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Darynda Jones Brings Her Characters To Chat + Giveaway!

Darynda and I are both members of RWA’s Kiss of Death and we both finalled in RWA’s Golden Heart Contest in 2009, one Darynda went on to win in the paranormal category, a huge honor!  That lead us into the 2009 Golden Heart finalist’s group together, the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood.  Our writing travels have brought us into contact with many similar friends and acquaintances.  As I’ve gotten to know Darynda over the years through email, Twitter and the occasional conference meet, I’ve come to appreciate her warmth, openness and down-to-earth character.  When I picked up FIRST GRAVE ON THE LEFT, that’s when I discover her laugh-your-ass-off sacastic wit.

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As an interesting turn of fate, while I was waiting patiently (read: drooling at the computer) for SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT to release just a few weeks ago and tweeting various giveaways Darynda was having on different blogs, I discovered an audiobook up for grabs.  I have a voracious audiobook fetish as I have an extended drive to work and this helps me get the majority of my “reading” in.  I entered a few of the contests, something I rarely do, but sure I wouldn’t win, ended up purchasing SECOND GRAVE on audible the day it came available.  That same day, just hours later, I was notified that I’d won the audiobook!!

So, I hope no one minds regifting…because not only is the sealing still tight and snappy on this brand-new condition beauty, I would read this book over and over even if it had been hand-me-downed a dozen times!  Which means I suppose you can already guess what I’m going to say in my review, but…I’m going to say it anyway.

There are two main storylines happening in the book–the first of Charlie working to uncover the mystery of a missing woman, and two, the series’ continuous thread of the relationship between Charlie and Reyes.  While the two plots themselves don’t overlap, the secondary characters do.  And because both plots are based on the fact that Charlie is the Grim Reaper and can see and speak to the dearly departed who have not yet crossed to the other side, the two threads intertwine (and occasionally collide in fun and fabulous ways) so smoothly the shift is unnoticeable.  Those plots combined with Darynda’s humor make this a fast and rich read.

On the flip-side to the “fast” element in SECOND GRAVE, this was one of those books I didn’t want to end.  That’s saying something considering I rarely get to the end of many novels.  Not only did I listen to the very last word, I listened to the author interview after THE END and THEN listened to the sneak peek of book 3!  Yes, I’ve heard the beginning of book 3.  Be jealous.  Be very jealous.  But the reason I didn’t want it to end was because I love these characters.  I love Charlie’s huge heart, her love for her family, her matter-of-fact bluntness in the worst situations, her sassy kiss-my-ass attitude.  I love Reyes’ intensity, his secrets, his protectiveness, his selfless sacrifice, all in the name of keeping Charlie safe.  I can see them both as real people (or spirits, as the case may be).  And even though I’ve never been a Grim Reaper or the Son of Satan, while some mornings I may resemble something from the underworld, Darynda does such a fine job of exploring their conflicts and personalities that I feel as if I can relate to their problems.

So, I guess I’d better stop talking and let Charlie, Reyes and Darynda say a few words…

Tell us about your upcoming release.

Well, the second in the Charley Davidson series just came out, SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT. Here’s a quick blurb:

Pulled from her bed in the middle of the night, Charley is coaxed into helping her assistant Cookie investigate the disappearance of her friend Mimi. Together they find out that Mimi isn’t the only one who’s met with foul play. Meanwhile, Reyes Alexander Farrow (otherwise known as the Son of Satan. Yes. Literally.) has left his corporeal body and is haunting Charley. He’s left his body because he’s being tortured by demons who want to lure Charley closer. But Reyes can’t let that happen. Because if the demons get to Charley, they’ll have a portal to heaven. And if they have a portal to heaven…well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty. Can Charley handle hot nights with Reyes and even hotter days tracking down a missing woman? Will Cookie ever get a true fashion sense? And is there enough coffee and chocolate in the world to fuel them as they do?

Next is THIRD GRAVE DEAD AHEAD. It comes out in Jan/Feb 2012.

What’s your favorite thing about the book featured here today?

Besides the fact that it has Charley and Reyes, both of whom are ridiculously fun to write, I think it is a better book than its predecessor, FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT. I think I’ve become a better writer, so IMHO it flows better and is a little funnier as well.

What sparked the idea for this series?

I just really wanted a female character who has spunk and sass and a sharp wit and who is unapologetic about anything she does. She is who she is and that makes her fun to write. And while she may seem aloof and uncaring at times, deep down she has a heart of gold.

What creates the biggest conflict between your hero and heroine?

Several things, actually. In the first couple of book, Reyes is technically a resident of the New Mexico State Penitentiary. That in itself causes some problems. But at the heart of their conflict is the fact that she is always in trouble and he is always trying to get her out of it. In Second Grave, he is trying to keep her away from demons sent from hell to capture her. And she is dead set on getting right in the middle of it all. It makes for some fun scenes and a heartbreaking decision on her part.

Why did you put these two together?

Because they are such strong characters and have such unwavering personalities. Neither apologize for who they are or what they must do, even if it goes against the grain of the other. And yet they are so desperately in love, they’ll do anything for each other, including giving their lives.

What is your strategy in creating villains?

I think villains are so often people we think are the most upstanding in the community. I love the juxtaposition of showing the true face of evil when the most altruistic businessman in town is into something like human trafficking. People who hide behind their public personas are always interesting.

What was the hardest part of this book to write and why?

It was hard to explain who my characters were and what happened in the first book, to carry the story over, without boring everyone who actually read the first story. There is a fine line that has to be walked, because the book must stand alone, so that backstory must be told, and yet it must be told in a way that does not bore familiar readers to tears.

Tell us something unusual about this book (i.e. in its creation, execution, production).

I wrote almost the whole thing in five-minute increments while at work. I could easily get 2,000 words a day jotting on a piece of paper I carried in my back pocket.

What do you love most about this series?

I love my heroine, Charley. She is just too much fun to write and makes my day interesting.

Is there a message in this novel that you want readers to grasp?

Nope. This is pure escapism. I did not set out to lecture or teach. I only set out to entertain. If I’ve done that then I’ve done my job.

Does your novel have a theme? How did that come about?

I actually have a recurring theme in all of my work for some reason, and that is how we can overcome the past, no matter how bad, no matter what happened, with love and acceptance, anything is possible.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?

It’s funny, because one of my biggest influences was Julia Quinn. I learned from her that not every moment has to be filled with action to be interesting or humorous or heart wrenching, and yet every scene must move the story forward. I love her writing so much, and though she writes in a completely different genre, I learned so much from her.

How does your family view your writing career?

My family is so proud of me and they are truly my biggest cheerleaders. My sister goes to almost all of my signings with me. My little brother is my pimp. My kids are in it for the money. My husband is so proud and loves the research. 🙂 And my mother- and father-in-law are my biggest fans. I have the greatest family ever!

What entity do you feel supports you most in your writing career outside of family members?

It’s a tossup between my RWA chapter, LERA, and the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. Both are amazing and supportive and completely understand everything being a writer entails. We are very close and I’m so lucky to be involved in such amazing groups.

What is your writing routine?

I usually spend the first couple of hours in the morning answering email and putting out fires. Social networking is a big part of my day as well. I love keeping in touch with readers. Then I spend the afternoon on more writerly stuff, like, well, writing, or revising or doing copyedits. The usual. Then I get back to email in the evening. I rarely watch TV anymore, which is sad. I love TV. I admit it. I get hooked on series and it kills me to miss them. Thanks goodness for DVR.

How do you keep in touch with your readers?

Some email and Twitter, but mostly through Facebook.

What are you reading now?

Soulless by Gail Carriger. I’m loving it!

What is in your TBR pile?

How long do we have? Way too many to name. I just don’t have time to read as much as I used to, but I read everyday. I am so very behind.

What would you like to tell readers?

THANK YOU! We love you. All of you. Whether you read my stuff or not, just keep reading. Because we love writing.

What is your preferred genre to read for pleasure?

I’m way too eclectic to name just one. I read everything, which could be why my TBR pile is so high.

Do you have a second career? (Yes, motherhood counts!)

Well, my boys are older (18 and 22), and I was able to quit my day job as an interpreter, so right now, not really. It’s a good thing because I barely have time to breathe anymore. lol

What did you do before you became a full-time writer?

I was a full-time sign language interpreter.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

It’s ALL important. It ALL has to come together to form a captivating story. A fresh voice. A novel idea. A fantastic plot. But at the foundation is stellar writing. Learn to write well and hone your voice.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started writing?

Don’t try to ‘copy’ someone else’s voice. Find your own. Hone it. Make it fresh. And dive in.

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

I do. I have three distinct outlines that I must have before I can start any story. I’ve learned not to mess with my process. It leads to disaster.

How would you best describe your books?

For the Charley Davidson series, I would call them humorous paranormal mysteries.

What would you write if you could write anything you wanted to write?

Well, I’m currently working (in my spare time, lol) on an upper middle grade post apocalyptic story with paranormal elements. I’m not sure I have the voice to pull it off. Keeping my fingers crossed.

What do you most like about writing? Least like?

I love rewriting. I am not fond of getting that first draft onto the paper. It’s hard. I’m all about avoiding hard.

Which is your favorite of the books you have written?

Oh gosh. I know this sounds cliché, but my favorite seems to be the one I’m working on at the time. It’s weird, because once they’re out there, you don’t’ really think too much about the books you’ve written. You think about what’s on your plate at the moment. And at this moment, I am writing the second in a YA series that also sold to St. Martin’s Press. So, yeah, that’s my fav right now.

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

Writing full time! I’ve always dreamed of doing this. It’s awesome, and yet I don’t really get any more writing done now than I did when I had a “day job”. Sigh…

What would you say is your biggest writing quirk?

I guess the fact that I MUST have those three outlines before starting a story. I go into complete lockdown without them.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Reading and hanging with my family.

Where can we find you online?


Thank you so much for having me!!!

PHEW!! Awesome information, Darynda!!

Now, for those of you who are Charlie and Reyes fans (and how could you NOT?) or would like to be (and how could you NOT?) read on for some fun, silly questions that will give us a peek into their amazing characters.

We’ll start by asking CHARLIE a few questions:

Do You Like Going Window Shopping?
I like windows, but I’ve never felt the need to shop for them. LOL. Just kidding. I do like to go window-shopping, but only when I can actually afford the things in the windows. Otherwise I just get depressed. Or I run up my credit card bill to an unmanageable state.

Can You Tell If Someone Is Lying To You?
Yep. I have a built in lie detector. I feel lies on people like others feel a soft breeze.

Do You Have Any Undiscovered Or Hidden Talents?
That’s what I’d like to know. According to every departed person I know—and some not so departed—I am not living up to my full potential as the grim reaper. But what else am I supposed to do? Hunt the departed down and threaten to slice them in two with my scythe if they don’t cross? First of all, I don’t actually have a scythe. Second, they are incorporeal. How does one slice something in two that is incorporeal? Just sounds silly to me.

Do You Currently Play Any Sports? If So, What?
Is lusting after a man a sport? If so, I will be in shape in no time.

Do You Follow Trends?
Not often, but I do follow people in grocery stores until they get nervous and call the manager.

Are You The Same Person You Were As A Child, Or Much Different?
I’m like me as a kid only with a bad attitude. No, wait, I had a bad attitude then as well. I just have more confidence now to flaunt it.

Do You Believe In Destiny?
Well, the only Destiny I know is Destiny Montoya, and sure I believe in her. She’s quite corporeal. I can pinch her and she gets annoyed.

Okay, just kidding again. For realsies, after what I’ve learned about the universe and those who are in it, I very much believe in destiny. How else would Reyes Farrow have found me? It was either meant to be or a freak accident that will live in infamy. I vote destiny.

Ever Broken Any Bones?
Not sure. I heal really fast, so it’s hard to tell.

Have You Ever Felt Like You Hit Rock Bottom?
I fell through a skylight once and hit that bottom pretty hard. It wasn’t so much rock as it was cement. But that’s probably not what you meant.

Are You A Touchy Feely Person?
Only when Reyes Farrow is involved.

Do You Dream Often?
I dream of Reyes often. Too often.

What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Coffee grinds. Long story.

Do You Like Eating Out At Restaurants?
Is guacamole green?

Strangest place you’ve ever been kissed?
Behind my knee.

Most romantic place you’ve ever been kissed?
Behind my knee. (You had to be there.)

Have You Ever Been Stood Up?
Yes, but I was really drunk at the time, so I went right back down.

Have You Ever Regretted One Of Your “Romantic Encounters”?
Only the ones I don’t remember because I was too drunk at the time.

Thank you, Charlie!  Now a few words…and I mean few, from Reyes:

Any Tattoos?

Have You Ever Cheated On A Test?
Never needed to.

Ever Seen A Therapist?
Charley seems to think I should, but no.

Do You Have Any Weird Habits?
Define weird.

Name a few of your Pet Peeves.
People talking. People breathing. People.

Do You Make Friends Easy?

Are You Mostly A Clean Or Messy Person?

Dumbest Purchase You Ever Made?
Swimming pool. I was in prison at the time. They made me send it back.

Biggest regret?
Going to prison for something I didn’t do.

Do You Have A Secret No One But You Knows?

Do You Eat Meat?

Do You Have Any Special Talents?
I’m the son of Satan. So, yes.

Have You Ever Walked Out On A Movie At The Theater?
I’ve only been to one. I did not walk out. I was thrown out.

Do People Underestimate Or Overestimate You?
Under. Always.

Do You Think Blind Dates Are A Good Way To Meet Someone Special?
I’m in prison. So, no.

Do You Believe In The Afterlife?
Been there, done that.
Ever Been Addicted To A Game?

How Did You Rebel As A Child?
I was raised in hell, so that’s a long story.

Favorite Midnight Snack?

Do you have a type?

Do You Believe That The Cup Is Half Empty Or Half Full?
Depends on how close the cup is to Charley. If it’s nowhere near her, it’s half empty. If it’s close, it’s half full.

OH. MY. GOD.  Have I mentioned how in love I am with how in love Reyes is with Charlie?  Did you get that?  *heart betting fast…pitter-patter-pitter-patter*

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