Verlin Darrow is currently a psychotherapist who lives with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near the Monterey Bay in northern California. They diagnose each other as necessary. Verlin is a former professional volleyball player (in Italy), unsuccessful country-western singer/songwriter, import store owner, and assistant guru in a small, benign spiritual organization. Before bowing to the need for higher education, a much younger Verlin ran a punch press in a sheet metal factory, drove a taxi, worked as a night janitor, shoveled asphalt on a road crew, and installed wood flooring. He missed being blown up by Mt. St. Helens by ten minutes, survived the 1985 Mexico City earthquake (8 on the Richter scale), and (so far) has successfully weathered his own internal disasters.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Blood and Wisdom. When did you start writing and what got you into PI mystery novels?
I began writing books in a campground outside Naples, Italy, when I was nineteen. My waiting-for-my-potential-to-manifest girlfriend and I were trapped by a solid week of rain in an awful campground just outside the city limits. Whores burned tires on the contiguous sidewalk to attract customers. I was cranky, bored out of my mind, and quite depressed.
I settled on the PI genre because it afforded me the vehicle of an insightful, first person narrator, and my strengths are plotting and dialogue.
What is your book about?
Basically, a psychological-minded PI falls for a spiritual-minded client while murders pile up around them. With this frame, I’m able to weave insights and intriguing concepts into the fast-moving, twisty plot. And it’s a fun read, filled with humor and quirky characters, including a Maori rugby star, a heroic dog, a ruthless pastor, a gang hitman turned spiritual aspirant, and a sexy guru.
What was your inspiration for it?
Actually, it was inspired by a fantasy thriller I wrote first that’s coming out around the end of 2018. Coattail Karma visited over five hundred agents en route to nowhere (back then), so I decided to explore the same themes in something more palatable to mainstream readers.
What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?
The complex plot fell out of me and led me into dead ends and strange corners that I had to find a way to write myself out of. This is my usual method, but Blood and Wisdom is the most challenging iteration of this phenomenon that I’ve faced.
Did your book require a lot of research?
A bit. I have a strong background in psychology, spirituality, and action elements. I did need to research gangs, weapons, laws, and such. When I read books that get that stuff wrong, it ruins things for me.
What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?
Let it go for a while. I might work on another project, go golfing, or chow down on unhealthy snacks.
Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to write. Can you relate to this?
No. I can be avoidant, but mine isn’t due to anxiety. It’s pure laziness.
Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?
I used to be quite disciplined and write each morning for three hours, but I discovered that I liked the finished product better when I only wrote when I truly felt like sitting at my desk. The projects take longer, but only my impatience cares.
What was your publishing process like?
I couldn’t let go of the dream of having an agent (again) and selling the book to a big house, so I stubbornly refused to face reality, which in this case is that what needed to happen was a marriage with an independent publisher (Wild Rose Press.) While this probably won’t be the best route to making a lot of money, I’ve been treated very well, and my editor has been invaluable.
How do you celebrate the completion of a book?
We’re having a book release party next week, which coincides nicely with my wife’s birthday and our anniversary. Simply finishing a manuscript feels great, but I don’t celebrate.
How do you define success?
That’s a tough one. At one time, I would’ve said achieving a personal goal or fulfilling an ambition. Now I think it’s all about peace of mind and finding a way to be in my heart through thick and thin. In a way, this is still a personal goal, but because it asks me to come into alignment with the big picture, it also feels like a surrender of sorts.
What do you love most about the writer’s life?
Because I’m not a planner, I love finding out what’s going to happen next in the books I write. I’m often delighted by what a character decides to say , or how a seemingly innocuous detail later turns out to be a major plot point. My subconscious is clearly an equal partner in my endeavors.
What is your advice for aspiring authors?
Don’t fight reality. It’s bigger than you are and it will win. Be realistic and work within the realm in which you have ownership. Let go of the rest–the outcomes beyond your illusion of control. Focus on a good faith process and find a way to cooperate with the way things need to be down the line As Stephen Batchelor says: Anguish emerges from craving for life to be other than it is. I think that this especially applies to writers, given the state of our industry.
George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Thoughts?
Well, I think that passage is a bit dramatic, but I can’t argue with it. I write because I need it to make my life work—to be happy. If something easier would get the job done, I’m sure I wouldn’t have stuck to writing for forty years. And this process is certainly mysterious and confusing at times.
What’s on the horizon for you?
After Blood and Wisdom, my PI mystery, Wild Rose Press will publish a fantasy thriller of mine around the end of 2018. In Coattail Karma, cult leaders chase a psychotherapist protagonist across three continents because they believe he’s a clone of Buddha. I’m also working on a supernatural hard-boiled detective novel, Some Demon Did It, Lou.
Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
Hang in there if you write. It can take a long time to “get somewhere” in the external sense, but in the meantime, you’re always getting somewhere internally—if you pay attention and squeeze the learning out of your experience.