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.
Book: Blood and Wisdom
Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
Here’s a blurby description: 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.
Blood and Wisdom 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.
Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?
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 did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing it, or did it come later?
Blood and Wisdom is actually the fourth title I tried. And it’s clearly the right one. The original title--The Man in the Well-- popped up while I was thrashing around with first chapter.Later, as I failed to convince agents to read pages, I played around with the title and the characters’ names as if that would somehow make a difference. I guess it was like the way I used to obsessively trim my beard before a job interview. I knew my fate didn’t hinge on the likes of this minor detail, but so much of the process was outside my control, so I seized on whatever was.
Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?
Wild Rose Press uses a particular process. Authors fill out a fairly comprehensive form describing the book and our preferences for the cover. The contract artists want to know where key scenes are set, what the characters look like, what objects might figure heavily in the plot, etc. There are a half dozen artists to choose from and titles to peruse to find a kindred spirit. I was very specific about what I thought would work and what wouldn’t. I even took the extra step of assembling URLs of clip art that was along the lines of what I was looking for. I knew this approach might rankle, so I was as kind as I could be, ready to defer to my artist’s professional vision.
Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?
Kim Mendoza designed the cover of Blood and Wisdom, and I’m quite pleased by her work. I think it both represents what’s inside the cover, and intrigues the eye.
How was your experience working with the designer?
I didn’t have the opportunity to engage in dialogue, but when I told the publisher that there was a stray line of color in the background that bothered me, Kim immediately changed it with no fuss.
What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
Everyone says they love it, but they could be lying. You never know.
What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
Do research. Look at a lot of covers. Be as specific as possible in giving direction. Trust your artist and trust the process. In the end, you need to be completely happy with the result. Years ago, I settled for a cover that didn’t excite me. As time has passed, I like it less and less.
Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
Yes, thanks. 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.