The Inspiration for The Haunting of William Gray
“I can’t take any more sun,” I confessed to my husband.
glanced up from the stack of What to Do in South Carolina booklets he’d
been perusing. “I know,” he agreed. Having learned enough about me in
the twenty-five years of marital bliss—this is my story so I can call
it that if I want to—we were celebrating at Garden City, he realized I
was as cooked as I could be without medical intervention. “How about a
relaxing boat ride to do some shelling?”
I perked up, dropping the ice packs from my cheeks and lips as I reached for the aloe gel. Boats? Shelling? “Perfect.”
made the reservation, and we left early the next morning, driving to
Georgetown. Halfway between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, two of the
nation’s top twenty-five vacation locales according to TripAdvisor, it
was a place we’d skirted often, but had never actually taken the time to
visit. Following a country ham and eggs breakfast at an old-fashioned
diner near the town’s center—yes, this came with grits—we still had
enough time to tour the Kaminski House before meeting the captain of the
half-day touring boat we’d reserved to take us out to the North Island.
Along Winyah Bay, we spotted alligators yawning on the river
bank, egrets stalking the more shallow areas near the sand bars, and my
favorite—eagles flying overhead, their huge nests built atop poles or in
impossibly tall trees. Then we embarked on a two hour stint on Shell
Island, gathering conch shells, olive shells, abalone, and a sand
dollar—treasures we still possess.
As we sauntered back along the
Historic Harbor walkway, we saw the smokestack of the sunken Union
ship, USS Harvest Moon. It peeked out ever so slightly, just enough to
make us wonder whether it was watching us—like the alligators whose
submerged bodies were only identified after seeing their eyes breaking
the water’s surface. We ended our day in Georgetown with a sightseeing
trolley through the old town, its driver sharing his knowledge of the
superstitions, Gullah culture, and ancient lore of the area’s haunted
Returning to the vacation resort, we kept asking
ourselves why we’d never visited Georgetown before. Once home,
mentioning it to our friends, we discovered nearly everyone thought we
meant the enclave in Washington, D.C. I knew right then I wanted to
write a novel set amid the Lowcountry’s ancient live oaks, temperamental
ocean, converging rivers, haunted houses, and Spanish moss.
The Haunting of William Gray, South Carolina’s beauty and culture
become the backdrop for a brooding hero, spunky heroine, and the
apparition who gains strength from her presence in the massive old house
occupying a privately owned island in Winyah Bay.
is simply too close to Georgetown not to visit and include in the novel.
It still offers voodoo—more appropriately called hoodoo—dolls in the
old marketplace. Popular tours include the area’s haunted houses and
hotels, and traditional southern fare highlights menus across the city.
Fried green tomatoes, deep-fried crispy chicken, shrimp and
grits—William Gray’s favorite—she-crab soup, and peach cobbler, exist
beside haute cuisine and international flavors.
It is my hope that
readers will not only enjoy the unlikely romance, but will be swept away
in the ambiance of Georgetown’s harbor life, superstitions, and the
possibility of spirits existing amongst the living in ways both dramatic
Renee Johnson is the author of Acquisition, and The Haunting of William Gray.
She is currently working on a Young Adult novel, while editing a
suspense novel which has international flair–an homage to her love of
travel and foreign food. She lives on a farm in North Carolina with her
husband, Tony Johnson, and two very spoiled German shepherds named
Hansel and Gretel.
Available at The Wild Rose Press and all major online retailers