SCREAMING SPOTLIGHT ON: DANIEL G. KEOHANE

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It was only a matter of time before SCREAMING SPOTLIGHT focused on writer Daniel G. Keohane. And this interview actually coincides nicely with the release of his first novel, SOLOMON’S GRAVE (published by Dragon Moon Press). I first met Dan at a convention back in 2000, and we became fast friends. Since that time we’ve collaborated on a short story called “Mermaids,” which appeared in Cemetery Dance Magazine in Issue # 46 (October 2003) and we’re currently finishing up work on a new novella. Aside from sometimes writing together, we’re also both currently the co-chairs of the NEW ENGLAND HORROR WRITERS.

In celebration of his new novel, Dan and I recently sat down and had a little chat.

LL SOARES: Okay, let’s start at the beginning. What made you want to become a writer? How early did you start writing?

DAN KEOHANE: Oh, I’ve always wanted to be a writer – since childhood. I used to love those classes in school where we’d read short stories and pick them apart, coming up with deep meanings which, in retrospect, I’m certain the authors never intended. Problem is, I had zero self-confidence, and was too terrified to try my hand at it until my twenties. I’d started a writer’s group in Worcester with fellow writer Fran Bellerive and things began to take off from there. I can’t imagine not writing now. I get very cranky if I go too long without it.

LS:  What was your first professional sale?

DK: My first pro sale was a Christmas horror story, “Tanner’s Bomb.” I sold it to Gothic.net. I miss that webzine, had some very cool stuff in it. I’d made a few sales before that, all of which I still relish.

LS: Yeah, I miss those days. Gothic.net was a pretty great webzine back then. So, what authors influenced you growing up?

DK: Ray Bradbury, first and foremost. Fahrenheit 451 was one of the first novels I read. Also –  though I hadn’t known it at the time – Richard Matheson. Not only had I learned, decades later, that we wrote most of my favorite movies and Twilight Zone episodes growing up, but also a bunch of short stories I’d read in school. Unfortunately, growing up I wasn’t much of a reader – didn’t have a very good attention span. After college, authors like King, Koontz, Card and LeGuin were some major influences.

LS: Did movies influence you as a writer? If so, which ones?

DK: Oh, definitely. Like most writers of my generation, Creature Double Feature on Channel 56 was a Saturday afternoon staple. Then there were the late nights with my little black and white TV turned way down beside my bed, watching whatever scary movie I could find. In my teens we got cable in town, and I discovered a world of movies (and I’m not talking about the French Canadian channel with the dirty movies.. Ok, maybe not JUST that). HBO was my fount of fear: The Car, for example, and what’s that one where the guy gets thrown out the window at the end and smashes face-first into the windshield as his family looks on and screams? That one… watched that one a lot. Honestly.

LS: You and I once collaborated on a short story (“Mermaids,” Cemetery Dance # 46), and are currently joining forces again on a new, double-secret novella. What are your thoughts on collaborations in general? Is there a right way and wrong way to go about it?

DK: There’s probably not a right or wrong way to go about it, as long as both writers lay out the ground rules ahead of time. For “Mermaids,” I think I started the story then passed it on to you. You changed whatever you wanted, added more, sent back to me, and so on until the story seemed done. We then discussed what worked in the story and what didn’t. You and I are both Type A when it comes to writing, but instead of causing strife, it kept us honest. I had a bizarre direction I was heading at one point, you e-slapped me upside the head and we discussed where to go instead. I didn’t like the ending and suggested we change it, and you agreed. In the end, we had a strong story. Aside from some up-front time spent outlining the general plot, the novella we’re wrapping up now was done much the same way.

A key component of collaboration, though, is in revision. Each should revise / edit the entire story, beginning to end, not just their own parts. After a few drafts the “voice” in the story becomes consistent, a blending of both writers’ styles.

Other collaborators might choose a different route: one has a story that hasn’t sold, and gives it to someone else to gut and rewrite; someone outlines an idea for a story and the other writes it; both writers sit in a room and write it together. It’s trial and error, but again as long as both writers agree up front what the rules are and don’t break them, and don’t let egos get in the way, it can be an enjoyable time.

LS:  Tell us something about your new novel SOLOMON’S GRAVE.

DK: SOLOMON’S GRAVE has just been released from Dragon Moon Press, which has both a Canadian and US distributorship. This seems fitting, since SOLOMON  has seen print in both Italy and Germany over the past couple of years. A few years back, I wrote a novel-length version of a short story called “Lavish,” a modern take on the Great Flood. Born and raised Catholic, I found mixing horror with Christian themes a fascinating experiment, so much so that when I was ready to start a new novel, I picked up the family Bible, closed my eyes, and randomly opened a page and pointed. The passage about King Solomon’s fall from grace after building a temple to the demon Molech for one of his wives (who happened to belong to a sect called the Ammonites)is the one I landed on. This eventually led to SOLOMON’S GRAVE, where for thousands of years a group of Ammonites keep trying to get their hands on Solomon’s stuff, specifically the Ark of the Covenant.  Problem is, no one knows where the Ark went to (I’ll give you a clue – it’s in Massachusetts). I had to do quite a lot of research behind this one, from the strict rules surrounding how the Ark can be handled to historical details surrounding the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, to the day-to-day goings on in the life of a Baptist minister. It was a lot of fun to write, and I hope that came across in the book itself.

(PART TWO OF THIS INTERVIEW WILL BE POSTED TOMORROW.)

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