Jersey author writes a Christmas thriller
“The Dark Servant” is a NJ Christmas Thriller written by Matt Manochio. Manochio worked for 12 years as a reporter at the Morris County Daily Record.
Here is a synopsis of the book:
High school students in Northern New Jersey vanish as a blizzard crushes the state. All that remains are signs of destruction and bloody hoof prints. Seventeen-year-old Billy Schweitzer awakes December 5 feeling depressed. He's feuding with his police chief father and golden boy older brother, and his dream girl has rejected him. When an unrelenting creature named Krampus infiltrates his town, imperiling his family and friends, Billy must overcome his own demons to understand why his supposedly innocent high school peers have been snatched, and how to rescue them from a famous saint's ruthless companion--that cannot be stopped
Imagine Santa has elves making toys for the good children and a “Dark Servant” who metes out punishment to the bad ones.
I caught up with Matt to talk about the book which has been doing very well! You can read our interview below:
Steve: What made you write a Christmas thriller? What's the background (fairytale)?
Matt: These two questions go hand in hand. I first learned of Krampus two years ago. Back in the day in pre-Christian Europe, Saint Nicholas (yes, Santa Claus) rewarded the good kids with goodies on December 5th, (Krampusnacht; aka the Eve of Saint Nicholas). He farmed out the bad ones to Krampus, a chain-wielding, cloven-hooved devil that stuffs bad kids into a barrel on his back and takes them away to his cave to punish them. Even though Krampus is widely celebrated throughout Europe, I'd never heard of him and could not get over that Jolly Ol' Saint Nick employed a henchman devil to mete out discipline to the naughty. It both horrified me and made me laugh. I didn't set out to write a Christmas thriller, per se. That's simply the timeframe when Krampus rears his ugly head. But the fact is there's little commercially published Krampus fiction on the market today. Compare that to Vampires and Werewolves. So even though the myth is centuries old, the material is ripe for original, modern-day storytelling.
Steve: Why set in New Jersey?
Matt: I grew up in New Jersey (and live in Netcong) and worked for 12 years as a newspaper reporter in Northern New Jersey. I stuck to the old adage, Write what you know. I modeled a fictitious town after Jefferson, NJ, in Morris County, because of its remote, rural setting. The story could be set in any American town, but I know Jersey best.
Steve: What do you want the readers to take from the book?
Matt: First, I want to introduce them to Krampus because it's a great legend that I'm certain many of your listeners and readers, in general, have never heard of. It's an off-beat side of Christmas that will become more ingrained in our culture as the years go by, so I hope to be on the forefront of spreading the word about him. I also want readers to know The Dark Servant isn't just a monster book, involving a mindless creature that runs around hurting people. Krampus is a thinking-man's monster who reasons and moralizes, and is irreverent, in keeping with my personality. Also, I address subjects that high schoolers can relate to, including bullying and teenage mental illness. These are serious issues that I don't make light of. I wrote the book for an adult audience, keeping in mind it should be appropriate for high schoolers to read.
Steve: If it were made into a movie, who would you see playing some of the roles?
A. Billy Schweitzer, the lead male character who's 17 years old: the guy who plays Peeta in The Hunger Games. His name's Josh Hutcherson, but I had to look that up.
B. Maria Flynn, a comely redheaded high schooler who Billy pines for: Molly Quinn, the actress who play's Castle's daughter on ABC.
C. Krampus, a hairy, raging devil who punishes bad children: Daniel
Day-Lewis. The guy can play any role, and I like the idea of him staying in character all day on set and tormenting the cast and crew during lunch
Check out Matt Manochio's website for more information on 'The Dark Servant' and his other work.