This interview is being reposted as it didn’t migrate when we moved from PureTextuality.com.
Never underestimate the power of a woman on a
double espresso with a mocha latte chaser high.
Charley Davidson isn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill grim reaper. She’s more of a paranormal private eye/grim reaper extraordinaire. However, she gets sidetracked when the sexy, sultry son of Satan, Reyes Farrow, moves in next door. To further complicate matters, Reyes is her main suspect in an arson case. Charley has vowed to stay away from him until she can find out the truth…but then dead women start appearing in her apartment, one after another, each lost, confused, and terrified beyond reason. When it becomes apparent that her own sister, Gemma, is the serial killer’s next target Charley has no choice but to ask for Reyes’ help. Arsonist or not, he’s the one man alive who could protect Gemma no matter who or what came at her. But he wants something in return. Charley. All of her, body and soul. And to keep her sister safe, it is a price she is willing to pay.
Charley Davidson is at it again in Fifth Grave Past the Light, the sexy, suspenseful, and laugh-out-loud funny fifth installment of the New York Times bestselling series by Darynda Jones.
In celebration of the release of Fifth Grave Past the Light (Charley Davidson #5), Darynda Jones has taken Charley on tour! We were lucky enough to be invited to be part of her tour for a quick interview. Everyone please put your hands together as we welcome back Darynda Jones!! (applause applause)
JENA, PURE TEXTUALITY [JENA]:Thanks for coming back to Pure Textuality, Darynda! For those who are not familiar with you as a writer, let’s chat a little bit about your background. When did you decide that you wanted to be an author? Or was it something you’ve always wanted to do?
DARYNDA JONES [DARYNDA]:Thank you so much for having me, Jena!!! I’m thrilled to be here.
I didn’t always know I wanted to be a writer, but I’ve always wanted to make up stories. I started from before I could write. I’d scribble a “story” on a piece of paper, usually with a stick as I didn’t have a pencil, and would beg my mom to read it back to me, since I couldn’t read yet. She’d play along and a writer was born.
The desire to write has just always been in me. I can’t imagine what I did to deserve the opportunity to get to do this for a living, but I’m forever grateful. This is literally a dream come true.
JENA: Was writing something that came naturally to you or did you have to “cultivate” it?
DARYNDA: Making up stories has always come naturally. The craft of writing definitely had to be cultivated. I read and read and read for years. Anything I could get my hands on that talked about writing, about craft, about storytelling and grammar, I gobbled it up and begged for more. I simply love story structure, plot elements, grammar rules and how to break them. It’s like a fire ignites inside me every time I talk about writing. And I can talk! If you ever want to discuss your writing endeavors, I’m your girl.
JENA: When did you start writing your first book? And was it the first Charley book?
DARYNDA: I started my first manuscript in high school but never finished it. It was a post apocalyptic story about a generation of kids that were born underground after a nuclear war. But life, marriage, kids, college, etc., came calling and I put aside my writing for many years. When I finally decided to start writing seriously toward publication, I started with one of my favorite genres, historical romance. Then I went back to my first love, YA, and completed a manuscript in that category. First Grave was the third manuscript I wrote and the first to sell and I couldn’t be happier about that.
JENA: We have a lot of readers (and even some of us bloggers) here ay Pure Textuality that are either self-published or aspiring writers. What would you say was the toughest hurdle you had to overcome with publishing your first book?
DARYNDA: Balance! I am so fortunate to have signed with a dream agent, so the actual selling part was not an issue. Balance was the biggest hurdle for me and I continue to struggle with it. I was floored with all the work that accompanies this gig, and I have a plethora of people behind me. I can’t imagine all the work that goes into indie publishing. I admire those who take that leap. For me, finding a good balance between the writing and business ends is key to meeting my deadlines. Those deadlines are always closer than they appear.
JENA: If you had one piece of advice to give fledgling writers everywhere, what would it be?
DARYNDA: I could give you the whole ‘Never give up’ speech, but . . . No, that bears repeating. Never give up! Never ever ever! Keep learning and practicing your craft. If you are not selling, figure out why and fix it.
But that’s not my advice. My advice is to think in bigger terms. Think high concept. You want to get people’s attention? Go big or go home. Take the story of your heart, write it with fresh, crisp language, vivid imagery, tight sentences, then do something that will hook your audience: Add a twist no one sees coming. THAT is your hook. THAT is what will get an agent’s attention.
JENA: Okay, let’s talk about Charley! A lot has changed since Heather’s first interview with you (in January 2012). She was brand new to the paranormal genre as a whole and I hadn’t yet read any of your series. Since then, I have blown through the entire series of audiobooks, one right after another, like some kind of addict. I fell in love with the character of Charley….and Reyes (swoon!) …..and Cookie….and Swopes…..and Donovan (swoon!)….and EVERYONE ELSE. I am officially a HUGE fan. This is such a fantastic and unique series of books and I am dying to see where Fifth Grave Past the Light takes us.
DARYNDA: THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!
JENA: You mentioned in your past interview with us that you always knew Charley would be a series but wrote First Grave as a standalone. Now we are five books in to the series, each book with a very unique story line and one big story arc spanning the series. As of the last time we spoke, this series is very much an open-ended project (and all us fans hope it keeps going FOREVER). I know we have at least Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson #6) to look forward to! Should the series come to an end, do you already know how Charley’s story is going to end?
DARYNDA: I sure do! I actually came up with a very, very end pretty early into the project, mostly because I wanted to know my ultimate story arc. Without that, I don’t have an arc to sustain the series. However, even this has evolved. I still know the very end of Charley’s story as we will see it, but I now have branches I didn’t see before, and I’m thrilled. I even have a spinoff planned that I’m excited about.
And thank you again! I hope it goes on forever, too!
JENA: Is there a character in the Charley Davidson series that you would ever consider expanding on? Maybe getting their own series?
DARYNDA: I actually do have a couple of secondary characters’ stories coming to light in the next few books. With the planned spinoff, we will learn more about these two and how they will be uprooted and replanted in another storyline. I’m excited and nervous about it. I kind of hate for Charley to lose them. At the same time, their lives are about to take on a whole new meaning. So there’s that.
JENA: As a fun little game for our readers, flip to your absolute favorite part of Fifth Grave Past the Light. What page number(s) is it? (Readers – mark this down so when you’re reading Fifth Grave, you’ll know! Wink wink!)
DARYNDA: Ack! That’s hard, but I have to say the very first scene that popped into my head is on page 63. I adore it. I adored it when I wrote it and adored it when I read it again during edits, and that doesn’t happen often. It’s a nice feeling when it does. I think it’s the playfulness of the scene. The sexiness. Of course, it could just be the fact that Reyes is in it. He leaves an impression.
JENA: Time for a just-for-fun question or two! If the Charley Davidson series film rights were picked up and you were given complete control over the casting of each character, who would you cast for the role of Charley? Reyes? Swopes? Cookie? Donovan? Rocket? Any others have celebrity faces you associate them with?
DARYNDA: I’ve thought about this off and on and my answers usually change, but I’ve always seen Cookie as Melissa McCarthy. I designed her after Melissa when she played Sookie in the Gilmore Girls, and I have a hard time envisioning anyone else. My newest Charley is actually the best friend in the movie Warm Bodies. Her name is Analeigh Tipton, and though she’s kind of young for the role, I think she’d be perfect. I don’t really see Reyes as any actor per se, but I can definitely see him being played by Jason Behr. I had him in mind for the high school scene in First Grave. Tyler Hoechlin would be a good choice too. Donovan? Hmmmm, maybe a young Sam Elliot. Rocket was and will always be Pruit Taylor Vince in my mind. And Shemar Moore as Swopes. Yum!
JENA: Finally, as a reader, who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite series?
DARYNDA: Oh, so many!!! I love JR Ward, Jacquelyn Frank, Kresley Cole, Jeaniene Frost, Stephen Hunter, Suzanne Collins, Stephanie Meyer, Molly Harper, Robyn Peterman, Sandra Brown, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher, and on and on.
JENA: Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by! It’s always fun to have you here and I can’t wait to get my hands on Fifth Grave Past the Light!
DARYNDA: Thank YOU, Jena!!! It’s great to be back!
FIFTH GRAVE PAST THE LIGHT EXCERPT
Ask me about life after death.
—T-shirt often seen on Charley Davidson, a grim reaper with questionable morals
The dead guy at the end of the bar kept trying to buy me a drink. Which figured. No one else as even taking a second look and I’d dressed to the nines. Or, at the very least, the eight- and- a-halves. But the truly disturbing part of my evening was the fact that my mark, one Mr. Marvin Tidwell, blond real estate broker and suspected adulterer, actually turned down the drink I’d tried to buy him.
Turned it down!
I felt violated.
I sat at the bar, sipping a margarita, lamenting the sad turn my life had taken. Especially to night. This case was not going as planned. Maybe I wasn’t Marv’s type. It happened. But I was oozing interest. And I wore makeup. And I had cleavage. Even with all that going for me, this investigation was firmly wedged between the cracks of no and where. At least I could tell my client, aka Mrs. Marvin Tidwell, that it would seem her husband was not cheating on her. Not randomly, anyway. The fact that he could’ve been meeting someone in particular kept me glued to my barstool.
“C-come here often?”
I looked over at the dead guy. He’d finally worked up the courage to approach and I got a better view of him. I figured him for the runt of the litter. He wore round- rimmed glasses and a tattered baseball cap that sat backwards on top of muddy brown hair. Add to that a faded blue T-shirt and loosely ripped jeans and he could’ve been a skater, a computer geek, or a backwoods moonshiner.
His cause of death was not immediately apparent. No stab wounds or gaping holes. No missing limbs or tire tracks across his face. He didn’t even look like a drug addict, so I couldn’t tell why he’d died at such a young age. Taking into account the fact that his baby- faced features would make him look younger than he probably was, I estimated him to be somewhere around my age when he’d passed.
He stood waiting for an answer. I thought “Come here often?” was rhetorical, but okay. Not wanting to be perceived as talking to myself in a room full of people, I responded by lifting one shoulder in a halfhearted shrug.
Sadly, I did. Come here often. This was my dad’s bar, and while I never set up stings here for fear of someone I knew blowing my cover, this just happened to be the very same bar Mr. Tidwell frequented. At least if it came to a knockdown drag- out, I might have some backup. I knew most of the regulars and all of the employees.
Dead Guy glanced toward the kitchen, seeming nervous before he refocused on me. I glanced that way as well. Saw a door.
“Y-you’re very shiny,” he said, drawing my attention back to him.
He had a stutter. Few things were more adorable than a grown man with boyish features and a stutter. I stirred my margarita and pasted on a fake smile. I couldn’t talk to him in a room full of living, breathing patrons. Especially when one was named Jessica Guinn, to my utter mortification. I hadn’t seen her fiery red hair since high school but there she sat, a few seats down from me, surrounded by a group of chattering socialites who looked almost as fake as her boobs. But that could be my bitterness rearing its ugly head.
Unfortunately, my forced smile only encouraged Dead Guy.
“Y-you are. You’re like the s-sun reflecting off the chrome bumper of
a f-fifty- seven Chevy.”
He splayed his fingers in the air to demonstrate, and my heart was gone. Damn it. He was like all those lost puppies I tried to save as a child to no avail because I had an evil stepmother who believed all stray dogs were rabid and would try to rip out her jugular. A fact that had nothing to do with my desire to bring them into the house.
“Yeah,” I said under my breath, doing my best ventriloquist impersonation, “thanks.”
“I’m D-Duff ,” he said.
“I’m Charley.” I kept my hands wrapped around my drink lest he decide we needed to shake. Not many things looked stranger to the living world than a grown woman shaking air. You know those kids with invisible friends? Well, I was one of those. Only I wasn’t a kid, and my friends weren’t invisible. Not to me, anyway. And I could see them because I’d been born the grim reaper, which was not as bad as it sounded. I was basically a portal to heaven, and whenever someone was stuck on Earth, having chosen not to cross over immediately after death, they could cross to the other side through me. I was like a giant bug light, only what I lured was already dead.
I pulled at my extra- tight sweater. “Is it just me, or is it really warm in here?”
His baby blues shot toward the kitchen again. “Hot is m-more like it. S-so, I— I couldn’t help but notice you t-tried to buy that guy over there a drink.”
I let my fake smile go. Freed it like a captured bird. If it came back to me, it would be mine. If not, it never was. “And?”
“You’re b-barking up the wrong tree with that one.”
Surprised, I put my drink down— the one I bought myself— and leaned in a little closer. “He’s gay?”
Duff snorted. “N-no. But he’s been in here a lot lately. He l-likes his women a little . . . l-looser.”
“Dude, how much sluttier can I get?” I indicated my attire with a sweep of my hand.
“N-no, I mean, well, you’re a l-little—” He let his gaze travel the length of me. “—t-tight.”
I gasped. “I look anal?”
He drew in a deep breath and tried again. “H-he only hits on women who are more s-substantial than you.”
Oh, that wasn’t offensive at all. “I have depth. I’ve read Proust. No, wait, that was Pooh. Winnie- the- Pooh. My bad.”
He shifted his non ex is tent weight, cleared his throat, and tried again. “More v-voluptuous.”
“I have curves,” I said through a clenched jaw. “Have you seen my ass?”
“Heavier!” he blurted out.
“I weigh— Oh, you mean he likes bigger women.”
“E-exactly, while I on the other hand—”
Duff ’s words faded into the background like elevator music. So Marv liked big women. A new plan formed in the darkest, most corrupt corners of Barbara. My brain.
Cookie, otherwise known as my receptionist during regular business hours and my best friend 24/7, was perfect. She was large and in charge. Or well, large and kind of bossy. I picked up my cell phone and called her.
“This better be good,” she said.
“It is. I need your assistance.”
“I’m watching the first season of Prison Break.”
“Cookie, you’re my assistant. I need assistance. With a case. You know those things we take on to make money?”
“Prison. Break. It’s about these brothers who—”
“I know what Prison Break is.”
“Then have you ever actually seen these boys? If you had, you would not expect me to abandon them in their time of need. I think there’s a shower scene coming up.”
“Do these brothers sign your paycheck?”
“No, but technically neither do you.”
Damn. She was right. It was much easier to just have her forge my name.
“I need you to come flirt with my mark.”
“Oh, okay. I can do that.”
Nice. The F-word always worked with her. I filled her in and told her the deal with Tidwell, then ordered her to hurry over.
“And dress sexy,” I said right before hanging up. But I regretted the sexy part instantly. The last time I told Cookie to dress sexy for a much- needed girls’ night out on the town, she wore a lace- up corset, fishnet stockings, and a feather boa. She looked like a dominatrix. I’d never been the same.
Darynda is giving away one signed copy of Fifth Grave Past the Light!!!
CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling Author Darynda Jones has won numerous awards for her work, including a prestigious Golden Heart®, a Rebecca, two Hold Medallions, a RITA ®, and a Daphne du Maurier, and she has received stellar reviews from dozens of publications including starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and the Library Journal. As a born storyteller, Darynda grew up spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, annoying man and beast alike, and she is ever so grateful for the opportunity to carry on that tradition. She currently has two series with St. Martin’s Press: The Charley Davidson Series and the Darklight Trilogy. She lives in the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico, with her husband of almost 30 years and two beautiful sons, the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys.
FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT
Charley Davidson #1
SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT
Charley Davidson #2
THIRD GRAVE DEAD AHEAD
Charley Davidson #3
FOURTH GRAVE BENEATH MY FEET
Charley Davidson #4