Happy Monday, book lovers! I’m beyond excited to say that we have author Amanda Stevens here at BLI today! She stops by to answer some of our burning questions about her paranormal/ mystery/ romance hybrid series, The Graveyard Queen. She also discusses some of the influences that go into her writing, as well as her take on those things that go bump in the night. You don’t want to miss this one (and worry not; no spoilers here!). Please give her a very warm BLI welcome.
Alisha: So happy to have you at BLI today, Amanda! First off: How would you describe Amelia and her world….Twitter style (140 characters or less)? ^_^
Amanda: Dark, lush, dreamy and Southern.
Your protagonist, Amelia, is quite complex in her background, her abilities, her motivations, and her desires. What aspects about her first called to you? Was she originally conceived as she is now? Did she come to you first, or was it the world that she inhabited (or perhaps even other characters)?
Amanda: I knew I wanted to write about a protagonist with an unusual profession and/or ability so I Googled strange jobs and up popped cemetery restorer. Once I had that, Amelia just came to me—a lonely young woman whose ability to see ghosts has isolated her from human companionship so she creates her own little world within the gates of her graveyard kingdoms.
Alisha: The first three of your Graveyard Queen books, as well as your standalones, are based in the South. The Deep South, in particular. What is it that draws you to those locales in general, to use them as the setting of your stories?
Amanda: I was born and raised in the South so it’s a place I know well and feel strongly about. It’s in my blood, so to speak. I think of the South not so much as a setting, but as a character, one with its own history and presence, with its own flaws, moods and voice. Plus, I like to think we have a healthy—or maybe unhealthy—appreciation for the macabre down here.
Alisha: The Graveyard Queen books are definitely full of frights, chills, and thrills for its readers. What chills and frightens you?
Amanda: My husband and I share an interest in all things paranormal. For years, we’ve listened to a radio program called Coast to Coast AM. I remember one show in particular that dealt with (supposedly) recorded ghost voices. I found those eerie whispers and murmurs absolutely terrifying. My husband fell asleep halfway through the broadcast, and I finally had to wake him up I was so frightened.
Alisha: Amelia finds a measure of comfort in not just her work restoring cemeteries, but also in just spending time in the cemeteries themselves. How do you feel about such locations? Is there a particular cemetery that you find notable or particularly special?
Amanda: I’ve always been drawn to cemeteries. My mother, sister and I used to spend many a Sunday afternoon roaming through old graveyards. I’ve never thought of them as gloomy or scary, though an abandoned one near our house was a bit eerie. Glenwood Cemetery in Houston is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever visited. I was there not too long ago to have my photo taken in front of an angel exactly like the one on the cover of The Restorer. Of course, my dream cemeteries are Highgate in London and Père Lachaise in Paris.
Only a couple of minor ones. When I was little, I shared a bedroom with my sister. One night I awakened to the tinkle of a music box, but there wasn’t one in the house, let alone in our bedroom. I thought I must have dreamed or imagined the sound, but then my sister said she heard it, too. We were both so frightened we called out to our mother, but she heard nothing. To this day, we don’t know where that music came from.
A woman I’ve known since childhood has had many harrowing experiences, including clocks running backward, doors flying open, the TV suddenly blaring. One of her most disturbing experiences was the inspiration for a scene in The Kingdom.
Alisha: You’ve definitely shown your affinity for writing about the unexplained and otherworldly. What kinds of stories are you fond of as a reader?
Amanda: I read a lot of paranormal and mysteries, and I’m particularly fond of the Harper Connelly series by Charlaine Harris. I’ve always been a huge Dean Koontz fan and I also enjoy Greg Iles. Lately, I’ve been devouring YA novels–Beautiful Creatures, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Die for Me, and of course, The Hunger Games.
Alisha: So, it’s been mentioned that books four and five are contracted to be published. How far would you like to have Amelia’s story go? Do you have the plots of the next books in mind?
Amanda: Book Four—The Keeper—is plotted in detail and I’m writing it now. I have a pretty good sense of Book Five and Six and how they’ll continue the story arc. Needless to say, Amelia will face more challenges as her ghostly legacy conflicts with her love for Devlin.
Alisha: Are there any other genres, themes, or characters that you’d like to explore, that you perhaps haven’t yet gotten the chance to write about yet?
Amanda: I’ve just sold my first young adult series to Harlequin Teen and I so excited to get started on it. The books will be paranormal, but very different from The Graveyard Queen series. I’d also like to do a series of stories about Ozark witchcraft. Kind of like Winter’s Bone, but with witches. lol
Alisha: Absolutely cannot wait for the upcoming projects. Thank you so much for visiting BLI, Amanda.
The Prophet by Amanda Stevens
Book #3 in the Graveyard Queen series
My name is Amelia Gray.
I am the Graveyard Queen, a cemetery restorer who sees ghosts. My father passed down four rules to keep me safe and I’ve broken every last one. A door has opened and evil wants me back.
In order to protect myself, I’ve vowed to return to those rules. But the ghost of a murdered cop needs my help to find his killer. The clues lead me to the dark side of Charleston—where witchcraft, root doctors and black magic still flourish—and back to John Devlin, a haunted police detective I should only love from afar.Now I’m faced with a terrible choice: follow the rules or follow my heart.
Amanda Stevens was born and raised in the foothills of the Ozarks, an area known for its folklore and superstition. She learned from an early age to fear black cats, ladders, and broken mirrors. A risk taker, she now resides with all three. She is also the mother of twins, a wannabe taphophile, and a collector of all things Alfred Hitchcock. When she’s not writing from her home in Houston, she likes taking road trips to Austin. And to Marfa. And to old cemeteries.
All you have to do is leave a meaningful comment about Amanda’s interview, or tell us:
What scares you; frightens you; creeps you out?
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Giveaway ends on Saturday, May 5th, 2012; we will announce the winner on Sunday.