D.B.: Darynda! Welcome, and thanks for the Advanced Reader Copy! With the popularity of vampires, werewolves and wizards, what inspired a grim reaper as a protagonist?
D.J.: Thank you so much for having me!!! And the only thing that inspired me to write a grim reaper was desperation. As an aspiring writer trying to catch New York's eye, I wanted something different, something that would grab an agent's and editor's attention. Thankfully, Charley did just that.
D.B.: She did indeed! Speaking of Charley, she's so multi-dimensional I feel like could invite her out for margaritas. Her sarcasm drives the story, but so does her compassion, her love for family and her need for justice. She's such an amazing protagonist whose job it is to help dead people cross. And sometimes when they have unfinished business, Charley ends up solving their murders, plus that woman ends up in one scrape after another. How difficult was Charley to create? Also, in what way is she like Darynda Jones, and how is she different? (excluding of course that Charley's a grim reaper;))?
D.J.: Charley came from so many different places. From people I know to characters I've read about and seen in movies. I wanted a heroine whose flaws made her lovable, whose supposed lack of compassion made her true nature even more endearing, whose quirky habits were fun without making her TSTL. I must admit, she is very much like me in two ways: her ability to see the cup half full and her near-debilitating ADD.
D.B.: In this case, I would say ADD served both of you well. I noticed immediately your gift for characterization. For creating both the living and the dead. Love that Cookie [Charley's assistant] couldn't complete a sentence without a coffee cup in her hand; Mr. Wong, a dead guy who refuses to cross simply hovers in Charley's apartment facing the corner as though in a perpetual time out. Then there's Charley's Uncle Bob, who has this amazing solve rate in the Albuquerque Police Department, thanks to Charley's ability to commune with the dead. Do characters just come to you as you create, or do you outline character sketches? Do you consider yourself a panster or a plotter?
D.J.: While I'm a plotter through-and-through, oddly enough, I never create character sketches. So that part of my writing process, the character development part, is purely a panster trait. They just pop into my head and jump onto the page. Sometimes, I do have to hold them back or mold them into something they don't really want to be, but for the most part, what you see is what you get. I love books where I fall just as much in love with the peripheral characters as I do the main ones. That makes a fun, well-rounded book, IMHO.
D.B.: I heartily agree. You also write fantastic sexual tension and emotional sex scenes. I also have to tell you that Reyes Alexander Farrow is about the sexiest creature I've had the pleasure to read. I put him in the same category as J.D. Robb's Roarke as far as sex appeal. I loved how you showed Charley his past and how he came to align with hers. That was breathtaking writing with a very satisfying conclusion. Will you talk to us about Reyes and how you created him? And I take it he will be a big part of Charley Davidson books?
D.J.: First of all, thank you so much! Reyes will definitely play a pivotal role in Charley's life. I have to admit, I have a weakness for tortured, brooding heroes. I love them. Can't get enough of them. But they also have to have a pretty darned good reason for being that way. When Reyes formed in my mind, I envisioned a man haunted not by one past, but by two. A man driven and desperate and reckless. Charley is like air to him, like a salve to tame the wild beast. And it helps that he's super hot.
D.B.: Oh, yeah, he is. Besides sexual tension, this book exudes tremendous emotional depth, and yet it is filled with wit and humor. I found myself thinking about how difficult it must be to pull that off for 310 pages. Are you intrinsically funny/sarcastic? What happens if you don't feel particularly funny on certain days? How do you psyche yourself out to write? And now that you're facing deadlines, how is that affecting you?
D.J.: Oddly enough, while I find myself hilarious, those around me often don't. And if sarcasm were a mountain, I'd be Mt. Everest. I'm sarcastic at the most inappropriate times. A trait my family doesn't always appreciate. But life's too short to take seriously. You aren't going to win.
Still, there are days when I don't feel particularly funny. When everything I write is poop. Not a lot I can do about it but keep writing and hope tomorrow is better. I have found that the more I write, the easier the humor flows. I hardly have to think about it anymore. I just finished book three of the Charley Davidson series, and while writing is never easy, the humor was much more attainable.
And right now, the only thing deadlines do is force me to actually finish what I started in a decent amount of time. I have a process. I don't mess with it. I just go through the steps that much faster. I feel very fortunate to be able to say that, by the way.
D.B.: You wrote this story in first person. Did you experiment with third, or did first person simply lend itself to your voice? How long did it take you to write FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT? Have you written other novels? If so, what is their status?
D.J.: I felt like this story demanded I write it from Charley's POV. I wanted us to see her internal thoughts, her random musings and her constant battle with ADD that makes her quirky personality shine. I'd actually written one other manuscript in first person, a young adult called GRIMSIGHT that has also sold to St. Martin's. That one I experimented with. I wrote the entire thing in third person, realized it just didn't work, then went back, and rewrote the whole thing in first. I do not in any way, shape or form recommend doing this. Figure out what the story calls for and go from there. It was much harder than I'd anticipated.
The first manuscript I wrote took me four months. It was over 400 pages long. Yet First Grave took me almost two years. I'd started it then put it aside for over a year. Why? I'd done the unthinkable. I'd messed with my process. I'd tried to change my writerly ways. Learned a valuable lesson. When I went back to it, I basically started from scratch, did all my bizarre little outlines, then picked up where I left off. I have written five manuscripts so far. Three in the Charley Davidson series, the one YA that will be an April 2012 release, which I wrote many years ago, and my first manuscript, a historical romance that will never see the light of day.
D.B.: LOL, Love your "not recommended" quote. Hear that, Readers? Get it right the first time, and if you have a process that works, don't mess with it;) Great advice all around, Darynda, and don't be so sure about that historical romance
D.J.: I would love to say yes, it is easier, but it has actually proven quite a bit harder. There is a certain trick to bringing in the same characters book after book, offering pertinent details from earlier books for new readers while not boring previous readers to tears. I am still learning, and, thank god, I have an editor like Jennifer Enderlin. She is amazing. And patient. Very, very patient.
Right now, the books are being released six months apart. I'm not sure what the future will hold in that regard, however, I am setting up book signings and will not have a free Saturday for quite sometime. LOL. And actually, book signings terrify me. I've considered hiring an actor to play me, but that would probably be expensive.
D.B.: Probably so, plus your fans would know and be disappointed. You place FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT in Albuquerque. Since I'm from the Land of Enchantment, it was like sitting down with an old friend. You know the court system and police procedure. What kind of background do you have, and what kind of research did you do to write this book? Are people in Albuquerque excited about the series?
D.J: I've had a terrific response from my fellow New Mexicans. I love NM with a firey passion, and the people are wonderful. Unfortunately, I don't have any cool law-enforcement accolades on my resume, unless you count that sociology class I took in college on deviant behavior. Though as a sign language interpreter, I do pick up a lot. Basically, I did tons of research and went to a couple of law-enforcement workshops. One was a chapter meeting in which the State Medical Examiner spoke. That was a real eye-opener. I learned so much and got to see a real autopsy. I've never been the same. I also read books on police procedure and private investigations as well as keep a couple of friends in law enforcement on speed dial. Oh, and I watched a few episodes of Magnum P.I. That was hard. :)
D.B.: Thanks for going the Tom-Selleck-extra mile for us ;). In FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT, you mention that Charley is "a" Grim Reaper. I'm curious if she will meet other Grim Reapers in future novels. Personally, I can't wait to see how the Big Bad plays into all this. You have set up quite a cliffhanger for book two. Without giving too much of the plot away, an obstacle stands in Charley's and Reyes' way. Further, I don't see how you can develop a happily ever after. Do you have one in mind, or is this still to be determined. What a nail biter you left for your readers!
D.J.: It's funny you should mention the grim reaper status, because my editor actually had me pick. Is Charley "a" grim reaper or "the" grim reaper? I decided to go with "the" for the moment. But who knows what lies down the road?
And happily ever after for Reyes and Charley will be a long time coming, but there are definitely happy moments, some hotter than others. Let's just say that book one barely scratches the surfaces of all the obstacles they will face. I take the torture of my characters seriously. LOL.
D.B.: Sheesh, there's no way in **** I won't pick up book 2. Finally, I loved the way you came up with your title of FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT. There was such poignancy in this book, and I think readers are going to adore your storytelling (says the interviewer who had people looking over my shoulder on an airplane, because I was laughing so hard.) Speaking of Book Two, what's its name?
D.J.: I'm so glad! But I have to admit, I didn't get the title from the book. Quite the vice versa, actually. I made sure I worked the title into the book. I like doing that. Book two is called SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT, and three is THIRD GRAVE DEAD AHEAD.
D.B.: Your promo and marketing department sound like a savvy, 100 percent-behind-you bunch. Since Five Scribes is a blog for writers, do you have any advice you'd like to share? Any advice that has been particularly helpful to you in your writing career?
D.J.: First and foremost, believe in yourself. Then, get your butt in the chair and write. That character isn't going to torture herself.
DB: Well, there you have it! Darynda, it's been a pleasure! I'm so excited about this series debut. I know readers will be, too. Readers, Darynda Jones would like to give away a copy of FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT. All you need to do is question or comment, leaving us with your e-mail address or a way to reach you, of course. We'll draw the winner on Friday night, February 4th. To learn more about Darynda Jones, check out her website at
~~~DARYNDA DREW WENDY MARCUS' NAME AS THE WINNER OF FIRST GAVE ON THE RIGHT!!!! CONGRATULATIONS, WENDY!!!~~~