THE GRAVEYARD QUEEN- Amanda Stevens

Dear Kiss and Thrill Reader:  I Double-Dog-Dare you!

Amanda Stevens

  Pick up or download The Restorer, the first book in The Graveyard Queen Series by Amanda Stevens. Read the first chapter, especially that last sentence! Then put the novel down and walk away without ever reading the rest. 

  Don’t feel bad…I haven’t met a suspense reader yet who can walk.  (And FYI, you’ll break a land-speed record buying the next two novels to see what happens!)

  Here’s a quick rundown: Amelia Gray lovingly restores old, overgrown graveyards by day. At twilight, when the veil between our world and the spirit world thins, you’ll find her desperately seeking refuge indoors or on hallowed ground…because even as a child Amelia has been able to see ghosts.

   Her father, who also has this ability, has repeatedly warned her: if she ever makes direct eye contact with one, the parasitic spirit will cling to her forever–leaching her energy and stealing her warmth in a desperate attempt to reconnect with the land of the living.

Now put yourself in Amelia’s shoes: Try not to shiver in the freezing presence of a hovering ghost or he will know you can see and sense him! Keep perfectly still and expressionless as his chilled fingers sift through your hair…

  Yeah…the Graveyard Queen series is addictively creepy, beautifully written and filled with unique twists. You’ll gobble up each of these Southern Gothic stories feeling the same unsettling shock and awe that you did the first time you watched M. Night Shyamalan’s: “The Sixth Sense.” 

  And each novel sinks you even further into Amelia’s tangled world of small Southern town secrets, troubled spirits, eerie gravestone symbols, unexplainable mysteries and horrific murder.  All this mayhem is uncovered during her deceptively simple graveyard renovation project! Oh, and one final challenge: don’t fall for the handsome, haunted, delectably mysterious hero, Detective John Devlin.

Meet my absolute FAVORITE romantic suspense/thriller author: Amanda Stevens!

Sarah: Welcome to Kiss and Thrill, Amanda. I heard a rumor the Graveyard Queen series may be picked up for TV. What’s the status?

   Amanda: It has been optioned by ABC TV, but I don’t know anything beyond that.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

 Sarah: In pulling up your website it’s evident that you’ve been in the industry a long time. (Dear Reader: Her backlist is so long she divides them into genres: Romantic Suspense, Paranormal, Thrillers and Short Stories!) When did you first begin writing novels and why?

Amanda: My first novel was the result of a challenge by one of my college English professors.  He offered an A to anyone who could get published during the semester.  Since writing was always something I wanted to do, I decided to take him up on the challenge.  I sold my first book to Silhouette Intimates Moments in 1985, and I’ve been writing professionally ever since.

 BLURB from The Kingdom: My name is Amelia Gray.  They call me the Graveyard Queen.  I’ve been commissioned to restore an old cemetery in Asher Falls, South Carolina, but I’m coming to think I have another purpose here.

Why is there a cemetery at the bottom of Bell Lake?  Why am I drawn time and again to a hidden grave I’ve discovered in the woods?  Something is eating away at the soul of this town–this withering kingdom–and it will only be restored if I can uncover the truth.

 Sarah: Did you mean to channel Edgar Allen Poe in your second Graveyard Queen novel: The Kingdom? For example, I kept picking up similarities in the creepiness and wordplay of Asher House with “The Fall of the House of Usher”, and your unsettling bird theme with “The Raven.” 

  Amanda: Actually, no, but now that you mention it… 🙂

Second in the series

  I did use the Fisher King story as inspiration—the maimed king, Pelles whose impotence affected the fertility of the land.  Pell Asher is based on this legend.

  I read something once about Alfred Hitchcock using bird imagery in a number of his movies to signify disruption of the natural order of things.  Given everything that happens in Asher Falls, I thought the symbolism appropriate. 🙂

 Sarah: Oh yeah, ‘disruption of the natural order of things’ is very much an underlying theme in all three novels! What creeps YOU out?

Amanda: I’m pretty freaked out by ghosts even though I’ve never had a close encounter.  One of my friends had some truly terrifying things happen to her when we were little—I’m talking Poltergeist level of creepy.  In fact, there’s a scene in The Kingdom that was inspired by one of her experiences.  I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

Rootworking

     Sarah: The picture you sent of rootworking (part of the plot in your third book: The Prophet,) is of a doll being stuck with pins. You called it hoodoo, but it sure looks a lot like voodoo! What’s the difference between hoodoo and voodoo?

   Amanda: The simple explanation is that voodoo (vodun) is a religion and hoodoo is folk magic. 

  Voodoo has a hierarchy and belief system while hoodoo is an unorganized set of traditions passed down through generations.  At its most basic, hoodoo is about having a need met through the use of spells and medicinal conjure.  Using roots, stones and other natural objects, a root doctor can help one tap into supernatural forces to gain power, luck, money, love, revenge and/or health.

  The Voodoo Doll has its true roots in the Southern conjure arts rather than vodun.

Just released!

  Over the years, there have been many books and movies that reference rootworking, most notably Midnight in the Garden of Good and EvilI’ve also enjoyed The Skeleton Key and Eve’s BayouCheck them out if you have a hankering to visit the Deep South. 🙂

 Blurb from “The Prophet”:         

With quaintly named spells and elixirs like law-keep-away dust, pay-me sachet, and come-to-me oil, rootwork is mostly a benign practice that has been passed down through generations.  But make no mistake.  There is a dark side to conjure and much truth in the old saying that power corrupts.  

Dr. Darius Goodwine is an ethnobotanist whose knowledge of roots and herbs has sent him down a dangerous path.  He’s one of only a handful of men who have been granted access to gray dust, a powerful extract that stops the heart and allows an initiate to enter the realm of the dead.   But what happens when the user brings something back from the other side? 

 Poor Amelia is about to find out.  

 Sarah: If this becomes a TV series (or movie) who do you see playing the part of Amelia? Devlin?

Amanda: Matt Bomer in the movie In Time conveys the same dark, haunted look that I envision for Devlin, and for Amelia, I like Amanda Seyfried’s dreamy, ethereal beauty.  Dr. Shaw is Donald Sutherland.  🙂

   Sarah: What is the strangest gravestone symbol you’ve come across in person or through research?

   Amanda: The Sicilian Triskelion is pretty freaky. (http://www.flickr.com/photos/nataliemaynor/125623991/)

Also, some of the soul effigies featured on Memento Stones look like space aliens.  (http://mementostones.blogspot.com/2010_04_01_archive.html)

 Sarah: What authors/genres jump to the front of your TBR pile?

 Amanda:  I’m reading tons of Young Adult.  On my desk at the moment are Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Beautiful Darkness, and The Replacement

 Sarah: What advice do you have to your fans who now want to tour through cemeteries with “new eyes”?

Amanda: Enjoy the beauty, appreciate the history and at the end of the day, take nothing and leave nothing behind.

Sarah: Dear Reader, if you’ve read her Graveyard Queen series, you (like me) are biting back a shiver at her “advice.” If you haven’t read her series then believe me, she just gave you a friendly warning.  Favorite movie ever is…?

Amanda: I have a three-way tie:  Dazed and Confused, Waiting for Guffman, and This is Spinal Tap.

Sarah: Thanks for joining us today, Amanda. I also want to share your thrilling news with our readers: you recently signed another 3 book contract to continue the Graveyard Queen series!

VISIT AMANDA AT HER WEBSITE: http://www.amandastevens.com/

Click below to ask Amanda a question, leave a comment or (if you’ve read any of the 3 books) give us your reaction to the hauntingly beautiful series! One winner will be announced on Thursday, May 10th and Amanda will give away one of the books in her Graveyard Queen series–winner’s choice!

(I recommend beginning with the first book: The Restorer. Remember: I double-dog-dare you to try to walk away after that hair-raising first chapter!)

About Sarah Andre

Romantic Suspense That Keeps You Up All Night! I live in sunny FL, love daydreaming, reading and chocolate. I write in the wee hours of the morning before my helpless hubby and 2 male Pomeranian pups awaken with their demands. :) My debut LOCKED, LOADED and LYING is available now.

Posted on May 8, 2012, in Author Interview, Author Spotlight, book recommendations, Guest blog, keepers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 65 Comments.

  1. Welcome Amanda!

    Your scenery descriptions of Charleston and Asher Falls is so lush annd such an integral part of the story. Did you live in SC or close to the Blue Ridge Mountains?

  2. Amanda, I love your books! My husband grew up on one of the tiny sea islands outside of Charleston and when we were dating he used to take me in a small john boat through the estuaries and show me where the old plantations, along with their cemeteries, used to be. While the houses were long gone, you could still find old tombstones half-sunk in the sandy ground. And your books have always reminded me of those places. Thanks for stopping by Kiss and Thrill today and congratulations on your new contract!

  3. Amanda, you are a woman after my heart. I am enthralled by reading these blurbs. I love cemeteries and I love the creepiness of Poe and Hitchcock and your books sounds like something I would really enjoy. Good luck on the option!

    Jenn!

  4. Thank you for the welcome, Sarah! I’m so happy to be here. I’ve never lived in Charleston or the Blue Ridge Mountains, but I have visited. In fact, I’m getting ready for a return trip to refresh my memory for the next three Amelia books. Sometimes a place just speaks to you and Charleston was like that for me. I felt an immediate connection. Of course, I’ve always lived in the South so I share that with my characters. And I’ve always loved old cemeteries. My mother and sister and I used to spend many a Sunday afternoon touring local graveyards.

    Sharon, your trips through the Sea Islands sound fascinating. I would love to do that someday. And to have your own personal guide! 🙂

    Jenn, Hitchcock is another passion of mine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched and studied his movies trying to learn how he built suspense so effectively.

    • I agree with that, Jenn and Amanda. Hitchcock would use the subtlety of lighting or a fleeting expression to increase tension and say volumes more than mere words.

      • I love this Hitchcock quote: Luck is everything… My good luck in life was to be a really frightened person. I’m fortunate to be a coward, to have a low threshold of fear, because a hero couldn’t make a good suspense film. 🙂

  5. Hi Amanda, which came first: your interest in graveyards or the GRAVEYARD QUEEN series? Congrats on the new contract and possible TV series.

    Sarah, I can’t resist a double-dog-dare! I’m downloading THE RESTORER asap. Who should I blame if I have to sleep with all the lights on tonight–you or Amanda? 😉

    • Hi Krista! Definitely my interest in cemeteries came first. It was kind of funny how the series all came about. I knew I wanted to write about a character with a unique occupation so I Googled ‘strange jobs’. Up popped cemetery restorer. I literally gasped because it was so perfect for me and the character I had in mind. 🙂

    • LOL! We could always recruit Rachel Grant to add Amanda to the class action suit against “authors who are so good we lose sleep.” And you will lose sleep. Seriously.

  6. i have read all three of the graveyard queen books and am so incredibly thrilled that the series is continuing! i loved this interview…fun questions and answers! i am also a huge fan of Hitchcock movies and i think the music in his movies plays a huge part in the suspense, emotion, and tension of his movies. he was a master!!

    • Hitchcock knew how to build tension without resorting to graphic violence. Just think of that shower scene in Psycho. So tame by today’s standard, but OMG! So effective!

    • Thanks for stopping by Nancy!
      I still can’t pick Hitchccock out in his cameo scenes…I need to get a insider’s guide so I will stop looking at tertiary background characters and pay attn to the plot!

  7. Great interview. I love Amanda’s books!! No one can write creepy the way she does. 🙂

  8. O. M. G. just looked up matt bomer on imdb.com. YEESSSS!!!

  9. OMG, I love this series. I comsumed ‘The Restorere’ in the matter of days. ‘The Kingdom’ in the matter of hours…or so it seemed. Now I’m reading the Prophet. I am so much enjoying them. I had to stop last night to sleep and now damn I have to stop cause I’m at work. Love this series. Keep writing. I’m posting your books on my Facebook wall and telling friends.

    • Thanks, Mary! I’m thrilled to be able to keep the series going for at least three more books. There’s so much more to Amelia and Devlin’s story. 🙂

      And thanks for spreading the word! I really appreciate it.

    • Thanks for commenting (and spreading the word) Mary! I was ecstatic when Amanda agreed to guest blog here–I’m truly the poster child for a gushing fan!

      I took ‘The Restorer’ on a company sponsored trip to Cancun. EVERYTHING was paid for–golf, spa treatments, zip-lining, Maya ruins…whatever any of us wanted to do.

      What did I do? Sat in the shade at the Tranquility Pool and gobbled the novel up. I kept telling my other 2 friends how fantastic it was, so they canceled their leisure activites and waited for me to finish. It was a 3 day trip and we all got thru the book in 3 days.

  10. Welcome to K&T, Amanda. Your books sound intriguing. There’s definitely something captivating about old gravestones. When I was 16 we took a trip to Massachusetts and I remember being fascinated by the words written on the graves in an old Concord cemetery that dated back to the 1600s.

    Great interview!

    • Hi Gwen! Oh, my gosh, those old Massachusetts cemeteries are something. The symbolism they used back then was so eerie and creepy. I’m fascinated by the death’s heads and soul effigies. And the winged hourglasses! Would love to tour one of those cemeteries someday.

  11. jovialvampyre

    Hi Amanda – I haven’t read the series yet but it looks great!

    When I was a kid I loved graveyards. My girlfriends and I would hang out in them day and night. We loved reading the stones especially for the 1700 dates. Did you enjoy graveyards as a child and if so what did you like best about them?

    • When I was a kid, our house was situated between two cemeteries, one of them abandoned. My mother wouldn’t let us go to that one alone because it was all grown up with weeds and brush and people had reported seeing rattlesnakes crawling over the headstones. Naturally, that was the one that fascinated me the most. There was just something so eerie and Edgar-Allen-Poe romantic about that place. I wish I had pictures of it. I’ve often wondered if it’s still there.

      • My husband told me several years ago that there’s a website that tells you where people (famous and not famous) are buried and also has a picture of the grave stone. The web guy made it his life’s work to continue adding to it, so if the site is still around it would be fascinating to cyber-explore.

  12. Hi Amanda to speak the truth I haven’t read any of your books yet but the excerpt already gave me goosebumps. And yes now you get yourself a new reader, me :). Just quick question have you ever used voodoo yourself?

    • Hi Aretha! The closest I’ve ever come to voodoo is touring the voodoo museum in New Orleans. I’m fascinated with it, though. I knew a man from Haiti who did not want to talk about it all. Or maybe he just didn’t want to bother with all my questions. 🙂

      I really enjoyed my research into rootworking. I grew up in Arkansas and I can still remember vague references from some of the old-timers about hoodoo.

  13. I just visited with you at Murder by the Book in Houston and want to let you know you gave the best presentation I have been to by an author. I had a great time and LOVE your books. I am running on empty because I have lost a lot of sleep reading your series. I work at night and my friends at work were laughing because I had to wrap myself in a warm blanket because I kept getting cold shivers down my neck while I read. (it didn’t help by the way and I reluctantly had to put the book down since I work in a hospital and you scared me silly.) I am an instant fan! Thanks for being so amazing.

    • Poppy! How great to speak with you again! Thank you so much for your comments about Murder by the Book. I get soooo nervous speaking in public. My husband was there at the start of the talk, but I sent him away with a look because he was making me even more nervous, lol. But once I got into it, the nerves settled down. You guys were great with all the questions. I really appreciated that.

      Is it bad that I’m glad you got cold shivers reading my books?! 🙂

    • See? I ain’t lyin’!
      Her books give me the shivers (Krista, are you reading this?!)
      I am interviewing John from Murder By The Book bookstore in Houston on Tues, May 29th, about how innovative he had to become to stay in business against the Amazon/ B&N giants. Hope you stop by then too, Poppy!

  14. Bty, Matt Bomer has bright blues eyes so he can’t be “my” Devlin. I have Timothy Olyphant as my hero!

  15. Timothy Olyphant is DREAMY! You have no idea how long I’ve had a crush on him. I thought he was so adorable in “Girl Next Door.” That hair!

    I’m always a little reluctant to name an actor because I like for readers to have their own image of the character. Yours is a good one. 🙂

    • I haven’t come across an actor who has a haunted enough expression/essence for the Devlin in my imagination.

  16. Terrific interview! Fabulous series! It’ll be hard waiting another year and a half for the next book!

    I love learning who authors see as their characters. Can’t say I’m on board with Matt Bomer as Devlin, but Donald Sutherland would be a perfect as Dr. Shaw. This would make a brilliant TV series. Good luck!

    • Matt Bomer is only Devlin as he appeared in “In Time.” Sort of dark and brooding. But as I said above, I really like for readers to have their own image of a character. So do you? 🙂

      • And in defense of Amanda’s choice, she sent a GREAT pic of Bomer in “In Time” (angst look and all.) I was afraid of copyright infringement issues so I weasled out of posting it. Google his name and the movie, you’ll see what she means.

  17. Amanda, I’ve loved all your thrillers, and I’m so happy to see the success of the Graveyard Queen books. The Kingdom is waiting on the TBR stack above my bed (I have multiple TBR piles), and I’ll pick up The Prophet on Saturday. (BTW, the free Kindle novella The Abandoned shouldn’t be missed, either.)

  18. Rachel Grant

    Amanda thanks for joining us at Kiss and Thrill! Great interview Sarah!

    I haven’t read your books but they are going to the top of my TBR pile – it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a good, creepy read.

    Living on the west coast, we don’t have a lot of very old Graveyards – a marker that is a 120 years old is old by our standards. 🙂

    Years ago I worked on an excavation under the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco – when the art museum was built in the 1920s, a dishonest contractor removed the headstones, but not the graves (very Poltergeist). The graveyard was used from the late 1800s until just after (if I remember correctly) the 1906 earthquake.

    In the 1990s, during construction to earthquake-proof the building, they found the graves and they had to be removed and reburied. It was very strange to be working underneath a building and to look across the uneven dirt floor and see dozens of open graves with skeletal remains crammed (literally – the boxes were small and it was a tight fit) into corroding wood coffins. I’ve never figured out how to use that dig in a book, but the imagery will stay with me forever.

  19. That’s fascinating, Rachel, and you really must use all that imagery one of these days! My protagonist, Amelia, once worked for the state archeologist’s office so she was involved in moving several graveyards. I loved researching that aspect of her background and tried to sprinkle some of those kinds of tidbits into the stories. But to have personally experienced it…wow!

    • Rachel Grant

      Oh, how cool! I didn’t realize your character moved graveyards! I’m almost done with a crit so I can probably start this series tomorrow night. Can’t wait.

      And seriously, if you want details from the dig, I’m happy to share (I’m even teaching a workshop at RWA National with another archaeologist – Archaeology 101 for writers).

  20. Amanda, can’t wait to read your books. Thanks so much for visiting us today. Great interview, Sarah!

    As far as the Sicilian Triskelion or Trinacria being freaky, I have to disagree. The three legs symbolize the three points of the Sicilian Island and the Medusa in the center warded off evil (some say as well as being a mark of Athena’s protection of the island as a Greek colony (Medusa is on Athena’s breastplate)). I’ve seen so many of these, that are absolutely lovely, and have several in my home.

    So don’t be afraid of them. LOL. I’ll take your advice about graveyards, though!

    Hugs.

    • I clicked on the link and the Triskelion was certainly startling at first glance. Great explanation for what it means though, Diana…takes the oddity out of it. Where did you find them to buy for your home?

    • Oh, I’m so happy to know that background, Dianna! I think I was just surprised to see it on a headstone, particularly one in Mississippi. But now that I know the history and mythology…you’re right. It’s very, very cool. I think I’ll put one in one of Amelia’s cemeteries. 🙂

  21. Brandie Nickerson

    Great interview! These types of books are why I fell in love with books and writing 🙂

    Brandie

  22. What a fun day of comments and discussion! Thank you all for stopping by and a SPECIAL thank you to Amanda Stevens!

    We look forward to the next 3 books in the Graveyard Queen series and hope you’ll come back again and guest blog with those releases.

  23. hi Amanda,

    I haven’t read any of your books but i just checked your website and read the excerpt of your books and i love it. looking forward to read your books 🙂

    just curious why you decided to write this book? probably you got a signed ? 🙂

    • I’d wanted to do a paranormal series with a continuing character for a long time, but I wanted it to be more modern Gothic than urban fantasy. And I loved the idea of using these old cemeteries as settings. That dark, creepy vibe is right up my alley. 🙂

  24. Kathy Gunderson

    Do you find creepy to be a brain reaction or a gut reaction?

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