Friday, June 6, 2008

I Love Cemeteries


The Stiletto Gang is delighted to welcome Casey Daniels, author of the spookily delightful, hysterically funny Pepper Martin mystery series.

I love cemeteries.

No, really. I’m serious.

Think about it: a cemetery—I mean a really old cemetery, not these new “memorial parks” where every headstone is flat to the ground and they all look the same—is really a museum without walls. Take a peek, and you’ll find interesting architecture, sculpture and art. There are stories, too, everywhere you look. One memorial can give you a glimpse into generations of family history. Another might suggest tragedy. Still others speak of undying love, precious memories, interesting lives and valorous deaths.

I’m lucky, I live near Cleveland, Ohio, and we’ve got some great old graveyards here. When I’m looking to hobnob with the city’s former movers and shakers, I head to Lake View Cemetery to visit the likes of President James A. Garfield, John D. Rockefeller and Eliot Ness. When I want something a little more down to earth (every pun intended), there are small country burial grounds that hold the remains of the settlers who tamed the lands of the Western Reserve.

In fact, I was in a cemetery when I got the idea for the Pepper Martin Mystery Series. Here’s the story: I began my publishing career back in 1992 with my first book, Twilight Secrets, a historical romance. I published somewhere around 15 historicals as well as a number of category romance, single-title contemporaries and even young adult horror novels. But the whole time I was writing romance, I was reading mysteries. And I was itching to write one. Trouble is, I never could find a hook that appealed to me. Interesting setting? Unusual protagonist? Fascinating time period? There are so many possibilities, it’s enough to make a writer’s head spin!

Then I got a job interview at a cemetery. They were looking for a part-time tour guide. I was looking to get away from my computer a couple days a week to remind myself there is life beyond writing (even in a place where just about everyone is dead).

I didn’t get the job, but I did get the idea for Pepper Martin, a cemetery tour guide whose enthusiasm for graveyards does not equal my own. Things really got interesting when I decided to add a little oomph to Pepper’s sleuthing resume—she just so happens to be able to see and talk to the “residents” of her cemetery.

Having ghosts and cemeteries in the mix adds an interesting dimension both to the writing and research. The book I’m plotting now (#5 in the series) involves the restoration of an old cemetery, so I’ve been in touch with a group that’s revitalizing Woodland Cemetery in Cleveland.

This dedicated group of volunteers gathers before Memorial Day to place flags on veterans’ graves. Sound easy? Not when old cemetery maps are inaccurate, records contain any number of misspellings, and tombstones are toppled, worn and hardly legible.

I had the time of my life, and it was gratifying to think that because we took the time to search and study and lay on our bellies to decipher just-about-unreadable gravestones, many veterans who’ve never had a flag before got one for the first time.

Thanks to Pepper, I’ve also taken classes in the paranormal, participated in ghost hunts and shot some amazing photographs at a “haunted” bed and breakfast, pictures that just might prove Pepper isn’t the only one who’s been in contact with the dearly not-quite departed.

Casey Daniels
www.caseydaniels.com

8 comments:

  1. Casey: I'm from a long line of Irish Catholic cemetery lovers. The first pictures of my brother (now in his 40s) were taken a week after he was born--on top of my grandfather's grave, with his tombstone in plain sight. We used to picnic at this site on a regular basis and I grew up thinking that this was completely normal. The only other person who shares this experience is Joy Behar on "The View". Maybe it's a New York thing?

    Great post. Thanks for joining the Stiletto Gang today! Maggie

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  2. What a phenomenal idea, Casey! I'm sure you have an endless supply of stories and adventures for Pepper.

    Speaking of cemeteries, the one in my small hometown has a narrow road leading through iron gates. The sign at the entrance says (appropriately) "One Way."

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  3. Casey, what fun to meet you! Thanks to the Stiletto Gang for hosting you!

    I love your Pepper Martin series! I buy each book hot off the shelf and dive right in. I happen to love cemeteries, too, but Pepper makes them SO much more fun!

    Here's to a long and healthy series. I'm a reader for life!

    Light,
    Nancy Haddock
    La Vida Vampire

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  4. Hello, all! Sorry it's taken me so long to check in today, I've been out all day, just got back in and to my computer.

    Love the cemetery stories! Like Maggie, we, too, used to picnic at the cemetery. My grandmother would drag us there on Sunday afternoons where we'd goof around and she'd clean up around family graves. I never realized until just recently that the cemetery she took us to was where her toddler daughter was buried.

    I still enjoy exploring cemeteries. As a matter of fact, I've led a number of tours in conjuction with local libraries. We visit some of the spots mentioned in the Pepper Martin books, and spend some wonderful time at Lake View cemetery. It's always the highlight of the tour!

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  5. Hi Casey!

    What a great story. I love hearing how authors come up with series ideas. I too love cemeteries. When I lived in New Orleans I actually belonged to a wonderful group called Save Our Cemeteries. They are dedicated to the restoration and preservation of N'awlins finest graveyards.

    I am excited to read and review your series!!

    Thanks for being here today, this was a great guest blog!

    Rachel

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  6. It must be something semi-intellectual and semi-hormonal: I enjoy cemeteries, although I often bemoan how they are real wastes of land (!?) and I figure on being cremated and scattered someday. Now, my husband, when we were shopping for a house, had as one of his top three constraints that it could not be close walking distance to, and definitely not adjacent to, a cemetery. Some people over-react, I guess.

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  7. I would LOVE to live next door to a cemetery! Think of how quiet the neighbors would be.

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  8. I love cemeteries too. Always visit them when I'm in a new town. I love the cemeteries in the gold mining towns--some of the towns are nearly ghost towns today. The headstones tell some sad stories.

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