Welcome to the talented Jennifer Rae Gravely, author of Knight of the Dead!
Born in Ohio, but raised in Pickens, SC, Jennifer Gravely graduated from Converse College with a triple major in history, politics, and English before earning her Masters in Education in the mid-1990s. Returning to her high school alma mater to teach and coach volleyball, her teams won four state championships in five years. She lives with her husband, daughter, nine beagles, and two cats. Knight of the Dead is her first published novel.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always loved words. As a child, I earned the nicknames motor-mouth and jabber jaws for my love of talking and telling stories. Later, as an avid reader, I wrote mainly to analyze. A triple major in history, politics, and English at Converse College, I viewed life in terms of paper topics! Still, I played with writing short stories and poetry. Then life took over—I became a wife, mother, teacher, and coach—and even though I continued to read, I rarely wrote anything creatively.
About ten years ago, some teacher friends and I were talking about books and decided to try to write our own. One friend found her groove with the challenge, and has had numerous novels published. I spent years on two connected novels, both still unpublished. However, at the encouragement of my friend, I tried once again to write a novel. I choose the name Persephone for my heroine because I teach mythology, and used the tale as a springboard.
Hades and Persephone is one of my favorite myths too. Since I'm an English teacher too, I use that in my class as well!
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
I’m burdened with the pressure of trying to be perfect. As a high school teacher and volleyball coach, I write many recommendations for students and players, worrying over each sentence and idea. I hyperventilate when I think too much about others reading my words!
I thought I was the only one who did that!
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
I struggled with the editing process, with adding sensory details and emotion, as well as wading through grammar difficulties. However, I think that was simply because Knight of the Dead was my first published novel. Now that I know the rules and expectations, I’m hopeful that the next story will be easier to clean up.
I wrote Knight of the Dead mainly for entertainment; however, thinking about the characters’ troubles, I’d have to say that not jumping to conclusions about people and situations, being honest in relationships, and maintaining loyalty to those we love are themes prevalent in the story. Oh, and don’t forget, that love conquers all.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing a romance involving volleyball coaches, but it’s early in the story. The heroine Randi Sly returns to her hometown to teach and coach. Blake Steel works at a rival high school. Both have aspirations of winning the state championship. Their relationship will prove to be quite competitive!
That sounds awesome! And you have all your volleyball experience to draw from!
What is your favorite quote?
I love quotes, and use them often with my players. I believe this particular sports’ quote is from Mia Hamm, “The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when no one is watching.” It’s the hard work put in to achieve the goal that makes us a champion in whatever area that defines our life.
So glad to have you here today, Jennifer!
Persephone Richards is in a pinch. With a wrecked car and bills stacking up, the income from her job at the daycare isn’t enough. Mark Lawrence needs a sitter for his little girl and Persephone is perfect for the job. What begins as an employment opportunity leads to romance. However, a secret Persephone hides threatens the happy ever after and puts the three of them in danger.
From Chapter Four: Desperate to avoid eviction, Persephone heads to a club for a job.
“What can I do for you?” A brown--‐‑haired man held out his hand for Persephone to shake. He wore black pants that were tight around his thighs, only because he had huge muscles. The white button--‐‑down shirt he sported stretched across his massive chest. His neck was thick. Persephone concluded that he must’ve played football. “I’m Lee, manager of the club.”
“Well…” She swallowed after giving her name. “Truth is I need money tonight. I’d like to dance.”
His eyes scanned her body. “Do you have any experience?”
She wrinkled her brows. “I didn’t think that experience would be necessary in this line of work.”
“Actually experience helps. We can’t afford a wardrobe malfunction. The laws in this state are clear.”
“Please, I really need the money.”
He hesitated. “Let me talk with the owner and see what he says. Why don’t you take a seat at the table in the corner?”
Persephone plodded across the room only to stumble when the heel of her black leather wedges hit the tiled surface in front of the bar. She reached out and grabbed a table, upsetting a pitcher of beer. The golden liquid flowed to the lap of the gentleman nearest her.
“I’m so sorry.” Embarrassed, she grabbed some napkins and started to dab at his knee in an attempt to dry his pants.
“Try a little higher, honey.” He laughed and gripped her wrist.
Persephone twisted from his grasp. His face reddened as his friends guffawed. He stood and snatched her around the waist. “Listen here, darling,” he rasped in her ear. His breath reeked of
stale cigarettes and alcohol. “You owe me for spilling the beer.”
“Take your hands off the girl,” interjected Lee. Two other men stood behind him.
“No problem.” The man caved, pushing Persephone back. “Relax, man.”
“Don’t touch any of our girls. Ever,” Lee warned. “Or you’ll get a free pass to the parking lot if you’re lucky and a trip to the slammer if you’re not. Understand?”
“What about our pitcher of beer?”
Lee signaled to the nearest waitress to bring the table a replacement. He motioned to Persephone to follow him. The security men returned to their place by the door.