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Daniel Keohane '85: Finding the Write Path
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
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The literary career of Daniel Keohane ’85 almost stopped before it started. At a reception during his senior year, the CIS major approached distinguished playwright Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) for advice on how to get started in letters.
“Don’t work in computers,” Albee told the startled Keohane. “Get a job in a warehouse. Save your brain for writing.”
But Keohane was disinclined to lock himself in a garret. He channeled his love of computing into a job as an analyst/programmer, and considered how to pursue the writing dream that had started in middle school.
An adult education course near his hometown of Princeton, Mass., would point the way. With fellow classmates, Keohane organized a writer’s group. They studied together, traded tips and critiques, and gradually honed their craft.
A writing exercise led Keohane to pen a horror story (“clown-in-the-basement stuff”) and suddenly he found his path. “I heard that the best way to start was to pick a genre you like and run with it,” says the avid fan of Ray Bradbury and Stephen King.
After a few tries, Keohane’s short stories started to appear in horror anthologies and genre magazines: Cemetery Dance, Shroud, Fantastic Stories and Coach's Midnight Diner, among others. In spring 2009, after two years of intensive research and writing, the alumnus published his first novel.
Solomon’s Grave tells the story of a young pastor who returns to his central Massachusetts hometown to find a terrible secret. The Biblical page-turner combines the classic structure of the horror novel with deep roots in Christian belief: Good battles evil as one set of characters protects a sacred object from dark forces that seek it out.
As often happens, the author’s characters took on a life of their own. “I kept trying to make Nathan [the pastor protagonist] less normal, but he wouldn’t listen to me,” Keohane explains. “He’s just a normal guy. So I had to keep hitting him with stuff until he snapped.”
Now hard at work on book #2, it is Keohane who has advice for budding scribes.
“Always start with a ‘what if’ question,” counsels the alumnus, who juggles his own writing with full-time work at Fidelity Investments. “Get to know your characters. Research enough to create a realistic landscape. And write every single day.”