Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Let me introduce....Daniel McKeown!

CJ: Hello, Daniel! Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to us. We’re excited to have you here today!

Q: So, first of all, we want to know about your latest novel. What can you tell us about “Dereliction of Duty”?

A: Dereliction of Duty is the first novel in a planned series. The tagline is, “How much can one day change someone’s life?”, and the story takes place over the course of fourteen hours. It’s a homage to my favourite authors, and combines multiple plot-lines, characters, and points-of-view to tell an action-packed story about a life-changing day for four people. Two of them are ordinary men caught up in an extraordinary situation involving terrorists. The other two are soldiers from Marine Force Recon who, through a long and tortuous journey from Afghanistan, become embroiled first in a training exercise which quickly becomes serious, and then in the same battle as the first two men.

Q: I think everyone would love to know what inspired this particular novel. Can you tell us about that?

A: This novel has been written no fewer than four times over the course of the last decade. This is the only version I’ve been happy with. It was inspired by the works of Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum, and the idea came to me whilst playing a Playstation game called Splinter Cell.

Q: I’m dying to know more about the Main Characters of your novel. Can you give us a brief description of each?

A: Peter Hunt may be six foot four and weighs over two hundred pounds, but he’s not your typical hero. From being abused as a child by his nanny, to spending most of his childhood home-schooled by over-protective parents, Hunt was destined to rebel and live his own life. But when he finally thinks he’s settled down with the love of his life, he’s fired from his job, relapses into alcoholism, and watches his wife walk away with their six-month-old son.

Jack Reid is Hunt’s closest friend. They’ve known each other since high school, and worked together at a computer firm, ATARIC, for years before Hunt’s dismissal. An inch shorter than Hunt, Reid is a hard-nosed graduate from life’s school of knocks. While he hasn’t been through the ringer like Hunt, he’s had his fair share of demons. He shows emotion only in severe circumstances. As Hunt returns to the office for a one-off job, it becomes Reid’s responsibility to keep him in check; a task which is easier said than done.

Jack Carlos is a sergeant-major with the Marine Corps’ Force Recon squadron. Tough, hard, and intelligent, he’s not a man who takes kindly to being used like a chess-piece. So when he and his second-in-command, Julio Gyle, are removed from war-torn Afghanistan and shipped home to the States for what at first seems like some kind of SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape) training, he’s understandably annoyed. Soon, he realises that this is not like any training exercise he’s ever partaken in. As the day becomes weirder and weirder, Carlos learns how far he’s willing to go to save his teammate and closest friend.

Julio Gyle is a master-sergeant in Force Recon. A fiery Puerto-Rican with a wit as sharp as the Swiss Army knife he carries, Gyle has been Carlos’ second-in-command for years, and the two have established an almost-telepathic friendship. Nothing can prepare him, however, for what lays ahead for both of them.

Q: Okay, I’m a huge fan of quotes taken from novels. Would you tell us one of your favourite quotes from (Dereliction of Duty)?

A: “I’m saying we stand a better chance of finding a homosexual in a brothel!” ~ Charles “Chad” Peterson, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Q: A little about you. When did you decide to write your first novel?

A: When I was seventeen years old, I read my first Tom Clancy novel. The book was brilliant, but I came up with what I believed was a better ending. That’s when I decided to start writing my first novel – a decade ago. Since then, I’ve finished six more, and rewritten one of them four times. They say you have to write a million words of crap before you get to the good stuff. It just so happens, I met my quota of a million words part-way through Dereliction of Duty!

Q: Do you have a system or particular ritual you do before/ during writing to keep the words flowing?

A: The only system I have is the old tried and tested “ass on seat, fingers on keyboard”. Barring some huge event, I write every day. Sometimes it could be a hundred words, other times five hundred. My most-productive day saw me write 20,031 words, starting at eight a.m. and finishing twelve hours later. My fingers hurt for three days afterwards. That was pure “in-the-zone” writing, though.

Q: What do you find the easiest part about writing? The hardest?

A: Nothing’s easy about writing. I don’t treat it as a hobby. I treat it as though I were making a living from it. That makes it evermore harder. If you must have an easiest part, though, I’d say it’s writing the start to a novel. The hardest part is the ending. Tying up loose ends, keeping a level of suspense, perhaps throwing in an unbelievable twist, and then making them all link together to leave the reader with a satisfying ending is possibly the most exigent thing about being an author. For me, it’s also the most fulfilling.

Q: We all know writers spend a great deal of time researching. Can you tell us one of the most interesting things you’ve discovered while doing research for your writing?

A: Authors like to say “write what you know”. I don’t believe in this, personally. There’s only so much any one person can know. That’s where research comes in. Probably the most interesting thing I’ve ever discovered whilst researching is the presence of multiple underground bases dotted throughout America. The fact that a lot of people are oblivious to them is even more fascinating.

Q: If you could physically visit the world in any book, which book would it be and why?

A: Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy. Because it’s set in the jungle, and I just love trekking through jungles. There’s a forest close to where I live. I go there most weeks – when the weather permits – and just sit for hours with a notebook, jotting down the next scenes and chapters for my latest novel. It’s like no other feeling in the world.

Q: What one work of fiction do you think has made the biggest impact on your life? How?

A: Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. It’s the novel that convinced me to start writing my own. No matter what other novels I read from now until I die, Rainbow Six will always be the one that launched my writing career.

Q: Last question before we wrap this interview up. Please finish this sentence in a way that best describes you, for us. “People would be surprised to know that… I got an F in high school English.”

CJ: Thank you, again for visiting with us, Daniel.

Check out "Dereliction of Duty" by Daniel McKeown on sale now at Lulu!

On a side...Daniel is a Moderator (SamW) for the site and a long time friend of mine. Please feel free to visit...the Writing Forums are, in part, a great reason for my own personal writing growth and success!

Below is an excerpt from Daniel’s novel, Dereliction of Duty. Please read on!


The Running Game


The door crashed open, and a heavyset man stumbled into the stairwell. A briefcase fell from his hands and hit the concrete, sheaves of paper scattering from inside. Behind, in the hallway, the footfalls of approaching men grew louder.

Ignoring the startled cries of the fifth-floor patrons, the man unbuttoned his jacket and cast it aside on the stairs leading up. He discarded the briefcase, then closed and locked the door behind him.

Sweat poured into his eyes as he hit the fourth-floor landing, though it was not the product of exertion. Above, the door burst open again. The sound echoed through the stairway, accompanied by multiple voices shouting in Russian. They were arguing.

Good. His distraction had worked. Now came the hard part.

Even though his every instinct urged him to run down the last four flights, he knew they would catch him before he made it to the streets. He couldn’t afford to let that happen.
He slowed halfway down the third flight, paused for a moment to draw breath, and walked to the bottom. Once there, he stopped and wiped perspiration from his eyes. Two different echoes reverberated off the walls above. He didn’t have much time.

He found the door to the third floor unlocked and eased it open. Stepping into the corridor, he took in his surroundings with a quick glance. It was empty. The panic hadn’t spread to any of the lower floors – yet.

The concrete floor felt cold underneath his bare feet, and he realised for the first time since discarding the jacket that he was naked except for a pair of boxer shorts. He needed to blend in, he needed a phone, but most importantly he needed to find a way out of the building. It wouldn’t be long before they started searching floor by floor, and he had no doubt they’d find him when they did.

He continued down the hall and stopped at apartment three-fourteen. Pushing his ear up against the door, he listened for as long as he dared. The numbers three and fourteen had always been good omens for him throughout his life, and now was no different.

Confident that no-one was inside, he stepped back, checked the corridor again, and threw all of his two-hundred-plus pounds into the door. It gave a loud crack and splintered along the edges, but the deadlock held. He cursed, feeling the pain in his shoulder.

In the apartment next door, he heard the sound of a door opening. But worse than that, he could also hear the sharp cries of his pursuers echoing down the hallway.
They were closing in.

He didn’t stop to ask himself how they knew which floor he’d taken. Instead, he stepped back and threw all of his weight into the door in one last desperate attempt. The frame snapped and he tumbled into the room, hitting the floor hard. Wincing, he clambered back to his feet and closed the door against the shattered architrave.

He turned around and studied the room. It was small, maybe twelve foot by ten. Early morning light streamed in from the open curtains in the far corner. Strewn across the floor and bed were dozens of items of clothing, shoes, and old newspapers. A small desk was juxtaposed to the right of the bed, atop which was an old rotary-dial phone. A small door directly across from the foot of the bed led into an en suite. The layout was completely different from the fifth floor, but that didn’t matter. He wasn’t here to admire the aesthetics, though it looked like the owner had left in a hurry. Frowning, he sat down on the bed and opened all three of the desk’s drawers.

They were devoid of clothes.

Closing them, he began wondering if the owner’s hasty exit had some connection with the people after him. After all, no-one except his handler knew he lived here.
He stood, walked back to the door, and listened for any approaching noises. When he was happy that no one was near, he returned to the bed and dialled a number from memory. It belonged to Scott Harden, an old Marine buddy from years earlier who lived in Russia, and the only person he felt he could trust.

After eight rings a voice croaked, “Hello?”

“Scott? It’s Troy Davies.” When Harden didn’t offer any words of recognition, Davies continued, “You remember that favour you owe me? Well, I’m cashin’ in on it.” He gave Harden an address and asked him how quickly he could get there.

“Ten minutes, give or take. What the fuck are you doin’ in St. Petersburg?”

“Long story. When you get here, I’m gonna need a distraction.”

“Distraction? The fuck for?”

“I can’t walk out of my own accord. When you get here, pull the fire alarm. What are you drivin’?”

“Shitty white van. Trust me, you won’t miss it.”

“Park outside the front of the apartment block. And Scott?”


“Thanks. I’ll owe you one now. Move your ass!”

Davies replaced the receiver, stood up, and walked to the door. Now that he had a way out, he wondered if Harden would get here before someone noticed the broken door.

* * *

The leader of the pursuers stepped into the third-floor corridor. With practised ease, he withdrew his nine-millimetre Makarov PM from its holster, affixed a suppressor, and edged down the corridor. Behind him, two men shadowed his every move. They watched in awe as he ambled down the hallway, his booted feet never making a sound on the concrete. They tried to match his gracefulness but only succeeded in looking like rash amateurs.

There were a total of thirty apartments, fifteen on each side. At the beginning and end of the hall, surveillance cameras recorded the comings and goings of the residents. The first one had already been disabled. The leader shielded his face from the second one, slipped in under its blind spot, and used his free hand to disconnect the power. He knew his target was on this floor, and he wanted to leave no evidence of his death.

He instructed the two men to start checking each door on the left, while he did likewise on the opposite side. When he came to apartment three-fourteen he noticed that the door wasn’t fully closed against the frame and daylight could be seen coming from inside. Signalling the others to take position behind, he reached out his hand and gently pushed . . . .

* * *

... As Davies watched the parking lot for Harden’s arrival, he noticed movement in his peripheral view. His head whipped around just as the door opened fully and the man he knew only as “The Butcher” stepped into the room, his gun levelled at Davies’ chest. Instinctively, Davies dropped to his knees. The staccato sounds of bullets resonated through the room. Behind, lumps of plasterboard exploded in clouds of dust. A white plume enveloped the room.

Davies couldn’t see. His right arm flew up and brushed away filament from his eyes. Where was The Butcher? Left. Right? Goddamnit! He could only hope the dust had blinded the Russian too.

Vision returned. Agonisingly. He saw shapes. Three of them. They were standing one behind the other, rubbing their eyes. He had to move now!

He sprung to his feet. The Butcher was rubbing his eyes frantically. The other men were holding position. It was now or never. Lowering his body and charging forward, Davies continued until he hit something solid.

The Butcher.

He toppled over like a bowling pin, falling backwards into the man behind him, who fell into the remaining man. Like a set of dominoes, all fell to the ground.

Davies leapt to his feet and retrieved a pistol. Without knowing why, he smashed it across The Butcher’s head. The terrorist groaned but stayed conscious. Davies pistol-whipped him again and was grateful to watch him slump to the floor. He took care of the other two in a similar manner, and had just stepped outside when the fire alarm began blaring.

It took him a minute to get to the parking lot and into the van. When he turned to face his old friend, Harden gave him a toothy smile and said, “So what’s all this commotion about?”

“Get me to an airport, and I’ll tell you everything you need to know.”


  1. Very intriguing excerpt...made me want to read more. Enjoyed the interview, and it was an interesting break from the usual romance posts. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I liked the post and the characters sound very strong more -Alpha male - great excerpt.

  3. Clancy and Lundlum are favorites of mine,too. Who can forget "Smiley." Or Clancy's character "Jack?" At least I think I have the names right. It's been a long time since I have read the books.
    Bravo for continuing along the same lines. I like romance, but I also love thriller action and spy novels.
    Thanks for the alluring posts. This is going in my TBR pile.

  4. Ginger: I'm glad the excerpt intrigued you. It's always difficult to get the proper degree of tension and action to entice someone to read on, especially with a first chapter. If I intrigue you enough to read past the first chapter, that's half the battle won.

    CJ: I appreciate the kind words. Thank you for choosing me to interview.

    Margaret: Thank you. Unfortunately, much of the novel is male-driven, but there are female characters too. In my current work (the sequel to this) I have two central female characters who have thus far been a challenge, though nonetheless a joy, to write.

    Lorrie: I forgot to add Forsyth to that list. He was another inspiration. Thank you for the read.

  5. Compelling excerpt, Daniel! Best of luck with your release.