The Newest Author at GNNHS – Thomas E. Hahn’s “Open My Eyes”

Great Neck North High School’s own Mr. Hahn has recently published his novel, “Open My Eyes.” Through years of writing, Mr. Hahn has managed teaching at North High as well as a Ph.D. program, while finding time to complete this work.


Briefly summarized, the novel follows a man in his 20s reflecting on key moments during his life and experiences colored with grief from the loss of his father and the memory of his relationship with his overbearing mother. He is also withdrawing from psychotropic drugs that he was taking at the requests of his mother and psychiatrist. Throughout this process of coming off the medicine, he becomes involved in a relationship with a girl named Elizabeth who tries to help him off the drugs. Without her, he experiences struggles in building relationships and attending school, which he eventually drops out of. 


“In the present scene, he is trying to withdraw from the medicine again, so as we’re learning about his history, some of it is skewed and fantastical because of the withdrawal,” Mr. Hahn said. 


Mr. Hahn’s new novel, “Open My Eyes.” Image credit: Running Wild Press.


Mr. Hahn has always loved poetic language and authors such as James Salter, finding Salter’s novel, Light Years, very inspiring. 


“Seeing how he cared so much about the language as much as the narrative, since it is rare to see both of them together in one story in great writing, made me really care about every word and choose each word carefully, especially in the editing process,” Mr. Hahn said.


There were numerous short story authors who also influenced Mr. Hahn, including Benjamin Percy, Amy Bender, and John Updike, as well as a book titled Tinkers by Paul Hearting. In writing Open My Eyes, Mr. Hahn started it as a short story 15 years ago and put it away for years, but after showing it to his mentor in college, Mr. Hahn decided to expand it into something larger and started to seriously begin writing it.


“Publishers always ask who the intended audience is, but when you are writing a story, that’s the last thing on my mind because of all the different criteria,” Mr. Hahn said. “However people want to market it is fine; I just know this is the story I need to tell and I tell it in the best way possible. I just hope it impacts someone, even one person.” 


Hahn became a part of the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program at Fairfield University to earn his MFA degree in fiction. “In an MFA program, your job, essentially, is to have a publishable work by the end of your experience there, so this is what I worked on for three years,” Mr. Hahn said. To accomplish this, Mr. Hahn has dealt with the hardships of finding time to work on the novel, managing a full-time teaching position in a Ph.D. program, a family and other responsibilities. He mostly worked on his novel early in the morning or during the summer. 


“I just spent a lot of time talking to myself in the car. I have a voice recorder, talk through my ideas and run through the characters. Many of the characters I create are hybrids of many people I know in life,” Mr. Hahn said. 


If people take anything away from reading the novel, Mr. Hahn primarily hopes that it can connect with readers. 


“I hope they can connect to the loneliness that everyone feels through some point of their life or alienation as a result of the verifying process, or the various ways to overcome grief,” Mr. Hahn said.


Thomas Hahn, the author of Open My Eyes and an English teacher at Great Neck North High School. Photo credit: Shayla Bakhshi.


He would like to thank his wife who has given him “alone time and recognizes he needs his writing time which is valuable.” His family and former colleagues in Wilton High School were always supportive of his writing career, devoting time to reading drafts during the writing process. Mr. Hahn’s colleagues at Great Neck North have also provided encouragement on this journey. “My chairperson, Ms. Snyder, is fantastic just because she gets me and understands how important writing is to me,” Mr. Hahn said. William Correo, another English teacher at Great Neck North High School, is the voice of the audiobook that they are working on for the novel. He spends countless hours working on the voices and taking time away from his family to complete it. 


“I have this writing group that I have been in for a while,” Mr. Hahn said. “We all live in different parts of the United States now, but we all exchange work at times and encourage each other to continue writing.”


In terms of advice to those who want to pursue writing, Mr. Hahn recommends joining a serious writing group with people to read and workshop pieces. Eventually, Mr. Hahn will be writing another book, but he is currently going through different plots and characters.