ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — On any given day, Dan Darling can be found writing for blocks of hours at a time.
The peaceful mornings let his mind run wild in creating his next chapter.
It’s also a process that has changed since becoming father.
“I used to write at night for a while,” he says. “The nighttime is quiet and allows for the imagination to run wild.”
The Albuquerque native is working on the second book in his magical realism-fantasy series – Albuquerque Trilogy.
The first novel is called “Archaeopteryx” and was released in November.
Darling has been hosting book signings and talks around Albuquerque and will be back for an event July 7 at Treasure House Books in Old Town. He now lives in Minnesota, where he teaches literature at Normandale Community College.
It took Darling six years to bring the books to life, though the story lived in his head for more than a decade. And readers will recognize many of the Albuquerque and New Mexico sites.
“It’s nice to get the (first) episode out there,” he quips.
It follows John Stick, a zookeeper and giant, who wants to sit alone in a dark room with his pet tarantula.
However, when 10,000 birds fall dead from the sky in Bosque del Apache, the woman he loves, an ornithologist with severe facial deformity, begs him to decipher the cause. He grudgingly agrees, a decision that plunges him into a tangle of weirdness.
Stick’s investigation reveals that the birds’ mass death is an offshoot of a much larger conflict.
On one side, the Good Friends, an underground railroad for undocumented immigrants, wants Stick to oust the man they believe responsible for killing the birds and persecuting immigrants.
This same man leads the Minutemen Militia, which covets Stick’s expertise in handling their genetically mutated immigrant-tracking monsters.
At the center of it all lurks an enigmatic antagonist who, so they say, has harnessed the power of God in an ancient hot springs and is using it to herald doomsday.
“I wrote the story in the style of a hard-boil detective fiction,” he says. “The idea for the book started back in 2010 when 5,000 birds in Arkansas fell dead without explanation. I thought to myself, that’s the beginning of a novel. As a writer, I wanted to get at the deep emotions of fear and pity. I made myself write about things I was afraid of such as reptiles and blood.”
Now that the book is out, there’s a weight off of Darling’s shoulders.
While he’s not used to being the center of attention, he is taking it in stride.
“It was scary to release the book to the world,” he says. “It’s set in my hometown, and I wanted to do right by it. Having Burqueños react to it is amazing, because it does tackle many social issues.”