Thursday, April 20, 2023

Interview With Author Verlin Darrow


1. What inspired you to write this book?

I began the book twenty-five years ago as therapy for an intense period of my life—one that parallels my protagonist’s dilemma as he faces mind-expanding events that he has to try to make sense out of. (In my case, there were no murders in the mix, thank God.)

Like Tom Dashiel, even after all the psychologically destabilizing weirdness had been resolved, I still needed to attend to the backlog of emotional and mental processing, and working on Murder For Liar helped. Now I’ve returned to the project to finish it, and I’m able to understand, with years of professional experience as a psychotherapist, just how someone would actually experience the twisty, suspenseful plot of my mystery.  

2. What exactly is it about and who is it written for?

Murder For Liar profiles the therapist protagonist’s development—emotionally, psychologically, and especially spiritually—as he expands on many levels to cope with what an eccentric patient draws him into. A series of murders, unexplainable events, and colorful characters swirl around Tom, who struggles to solve the killings and still maintain his sanity.  I think my novel will appeal to readers of mysteries and psychological suspense novels, especially those who enjoy genre-busting ideas and insights woven into the plot and dialogue.  

3. What do you hope readers will get out of reading your book?

Above all else, I hope it’s a fun read. I don’t believe in making readers work too hard, and I always include humor. At the same time, I enjoy sharing whatever wisdom I’ve gathered through the years, and I believe that embedding this in a genre novel lets me sneak it in the back door of readers who avoid self-help or spiritually-oriented books.  

4. How did you decide on your books title and cover design?

I like two or three word titles—they stick in my head. I also like phrases that have intriguing, seemingly unrelated sub-parts. One of my titles is Blood and Wisdom, another is Coattail Karma. So I started off trying to come up with something similar that reflected my latest book’s content. Alas, I couldn't. Plan B was to find a riff on a common phrase or title in the mystery genre. I think that these stick in reader’s minds via the familiarity with the original, similar phrase. Murder For Hire fit the bill, so I came up with Murder For Liar, which accurately reflects the events in my novel.  

My publisher made the final call on my cover after I filled out a detailed form about the book. I selected a cover artist whose work I liked, and then sat back and let the pros get to work. In the past, I designed covers myself and talked the publisher into doing it my way. Almost every detailed review of my earlier novels commented that they loved the books and hated the covers. So much for my graphic skills.  

5. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers – other than run!? 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 that are 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 wrote: Anguish emerges from craving for life to be other than it is. I think this especially applies to writers, given the state of our industry.  

 6. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading? 

I’m no expert about this, so I can only speculate. It’s certainly harder to find representation or to be traditionally published. On the other hand, self-publishing and online sales have opened up the door to lots of writers getting their work out in the world. The net effect might be that it’s harder to make a living writing, but easier to write. In the long run, perhaps more writers will result in more great books. I don’t know. Trends outside the publishing world don’t seem to support a rosy future. Are we producing readers at a pace to counterbalance the ones who are dying off? I don’t think so. If I were investing, I wouldn’t buy shares of publishing companies.  

7. Were there experiences in your personal life or career that came in handy when writing this book? 

Other than what I’ve already mentioned, my career as a psychotherapist has been instrumental in all my writing, especially Murder For Liar. As a first-person narrator, Tom shares what’s in his head on an ongoing basis, and this is realistic. Basically, he has a perspective I’m quite familiar with, and I also understand how things work in a therapy setting. Understanding how and why people change is a key element in literature. If a character remains the same or transforms in some unbelievable way, the book doesn’t work. And a lot of readers have been in therapy these days and can recognize inauthentic descriptions of the process.  

8. How would you describe your writing style? Which writers or books is your writing similar to?

I lean heavily on plot, dialogue, and humor. I use description just as much as I need to, keeping a fast pace. My mystery plots are not easy to figure out (no one ever has), but I embed enough clues so that after the denouement, readers don’t feel cheated. All of the characters are complex, yet their complexity is revealed via small, ordinary details. I guess you could say my books are a cross between a few of my favorite authors: Donald E. Westlake, Elmore Leonard, Thomas Berger, and Jonathan Carroll. I don’t write nearly as well as any of them, of course. These guys are maestros.  

9. What challenges did you overcome in the writing of this book?  

A twenty-five-year gap between beginning and finishing my book presented quite a few challenges, including simple things like adding in common, modern devices, and eliminating outdated cultural references. On a deeper level, my younger self was less mature, and a much crappier writer. I found this both disheartening—a demotion of my former self—and encouraging—seeing how much I’ve changed. I also felt challenged, as I always do, by the uncertainty of what happens once I’m finished. Will I get it published? Will anyone read it? These concerns are motivation killers, and I needed to goose myself periodically to reach critical mass in terms of the number of pages. Once I’m there, things are easier. I won’t stop.  

10. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?

I don’t think it should. My book is less important and less helpful than many others. On the other hand, if a reader is simply looking for an engrossing, fun book and there’s no “should” involved, all I can say is that I LOVE Murder For Liar. My wife, my editor, and all my early readers also like it the best of my four novels so far. These people aren’t pushovers. (For example, my wife hates a project I finished early this year.)  

Verlin Darrow is 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. For more information, please see:


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Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2023. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.3 million pageviews. With 4,400+ posts over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C. Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, APEX, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult:  

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