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. Darrow joins us today to chat about his mystery novel Blood and Wisdom.

About the Book:

Here’s a blurb: When Private Investigator Karl Gatlin takes on Aria Piper’s case, it was no more than a threat—phone calls warning Aria to either “stop doing Satan’s work” or meet an untimely demise.  But a few hours later, a headless John Doe bobs up in the wishing well at Aria’s New Age spiritual center near Santa Cruz.  Aria had ideas about who could be harassing her, but the appearance of a dismembered body makes for a real game changer.  And what Karl Gatlin initially thought was a fairly innocuous case turns out to be anything but.

Dispatching former rugby superstar and Maori friend John Ratu to protect Aria, Karl and his hacker assistant Matt are free to investigate a ruthless pastor, a money launderer on the run, some sketchy members of Aria’s flock, and warring drug gangs.  With his dog Larry as a wingman, Karl uncovers a broad swath of corruption, identity theft, blackmail, and more murders. But nothing is as it seems, and as the investigation heats up, Karl is framed, chased, and forced to dive into the freezing water of the Monterey Bay to escape a sniper.

Against the backdrop of a ticking clock, Karl races to find answers. But more murders only mean more questions—and Karl is  forced to make an impossible choice when it turns out Aria’s secret may be the most harrowing of all.


Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about your writing background?

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 beyond the city limits. Whores burned tires at night on the nearby sidewalk to attract customers. I was cranky, bored out of my mind, and too broke to amuse myself in the city.

The first novel that emerged from that twenty dollar tent was hideously amateurish. The quality of my writing progressed all the way up to just plain bad by the time I’d written a few more. That era of my life was characterized by an inability to learn much, since that would’ve entailed acknowledging that I didn’t already know everything.

I was desperate for meaning, so I kept at it. As a depressed young adult, fraught with existential angst and across the board over-thinking, I was never satisfied by life. I wasn’t in direct contact with the world, so I couldn’t be fed by it. When I created a manuscript, I introduced something into my experience that mattered to me—a new element that penetrated the layers of insulation I’d gathered around myself to stay safe.

However therapeutic, this era of writing was marked by a distinct lack of expertise. When I eventually began to build a skill set, I added in another motive—making money without having to work a regular job—you know, getting all sweaty, being bossed around, keeping regular hours. Not surprisingly, I failed to manage anything close to making a living writing. Perhaps I could sustain a large-scale writing project as a hobby. Nope. It simply didn’t provide enough reward to motivate me.

Eventually, I had something to say, and the tools to say it. Then the early motives dropped away.

I wrote the flagship young adult novel for a series a book packager had sold to a major publisher, two mysteries under another name, and a short story that was published in a literary journal. Emboldened, I became more serious about my writing, and eventually Blood and Wisdom emerged.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write it.

My mystery was inspired by a fantasy thriller I wrote first that’s coming out at 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: How people change. What underlies ordinary reality? Why do people commit violent crimes? How does love develop out of trauma?

I wanted to combine some unusual elements in a PI mystery–psychology (I’m a psychotherapist), Eastern spirituality (I mentor students), humor, a quirky, fast-moving plot, and of course the element of surprise.  After all I’ve been through in my life, getting to share what I’ve learned through the vehicle of a genre novel felt like a great idea. And the characters took off early and told me what they ought to say and do. That’s how I knew I was on the right track.

What will the reader learn after reading your book?

I like this question. Genre novels convey wisdom sharing, too, or at least I hope mine does. Open-minded readers will realize that a superficial understanding of people and life—limited to culturally accepted concepts—is insufficient to untangle complex mysteries (and I think all of life is just that.) I offer provocative, alternative takes on motive, the intersection of seemingly random events, and the illusion of control that trauma shatters.

What type of writer are you—the one who experiences before writing, like Hemingway, or the one who mostly daydreams and fantasizes?

As drastic and even as absurd as some of the events in Blood and Wisdom are, I’ve experienced almost all of them, albeit usually in milder form. As a psychotherapist, I’ve heard about the ones I was spared. The first half of my life was a discontinuous series of adventures, disasters, life contexts, relationships, geography, etc.

So I write from experience, and as therapy sometimes. When I try to invent material out of thin air, I run into the limitations of my mind and my writing. I can create from that which is there, embellishing it, playing with it, adding to it. I can’t imagine worlds, like a science fiction author, nor can I convincingly portray a type of person I’ve never run into.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

A psychotherapist is dragged into a war between spiritual factions vying for control of the planet. Is he Buddha’s clone? Has his mentor actually granted him enlightenment? Can the woman by his side kick everyone’s ass? As Sid is chased through New Zealand, India, and the redwoods of northern California, his sense of identity dissolves and something amazing takes its place.

Coattail Karma will be published by Wild Rose Press around the end of 2018.

Do you have an agent? How was your experience in searching for one?

The novel I was peddling before this one was a stubborn, epic journey to the heart of frustration. I queried over five hundred agents! (Yes, worldwide, over five hundred agents consider thrillers). I simply refused to accept that my project wasn’t marketable. I tried changing the title, the query letter, renaming the characters, and everything else I could think of. It was like having a weird, unenjoyable hobby for a year or so. What did I learn from this? Let that one go and write Blood and Wisdom–produce something that people wanted to read. I also realized that the market dictates what level you enter into its world. I needed to accept that an agent and/or a big house wasn’t interested in the likes of me, and move on to who was.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Yup. I’ve got all sorts of stuff on there, including more bio, info on my novels, original sayings, poems, music, and various oddities. I was patted on the head by Einstein, for example, and as a young man, I could dunk emphatically, jump onto the roof of a VW bug from a standing start, and otherwise show off aerial feats to girls who never seemed to be impressed.

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