Finalist Spotlight

Gary Darby

Gary Darby is a graduate of the University of Utah with a B.S. in Political Science and an M.S in the Analysis of Strategic Intelligence from the Defense Intelligence College. A retired military intelligence officer, he and his wife, Pamela, and their seven sons lived in Anchorage, Alaska, before seeking the warmer climes of St. George, Utah, where he and Pamela now reside.

Gary Darby on his Whitney Awards Finalist novel,

Slideout: A Millitary Thriller

What was the inspiration for your Whitney Awards finalist novel?

The 1980 Mount Saint Helens eruption was the genesis for my novel. The blast itself was incredible, but I became fascinated with how the whole northeast flank of the mountain slid away at the detonation’s start. Over the years, I kept thinking, what if such an event took place under one of the oceans? What sort of tsunami would it produce? Where would it hit? What level of devastation would it cause? As I researched the answers, the idea came that I had the kernel of a story.

What was the tipping point that turned this novel from “just an idea” to a project you HAD to complete?

After finishing my fantasy series, The Legend of Hooper’s Dragons, this story idea that I carried around in my head for years kept coming to my mind. I somewhat ignored it as I wanted to jump into my sequel series to Hooper. However, there came the point where I couldn’t disregard the prompting. I tried to work on another writing project, but the feeling was just too strong to ignore that Slideout was the novel I needed to write.

 How did this book evolve into the final story? Did it end up the way you thought it would, or did the plot or characters change along the way?

As I wrote the story, there were certain plot points where it was as if I faced not just a fork in the road, with two choices, but a multi-lane of possibilities that spread out in front of me. I had to think through the options and the consequences they played on the plot, future scenes, and the characters – especially their impact on my characters. While working through those plot points, the characters became much more real in my head, with more complete personalities than I originally envisioned. The story ended up pretty much as I thought it would, but the path to the climactic ending was a bit more convoluted than I expected.

Who is your favorite secondary character, and why?

Nate. As a former junior enlisted sailor in the Navy, I easily related to Nate. I could see certain aspects of the story readily through his eyes and feelings. Plus, he’s a bit on the flippant side, which is a part of my personality, and very pronounced in my youth.

If your book was made into a movie, which scene would you want to be a background extra in?

There is a scene in Slideout where Teeter and Sam are on the schooner’s main deck talking. It’s a dark, tropical night with the gentle touch of a soft breeze. A silvery moon rises over a glassy sea—the schooner’s bow slices through the waveless ocean. The stars, like brilliant, tiny sparklers, flash against an ebony carpet. I would love to be the mate at the wheel steering the boat through such a magnificent night.