Monday, January 31, 2011

First Grave on the Right by Darynda Jones

Book Launch and Giveaway!

Welcome to our Book Launch for an exciting new release!  I recently queried fellow Brigader, 2009 Golden Heart winner, and new author Darynda Jones if she’d be interested in doing an interview to talk about her debut Paranormal Romance novel FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT which will be released tomorrow, February 1st, from St. Martin's Press. She graciously agreed.

I was one of the very lucky winners of an advance readers edition from a Goodreads contest and found the novel a pure delight on so many levels. The many SFR references in the story tickled me no end, but then, as I approached the wrap in the story…*gasp* I had an epiphany!

“OMG, this book is a crossover Paranormal-SFR! I’ve got to tell the Brigade!”

And there's quite a story behind the story! The cover of FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT is pictured on the February 2011 edition of RT Book Reviews, along with an article about Darynda. Her book also received a 4-1/2 star rating (the highest from RT Book Reviews). In fact, there’s been an incessant buzz about this novel for some time. But don’t just take my word for it. If you hop onto Darynda Jone’s web site, there are some respected names who’ve had great things to say about her work, including JR Ward and Jayne Ann Krentz.

So, many congrats on your debut and welcome, Darynda!

Thank you so much, Laurie! I’m so honored you invited me.

Q. You’ve had quite a journey as a writer. Can you tell us a little about the events in your career before and after your Golden Heart win?

Ah, the journey toward publication.

While I’d been conjuring tales since before I could actually write, I didn’t know 100% I wanted to be a writer until I was in middle school. But I was a horrid speller, I had the attention span of a gnat, and I was nowhere near smart enough to pull off a novel, much less (gasp) two!

For me, the Golden Heart final changed everything. Admittedly, I’d been entering the Golden Heart for several years, and while I received some pretty good scores (and some not-so-good ones), every year I really thought I had a chance to final. Until 2009. I signed up to enter First Grave on the Right for one reason, and one reason only. I wanted to force myself to finish it. Stunned does not begin to cover how I felt when I found out I’d finaled.

Sadly, the manuscript needed tons of work, so after the final, I polished it for about two months before querying. Within a week, I had eight offers of representation from some of the most amazing agents in the business.

I know that sounds wonderful, but it was actually one of the most stressful weeks of my life. After much research and soul searching, I accepted an offer of representation from Alexandra Machinist at the Linda Chester Literary Agency. I am beyond grateful for her. She is savvy, supportive and compassionate.

The GH win garnered a lot of interest, so Alexandra began shopping First Grave that August. About a week later, Jennifer Enderlin from St. Martin’s Press made an offer for a three-book deal. Yes, THE Jennifer Enderlin. We had a couple more offers over the next 24 hours and then right before Alexandra sent it to the floor for auction, Jennifer swept in with a pre-empt we simply couldn’t refuse.

Whew! And now my life is filled with deadlines, revisions, page proofs and interviews, LOL.

Q. Let me start with that burning question most readers and writers will probably want to know. What was the inspiration for FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT? Where did the idea come from and how did it evolve?

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.

Q. Your main character is Charley Davidson and she’s a private investigator who moonlights in a career that’s non-traditional for a female. OK, it’s probably non-traditional for males, too. In fact, you could say it’s non-traditional for humans in general. Can you tell us a little about that?

So probably my main inspiration to write a grim reaper was desperation. I just contemplated paranormal entities, what had been done and what hadn’t, and came up with the grim reaper. And what fun she has been! Quite frankly, I’m floored there’s not more of them out there. I mean, what is cooler than writing about death incarnate?

But I wanted my heroine to be more than just death incarnate. She had to be likable, for one thing.

I felt the PI gig was a natural progression from her childhood. She grew up helping her detective father and uncle solve crimes. Plus PIs are fun. You can get them into all kinds of trouble.

Q. Charley has a dysfunctional family, to say the least, and though most of her antics either made me LOL or gasp, there were some things about her life that touched me at a very deep emotional level and gave me new insights into who Charley was. Can you share your thoughts about that?

Charley is very well adjusted, but well adjusted doesn’t make for good fiction, so I needed her to be well adjusted despite the odds. With that in mind, I gave her an evil stepmother. I gave her an obstacle that she’s had to overcome her entire life. Add to that the fact that her father, whom she adores, does nothing to allay her stepmother’s indifference, and her sister seems to take the stepmother’s side, and you have a lonely upbringing. I believe that Charley’s sarcastic wit is a defense mechanism. It’s her way of dealing with her family.

Q. Okay, now, on to one of my favorite subjects, the hero…*fans self*…Reyes. Who or what inspired this (hot) tall, dark and (hot) semi-corporeal mystery that is so not your typical (hot) male MC. (Did I mention he’s hot?) Who is he, what is he, and just for the record, how do you pronounce his name?

LOL! While there are a couple of pronunciations for Reyes out there, here in NM we say RAY-us. And, yeah, he’s pretty hot, huh? If I had an inspiration for his physical attributes, I’d have to say he was based on actor Jason Behr. (Roswell, anyone?) Jason can be so dark and dangerous, and sexy doesn’t begin to describe that boy. And considering the fact that Reyes was literally forged in the fires of sin and is the son of…well…no spoilers. But, yeah, he’s pretty hot.  :)

Q. This novel is set in one of my favorite places on Earth—Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Hmm, wonder why that is?) Aside from the obvious reasons, is there another reason you choose this particular city as your PR/SFR heroine’s hometown?

Okay, moment of truth. Yes, I chose Albuquerque because I lived there for seven years. I love it with a fiery passion. And it’s beautiful, eclectic and an absolute gold mine of culture. But there was one more, itty-bitty reason I chose that particular location. Many movies and television series are being filmed there now. I thought that might give me an edge if it were ever, you know, considered for film production. (Not sure I’m supposed to say this yet, but apparently my evil plan worked.)

Q. The cover of FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT is so striking! Can you tell us a little about the making of the cover and/or the artist? Did you have input into the design? What were your first thoughts on seeing it? And you’ve just got to tell us more about those shoes! (Er…sandals.)

I had no input in the original design. It’s my understanding that the cover was the brainchild of my genius editor. Later, I did have some input in the color of the nail polish. LOL. But I have to say, when I saw that cover, I was shocked. I loved it so much. I knew it was different enough to garner interest and eye-catching enough to grab a passerby’s attention.

And those shoes! Yeah, they’re real. Tried to get a pair. Failed. They are uber-expensive and sold out everywhere. I still check ebay periodically.

Q. On to the SF elements. I’m guessing from the many references in the novel – not to mention you’re a member of the SFR Brigade -- that SF and SFR have had an influence in your life and work. Would you agree and if so, please tell us more? Any possible SFRs coming down the road? *sits on edge of seat*

The first manuscript I started in high school was a science fiction tale about a group of teens who bore a remarkable resemblance to the members of Van Halen and were trying to escape the tunnels of a huge government fallout facility decades after World War III had destroyed the surface of the earth. It was destined to be a classic.

I love SF and had the incredible honor of taking a class from Master Science Fiction writer and Hugo and Nebula award winner Jack Williamson before he passed away. He gave me so much encouragement and told me my character development alone would get me published some day.

Okay, back on Earth, I most definitely have several science fiction projects in the works. I love it so much and it has been probably the biggest influence on me aside from historical romance in general. So I draw from many places. I think that makes the best kinds of characters and stories.

Q. Now we need a little taste of your novel (with or without the hot sauce)! Can we see the blurb and excerpt from FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT?

From the publisher:

Charley Davidson is a part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper. Meaning, she sees dead people. Really. And it's her job to convince them to "go into the light." But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (like murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she's been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life...and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely. But what does he want with Charley? And why can’t she seem to resist him? And what does she have to lose by giving in?

With scorching-hot tension and high-octane humor, FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT is your signpost to paranormal suspense of the highest order.

Here’s a quick snippet that I think is fun:

In too much pain to stretch, I let a lengthy yawn overtake me instead, winced at the soreness shooting through my jaw, then looked back at Dead Guy. He was blurry. Not because he was dead, but because it was 4:34 a.m. And I'd recently had my ass kicked.

“Hi,” he said nervously. He had a wrinkled suit, round- rimmed glasses, and mussed hair that made him look part young-wizard-we- all- know-and-love and part mad scientist. He also had two bullet holes on the side of his head with blood streaking down his right temple and cheek. None of these details were a problem. The problem resided in the fact that he was in my bedroom. In the wee hours of dawn. Standing over me like a dead Peeping Tom.

I eyed him with my infamous death stare, second only to my infamous fluster stare, and got a response immediately.

“Sorry, sorry,” he said, stumbling over his words, “didn't mean to frighten you.”

Did I look frightened? Clearly my death stare needed work.

Ignoring him, I inched out of bed. I had on a Scorpions hockey jersey I'd snatched off a goalie and a pair of plaid boxers-same team, different position. Chihuahuas, tequila, and strip poker. A night that is forever etched at the top of my Things I'll Never Do Again list.

With teeth clenched in agony, I dragged all 470 throbbing pounds toward the kitchen and, more importantly, the coffeepot. Caffeine would chisel the pounds off, and I'd be back to my normal weight in no time.

Because my apartment was roughly the size of a Cheez-It, it didn't take me long to feel my way to the kitchen in the dark. Dead Guy followed me. They always follow me. I could only pray this one would keep his mouth shut long enough for the caffeine to kick in, but alas, no such luck.
I'd barely pressed the on button when he started in.

“Um, yeah,” he said from the doorway, “it's just that I was murdered yesterday, and I was told you were the one to see.”

Q.  Love it!  :)  So what’s next? I understand there are two more novels coming in the series, SECOND GRAVE ON THE LEFT and THIRD GRAVE DEAD AHEAD. Will the SFR elements be more or less prominent in the sequels? Can you tell us a little about the story development? What new or unique elements do you think each book offers?

In the next two, the paranormal elements come out more, especially in book two. Book two takes a heavy dive into the realm of speculative fiction and book three gets a tad hotter while offering us a glimpse into what Charley is truly capable of. And Reyes. There’s lots and lots of Reyes.  :)

Thank you so much for taking time out of a very busy schedule to share a few thoughts and insights about your work, Darynda. I wish you every success for the stellar debut of FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT and the successive Charley Davidson series of Paranormal Romance[/SFR!] novels.

Darynda’s web site
Facebook link
Links to reviews

And now for the giveaway part!  Leave your comment below for a chance to win a signed hardcover edition of FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT, courtesy of Darynda Jones! 


  1. Nice interview, Laurie and D! When I read that excerpt, it reminded me of the judge in a contest who nailed you for "..Because my apartment was roughly the size of a Cheez-It.." I'll bet she's cringing now! You deserve all the good things coming your way! ENJOY!

  2. Hey Darynda and Laurie!

    Wow, what a great call story, Darynda. Your passion for writing stayed true through the interruptions of life". Loved it!

    Your excerpt for FGOTR is very you think the fact you wrote this in first person was a factor in that it garnered so much interest from editors? Or just that you had this different idea for a book?

    I love Albuquerque! Many fond memories of a handful of days wander the heat-baked streets as a university student (on holiday) visiting the central square on market day and using the city as a launching point for a visit to see the Grand Canyon! Would love to revisit the place one day.

    All the best for your release, Darynda!

  3. Thank you guys so much!!!

    @Tez, I love SF. Probably my first true love of fiction.

    @Tammy, I know, right??? Sooo funny. Derned Cheez-Its. Thank you so much!

    @Kylie, I would have to say that the idea was so different, but you know what? I've never thought of the first person thing as being something that got New York's attention. Interesting. I'll have to think on it and get back to you. LOL. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. Congratulations on your success, Darynda! It's lovely to hear the story of 'how it all happened'. It gives all us hope.

  5. Congratulations Darynda! This is a wonderful interview. I have just started reading Paranormal and have enjoyed all I have read so far, but SFR will always be my first love. A book that combines the two would be a treasure to read.

    All the best!

  6. Just wanted to mention that, as the 2009 Golden Heart winner, Darynda presented the 2010 Golden Heart winner, Kylie Griffin, with her award.

    Hey, Brigaders have had a run on the Paranormal category for the last two years! Wonder if we can make it three? :)

  7. Congrats Darynda! I love the humor in your excerpt. Humor gets me every time.

    There are two things the premise reminded me of at first glance-- Dead Again and Ghost Whisperer but with an interesting twist. Very marketable! Good luck!

  8. Great interview, Laurie! Darynda is an amazing writer, and I see nothing but success for her in the future. Congratulations on the debut of your newest baby, Darynda!

  9. Congrats Darynda! Your book sounds awesome, I can't wait to read it!

  10. Kaye, you should read the interview Shea did with Darynda on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog today. Ow ow ow, my sides hurt. And there's a book trailer, too!

  11. Oh, that sounds very fun! And what a great story! Love happy endings (and beginnings!)

  12. Forgot to say, mega congrats!!!!

  13. Oh, thank you guys so much!!! This site rocks so hard. I love it and am so honored to be here.

    Thanks again, Laurie for this wonderful interview.

  14. The judge didn't like
    " . . .apartment . . .roughly the size of a Cheez-It"? That's a GREAT image! Too small even for a mouse. James Kilpatrick used to have a simile contest in his writing column--that would definitely have been a winner!! The rest of the excerpt is every bit as creative and I'm sure reflects the quality of the book as a whole. Congrats, Darynda and best of luck!

  15. Thanks to all who commented on author Darynda Jones' interview and the book launch of her debut novel, FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT.

    We use to select the winner.

    True Random Number Generator

    Min: 1
    Max: 15
    Result: 8

    Powered by RANDOM.ORG

    The eighth person to comment is:

    Kaye Manro!

    Congratulations, Kaye. Please contact me with your mailing address at your earliest convenience.


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