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 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 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 seemed 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, everything seemed meant to be.