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April 3, 2016

Amanda Stevens on The Graveyard Queen, Amelia Gray and her series

The Visitor

Have y’all discovered the shivery Southern Gothic GRAVEYARD QUEEN series yet? Amelia Gray restores historical cemeteries, she can also see ghosts. Apropos dontcha think?  I confess to being a bit behind (only 2) but can promise you, there’s catching up with my favorite “ghost whisperer”  time scheduled in my near future. If you like Southern Gothic with a bit of a twist, Amelia’s the woman for you. 

Did you always see Amelia where she is now or have your characters taken you in a different direction? 

Amelia is the same person at her core, but she’s definitely going in a different direction.  She has to.  In THE RESTORER, she broke the rules that had always kept her safe from the ghosts, and now she’s suffering the consequences.  In THE KINGDOM and THE PROPHET, the reader saw a bit of these repercussions when certain ghosts tried to make contact with Amelia.  Now as more and more secrets come to light, she’s starting to realize that those rules not only kept her safe from the ghosts, but from her family’s legacy.

There’s a passage in THE VISITOR that I think sums up her struggle:

..as more of Papa’s secrets came to light, I was starting to suspect that my legacy ran far deeper than the ability to see spirits.  I had been born dead to a dead mother.  My grandmother had pulled me back from the other side by cutting away the veil of membrane covering my face and forcing air into my premature lungs, and now I sometimes felt that I belonged to neither world.  I was a living ghost, a wanderer who had not yet found my purpose or place.  But every new discovery, every broken rule brought me closer to my calling.  

Do you still feel that you’ve hit your stride & found your niche with Amelia? 

I think the lush settings and Gothic atmosphere really play to my strengths as a writer.  Of course, there is always room for improvement and every writer likes a new challenge, so who knows what I’ll be up to next?  But Gothic romance has always been my first love and I don’t look to stray too far from those roots.

Any new and interesting graveyard facts come to light since our last chat? 

For Book Six, The Awakening, I’ve been researching the history and traditions of children’s burials.  The premise for the book was inspired by a photograph I happened upon of a memorial carved in the shape of an old-fashion baby crib with a ‘death mask’ of the child beneath the hood.  During my last visit to Charleston, I made a trip to Magnolia Cemetery to see that grave in person because the photograph had touched me so much.

I discovered that the Victorians especially were partial to ‘sleep’ and ‘rest’ references to soften the hard reality of death.  As Amelia puts it:

“…rural cemeteries were originally designed as parks where families could congregate with their children.  They would pack picnic lunches and spend all day exploring the grounds and admiring the sculptures.  In that context, sleep imagery was considered more appropriate for young eyes.  And, of course, a comfort to grieving parents because sleep implies an awakening.” 

Do you have a favorite gravestone? 

The gravestone I described above is certainly a favorite.  Magnolia Cemetery is worth a visit if you’re ever in the Charleston area.  The sculptures and mausoleums are breathtakingly beautiful.  However, my favorite place to visit in Charleston is still the Unitarian Churchyard.  You can get a glimpse of this cemetery in the background photos on my website.

Favorite graveyard lore? 

Mazes were once prominent features at the entrance of cemeteries and Amelia stumbles across one in The Visitor.  According to legend, the maze prevents restless spirits from leaving the graveyard because they can only travel in a straight line.  In Japan, thresholds are placed in cemeteries, because ghosts can’t step over.

Have you been able to revisit the characters in THE DOLLMAKER? 

Funny you should ask—I’ve been getting a lot of questions about THE DOLLMAKER recently.  I’ve always wanted to do a sequel with Claire’s sister, Charlotte.  Those characters, especially Claire and Dave, remain among my favorites and I still think about them now and then.  No plans to revisit at the moment, but who knows?

Please tell us about THE VISITOR….

There is a lot going on in this book, but I think the back cover copy sums it up pretty well:

Legend has it that Kroll Cemetery is a puzzle no one has ever been able to solve. For over half a century, the answer has remained hidden within the strange headstone inscriptions and intricate engravings. Because uncovering the mystery of that tiny, remote graveyard may come at a terrible price.

Years after their mass death, Ezra Kroll’s disciples lie unquiet, their tormented souls trapped within the walls of Kroll Cemetery, waiting to be released by someone strong and clever enough to solve the puzzle. For whatever reason, I’m being summoned to that graveyard by both the living and the dead. Every lead I follow, every clue I unravel brings me closer to an unlikely killer and to a destiny that will threaten my sanity and a future with my love, John Devlin.

What is your favorite Amelia trait?

She’s a survivor.

Least favorite?

She lives too much in her own head, I think.

Have you read anything lately you’d highly recommend? 

I read Bird Box by Josh Malerman sometime ago, but the premise of that book has stuck with me.  For a ghost story, I really enjoyed The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon.

Thanks for taking the time to visit with us, Amanda. I’m really looking forward to catching up with Amelia.

Thanks for having me!     Visit Amanda Her site’s a lot of fun. Also be sure & stop by her blog, lotsa interesting stuff going on there, too.

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Written By

Ivy Truitt

Transplanted Southerner and avid reader. My tastes are eclectic. I discovered mysteries first then historicals in the era of Kathleen Woodiwiss & Rosemary Rogers. I was never able to finish Gone With the Wind, Scarlett got on my nerves too bad, but I loved Alaina in Ashes in the Wind. I also manage the guest author blog for Manic Readers. In addition to here you can find me on FB, Twitter, Goodreads, Librarything, & Riffle. Always up for talking about books, just gimme a holler!!






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