Maui Connections

Everyone knows Matt Thayer. The Maui News’ photographer has been the face of the paper for decades. He’s out there in the community more than anyone else on the staff, cameras over his shoulder, reporter’s notebook in hand. Chances are you’ve had your photo taken by him, or your kids have . . . or their kids have, competing in high school sports.

What everyone doesn’t know is Matt’s other side.

For Amazon book readers around the world, he is Matthew Thayer, author of “The 30,000 B.C. Chronicles,” It’s a series of action-packed adventures about a group of scientists from a few centuries in the future, who time travel back 30,000 years to a landmass now known as Europe.

So far there are four books in the series — “Bordeaux,” “Tuscany,” “Gibraltar,” “Galway” . . . “and I’m working on Rome.”

Learning about that time and place fits into the love of European travel Matt shares with his wife, Kelly. He doesn’t just take travel photos — it’s research.

There are touches of science fiction, high adventure and a message about our environment. Initially the mission included almost 100 scientists and support personnel, but “everything went south” on their arrival, reducing them to a handful of survivors on the coast of France.

Matt’s had to learn what technology was available at the end of the Neanderthal era, and what the weather was like when what is now the United Kingdom was still attached to the European landmass.

Conjuring up a world on that scale — parts based in the known, other parts based in his imagination — gives him room to explore what it means to be human, both for the observers and the beings they encounter.

The mission began with “strict rules about how to behave — they don’t want to disturb history.” But, of course, things don’t go as planned, and the fantasy events lead to “sort of a treatise on ethics, and letting technology take over your happiness.”

Self-publishing exclusively on Amazon turns old paradigms upside down. Matt has thus far sold 8,000 books . . . none made out of paper. They get read on Kindles, or other such devices. The Amazon lending library reports he had 1.23 million pages read last year, but, “No trees were harmed in the publication of this book series.”

He recalls, “When I first started 10 years ago, I expected my readership to be men over 30.” Instead, Amazon puts the Chronicles in the Time-Travel Romance genre, with strong female readership.

He attributes this to a “strong female editor,” Haleakala Waldorf High School English teacher Kelsey Sadler, who edited the first three books.

His hobby has become his passion, Matt reports. “All my spare time is spent working on the books — I love it. I don’t golf anymore, I don’t surf. It’s what I do on my days off.”

He spends four to five hours a day at it. He’s got a routine, he’s got discipline honed by decades of newsroom deadlines. Sure, there are dreams of the Chronicles being picked up as a movie or cable TV series, but he’s the first to say you can’t be in it for the money.

“You have to just enjoy the writing. That has to the driving force.”

And in the meantime, Matt hasn’t quit the day job. He’s still shooting the mayor, the murder trials and your kids playing baseball.

His photojournalism plays a key role in his “research.” Wanting a warm, safe place to sleep; grieving the loss of a loved one — those things haven’t changed over 30,000 years, he says.

Noting that making ends meet here in paradise often calls for having more than one job, he says, “I’m probably the luckiest guy on Maui — I get paid to be creative and to let my creativity flow.”

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I didn’t get out last weekend, but Cynthia Conrad sure did with her husband, Jerry Labb. She files this report:

Happy 21st birthday to Maui No Ka Oi Magazine! On the rooftop of Fleetwood’s on Front Street under a full-moon balmy night, a large crowd wished Diane Haynes Woodburn and her creative team a happy birthday. As specialty cocktails were offered and pupu were passed, well-wishers included chefs Paris Nabavi and Sheldon Simeon, writers Jill Engledow and Shannon Wianecki, friends Jeff and Sandy Ellison, Dart and Sue Guille, Clyde and Gerrianne Sakamoto, Barry and Stella Rivers, Teena and Craig Rasmussen and Carolee Higashino. Partiers danced the night away with rock ‘n’ roll by the Paul Marchetti band featuring super singer Gretchen Rhodes.

* Rick Chatenever, award-winning former entertainment and features editor of The Maui News, is a freelance journalist, instructor at UH-Maui College and documentary scriptwriter/producer. Contact him at