By Susan Johnson
Owen Keehnen, a former Rockford resident, has realized a lifelong ambition of writing. After several previous books, he has released a new horror novel titled Doorway Unto Darkness. But be forewarned—it’s not for the fainthearted.
Keehnen says: “I wrote Doorway Unto Darkness because I really enjoy being scared. Nothing quite compares with the chemical rush that accompanies it. I’ve loved that feeling ever since seeing The Haunting (the original) for the first time. … I basically wrote the gruesome, relentless, twisted and atmospheric sort of gore fest that I love to read—the sort of book that just basically scares the s— out of you. I’ve written books before, but this one really consumed me.”
Doorway Unto Darkness is described in the press release as “a psychological slaughterhouse of horror—a grisly tale of possession, murder and vengeance that transcends time. This is the story of Michael Rogers, whose dull life grows suddenly complicated when a spirit—Mel, a merciless killer—takes up residence in his body. After each carnage, Mel vanishes, and Michael returns to face the grisly scene. Told in journal format, the novel traces Michael’s mental and moral deterioration. His world is one of confusion and dread. As the plot unfolds and the body count rises, clues emerge that reveal Michael’s ancestral history with Mel. Doorway Unto Darkness is a gripping, brutal, gore-choked read that is sure to have you looking over your shoulder, checking the locks on the doors, and looking a bit closer in the mirror…”
Though he now lives in Chicago, Keehnen was born in Rockford, lived on the west side, and graduated from Boylan Catholic High School in 1978. He told The Rock River Times about some of his previous work. “I did one last fall called Nothing Personal, which is actually an edited book about lesbian and gay history in Chicago from 1977 to 1997. I’ve also done 10 of the biographical essays of Out and Proud in Chicago.”
TRRT: Were you inspired by any other writers, such as Stephen King?
Keehnen: “For this, what inspired me more than that—I have a horror movie website. I always like to read horror, but what inspired me more were movies. Other writers inspired me in style, but the horror movies [more so]. So it tends to be a little more graphic.”
TRRT: Was the main character based on any person you might know?
Keehnen: “No… it’s sort of like—the best way to describe him is an anti-social loner who has a very strong internal voice, but he’s always thinking. So I kind of went along with that, and a lot of it comes—you get a little seed of an idea and revise and add to what you originally had.”
Keenhen shared with us some comments from free-lance reviewer Amos Lassen, which we have permission to quote. Lassen said: “Writing good horror stories is very difficult because you have to be able to maintain a level of suspense throughout, and it doesn’t always work. The same is true for horror films. One slip-up can cause the whole thing to fall apart, and the idea is to keep the reader (or viewer) in a state of tension and sometimes, fear. Owen Keehnen does this beautifully in Doorway Unto Darkness… Mel possesses Michael’s body as it commits a terrible crime and then leaves Michael alone to face the scene. Michael, quite naturally, has no control over the spirit of Mel that has taken residence in his body, and because of that, Michael begins a decline both mentally and morally to the point of total chaos—Michael is afraid to face himself…
“Keehnen is an excellent writer, and his literary skills together with a plot that will not let you rest gives you one ‘helluva’ book. This is not a story for the weak—it is truly frightening, and it is the author’s skill that gets the story across in a way that has you reading almost with one eye on the text and one eye on the door to see if anyone is sneaking in. That’s power that many authors do not have. Owen Keehnen is a man to watch.”
The book is available from Dancing Moon Press and can be ordered from Amazon.com and at select bookstores. It retails for $15. The ISBN number is 978-1-892076755.
From the Oct. 13-19, 2010 issue