Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet Author Darynda Jones

New York Times best-selling author, Darynda Jones’ previous Charley Davidson books combine mystery with the paranormal; demons and ghosts paired with murder, robbery and even more heinous crimes. Her latest, Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet, published by St. Martin's Press October 30 – appropriately the day before Halloween - is no exception.

Charley (Charlotte) Davidson is a private investigator in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She often works as a consultant for the Police Department and also just happens to be a Grim Reaper – a portal for the departed to pass through to the other side. She is conversant with the dead and may be in love with Reyes who may be the Son of Satan.

Charley is not your average PI.

Ms Jones has an engaging, friendly laugh – not at all what you would expect from someone writing about mayhem, murder and maniacal demons. I spoke with her recently.

I asked if she set about to write crime fiction with a paranormal twist, or was her interest the paranormal, and crime fiction seemed a good vehicle. She told me she was interested in both and that originally she didn’t want the novels to be ‘super paranormal’, just a ‘little bit’ paranormal but now she thinks her writing is about 50-50 straight crime fiction and the paranormal. Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet has plenty of each.

She told me her attraction to the paranormal goes back to her childhood.

“One Halloween I was scared to death by this guy dressed up like a vampire and I have loved it ever since – just always been fascinated.”

The stories are set in Albuquerque, New Mexico and that is perhaps appropriate since New Mexico is The Land of Enchantment and there is a long strain of Native American and other mysticism in New Mexico.

Beginning in High School, Jones had always wanted to write and did, but without any real success. Then in 2002 she decided to start writing seriously with the goal of being published.

She wrote a historical romance, which she says will stay forever hidden underneath her bed, she wrote a piece of young adult fiction, Death and the Girl Next Door (which would also, eventually be published), then First Grave on the Right her third completed manuscript and the one that began the Charley Davidson series. It is interesting that First Grave began life as a ‘Romance’ not necessarily as a crime novel.

Darynda joined The Romance Writers of America (RWA) in a quest to learn the business of writing and publishing. She says she learned so much about what to do and what not to do and that she was able to take the rejections that came before her success because of what she learned: that the rejections were not personal, that it was just business.

“It wasn’t just learning the craft of writing I was also learning about the business. Once you come at it from the angle, that this is a business and that if you want an agent you need to understand that if they want you it is because they believe frankly that they can make money off you because it is a business, then you don’t take the rejections so hard.”

In 2009, she submitted the manuscript for First Grave on the Right for a Golden Heart Award as a paranormal romance. Golden Hearts are awards given annually by the RWA.
She was selected as a finalist and garnered so much attention as a finalist that she was able to acquire an agent. Then, she actually won a Golden Heart and shortly thereafter had a book deal with St. Martin’s Press. First Grave on the Right was published in early 2011.

Three other books featuring Charley followed in fairly rapid succession, about every six months. One of the books, For I Have Sinned, is actually a short story or novella. She said she didn’t realize St Martin’s was going to publish it in book form. It is the only book without Grave in the title.

Darynda also has a Young Adult series published by St. Martin's.

Fourth Grave has Charley still recuperating physically and emotionally from the torture and near-murder she suffered at the end of Third Grave Dead Ahead. She can’t bring herself to leave her apartment and spends her time buying stuff (that she can’t afford) on a home shopping network. But circumstances change that. A new client comes to Charley for help: someone is trying to kill her. Soon Charley is back at it again, not only with this new case, but others that come her way as well, in what seems like a flood of cases to solve.

Ms Jones is working on the next in the series, Fifth Grave Past the Light, due for publication next year. I asked if there was any chance that Charley could show up in a movie or on television. She told me that CBS had bought the rights to First Grave, even before publication as a possible series on The CW channel. CBS has renewed the option, so perhaps.

Darynda Jones will be at the Tattered Cover Bookstore, Highlands Ranch on November 12 to read from Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet and sign books.

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