Today I’m excited to have the chance to talk with Darynda Jones, who is getting ready to release the fourth novel in her Charley Davidson series, Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, on October 30th.
Sometimes being the grim reaper really is that. Grim. And since Charley’s last case went so awry, she has taken a couple months off to wallow in the wonders of self-pity. But when a woman shows up on her doorstep convinced someone is trying to kill her, Charley has to force herself to rise above. Or at least get dressed. She quickly realizes something is amiss when everyone the woman knows swears she’s insane. The more they refute the woman’s story, the more Charley believes it.
In the meantime, the sexy, sultry son of Satan, Reyes Farrow, has been cleared of all charges. He is out of prison and out of Charley’s life, as per her wishes and several perfectly timed death threats. But his absence has put a serious crimp in her sex life. While there are other things to consider, like the fact that the city of Albuquerque has been taken hostage by an arsonist, Charley is having a difficult time staying away. Especially when it looks like Reyes may be involved. Just when life was returning to normal, Charley is thrust back into the world of crime, punishment, and the devil in blue jeans.
Make sure you stick around to the end. Darynda has a really sweet contest going on.
Literary Escapism: For those of my readers unfamiliar with your Charley Davidson series, and your new Darklight series, can you give us a brief look at your novels and what readers can look forward to?
Darynda Jones: Absolutely! The Charley Davidson series is about a female PI who was born the grim reaper. Since the age of five, she’s been helping the departed solve the mysteries of their deaths so they can cross. Now she does the same for the living as well. In the meantime, she has to deal with a being more powerful, and definitely sexier, than any specter she’s ever encountered. He haunts her every move and Charley discovers that dodging bullets isn’t nearly as dangerous as falling in love.
In the Darklight series, high school student Lorelei McAlister is run down by a delivery truck. She didn’t expect to die that day. Nor did she expect Jared Kovach, the mysterious new kid with sparkling brown eyes and a killer smile, to bring her back to life. But both happen one chilly October afternoon. Unfortunately for Jared, he broke one of the most ancient rules and now has to pay the price. He wasn’t supposed to save Lorelei’s life. He was supposed to take it. Because that’s what the Angel of Death does. And now he’s stuck on Earth, ordered to stay and protect her. Clearly there is more to Lorelei than meets the eye.
LE: Why Charley Davidson? What was it about Charley that drew you to her and want to tell her story?
DJ: I knew the minute Charley popped into my head she was the character I’d been waiting for. She is snarky and spunky and not afraid to fight for what she believes in. Even if that belief involves copious amounts of coffee. She is just so fun. She thinks like I do. All over the place. Her attention span is about a microsecond shorter than a gnat’s. And she has superpowers. She doesn’t quite know what they are yet, but she’s learning. I knew I had to tell her story, and what a story it is.
LE: Since creating your world in First Grave on the Right, has there been anything you’ve regretting starting or wish you had started sooner? Was there something that worked out great in First Grave on the Right, but now you wish you had done differently?
DJ: I think there are always little things one wishes they would have done differently, but for the life of me, nothing comes to mind. I love her world. I love her family and friends. I love her attitude. I almost did something in the third book, Third Grave Dead Ahead, that might have come back to bite me, but I changed that just in the knick of time. Killing off beloved characters is always tricky, and I’m glad I didn’t try to tackle that one just yet. Basically, I chickened out. Gladly so.
LE: Was there any part of the Charley Davidson world that you would like to expand on in the future? Was there anything that could have been more expanded, for instance storyline wise?
DJ: I am constantly expanding Charley’s scope and realm. She is always learning and her powers are always growing. In Fourth Grave, she learns quite a bit, actually, and I think her readers will be pleased to learn more about both her and Reyes. I am also expanding her history. I’d never really thought of it until recently, but just like Reyes, she has a heritage, only it’s one she never knew about. That has been great fun.
LE: Death and the Girl Next Door was just released, what made you decide to start a new urban fantasy series? What was it about this world that made you want to share it with everyone?
DJ: I actually wrote Death years ago. The Darklight series is YA and I wrote YA long before anything else, since way back when I was a young adult, in fact. My love for the genre has never waned. When I started the first in the series, I only knew I wanted to work on another YA project and I wanted it to be paranormal, so I just asked myself, if I were still in high school, who would be the last person I’d expect to see in algebra? Somewhere on that list was the Angel of Death. But the fun part was figuring out WHY he was there. *insert evil laugh*
LE: What was your inspiration when you created the characters and the world in your Darklight series? How did you determine how they were going to interact with each other? Are any of your characters modeled off anyone you know?
DJ: It’s funny because at the time I was interpreting at a high school and teaching at a local community college. Kids of all ages fascinate me. Their friendships and all that drama are just fun, especially for a writer. And that was much of my inspiration. Friendship. This series is just as much about friendship as it is anything else. Lorelei’s friends are priceless. I’m not sure they’re modeled after anyone in particular besides Jared. He was definitely modeled after Jason Behr from Roswell, only a darker and much more dangerous version.
LE: Which do you find is more central in your writing: the characters or world creation? Why?
DJ: Characters. Period. I can come up with a world to fit my characters in a heartbeat, but the characters ARE the heartbeat. They are the sugar and the spice of any story. They are who we root for, who we cheer on when the going gets tough, who we cry with, who makes us laugh at the most inappropriate times. Without compelling characters, there is no compelling story. Now, having said that, I’m not saying setting cannot be a character in and of itself, but that’s a whole other talk.
LE: What was it about the fantasy genre that drew you to write in it? Was there a certain book that captured your imagination and lead you to think you could do it or did it come to your naturally?
DJ: I think it was a combination of things. I read a book in junior high about a girl staying with her grandmother. There was a huge black blob under her bed and it grew everyday. It would move and try to touch her. That story creeped me out. I’ve never forgotten it. And the first scary movie I saw was a vampire movie when I was five. I’ve never been the same. Combine that with all the awesome TV shows and movies, and you are in my personal version of heaven. I’m drawn to anything fantasy oriented. Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman, JR Ward . . . I want to have their babies.
LE: When you get stuck, during a scene or in general, what do you do to escape from writers block? What is the most painful part of the process for you when you’re writing a book?
DJ: If I get stuck, it means I’ve done something wrong. I have to take a step back and reanalyze my story. It’s gone south somewhere. I just have to figure out why. And what to do about it. Often it’s about character motivation, oddly enough. If a story isn’t working, it’s my fault.
The most painful part of the writing process for me is the first draft. It’s like pulling my hair out with my toes. Once I get that first draft done, I’m good as gold. Although, come to think of it, major rewrites are even harder. Hmmm…
LE: Which authors do you read and/or think “Damn! I wish I had thought of that”?
DJ: My #1 wish I had thought of that is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. That series is amazing. I would kill to have thought of it. The second one is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I realize that started out as a cheesy movie in which an actor who shall not be named took Joss Whedon’s sacred work of art and blasphemed it, but it turned out okay when he was given the reins for the TV show. Thank the gods! So, barring all that, it’s still one of those I wish I’d thought of. As far as authors, there are so many! I love the WARDen, Jacquelyn Frank, Julia Quinn, Stephen Hunter (my tastes run the gamut), Jeaniene Frost, and so many more. There are just not enough hours in the day.
Thank you so much for having me!!!
Excerpt: Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet
“Yes?” I said, illegally talking on the phone while driving within the city limits. Scoping for cops, I waited for Uncle Bob to stop talking to whomever he was talking to and get back to me.
My uncle Bob, or Ubie as I most often referred to him, was a detective for APD, and I helped him on cases from time to time. He knew I could see the departed and used that to his advantage. Not that I could blame him.
“Get that to her, then call the ME ay- sap.”
“Okay,” I said, “but I’m not sure what calling the medical examiner ay- sap is going to accomplish. I’m pretty sure his name is George.”
“Oh, hey, Charley.”
“Hey, Uncle Bob. What’s up?”
“Are you driving?”
“Have you heard anything?”
Our conversations often went like this. Uncle Bob with his random questions. Me with my trying to come up with answers just as random. Not that I had to try very hard. “I heard that Tiff any Gorham, a girl I knew in grade school, still stuff s her bra. But that’s just a rumor.”
“About the case,” he said through clenched teeth. I could tell his teeth were clenched because his words were suddenly forced. That meant he was frustrated. Too bad I had no idea what he was talking about.
“I wasn’t aware that we had a case.”
“Oh, didn’t Cookie call you?”
“She called me a doody- head once.”
“About the case.” His teeth were totally clenched again.
“We have a case?”
But I’d lost him. He was talking to another officer. Or a detective. Or a hooker, depending on his location and accessibility to cash. Though I doubted he would tell a hooker to check the status of the DOA’s autopsy report. Unless he was way kinkier than I’d ever given him credit for. I found his calling me only to talk to other people very challenging.
“I’ll call you right back,” he said. No idea to whom.
The call disconnected as I sat at a light, wondering what guacamole would look like if avocados were orange.
I finally shifted my attention to the dead kid in my backseat. He had shoulder- length blond hair and bright blue eyes and looked somewhere between fifteen and seventeen.
“You come here often?” I asked him, but my phone rang before he could say anything. That was okay. He had a vacant stare, so I doubted he would have answered me anyway.
“Sorry about that,” Uncle Bob said. “Do you want to discuss the case?”
“We have a case?” I said again, perking up.
“How are you?”
He asked me that every time he called now. “Peachy. Am I the case? If so, I can solve this puppy in about three seconds. I’m heading down San Mateo toward Central in a cherry red Jeep Wrangler with a questionable exhaust system.”
“Hurry, before I get away!”
Meet Darynda Jones!
NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling Author Darynda Jones won the 2009 Golden Heart® in the paranormal category for her manuscript First Grave on the Right. As a born storyteller, she grew up spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, annoying man and beast alike. After the Golden Heart final, she pimped herself as best she could, landed an amazing agent and has sold 8 books to St. Martin’s Press. Darynda lives in the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico, with her husband of more than 25 years and two beautiful sons, the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys. She can be found at www.daryndajones.com.
Want to purchase Darynda’s’s novels?
- First Grave on the Right Amazon | Book Depository
- For I Have Sinned Amazon | Book Depository
- Second Grave on the Left Amazon | Book Depository
- Third Grave Dead Ahead Amazon | Book Depository
- Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet Amazon | Book Depository
- Fifth Grave Past the Light Amazon | Book Depository (Jul 9, 2013)
- Death and the Girl Next Door at Amazon | Book Depository
- Death, Doom, and Detention at Amazon | Book Depository (March 5, 2013)
Thank you Darynda for taking the time to answer my questions and visiting LE.
Darynda is giving away a copy of Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet to one lucky follower per month during the tour. To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter widget as well as answer this question in the comments below: Tell us what you love about the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered.
I do ask the winner to post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.
Contest ends November 11th as part of Darynda’s blog tour, so more chances to enter are available by following Darynda around the web. She was just at Kiki & Jules Reviews and will be over at My Parahangover tomorrow. Darynda (and/or her assistant) will be contacting the winner.