‘I Had to Stay Dark.’ by Dave White

Though he’s contributed to many anthologies, Derringer Award winner Dave White is best known for his two novels featuring Jackson Donne, When One Man Dies and The Evil That Men Do. His newest release, Witness to Death, has a much darker tone than his previous work, and in today’s guest post he explains what was going on in his life when he wrote it and why even once things changed, he “had to stay dark.”

Dave WhiteWhile a lot of authors say they’re not in the book they’ve written—and they’re not lying—I’m going to own up to something here. The teacher character in my novel Witness to Death is me.

Well, at least one version of me.

You see, one of the moments in my life that helped move Witness to Death along was a break-up. One of those out-of-nowhere, soul destroying, maybe-I-should-take-a-Valium-or-at-least-drink-more-beer break-ups. I was down and out, didn’t want to write, didn’t know what to write about. You know the feeling. Everyone does.

At the time, I was probably five or six chapters into the first draft of Witness. And the book just stalled out. The original concept for the novel was the same, but the tone I’d envisioned was different. Witness was supposed to be a lighthearted spy romp like pretty much any movie starring Cary Grant. There was going to be explosions, action, and lots of jokes.

But after said break-up, my head and heart weren’t in that type of mood.

So I wrote in a break-up, and the book took a turn. I wrote in a personal tragedy or two and the book got even darker. And soon enough, I had a completely different beast on my hands. I was tapping parts of my brain that I hadn’t worked with in a long time. Reliving memories that scratched at my soul and flew from my fingers on to the page. Part of myself is in this book.

The old me.

Witness to Death by Dave WhiteBecause a funny thing happened. As I was finishing up the first draft, I met the woman who’d become my wife. I was happy again… really happy. But it was time to revise.

And my soul didn’t want to revise it the same way. It wanted to get the book back to its fun-loving beginnings. But that couldn’t happen. I had to stay dark. So be warned. This book is my darkest yet. There’s explosions, torture, and fist fights. At the same time there’s angst and desperation. There are people trying to find happiness and success, but just missing out by a hair.

It’s a tragedy.

But at the same time, seeing that part of my soul helped me gain perspective. It helped me appreciate my happy, joking side. It helped me get past the break-up and allowed me to meet my wife.

I think I owe this book more than I give it credit for. Writing is my therapy. And this book helped me a ton. Out of fictional tragedy came personal happiness.

I like that…

Dave White is among the youngest winners of the Derringer Award. He has contributed to many anthologies and collections, including The Adventure of the Missing Detective and Damn Near Dead. His two novels featuring Jackson Donne, When One Man Dies and The Evil That Men Do, were both nominated for the Shamus Award. He recently released a collection of short stories featuring Donne, More Sinned Against. Dave lives in New Jersey, where he teaches middle-school English. You can catch Dave blogging at Do Some Damage and On the Banks.

I’ll be reviewing Witness to Death tomorrow, but in the meantime be sure to pick up a copy for only $0.99. Also check out Dave’s previous guest post, It’s No Sin to Love a Kindle.


  • Jarrett Rush

    May 16, 2011 - 2:36 PM

    This one is in my digital TBR pile. Looking forward to it. But I have to ask, are you ever going to give the light-hearted, Cary Grant romp another shot?

  • Dave White

    May 16, 2011 - 12:00 PM

    Thanks, guys! Hope you enjoy the book!

  • Thomas Pluck

    May 16, 2011 - 10:54 AM

    We all need an outlet for our old dark selves. Can’t wait to read this one. My wife has the Nook!

  • McDroll

    May 16, 2011 - 9:49 AM

    That’s so sweet! I did wonder, I have to confess! Stay dark Dave…even though you are now blissfully happy!

  • Sabrina Ogden

    May 16, 2011 - 9:49 AM

    It’s hard to see past the moment, but I’m glad you were able to tap into the part of your brain that hadn’t been used in a while, and I’m very happy you met your wife. Wonderful guest post, Dave. I’m really looking forward to reading this book!

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