John A. Daly’s writing career began with film and television reviews, and he currently writes political, cultural and media-analysis columns for multiple publications. A lifelong Coloradoan, he has three novels under his belt and is currently working on his fourth.
What inspired you to write this book?
Being that this is the third book in my Sean Coleman Thriller series, it was largely inspired by the work I put into developing my protagonist (Sean) in the first two books. Sean is a very flawed individual — a recovering alcoholic who has made many poor decisions throughout his life. A lot of that stems from his father mysteriously abandoning him (and his family) when he was just a kid. Sean often questioned what had driven his father away, and he ultimately came to blame himself.
I decided, after two books, that it was time to explore that underlying mystery, and unearth his father’s story (and ultimately his fate). It became the premise for Broken Slate.
Who are your favorite authors and/or characters?
Tim Green writes Young Adult sports books these days, but he used to write very good mystery/thriller novels that I really enjoyed. They were what originally drew me to the genre. I’m also a big fan of Cormac McCarthy. I love the grittiness of his stories and characters. I read his novel, “The Road,” when my son was pretty young, and the plight of the father in the book (who’s never named) really stuck with me. I make a conscious effort to add similar elements of desperation and sacrifice to my books.
Why did you choose this excerpt to feature in SunLit?
Chaotic, desperate action scenes are a hallmark of the Sean Coleman thrillers, and I always enjoy writing them. I’m particularly fond of this one that picks up part way through the first chapter. I wanted Broken Slate to start off with a bang, and I think I achieved that. Though the Jack Slate character is short-lived, his fate is a pivotal moment in the story that sets the tone for the rest of the book.
What was the most fun or rewarding part of working on this book?
Exploring the elements that made Sean Coleman who he is was very rewarding. When I was working on the first book (From a Dead Sleep) years ago, I was tempted to delve deeper into Sean’s past, and perhaps shed a little more light on his father’s history. I knew, even back then, which direction I wanted to go, but I eventually decided that the plot already had enough twists and turns. Finally getting back to that story, two books later, was an opportunity to paint a more complete picture of Sean, and open up a new direction for the character.
The most fun I had while working on the book came from the creation of some new, oddball characters. The story takes Sean to a different part of the country (South Carolina), where he’s well outside of his comfort zone and forced to deal with some rather interesting individuals. My favorite of the bunch, Dusty, is a professional birthday clown who takes his job so seriously that he rarely breaks character. I really enjoyed writing his interactions with Sean.
What was the most difficult section to write in this book? Why?
Probably the South Carolina setting. My first two books largely take place in Colorado (where I grew up), but after my family vacationed in Pawleys Island a few years ago, I decided to take Sean Coleman there as well. I really liked the culture and feel of the area, and I managed to capture some of it in pictures and notes while I was there. But writing primarily from memory about a southern coastal setting (while sitting in front of a keyboard in my Colorado home) does come with its challenges. It required a fair amount of research and even some YouTube videos to refresh my senses and do the region justice.
What was one interesting fact you learned while researching this book?
Here’s an odd one from the realm of funeral planning: Some states require that a deceased body be embalmed before it can leave the state, while others require that it be embalmed before it can enter the state. The laws involving transporting a body across state lines was something I probably would have never thought about, had it not been for the book.
What project are you working on next?
The manuscript for the fourth Sean Coleman thriller was completed this October, and my publisher has already accepted it. I’m currently working with one of their editors on tightening the story up a bit. The book will be released in the fall of 2019. I’d reveal the title, but it will likely change between now and then. I will say that the story takes place at a remote facility along Colorado’s Front Range, and that a favorite character of Sean Coleman fans will make a prominent return.
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