I’ve always had a fascination for the macabre, so I suppose my foray from romantic suspense into what I call ‘creepy, southern thrillers’ was a natural (or unnatural!) progression for me. I grew up in the foothills of the Ozarks, an area steeped in legend and folklore, and the stories I heard as a kid still give me goose bumps to this day. That same sort of breathless, shivery dread is what I hope to evoke with my own stories.
My latest thriller, The Devil’s Footprints, was inspired by one of those old legend. On the morning of February 8, 1855, the townsfolk of Devon, England, awakened to find a series of hoof-like marks in freshly fallen snow. The U-shaped tracks continued throughout the countryside for over a hundred miles, traversing over houses, rivers, and haystacks—even through stone walls—as though no barrier could stop them.
Panic and paranoia ran rampant through the area, and armed with pitchforks and clubs, some of the townspeople set out to track down the beast responsible. Various newspapers, including The Times of London, covered the story extensively, and as a result, numerous theories soon evolved, the most bizarre being that Satan himself was roaming the countryside in search of sinners.
Wow. I mean, that’s good stuff, right?
For my purposes, I moved the tale to a little town in southern Arkansas, and the prints first appeared in a farmer’s cotton field in 1922. There, the legend was all but forgotten until the prints reappeared some seventy years later near the mutilated body of Rachel DeLaune.
If you have a favorite legend or folklore, I’d love to hear about it. I’ll be featuring a different story on my website (http://www.amandastevens.com/blog.html) every Tuesday during March. Also Marked by Evil, an online prequel to The Devil’s Footprints, will run every Tuesday and Thursday at http://www.eharlequin.com/.