William D. Darling is a life-long storyteller. For much of his life, he’s spun narratives out of eyewitness accounts and evidence in courtroom, using that ability to win cases as a lawyer and a prosecutor. With the release of his first novel in 2015, he’s parlayed his storytelling ability into creating compelling fiction rooted in his myriad experiences.

Darling is as Texan as they come, except he’s not a native Texan. He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1942. His father transferred to a job in Houston mere weeks before his birth, but his mother was too pregnant to even travel by car (according to doctors’ rules at the time). Shortly after coming into the world, Darling and his mother came to Texas, and the state’s been central to his identity ever since.

He graduated (as student council president) from Edison High School in San Antonio, finished his undergraduate program at the University of Texas at Austin in three years, and entered law school there immediately after, finishing by age 23. (Which, he muses, might have been too early.)

Darling then became an assistant district attorney in Houston, in what he describes as the rough-and-tumble world of the mid-‘60s court system. After several years of life at an accelerated pace—he was once nearly shot by the brother of an angry plaintiff in a case he successfully defended—he moved to the relative calm of Austin, in part thanks to the intervention of the legendary governor Dolph Briscoe.

In Austin, he served in the Air National Guard with President George W. Bush, built a practice, met and married his wife Kathy, and eventually lived in two very different worlds—the bustle of Washington, D.C. and the idyll of his Central Texas ranch.

He contemplated all the further intersections of history throughout his life. He recalled happening upon Muhammad Ali when he famously refused Army induction at a downtown Houston office, accelerating a fierce national debate over the Vietnam War. He recalled hearing reports of the University of Texas Tower shootings that took a piece of America’s innocence, and realizing had Charles Whitman acted just three months earlier, he would have been on his daily walk to work across the mall and could have been one of the first victims.

And then he thought back to a formative tragedy of his childhood, similar to the one experienced by the protagonist who he’s now chronicled through two novels. Contemplating his own life led him to ponder questions that could only be answered by contemplating Jim Ward’s life, and so he did just that.