Behind the Book: Debut goes beyond the veil
by Darynda Jones
When I decided to make my grim reaper female in First Grave on the Right, I really didn’t want a being made of death and darkness and skeletal remains, so I decided to challenge lore. I mean, what if grim reapers were just misunderstood? Represented in legends and mythology erroneously? And what it they were really bright, shiny beacons of light that lured those departed who were stuck on Earth toward them to cross to the other side? Of course, my heroine would attract all kinds of trouble in the process, everything from demons who try to kill her to ghosts who try to kill her to, well, humans who try to kill her.
That is Charlotte “Charley” Davidson in a nutshell. And while she’d like to believe she’s a complete badass, she’s really more of an accident-prone, slightly schizophrenic girl from Albuquerque who takes the complications of ADD to a whole new level. And being the only grim reaper this side of forever doesn’t help.
Okay, but why the grim reaper, you might ask. That one is simple. As an aspiring author, I wanted to get noticed. I wanted something different that would pique the interest of agents and editors alike. Fortunately for me, Charley did just that. First, she won the 2009 RWA® Golden Heart© for Best Paranormal Romance, then she landed me an amazing agent. Not long after that, she secured a three-book deal for the rights to her story with St. Martin’s Press. Her journey has been an incredible one and the fun is just beginning.
For me, that Golden Heart final changed everything. Admittedly, I’d been entering the contest for several years, and while I never finaled despite some pretty good scores, every year I really thought I had a chance. 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 the manuscript. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it would not final. No way. No how. And then I was mad that I’d wasted the entry fee. That money could have been used for something worthwhile, like chocolate! But I grudgingly sent it in and dismissed it from my mind entirely.
So when March 25 rolled around and I received the call that I was a finalist, to say that I was in a state of shock would be an understatement. I honestly could not believe it. And when I won? Forget about it. I was so shocked, I forgot my shoes and walked to the stage in a daze barefoot.
In First Grave on the Right, Charley Davidson uses her reaper abilities to help her succeed as a private investigator. It’s a natural progression from her childhood. Since she was five, she’s been helping her detective father solve crimes. In First Grave, three lawyers from the same law firm are murdered, and they come to Charley to find their killer. At the same time, she's dealing with a being she calls the Big Bad. He’s more powerful, and definitely sexier, than any specter she's ever come across. With the help of some living and some not-so-living associates, Charley sets out to solve the highest profile case of the year and discovers that dodging bullets isn't nearly as dangerous as falling in love.
Darynda Jones lives in New Mexico, where she is currently hard at work on the third Charley Davidson mystery.