When I was a kid, we lived near an abandoned cemetery with graves dating back to the 1800s. I was drawn time and again to that crumbling necropolis, captivated by the poetic inscriptions and artistic motifs on the old headstones.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the discovery of that graveyard—sequestered as it was in a thicket of dogwood trees—ignited a lifelong fascination.
There is a term for people with my affliction. Taphophilia (not to be confused with necrophilia!). Derived from the Greek words taphos, meaning tomb and philia, meaning love or obsession. A lover of tombstones and cemeteries.
So the The Graveyard Queen series was a natural evolution for me. The concept came about after a Google search for unusual jobs. Up popped cemetery restorer and I knew I had my premise (see above). Immediately, I envisioned a handful of premises that lent themselves to my writing style and to my love of all things Gothic…withering graveyards, broken angels and crumbling mausoleums. The tagline for the series wrote itself: Every cemetery has a story; every grave, it’s secrets.
I knew I wanted to write ghost stories, but I didn’t want to stray too far into M. Night Shyamalan territory. Instead, I took my inspiration from the old Chinese hungry ghosts legend—entities that “eat” the emotions of living humans. I came up with the concept of ghosts as nebulous parasites that feed off human warmth and energy, draining away the person’s life force until nothing remains but a walking shell. My ghosts are almost vampire-esque in their voracious appetites. And those humans who can see them are in particular peril because the thing these diaphanous leeches crave above all else is acknowledgement by the living so they can feel a part of our world again.
I chose Charleston as the setting because of it’s rich, Southern heritage and because it has some of the most beautiful cemeteries I’ve ever visited.