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.
What got you into writing?
At first, I was desperate for meaning. That’s what got me started. 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 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.
What do you like best about being an author?
The moment may be sufficient these days, and I may not need to write or generate drunk monkey busy-mindedness to escape it, but nonetheless I feel a continuous urge to create and serve others by adding something meaningful to their moments.
In a sense, I write due to attrition. I tried pretty much everything else and writing survived the process. I was a professional athlete, a store owner, a spiritual mentor, a singer/songwriter, rich, poor, a Southerner, a New Englander, a Texan, a Californian, an ex-patriate, a factory worker, a road crew laborer, a taxi driver, a carpenter, a world traveler, a hippie, and too many others to list. As I worked my way through what didn’t match who I was—what was based on flawed ideas about myself—I zeroed in on psychotherapy and writing.
They both draw helpful, intriguing, fun things out of me from all levels of my being. Whatever difficulties I’ve endured, I can spread the learning associated with these in both realms. In my work as a therapist, this might entail direct sharing or role modeling. With writing, it’s usually in the background—the settings, a given character’s perspective, or the details of how my protagonist changes over the course of the plot.
Some people really do change, sometimes dramatically, in a short period of time, especially when a conspiracy of dramatic, unexpected events swirl around them as they do in Blood and Wisdom, my new PI mystery.
When do you hate it?
When I get bogged down in a series of projects that don’t have legs. Once I went 0 for 4—none of the manuscripts made it past sixty pages.
What is a regular writing day like for you?
I get up early and write for three hours when a project is rolling along. Otherwise, I might edit or try things out whenever I have a chance. I have a day job as a psychotherapist, so that keeps me busy.
Do you think authors have big egos?
Not the ones I’ve met, but I can see how it could be an occupational hazard if a great deal of success came early in someone’s career. Certainly, you have to believe in yourself, your skillset, and your message, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into anything annoying. It all depends on your emotional maturity—how you hold good stuff about yourself—not the bare facts themselves.
How do you handle negative reviews?
This may be hard to believe, but I’ve never gotten a professional bad one and only one reader stated that a previous book “wasn’t well-written.” Twenty years later, I agree with him, so this hasn’t been an issue.
How do you handle positive reviews?
What’s to handle? They just feel good—affirming.
What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?
In this order: they want to know what sort of books I write, what’s a recent title, what’s the book about, and where can they get it? I think I strike people as someone who might be competent at writing, so an encounter like this will often lead to a sale.
What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?
I used to force it, now I don’t. What’s the rush? I know I’ll get back into it and I know that when I do, the writing will be better than the forced pages.
Any writing quirks?
I start with almost no plan at all, and the plot and characterization fall out of me as I go along. Of course, then I have more editing, especially for continuity, compared to other authors. It works for me since I get to find out what’s going to happen just as the reader does, page by page.
What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?
I’ve learned to let people be who they are and do what they do. I don’t need to engage with people to educate, reform, or change them around something like that. Some people are attuned to you and some don’t get you. That’s the human condition, not a problem, per se.
Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?
Yes! Sometimes I feel the curse of having to slog along, getting nothing back from my energy output. If I stop, I’m unhappy. If I continue, I’m unhappy. But other times, the creative flow is almost blissful—a sensation of something going just right. Where else do we get that? I’d liken it to when I played professional volleyball overseas. You get in a zone, and it’s all perfect, and you perform at your upper limit.
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.
Leave us with some words of wisdom about the writing process or about being a writer.