Interview with Denis O'Neill

1.  Whiplash has many positive reviews. Why do you think this story resonates with so many people?
I think the coming-of-age passage is a universal one for anyone who's been to - or going to - college... probably for anyone in those crucial 18-22 year-old, leaving-home years, whether college is/was in the mix or not.   The best kind of storytelling always has a universal component dressed up in the specifics of a certain time and place.   I think WHIPLASH has resonated with readers because the four period when I was in college at Dartmouth - particularly the last two years that have been dramatically compressed into one - was so tumultuous and momentous in so many ways: the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, political assassinations, etc.   We were lucky to have lived in such interesting times... "too" interesting, at times... but memorable for that reason... and intriguing to anyone who's gone through a similar passage, perhaps under less trying circumstances.

2. How did you come up with the title?
The collision of a road trip culture with the reality of the war was really jarring.  The subtitle" When the Vietnam War rolled a hand grenade into the Animal House" struck me as a perfect and colorful description of what was going on... leading to a definite feeling of "Whiplash" as we were jerked back and forth between these two competing realities.

3.  What inspired you to write this memoir?
I was back in Hanover, New Hampshire for my 40th college reunion, remembering all the old stories with my classmates... when I realized I had been sitting on a great story for more than four decades.   I had been mostly writing screenplays ("The River Wild" with Meryl Streep, and others) for twenty years, and the idea of retelling the saga of what we had been through was appealing... especially being able to step outside of the normal screenplay writing constrictions.  Another compelling element was that I have three boys who were about to go off to college ((two are in college now) and I thought it was a good time to let them know what y college experience had been like.

4. What is something you hope readers will take away from this book?
 I'd like readers to consider the notion that in these crucial, coming-of-age years, some universal truths remain, whether the specter of going to war after graduation is in play, or not.   Question and challenge authority.   Don't be afraid to speak up for what's right, even if it's out of your comfort zone.  Be ever aware that there is power in one voice... especially when joined with others.   Our anti-war protests helped to end the war in Vietnam.  We were the first generation that was lied to by our government in a persistent and cynical way... and the first to stand up to THE BIG LIE and help change things.

5.  Where can people find Whiplash?
WHIPLASH is available in paperback, or as a download, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Iphone, and Vook.   You can visit my website for the book (, get more information and reviews, and get to those same buying sites.

To find out more about Denis O'Neill visit these sites: