Interview With William Darrah Whitaker

See full issue for 2016 04-11

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Darrah Whitaker, author of the fast-paced, fun and thought-provoking novel, My Life as a Sperm. Darrah's background in screenwriting really comes through in his work, with dialogue and action that jumps off the page and begs to be heard and seen on the big screen.

LYNNE:  What inspired you to write about Buddy's return from death, tasked with saving the world?


DARRAH: All I can really say is that I woke up one morning and had the beginnings of a story left over from a dream. I can have some mighty weird dreams. A short story developed over the weekend (eventually published in the Writers Bloc III anthology put out by the Henderson Writers’ Group). It later begged to be extended to a full length novel so who was I not to listen.

LYNNE: What are some of the main themes you address in My Life as a Sperm, and were those themes intentional, or did they emerge as part of the story?

DARRAH: In general, I knew what I wanted to say when I started – about religion, faith, and the end of the world. So, in that sense, the theme was intentional. However, as many authors know, things morph quite a bit after you start writing. I found myself going down unexpected paths which allowed my main character, Buddy Price, to say so much more. He became a great vehicle to have a lot of fun. 


LYNNE: Who will be in the cast of the movie version of My Life as a Sperm? 

DARRAH: I love the Coen Brothers movies and, what can I say, they seem to love putting George Clooney in their movies. So, once I get the Coen’s on board, who am I to argue about who should play Buddy Price? 


LYNNE: Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your background and when did you start writing?

DARRAH: The first story that I remember writing was about killer trees. I think I might have been eight or nine at the time. Of course, I probably didn't realize how absolutely unterrifying trees could actually be, even if you put the word killer in front of them. Sure, they could fall over on people, but that's as far as that goes. They couldn’t really move around from where they were growing so I’m assuming the tension would have been minimal, except maybe throwing shadows at night with their branches. But to fast forward a few decades or so -- I went to film school (attended University of Texas at Austin grad program), over time wrote five screenplays, one which was actually made. You might catch it if you happen to be traveling in South America or thereabouts. We don’t really talk about that one too much. About five years ago, I became more interested in writing novels. It’s a different kind of release.


LYNNE: Is this your first novel? What else have you written? Published? 

DARRAH: The first novel I wrote was called The Santiago Agenda that may eventually find the light of day. It’s a thriller and definitely not in the same genre as My Life as a Sperm. However, it did propel me in some small way to writing Sperm. As I wrote that first one, I found that humor kept creeping in. When I finished and started on another thriller, I just kept struggling with getting it going. Things were too serious. Finally, I understood. Don’t fight it. Just go with the humor.


LYNNE: If you were given the opportunity to form a book club with your favorite authors of all time, which legends or contemporary writers would you want to become a part of the club?

DARRAH: Stephen King, enough said. That’s all I would need. I like his work, not necessarily for the horror, but the way he works his characters. I think if you have the right character, they’ll take you places you never imagined.


LYNNE: What is your writing method: Do you start with a story idea, a scene, a cast of characters? Plotter or pantster? Any writing rituals? 

DARRAH: A bit of both, actually. I’m a pantser at the beginning. I start with an idea and run with it until I need to start making decisions. Then I go back and analyze the setup. Then I drop my pants (so to speak) and begin to plot things out so I can get to my ending while having fun with the reader along the way.


LYNNE: Why did you choose to self-publish? What was that experience like for you? Smooth? Bumps in the road? Lessons learned? 

DARRAH: It’s more like self-publishing chose me on this one. I started with sending queries to agents from which I received either the standard rejection or those who chose to write an encouraging response but with the equally standard – “just not for me”. So once I decided to self-publish… or rather it chose me…, I did my due diligence well before and came up with a game plan to expose the world to My Life as a Sperm without breaking the bank (which I think most of us can appreciate). Because of the advance preparation (highly recommended), I can say it went pretty smoothly. Although, I have to admit there were a few bumps, but not nasty, break the car’s axle ones. Lessons learned? You have to work hard at writing a good book, and just as hard, if not harder, to gain the exposure so more than just your friends and family know it’s out there.


LYNNE: Are there any resources that were particularly helpful to you and that you'd recommend to new writers? 

DARRAH: First, and foremost, find a writers group that you are comfortable with in your area. You’ll hopefully find a supportive environment there, but you’ll also receive valuable feedback on your book and be able to learn from what others have done. Mine was the Henderson Writers’ Group. Second, once you’ve written your book, find a good editor. You only get one chance to put out the best product you can so make sure it’s been properly edited. Next, if you are able to go the traditional publishing route, go for it. Enough said. If not, and you self-publish, put in the time and effort, the same as when you were writing your book, to do it right. There are so many sites out there to help you on that journey. Some good, some great, and some, as we all know, only exist to take the unsuspecting author’s money. Lastly, stay organized. And do your research – there is a lot of information out on the Internet (too much to mention here that wouldn’t put people to sleep). Put together a marketing plan, and be realistic. Finishing the book is only half the battle. 


LYNNE: Finally, what are you working on now? 

DARRAH: I’m writing the sequel. Not quite ready to give away the title yet, but it’s fitting for the challenges with which Buddy Price will be faced. Let’s just say that the other side gets a crack at him now. To understand what that means, I guess you’ll have to read My Life as a Sperm.


LYNNE: Thanks so much for taking time out of your day to chat. I've really enjoyed getting to know the mind behind such an entertaining book.


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Lynne Hinkey

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