Danny Fein was so bored in high school that he often did crossword puzzles in class to keep from falling asleep. One day, as he sat doodling in his notebook, he decided to turn some of his classmates into characters in a story. The next thing he knew he was writing them into a novel.
Now, the 20-year-old senior from Monsey, N.Y., has published Shattered Alliances, a 456-page mystery-suspense thriller, and he is currently writing a sequel. The characters in the sequel are loosely based on friends in his MIT fraternity.
Shattered Alliances –– available at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com for $21.95 –– is based in Dayton, Vermont. (“I chose the name Dayton because that’s where my notebook was made,” he says.)
The plot details a botched attempt to assassinate Rachel Gates, a local citizen who knows too much of the activities of drug dealer Jose Tahs. FBI agent Andrew Brown –– whom Fein based on himself –– has been on a lifelong quest to stop Tahs. The search for him leads the reader into a world of deceit and corruption.
“It’s a world where you can’t trust anybody, and where your best friend may be your worst enemy,” Fein says, adding that it is a world about which he knows little.
“I never had an enemy,” Danny is saying. “There are people you don’t like as a kid, but I never ever had reason to mistrust anyone. The bad guy in the novel is based on a good friend of mine.
“Honesty is the thing I admire most in people. In the book, you can’t trust anybody,” he says, adding that by spotlighting the opposite, it is his way of saying how important it is to be truthful.
Fein wrote the book longhand in spiralbound notebooks he carried to class. He did not have a clue about how to write a novel and never had taken a writing class. Somehow, intuitively, he knew what to say.
What helped him, he says, is that he is a voracious reader and an incessant movie-goer; reading gave him a great vocabulary and movies gave him a great imagination.
He loves thrillers, particularly Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and North By Northwest, and he has zoomed through 40 of Stephen King’s suspense stories. As he writes, he says, he imagines that he is a movie camera. “I pretend I am watching the story happen. Then I write it down.”
Call Me Daniel
His friends call him Danny, but to the world in print he is known as Daniel Fein. “All writers seem to put their formal name on a book jacket,” he says. “It’s William Faulkner, not Billy. Stephen King, not Steve. I think it makes you approach the writing with a whole different attitude than if you were reading Ernie Hemingway, don’t you think?”
Fein began writing his novel at age 16 and worked on the book off and on until he was an MIT freshman. He spent the next year content editing, getting some help from his roommate and his Mom. A few months later, he got word that his book was approved and would be published.
“The day I got the news was one big blur of happiness,” he says, adding that bursting with excitement, the first thing he did was call his Mom. “She was so excited that as soon as she hung up, she started telling everyone she knew. I was getting calls from people congratulating me before I even had the chance to tell them.”
A biology major who plans to become a pediatrician and a best-selling author, Fein says his biology classes have given him great ideas for future books. He already has written an outline for an environmental biotech thriller, which he plans to complete in medical school.
His strength as a writer, he says, is that he never runs out of ideas. “I come up with ideas every day, and I already have an idea for a third book.” He is also now writing three short stories and has ideas for nine others. “I have so many ideas I don’t have enough hard drive space to store them.”
His next project is to write a screenplay. The editor who reviewed Shattered Alliances told Fein his story was so enthralling it not only would make a great book but also a great movie. “One thing I’m trying to do now is turn it into a screenplay,” he says. “I have no idea how to write one, but I’m going to learn.”