The New York Times
bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series delivers her first novel for adults, a story about the living, the dead, and a curse that binds them.
Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the tender attention her grandmother, Maylene, bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn't a funeral that Maylene didn't attend, and at each Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: three sips from a small silver flask followed by the words "Sleep well, and stay where I put you."
Now Maylene is dead and Bek must go back to the place--and the man--she left a decade ago. But what she soon discovers is that Maylene was murdered and that there was good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in placid Claysville, the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected. Beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D--a place from which the dead will return if their graves are not properly minded. Only the Graveminder, a Barrow woman, and the current Undertaker, Byron, can set things to right once the dead begin to walk.
A Q&A with Author Melissa Marr
Q: What inspires you as a writer?
Marr: Music, travel, and lore. Graveminder began in 2007 on a trip to Ireland during which I’d read a paragraph or so on the “hungry dead.” Wicked Lovely sparked from Scottish folklore. The YA novel I just wrote, Carnival of Souls, was a combination of a phrase from a song and an article on demonology.
Q: Where did the story in Graveminder come from? Did something in particular spark the characters or the plot?
Marr: Once I had the general concept (“mind your dead lest they come back hungry”), I looked to my own life. I enjoy cemeteries, and I’m fascinated by lore/myth of Death. I added a small town, a ghost-town-esque land of the dead, and various other things I like. This is actually the novel closest to my roots in many ways.
Q: The characters in Graveminder discover they have had a destiny to fulfill since they were born. Can you talk about putting characters into that situation and what it brings out in them? Marr:
Between the Wicked Lovely series and this, it’s pretty obvious I’m fascinated by the idea of fate and choice. I think we are all born with advantages and disadvantages because of so many things beyond our control (family, economics, culture, religion, country, genetic factors). People can be defined by those factors, revise their fate—or opt for some combination of the two. That choice is what makes our stories as people unique.
Q: How did you go about building the Graveminder mythology? Is it based on any folklore or mythology itself?
Marr: Around the world there are all sorts of traditions of ancestor regard and duty to the dead. Some traditions dictate how the dead are taken to the grave to keep them from finding their way back if they wake; some traditions include speaking (or not speaking) of them. There are myriad traditions I’d have loved to explore, but the one I used at base is that the dead must be nourished with food, drink, and story for a set time. Failure results in the dead coming back to get a different manifestation of the nourishment they need—flesh, blood, and breath.
Q: In Graveminder the dead walk among the living and the living can even walk among the dead. What are your thoughts about these two worlds you’ve created?
Marr: I like liminality, borders and those who exist on and because of the lines. Much of the real world is defined by a series of in/out groupings. We are either a or b; things are good or bad; and everything is pro or con. The reality, I believe, is that there are often gradations—degrees of right and wrong, measures of beautiful and horrible. By juxtaposing worlds, I have characters who are always “strangers in a strange land.” Plus, well, it’s just more fun to write.
YA bestseller Marr (Wicked Lovely), in her first novel for adult readers, serves up a quirky dark fantasy fashioned around the themes of fate, free will—and zombies. When Rebekkah Barrow is summoned home to Claysville for the funeral of her beloved grandmother, Maylene, Rebekkah doesn't know that she's been designated Maylene's successor as the town Graveminder, whose job it is to give the recently deceased food to keep them in the Land of the Dead. Not coincidentally, her sometimes lover, Byron Montgomery, has just succeeded his dad as the Undertaker, who works intimately with the Graveminder. Even as the pair ponder the grave responsibilities that their weird destinies have thrust upon them, they doggedly pursue Daisha, an adolescent who died under suspicious circumstances and who, unburied and untended, is wreaking havoc around town as a rampaging member of the Hungry Dead. Not everything adds up in Marr's story, but the well-drawn characters and their dramatic interactions keep the tale loose and lively. 6-city author tour. (June)