community.
“I love this neighborhood, I like the community of it, I like the family aspect of the neighborhood,” Kressel said. “It feels like a real community. Some of the New York City neighborhoods you don’t get that same sense of community, [but] you definitely feel it here. You feel like families are here; they’ve been for generations. There are plenty of hard-working people. I like that.”