The Story Behind the Story
by Amanda Stevens, author of The Visitor
During the writing of The Visitor, I returned to Charleston for the first time in many years. A lot had happened since I began The Graveyard Queen series, and I was still trying to find my way back to the story and to writing in general after a devastating loss. It seemed a good time to reacquaint myself with Amelia’s beloved home, and the Holy City did not disappoint. The charm, the history, the lush alleys and mysterious courtyards…all there just as I remembered and imagined.
Two things happened during my time in Charleston that had a significant impact on the story. During a leisurely exploration of the Unitarian Churchyard, a scene sprang to mind that helped to clarify the evolution of Amelia’s dark gift. In the three previous books, rules had been broken, forbidden doors had been opened and now it was time to deal with the consequences. Amelia wasn’t the same person she had been when the series began and neither was I. We couldn’t remain unscathed by recent events and so as I stood in that centuries-old graveyard with the haunting peal of the church bells drifting over the walls, Amelia’s path (and my own) became clearer to me.
The second incident took place on Rutledge Avenue. We had just left the Hominy Grill and were making our way toward Calhoun when I spotted a house that looked exactly the way I pictured Amelia’s home—a white two-story with upper and lower verandas and a front garden encased by a wrought iron fence. We lingered to take pictures and then continued our stroll. Half a block away, a young woman in sneakers and workout clothes walked briskly toward us. She was thin and fit, her hair pulled back in a ponytail revealing a quietly pretty face. As she passed by, she gave us a sweet yet knowing smile. Intrigued, we turned to watch her. When she got to the white, two-story house, she headed up the walkway and disappeared inside.
Amelia Gray had always been real to me, more so than any character I’d ever written. But there was something almost mystical about that sighting. Something preordained. In that fleeting moment, the story seemed meant to be.
About The Visitor:
Restoring lost and abandoned cemeteries is my profession, but I’m starting to believe that my true calling is deciphering the riddles of the dead. 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.