martedì 8 febbraio 2011

Horror Street: Interview with Daniel Keohane

Interview with Daniel Keohane

[Alessandro Manzetti] Your novel "Solomon’s Grave" was published in 2006 in Germany and Italy. In the USA was first published only in 2009, and was Bram Stoker Award First Novel nominated. Tell us the story of this novel, that first to succeed in USA has traveled a lot in Europe.

[Daniel Keohane] First sold to a Russian publisher. I was paid, then they folded up shop (thankfully in that order). At the same time I struck up a relationship with an agent in Italy (she’s since retired), who sold the novel to Edizioni Il Punto d’Incontro, who published the novel in your country as "Il Segreto di Salomone" (The Secret of Solomon). They didn’t do much with it, no real publicity or reviews. Just kind of sat there. My agent then sold the novel to the German/Austrian publisher Otherworld Verlag, and "Das Grab des Salomon" was released in the German language in 2007. Did pretty well (I think), Finally, the same Italian agent sold the English language rights to a small Canadian publisher Dragon Moon Press, who released it in their country and the US. So it had quite a ride. "Solomon’s Grave" is basically about the Ark of the Covenant hidden for a hundred years in the fictitious New England town of Hillcrest, Massachusetts. It’s been hidden in hundred of nondescript locations over the centuries, in fact, with one person always in charge of keeping it safe from a modern group of Ammonites who’ve been hunting it down for just as long. It was fun to write, though took a lot of research and, being an early novel, a lot of drafts. I’m very pleased with the recognition it received, especially in the horror community.

[AM]  It 's a very common and abused plot, what makes your novel different from the others?

[DK] Yea, these days there are so many novels are Knights Templar, etc, I’m glad I didn’t have any idea what a Templar was when I wrote this book. My main character is a small town preacher, nothing more. In fact, he’s the most boring character I’ve ever created (and this was deliberate on my part, everyone around him was colorful and interesting, but poor Nathan Dinneck is kind of a couch potato). Actually, you’d be very surprised (I was). There are practically no novels written which deal with the Ark of the Covenant. For some reason this has always been taboo for everyone. In fact, the only work of fiction I can think of that used it was the film Raiders of the Lost Ark to which I tried to give a nod here and there in the novel. But regardless of what a books plot is, if you don’t populate it with “real” people, characters who are normal, everyday folks, it simply won’t work (unless you’re writing a spy thriller). In horror, the more a reader can identify with the people in the story, the more intense the story becomes. Write about real people, have them react the way they world in life, and not how your outline requires them, and the story becomes so much more enjoyable to experience.

[AM] Your stories have been published in various anthologies and magazines such as Cemetery Dance, Apex Digest, Borderline, Shroud Magazine. Which story is more autobiographical and which has the most successful end? What is the theme that links the stories of  "Christmas Trees and Monkeys" collection?

[DK] I was talking to my girlfriend the other day about this very topic. I actually enjoy picking up the above-mentioned short story collection and reading a piece now and then, because they reflect my life at the time it was written. Not that I was ever trapped inside a burning coffin, or eaten by a monster dog, but many times story ideas come to us in a moment, something on television, on the news, a comment a co-worker makes on something completely unrelated. And so when I read these stories, I find myself remembering the time it was written. Much like all of us do when we hear a favorite song. The stories also reflect my overall mood of the time. If Life is good, and stable, my stories have more action, and are, ironically, much nastier. When real life is dark, as over the past few years going through a divorce, my stories have become much more introspective, and quite. Literary, I guess you could say. So life is good = monsters and screaming  life sucks = ghosts and quiet solitude. The title "Christmas Trees & Monkeys", for my early story collection, alludes to two stories in the collection: "The Monkey on the Towers" and "Tanner’s Bomb". The latter is one of my classic favorites, a Christmas tale for all ages. But aside from this, there is no real theme throughout the stories. Except that I put the collection together as a way to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, in honor of my sister. In fact, the e-book version is being released soon by Necon eBooks, and all author proceeds from that will also go to MS.

[AM] Tell us about your novel, "Plague of Darkness", recently released in Germany. I read that you had to do a lot of research up front to explore the religious themes of your story.

[DK] Yea, as a Christian myself, I enjoy blending biblical, faith-based themes with horror. More in my novels, than short stories. "Plague of Darkness" came out in a funny way. My church at the time was celebrating its 40th anniversary, and we had a special service one night. You see, the Catholic Church will not “consecrate” any church for which there is a mortgage held by a bank. The parish had recently paid off its mortgage and there was a special consecration ceremony timed with the anniversary. So, being a good Catholic, as the service went on, I began to wonder what would happen if all of a sudden the windows when black and we were trapped inside. Made a note of this, then the next day was talking with a coworker about the service. He asked if churches are ever de-consecrated, made into regular buildings. I didn’t know, but sounded very cool, especially to my horror-writer mind. Sure enough, they are. If a church is sold, it’s deconsecrated. Made another note. Flash forward a few weeks when I was trying to decide the theme of my next novel. When I wrote "Solomon’s Grave", I randomly opened the New Testament and pointed. Came upon the words of the apostle Stephen before we was murdered, talking about Solomon’s mistakes, etc. Anyway, I decided let’s try it again. Opened the Old Testament randomly and pointed – right at Plague of Darkness (one of the plagues God sent to Egypt to free the Israelites). I pondered this for about one minute before remembering my daydream in church earlier that year. Then my conversation about do-consecration. The rest, well, became "Plague Of Darkness"

[AM] The historical and religious themes are often found in your latest works, "Margaret Ark" is a modern take for the Great Flood, in "Plague of Locust", the novel you're writing, are obvious biblical references. Why have you choose these themes? Do you will continue to develop these themes in future?

[DK] I mentioned a little about this above, but one thing I try to do is follow a motto… I forget who said this, might have been Judi Picoult: “Write the books you would want to read.” I’ve been a Christian all my life, born and raised Catholic. I love horror stories, science fiction. And whenever I read, rarely did the characters ever go to church, ever mention God or their faith unless it’s in parody or mocking. But now and then, I would come across a character in a novel, or even rarely a plot dealing with this, who actually is a Christian or faith-filled in some way. And I enjoyed that. I actually wrote "Margaret’s Ark" before writing "Solomon’s Grave", and when I did, I told myself I would write every character (some are Catholic, some are Hindu) completely, with their faith, or lack of it, front and center. Basically I wrote my own faith. And it was very freeing. I still have people die horribly (I am a horror writer after all), swear, drink, whatever. But I’m proud of my faith, and a gabillion others in the world are, too, so why hide it under the proverbial bushel. People want their faith made real in the books they read. Not preachy, just there. Long winded way of saying that’s why I decided to try incorporating biblical themes into my novels. The Bible is so rich in story and imagery, and though the lessons in it are still applicable, the characters and stories are thousands of years old. Hard to relate to a culture long gone by. The excitement comes with taking a story, or just a theme, and placing it in today’s world, today’s society. Fun to do, and so far has been well-received by the folks who’ve read my stuff.

[AM] In your work and your life, what is your relationship with the supernatural?

[DK] Growing up I hated watching horror movies because they would affect me for weeks. And, I loved watching horror movies, because they would affect me for weeks. Sounds contradictory, but that’s the joy of it. No, I’ve never seen a ghost or monster in my life. And I don’t know if I’d ever want to. If someone relates a ghost story of their own to me, I get all goosebumpy and freaked out. I love it. I remember thinking, when we bought the house we’re in now, that it was good we built it, and before we did it used to be a cow pasture. I might have thought twice if it had been a cemetery or the house was old… old houses have too many echoes. And sometimes that’s all ghosts are, echoes. Or something. Or nothing. Doesn’t matter. We love to be scared, so bring it on.

[AM] Name five horror novels you want to put into our reader’s library

[DK] Well, I’m a big Stephen King fan, and of his my favorites are the original "The Stand" (before they re-released it with a thousand more words which were cut), "Gerald's Game" and "Misery". Three, then. I thought Brian Keene’s "The Rising" was infinitely clever as a zombie tale. So tout a fairly new authors I recently read: Richard Farnsworth’s "Succumbing to Gravity", or Jonathan Maberry’s "Patient Zero". On the classic side, anything by Ray Bradbury – he has such a rich way with the English language, breaks every rule and gets away with it.

[AM] and now two Horror Street classic questions:

In this heading we try to learn about new landscape of horror literature, through direct experience of the authors. What are the new trend of horror? Could you name some new authors who are conducting original projects?

[DK] Well, the biggest recent trend was zombies.Though that seems to be mellowing out, but slowly. Vampires have waned, but only a little. They’re still and always will be big. Werewolves are big now, but that’ll slow soon. Paranormal romance novels are big, basically romance novels with a supernatural twist. Not a lot new in the market, but it keeps selling and always will. The trend of classic literature / horror mashups (like Pride and Prejudice an Zombies for example), are hot now, but not for much longer. Soon, once I become a best seller, biblical horror will be big.

[AM] We leave the reader to imagine of walking along a dark and lonely road going back home, and having to turn the corner. What (or who) does he find around the corner?

[DK] A giant frog, the size of a VW Beetle. It’s sitting in the middle of the road. Sticking from the mouth is a man, eyes rolling in his head, only his left arm and shoulder, and head, sticking from the unmoving, massive frog. He looks up, whispers, “Run…” then the frog twitches and the man is gone, swallowed alive. You are about to turn around, when something large, and heavy, slaps down on the road directly behind you. You decide to run towards the monster you can see, hoping to get past it while it’s busy digesting the other guy.

Thanks Daniel for being the guest of "The Dark Place"

Profile - Daniel Keohane

Daniel Keohane, Bram Stoker-nominated first novel, Solomon’s Grave, was released in 2009, after being previously published in Germany and Italy. His short stories have appeared in such magazines and anthologies as Cemetery Dance, Shroud Magazine, Apex Digest and many others. His new novel, Plague of Darkess, was recently released in Germany. He and his children live in New England.

(Interview by Alessandro Manzetti)

Buy "Margaret's Ark by D. Keohane on Amazon

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