More From This

Works in Progress
Bishop Rider Lives
An Anthology of Retribution
(June 4, 2024 by Down & Out Books)

Want to be an ARC Reader for Counted With the Dead?

You can join our ARC team until May 30th on Booksprout. It’s free to join, but Booksprout keeps track of the team.

Coming June 3rd!

Novel: Counted With the Dead
Release Date: June 3rd, 2024
Available for Preorder, or add it to your wishlist!
About the Author:Counted With the Dead is Peter O’Keefe’s first published novel. Peter started out writing for George Romero’sTales From the Darkside and has since worked as a Hollywood screenwriter, optioned numerous original screenplays, and written TV movies for German networks.

His narrative short films have screened at a variety of film festivals and Peter’s documentary about visual artists in the Midwest,Dreaming In Public, Making Art In the Real World was awarded a Chicago Regional Emmy. His short stories and essays have appeared in various literary and online journals.

From Screenwriter to Novelist: The Journey of Peter O’Keefe

Join us as we dive into the creative world of Peter O’Keefe, a seasoned screenwriter turned novelist, who unveils the dark layers of his latest novel, “Counted With the Dead”.

Set against the gritty backdrop of 1990s Detroit, the story revolves around Jack Killeen, a disenchanted Mafia hitman entangled with a monstrous creation—a chilling echo of his own violent past. Through Peter’s candid discussion, we explore the profound themes of guilt, absolution, and redemption that pulse through the novel.

Drawing from personal experiences during a tumultuous period in his life, including the poignant loss of his brother, Peter crafts a narrative that is as much about seeking forgiveness as it is a gripping tale of suspense and moral reckoning. This interview not only offers a glimpse into Peter’s artistic process but also sets the stage for the thematic explorations in his work, making it a compelling start to our series.

Q & A

How far is too far?

Did you have a theme in mind before you started writing or did that evolve along the way?

The theme of Counted With the Dead always revolved around the concept of absolution. In fact, the original title was Absolution. Growing up Catholic, you are constantly exposed to the concepts of guilt and forgiveness. I was always fascinated by the act of confession. How is it possible you can kneel down in this little cubicle, confess your sins to a priest, and have them forgiven? That fascination eventually led me to the theme of Counted With the Dead.

Just how badly can you transgress and still be allowed to have a clean slate once you have a change of heart? Is there a limit? What could you possibly do to atone for something as horrific as cold-blooded murder?

Storytelling through a filmmaker’s gaze.

You mentioned that Counted With the Dead began its life as a screenplay. How does your background as a screenwriter, filmmaker, and artist influence your storytelling?

I’ve always been a visual thinker, which comes in handy when visualizing fictional characters and the imaginary worlds they move through. Experience as a screenwriter and a filmmaker was invaluable in learning how to choreograph action or simply move characters around a room. And, since screenplay writing is dialogue-driven with a minimal amount of description, I learned to be economical in my storytelling while at the same time honing my skills at writing dialogue. Due to my background in filmmaking and the visual arts I’ve found that genre fiction—with its highly theatrical mixture of reality and fantasy—is the perfect vehicle for visualizing and telling the stories that compelled me to be a writer in the first place.

They say to write what you know.

With themes of absolution and a monster who lives outside the natural, we wonder if you believe in the supernatural. Have you ever experienced anything unexplained or supernatural yourself?

Not exactly, although I did have what you might describe as a near-death experience. As a teenager I drove an old Corvair rescued from the junkyard for $50. The Chevy Corvair was famous (but not to this clueless teenager) for a heater that tended to pump carbon dioxide from the engine compartment into the car’s interior. My date on one frigid winter night was made to stay at work an hour late, and I waited outside in my car with the engine running. On our way to the movie theater, I suddenly found myself floating above the car and watching myself drive down the highway.

I blacked out and woke up with the car on the side of the road, having passed out from carbon monoxide poisoning while driving. It was a first date, and she had to drive me home.

There was not a second date.