Darynda Jones: First Grave on the Right

Today is release day for Darynda Jones’s debut novel, First Grave on the Right!! We’re here to celebrate with virtual applause and confetti, and find out all about Darynda and what makes her tick.

Darynda and I have known each other for years. We belong to the same RWA chapter and have exchanged stories a few times. Nothing earth shattering, just the random, “Does this suck?”

Mine? “Yes.”

Hers? “Heck no!”

*Shea seems to be “projecting” here, as she can write me under the table on her worst day. Blindfolded. With her hands tied behind her back.

Oh, if that were only the case. (sigh) Darynda’s awesomeness surpasses mine by leaps and bounds. Her witty dialogue and paranormal hijinks will have you begging for more.

I’ve been lucky enough to read First Grave on the Right and loved it. I’m cross-my-heart-hope-to-die excited about Darynda’s book — I shall love it and pet it and call it my own, the cover is that pretty — and I’m equally excited about this interview, so let’s not waste any more time!

[If you’re on the Festival site, click the blue title line, above, to read the rest of the interview]

Berkley: Darynda, I’ve always thought of you as a practical kind of gal. You’re a smartie pants … I mean, some kind of Laudie thingy, so I was wondering, do you believe in the paranormal state? And I’m not talking Virginia where Civil War ghosts hang out. I’m talking… beings of the nonhuman persuasion. Do they exist?

Jones: They absolutely exist! In my imagination. In the real world? Well…while the romantic in me, the part of me who loves epic sagas of good versus evil and dashing heroes who square off against things that go bump in the night, would love to say yes, I must bow to reality on this one and mumble a grumpy ‘no’.

Apparently Darynda is a Summa cum Laude from the University of New Mexico. That makes her smarter than most of us so she would know. “Dang it!” Shea grumbles just as grumpily.

*Not smarter! Just really good at writing term papers.

Term papers. (shiver)

Berkley: Next question, and it’s a multiple choice!  We all like those. Which paranormal creature would you like to be, and why?

Ghost: I’m forgettable enough as it is.

Vampire: While the fangs are a definite plus, the taste of blood grosses me out.

Shapeshifter: And shift back into my human form naked? In public? This is my worst nightmare.

Superhuman: Getting warmer.

Monster slayer: Bingo! Vampire slayer, to be exact. Who doesn’t want to be a gorgeous blonde who can kick butt come hell or head cold? I’m all for the Buffage. On the other hand, I once took a test to see how long I’d live after a zombie apocalypse. I will survive for twelve months. Woohoo! I could kill zombies should the need arise.

Other: Okay, I’ve always wanted to have the power to learn everything a person knows simply by touching them. Knowledge is power, baby. Think of what you could learn by touching a CIA operative. A sniper in the Marines. Stephen King!

Oh, now that would be fun, or terrifying if you touched the wrong person. Yikes!

Personally, I’d like to be a ghostly superhuman who can shape shift into a vampire and scare my kids, the little devils, but that’s my personal issue and completely irrelevant to this interview. Just thought I’d share.

And you’re so normal, too.

Hee-hee-hee. If you say so, miss overachiever who answered all the multiple choice options.  Very clever.

**Random Observation: Being a monster slayer a la Buffy, although technically not a paranormal being –monster slayer applies to the above question because its existence hinges on the belief in paranormal beings –  is awesome because even when you get totally smacked down, you’re only hurt until you get back to Giles. Lesson? We all need a Giles. And great lip gloss. A friend pointed out to me that Buffy’s is always smudge free.

*With you 100% on this one. Smudge-free lip-gloss is good.

Berkley: I’m toying with the concept it would be cool to have a pet vampire – especially if it sparkled in the sun like those Twilight ones. I like shiny things, but then having it turn on me (which it would because I’d forget to feed it before I went to bed) wouldn’t incite me to blunt the pointy end of a garden rake, if you know what I mean. I’ve watched Sean of the Dead.

**Tip from Sean of the Dead: Use common household items to survive a Zombie attack.

Disclaimer: There are no attacking Zombies in Darynda’s book First Grave on the Right. I know, I was disappointed, too.

*I knew I forgot something.

Stick with me. I’m here to help.

Anyway, speaking of Sean of the Dead, that’s a movie that uses humor to convey a message – Zombies are people too. In your book, First Grave on the Right, you delve into the paranormal with humor. I giggled outright, not something most authors can accomplish with me. Where do you find the humor?

Jones: In my left elbow. There’s apparently a funny bone there and I’m sure it’s funnier than my right one, which is curmudgeonly.

Seriously, most writers have no clue where ideas or concepts come from. They just appear as if sent from heaven above. Same with humor. If you want to write funny, it helps if you’ve got a rockin’ sense of humor. Think of it this way. If the oddities in life make you wince instead of looking at it with a wry smile, then writing funny is going to be a bit harder for you. Harder but not impossible. Humor and tragedy are closely linked. It’s all about your perspective whether you find it funny or tragic.

Lipstick on teeth. Funny or tragic?

Before an important job interview — tragic

Before a first kiss — funny

Berkley: I suppose, being a writer, you have to be passionate about words and sentence structure and … um, stuff like that.  Where do you find the passion? (and keep it G-rated, chica)

Jones: For me, language as a whole is a passionate endeavor. I cannot get enough of it. Grammar? Love it. Read books on it. Sentence structure? Would date it if I could. And it’s brother. Yes, at the same time. Oh, right, G-rated. Sorry. Nix the ménage a trois.

I love language, words, and all the lovely, exciting, and heart wrenching things you can do with them. Pick the right ones, put them in the right order, and you’ve created a moment in time where the reader forgets about the late car payment, the dirty dishes, the impending workweek. You have created a state of bliss. Or negligence, depending on your perspective.

**FYI: There are a few R-rated scenes in First Grave on the Right. Nothing that will have you running to confession. A quick prayer should do. Or maybe I’m just jaded. You be the judge.

Berkley: I hear your editor Jen Enderlin is a hardass – I mean her skin is radiant and her hair is like sunshine. What’s it like working with such a tyr – terrific editor?

Jones: I have to say, Jen is a dream. Does she take it easy on me? Probably, because she’s a nice person and feels sorry for me. But she still tells me like it is. I could literally hear the sighs of frustration in her last revision letter, poor thing. But the bottom line is the book. Is it where it needs to be? Will it excite readers or have them furrowing their brows in confusion, wondering what new medication I’m on? So I take everything she says, sink into a deep state of depression for about 24 hours, vow never to write another word as long as I live, then put on my big-girl panties and get to work. The book is always the better for it, even if my ego has to take one for the team.

Oh, and did I mention how pretty she is? No, really, she’s a stunner. And I’m not just saying that because she has the power to up my advance next go around either.

**Note to self: Editors from this moment forward are to be referred to as the bright and shining ones, because they could have a stash of voodoo dolls easily manipulated into the likeness of any writer who annoys and/or makes fun of them in interviews.

Berkley: Let’s talk First Grave. Why on the right?

Jones: Funny you should ask. I actually lamented quite a while on this. Right or left? I decided left sounded better with second. It really doesn’t, but at the time, I was sure it did. Thus, First Grave on the Right and Second Grave on the Left were born.

Berkley: But our readers may be scratching their heads, wondering why First Grave sold so quickly, why it’s getting so much buzz, what the heck is so special about it?

Jones: I’ve asked myself that too, especially when I’m hyperventilating thinking about today, the release, but that’s another story. I think it boils down to three things:

  1. Timing. Paranormal is hot. And from the looks of it, will continue to be so for quite some time.
  2. Fresh concept. Not a lot of grim reapers running amok in the literary world.
  3. High concept. For writers, high concept is a short idea or premise that can be used to describe a story or manuscript. It is the writer’s work broken down into its most basic, culturally accessible elements and is used to generate interest. Basically, it makes a body of work easier to sell, easier to market, and easier to enjoy. If I told you, “First Grave on the Right is about a female private investigator who was born the grim reaper,” you’d immediately get an idea of what it is about. It is also interesting enough and fresh enough to get people’s attention and pique their curiosity.

**The famous writers Shelley and Poe were fond of, shall we say, encouraging their imaginations with mood altering chemicals.  Just to be clear, the notion of High Concept has nothing to do with getting high and then writing a best seller. That only happens to really stupid, lucky people who then die young.

Berkley: Charley, your main character in First Grave on the Right, is a masculine name, but she’s like … a girl. Aren’t you afraid you’ll give her a gender crisis? There is documented proof that can happen. Boy named Sue, anyone? He was a drinker and a gambler and meaner than mean, at least that’s what Johnny Cash says.

Jones: You could be onto something here. Inversely, the name Charley should make her even more feminine in an effort to make up for her masculine name. I’d never thought of it, but she does have a thing for Dolce & Gabbana pumps and Juicy Couture underwear. Other than that, I’m not sure feminine actually describes her. Wait, she is a tad boy crazy. That can be considered a girl thing. And while she sometimes tries to live up to her masculine name by being a badass, she’s much more of a magnet for trouble than an ultra-talented fighter. Buffy, she is not. She fights tangles pretty well though. She can wield a brush like it’s nobody’s business.

What I like about Charley is her wicked tongue. She’s got a great view on life and thinks random thoughts, then says them. And I thought I was the only one who did that.  Gives me hope that I’m not crazy … well, not completely.

Berkley: I believe in good and evil. I have kids. Trust me, no one would want to run into my little angels who fell from heaven in a dark alleyway. What about you? What’s more fun to write? Good or evil?

Jones: LOL, I have got to meet these kids of yours. If they’re anything like you…yeah, I don’t think I’d want to run into them in a dark alley.

For me, writing the fact that good and evil can be closely connected is the most fun. Good people do bad things. Bad people do good things. And they are the most interesting lot to write about. I love to take preconceived notions and twist them into something completely unexpected. Charley’s love interest, Reyes, is like that. One would think, considering his background, he is the epitome of evil, and yet he saves Charley’s life on more than one occasion. He is powerful and fierce and was forged in the fires of sin, and while he could literally bring about the destruction of the world, he doesn’t.

So, you know, that’s fun.

Okay this is why you’re so brilliant, Darynda. Good and evil aren’t easily defined in black and white. Once we get that, which you have, then it pushes the story to a deeper level that engages our readers and has them turning the pages. Kudos to you!

It was a blast creating this interview with you.  I did promise it wasn’t going to be the typical interview, so I hope you had fun.

*This was so much fun!!! I absolutely loved it.

You’re such a trouper to play along. Let me just talk to the readers for a second.

Everyone, you’ve got to go buy this book.  Seriously.  I mean it!

*Oh, thank you!!!

Okay Darynda, any last words you’d like to impart?

Just a big fat thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me, Shea!!! I’m so proud to be a Ruby Sister, and I so very much appreciate all the good vibes and happy thoughts about this release.

But you do bring up a very good point, and since we have this wealth of knowledge, I’m curious what others think. Which is more fun to write, good or evil? (Rubs hands together.) I can’t wait for these answers.

At the end of the day, one lucky person will be chosen to receive a autographed copy of First Grave on the Right!!! So leave a comment to win!

*You can find the fabulous Darynda Jones and ask her all sorts of personal and embarrassing questions at:


And finally, the video:

108 responses to “Darynda Jones: First Grave on the Right”

  1. Tia Ramirez says:

    Cannot wait to read it!

  2. Elisa Beatty says:

    This is totally hilarious! Thanks, Shea and Darynda!

    I’ve been telling everyone I can how much I loved reading the ARC of FIRST GRAVE–it’s funny and sexy and smart and fresh, and it’s going to be huge!

    I’ll be at a local bookstore tomorrow looking for my hardback copy! Woo-hoo!! I’m so thrilled debut day is finally here!

    • Shea Berkley says:

      I’m so glad you liked the interview, Elise. When Darynda and I were creating it, we were cracking ourselves up. I really wanted to highlight how fun her book is. She did a great job with my wacky questions.

      Hey, even though I have an arc, I’m totally going to get the hardback. Can’t wait!

    • Thank you guys so much!!! So glad you liked the ARC. And the hardcover is prettier. It sparkles. 🙂

  3. Addison Fox says:


    It’s finally here. 🙂



  4. Shoshana Brown says:

    Happy release day, Darynda! Can’t wait to read First Grave.

  5. Kim Law says:

    I agree with Shea. Everyone has to go buy this book. Seriously!

    So excited your day is finally here, Darynda! And fantastic interview Shea!

  6. Vivi Andrews says:

    Congratulations, Darynda! Looking forward to finally getting my hands on this one!

    And since you asked… I don’t actually believe in evil. I love showing the motivation behind characters who do things that might be bad at first glance. It’s all about perspective.

    • Shea Berkley says:

      Interesting veiwpoint, Vivi. I love digging into the “why” of my characters. Although I do believe there is true evil and good, I beleive everyone has the potential for either one of them.

    • I had to stop and think about this, Vivi. Very cool viewpoint. I have to say that I don’t believe in evil as an entity so much as an absence of good. Like darkness is actually just the absence of light. Certainly thought provoking. 🙂

  7. Hip hip hooray, Darynda!!!!! You are so not forgettable! I’ve been looking forward to First Grave, like, forever. Have a fabulous, fabulous release day.

    Hilarious interview, Ms Shea!

  8. Liz Bemis says:

    Darynda & Shea — Fun interview! Darynda, I’m so thrilled that today has finally arrived! This is one of the most creative books I’ve ever read. IMPOSSIBLE to put down! LOVED IT!

  9. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    D, I’m so excited for you, I’m twitching in my chair! Okay, maybe it’s a muscle spasm, but hey, it’s still as exciting as it gets around here!

    I’d wish you luck, but that would be redundant. The book is good enough luck will have no impact.

    Happy release day, Sis!

  10. Great interview! Darynda, I am thrilled for you and can’t wait to read the book. Happy, happy release day! Doing the snoopy dance for you (and getting odd looks from my dog)!


  11. Tamara Hogan says:

    Happy Release Day, Darynda! Great interview, Shea. 😉

    I’m with Vivi in that I don’t believe in the concept of evil. It’s too mystical a concept for me to wrap my brain around. I’m always looking for psychological root causes, for what motivates my antagonists to behave the way they do. They usually have one – whether we can understand it or not. I love finding pockets of humanity in my antagonists.

    • Shea Berkley says:

      I think that’s the key, Tamara, finding those “pockets of humanity” in our antagonists. Creating complex characters isn’t easy though, but it can be fun.

    • Exactly! It’s that complexity that I like to write about. Or, at least try to write about. That gives so much depth to our characters and makes them interesting. I hate reading cardboard characters. Why bother?

      Thanks so much, Tammy!

    • Vivi Andrews says:

      Tammy, you’re my soulmate. 😉 You just said it so much better than I did.

  12. Laurie Kellogg says:

    Fabulous post, Shea and Darynda. After reading some of the deleted scenes, I know the book has to be incredible. And I don’t even like paranormal fiction as a rule. Although, ghosts and mediums are one of the elements I can suspend my disbelief on. Vampires and Werewolves–not so much.

    Good luck on your release, Darynda! I can’t wait to read it.

  13. Donnell Bell says:

    Hysterical interview, Shea and Darynda. Thank God for smudge-free lip gloss, and that trailer is to die for. Love the voice of the narrator (kind of reminded me of Sam Elliott). Darynda, what went through your mind when all those bestselling authors got behind this book? I imagine you were cling-to-the-roof excited! Well done, and I’ve already read it. All I can say, ya’ll, is, “Get thee to a book store!”

    • Shea Berkley says:

      I agree, his voice is cool, Donnell, but then, I love me some gravelly male voice.

    • Thank you so much, Donnell! When we started getting the blurbs from authors, I was just stunned that famous people were reading my work. I told my husband, “JR Ward actually read something I wrote! Woohoo!” Hahaha.

      It is all quite humbling, actually. I’m so very grateful to them.

      And that voice! Believe it or not, that man is the “voice of the Western channel”. He does most of the voice overs on the Western channel. We met him while we were shooting the video at the hotel! It was all quite by accident. How cool, huh?

  14. Leslie Karen Witwer says:

    What a fabulous day for a release! Can’t wait to dive right into it. Congratulations.

  15. Tina Joyce says:

    Truly great interview, Shea! I loved all the little asides scattered throughout.

    Darynda, I’ve been looking forward to this book ever since I saw the title! I’m just hoping it’s already out in an e-book format, since I’m a looooong way from the nearest English language bookstore. Best wishes for a fabulous release day!

  16. CONGRATULATIONS! Happy debut book birthday!

    You only get one. I hope you’re celebrating like a rock star tonight, babe. We’re all so proud of you, and so thankful that you’ve let us share in the joy of watching your star rise. Thanks for the shout-out in the acknowledgements, too. That was beyond cool!

    Great interview, Shea. It reads with the same sharp, kinetic energy of FGOTR. I was so lucky to get an ARC. Now I’m faced with whether I loan it out to friends or merely tell them to buy it themselves. We want it to SELL, not just get read.

    And re: good vs. evil, I absolutely go with govil. Or Evod. AKA, shades of gray. I love writing between enemy lines.

    • Shea Berkley says:

      Jamie said: It reads with the same sharp, kinetic energy of FGOTR.

      Oh good!! That’s what I was hoping for. And I say, no lending, make ’em buy it.

    • Thank you so much, Jamie! I’m so blessed to be a Ruby Sis and to have such supportive and encouraging sisters.

      And I love this:

      “I love writing between enemy lines.”

      Very cool quote!!!

  17. Rita Henuber says:

    Congratulations Darynda.
    Shea the interview is great. Soo Darynda. Gives us insight into what her books are like. Date sentence structure? Hmmmm!
    The video IS Charlie.
    So happy for you Darynda.

  18. Beth Langston says:

    Congratulations, Darynda. Enjoy your special day. You only debut once!

  19. liz talley says:

    My first post disappeared…wow, paranormal! LOL.

    Tickled pink as your title for you, Darynda! Couldn’t happen to a nicer person. ENJOY your day to the fullest!

    Can’t wait to see it on the shelf.

    • Thanks so much, Liz! A friend of mine just sent me a pic of it on the shelf and I just got goosebumps. I was surprised at how much seeing it affected me. I can’t wait to see it in person, too, but that pic was awesome.

      Thanks again!

      • Kim Law says:

        Ha! I’m so excited for you, I’m stopping at the book store on the way home just to see it for myself. Of course, then I might have to buy it…but then I want to wait and buy it at the NOLA conference where I can get it autgraphed…oh, no…so many decisions!!!

  20. Miranda Liasson says:

    Can’t wait to read it! Also enjoyed seeing you on the cover of Feb’s RT Magazine! Many congrats on your success!!!!!

  21. LOL! Hilarious interview, Shea and Darynda. Touch/channel Stephen King? :O Ohhh, the humanity.

    Personally, I think I need to channel Darynda’s left elbow, because the stuff it comes up with is a scream. And so is this fabulous novel! (sayeth she who won an ARE from Goodreads…and had it bronzed.)

    (No, not really. I want to read it again and again, so I just built it a shrine.)

  22. Jeanne says:

    That was a really fun interview, felt just like a quiet lunch at Dion’s.
    Congratulations for a job well done. This is truly a red letter day…or maybe that should be fuschia!

  23. Kelley Bowen says:


    Congratulations. The cover is amazing, the buzz is crazy good, and your website is rockin’. I’m not a paranormal girl usually but I think you may change me! Ice storm or no, I’ll be at Borders this week.

    Enjoy it all! It’s wonderful.

  24. Tammy Baumann says:

    Great interview both of you ! Except for the part about Shea’s kids. They’re actually really sweet and I am so telling them how their mom is throwing them under the bus. I’m texting them right now! ;0)
    Knowing the twos of yous, this must have been fun to do!
    Happy Debut-Day Darynda, all my best!

    • Thank you so much, Tammy!!! I had a feeling Shea’s kids were not that bad. LOL.

      Love you, CP!

    • Shea Berkley says:

      Well, don’t they have you fooled, the little monsters. Angelic on the outside, screaming demons on the inside. I don’t know where they learned such behavior. (giggle, snort)

      I’m glad you approve of the interveiw, Tammy. I was biting my nails all day. (grin)

      • Tammy Baumann says:

        Biting your nails all day? *Snort* You’re one of my CP’s. Since when do you care what I think? I thought you only let me join for the comic relief ;0)

  25. Wait, there are *quiet* lunches at Dion’s??

    Great interview, gals! And many happy sales to Darynda!

  26. Hope Ramsay says:

    If the book is as good as the interview I’m really going to enjoy myself.

    I just bought it for my Kindle and wait . . . voila here it is. (God I love this thing — no trudging out there in the snow and ice required.)

    Happy release day, Darynda.

  27. Happy release day, D. FG is going to shoot to the top of the NY lists. I know this because I’ve read it and love it. WINK. Can’t wait for SG.

    Great interview, ladies!

  28. Doranna says:

    What fun you guys are! Hope the book shoots to the top!

  29. Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

    Congrats! Many happy sales, D!

  30. Kate Parker says:

    Shea and Darynda, the interview was almost as funny as First Grave. Loved the book, loved the interview. Best of luck with it.

    • Thank you so much, Kate!!! So glad you think so. Yay!

    • Shea Berkley says:

      Yay!!! I’m so glad. My one goal was to highlight how awesome Darynda’s voice is and I’m thrilled we were able to do that. I can now reward myself by gulping down prodigious amounts of coka cola and popping peanut M&M’s like meth. (ummm, okay, I don’t know if that’s how you do meth, but you know what I mean… they’re addictive and make me smile.)

  31. Alicia Dean says:

    Wonderful blog post and the story sounds fantastic. Very much looking forward to reading it. Wishing you mega success!

  32. Fantastic interview! Happy Book Release Day!!! I saw you mention “reaper bling” somewhere else – what the heck is that? I’m SO curious! 😉

    • Shea Berkley says:

      Oooo, what’s reaper bling? I’d like to know, too.

    • I don’t know what “reaper bling” is either, but it sure sounds…intriguing! Do tell, Darynda! 🙂

    • Oh!!! Hahaha, yes, on the invitations to the launch party I’m giving away reaper bling. LOL. It’s just general Goth-like paraphernalia. You know, zombie cameo bracelets, a very cool silver and copper scythe pendant, etc. I had WAAAAY too much fun shopping for reaper bling for the party. Might have went a tad overboard. *snort*

  33. Happy release day, Darynda.

    I’m not hugely into paranormals (Anne Rice books notwithstanding), but this sounds great. I can’t wait to read it.

    Did I hear it’s available as an e-book? I could download it to my Nook 2night. Oh, wait … maybe I should wait to see if I win a copy first. 😉

  34. Louise B says:

    Congratulations Darynda on your release! I plan to buy mine at the booksigning. And Shea, it’s amazing your children are so nice, considering what you say about them. 🙂

    Regarding the question of the reality of evil. I do believe evil exists and have a long response of why I don’t wish to write here. Many years ago, I read a GK Chesterton quote about the importantce of reading fantasy.
    “Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be defeated.”

  35. Okay, wrote out all the names and DH pulled one from a hat. Doranna, you are the winner of the signed copy of First Grave!!!! Please contact me at your earliest convenience. Or, actually, I’ll try to get a hold of you.


  36. […] 1) Your very own copy of Ruby Slippered Sister Darynda Jones’ break-out debut novel FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT! See what all the excitement is about: FIRST GRAVE is a sexy, hilarious thrill-ride of a book with a sassy streak a mile wide and a super-hot romance to keep you plenty warm through the next ice storm. The reviews have been pyrotechnic; JR Ward calls it “the best debut novel I’ve read in years!” Learn all about it at or at the Ruby spotlight here. […]

  37. étonnantes vidéo, en fait a plaisant qualité, cette vidéo YouTube m’a touché beaucoup en termes de qualité fonctionnalités.


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