Author Thomas "Sully" Sullivan Thrives on Telling Tales

Author Thomas “Sully” Sullivan with some of his books at the Maple Grove Library.

Maple Grove resident Thomas Sullivan is no ordinary writer. He is one of a special few who can say he is a USA Today best-selling author (for Case White) and Pulitzer Prize nominee (for The Phases of Harry Moon)—yet if you try to define his genre of writing, you might find yourself at a loss.

By the age of 6, Sullivan had already lived in a dozen countries and experienced the joys and hardships of traveling. With this mobility came an introduction to global cultures, people and places. Sullivan used his observations to influence his fiction writing.

There has been only one continuous theme across his writing career: “I write people stories,” Sullivan says. “And the nature of publishing is that when you get a handle on the things and events of a book, they are put into a category. If I wrote a people story about a tumbleweed, it was being categorized as a western and if it was pulse-pounding, it was called a thriller.”

Categorization is an ongoing challenge, but Sullivan looks beyond it. His books The Martyring, Dust of Eden and Case White are difficult to define—but that’s what makes them so interesting.

The Martyring tells of a man who learns to make stained glass in order to help others see the glory of God. The book also includes several twists and turns, dealing with the murders of several martyrs. The novel has been labeled a thriller, a mystery, and science fiction, and even reviewed as a gothic horror story. The World Fantasy Convention, an annual gathering for those interested in light and dark fantasy art and literature, also named The Martyring a best novel finalist.

Described by Sullivan as a story of interpersonal relationships with intriguing twists, Dust of Eden is about an elderly woman painter who lost her father years ago. His ashes were mixed with what is determined to be the original site of the Garden of Eden and sent back to her. The woman mixes the ashes with her paint and, due to the magical essence from the garden, her paintings come alive, allowing her to play God.

The popularity of e-books has been a game changer in the writing world, and Sullivan decided to try his hand at the electronic format. That’s when his novel Case White appeared.

“[E-books] are a much better deal for writers...that’s where the market has gone now, but it is problematic; how do you distinguish yourself in an e-book when anyone can do it?”

With many of his ideas and novels stretching across multiple genres, it’s interesting to explore Sullivan’s brainstorming and writing processes. “My ideas are just fragments I think of and anecdotal lists,” Sullivan says. “I often write down coherent paragraphs or a fragment and don’t know what I’m going to do with [them].”

After writing down thousands of fragments, Sullivan then tries to piece it all together like a broken mirror. The stories that arise are “full borne out of the forehead,” he says.

Sullivan’s guiding philosophy is simple. “When you don’t belong anywhere, in a sense you belong everywhere. The goal is to connect with people and shake off the label.”

Thomas Sullivan’s novels Dust of Eden, Second Soul, Born Burning and The Martyring are available for Nook at Barnes & Noble, and other formats on

Also available on
The Water Wolf
The Phases of Harry Moon