Author Interview – Tui Snider

Buckle in, readers! I took a leap and asked Tui Snider to come do an interview about her latest book. It’s non-fiction, which is a departure from our poetry and fantasy – BUT, it’s about graveyards and symbols and all the fun stuff you didn’t even know you didn’t know, so let’s go! First, an introduction…

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Tui is an award-winning writer, speaker, photographer, and musician specializing in offbeat sites, overlooked history, cemetery symbolism, and haunted lore. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction, but then I moved to Texas!”

She lectures frequently at universities, libraries, conferences and bookstores. Her best-selling books include Paranormal TexasThe Lynching of the Santa Claus Bank Robber, Unexpected Texas, and Understanding Cemetery Symbols.

In August 2017, Tui Snider releases her 5th book. Called Understanding Cemetery Symbols, this book is a guide to the forgotten meaning of the symbols and acronyms our ancestors left on their headstones. Preorder sales are going so well that Understanding Cemetery Symbols has already become an Amazon best seller!

JR: You do a lot of traveling, and it figures in many of your lectures and presentations, as well as your best-selling books. Tell me a little about your unique tourist philosophy and how that translates into what you write.

TS: Sure, the dictionary may define travel as simply getting from one place to the next, but when we speak of travel, we mean much more than that. What we want as travelers is to have new experiences, to feel deeply connected to the world around us, and to have a break from the petty and mundane responsibilities that frazzle our nerves.

What we forget about travel is that it’s not the journey that makes it fun, it’s our attitude along the way. We have to be connected and aware to have fun. We have to let go of our day-to-day worries. That’s why I often say travel is a mindset.

When people learn that I’m a travel writer, they tend to overlook the fact that most of my articles and books are about places within a day’s drive of my house. They hear ‘travel writer’ and assume I’m off to Timbuktu every Thursday.

While I wouldn’t object to that, my travel motto is “Even home is a travel destination!” because there is so much to learn about and explore no matter where you live.

My goal when writing is to inform and inspire readers. I want to ignite their curiosity and get them out the door for an adventure of their own!

JR: How did you get started on this journey?

TS: Writing research takes me to a lot of historic graveyards. I love them! But on these excursions, I kept seeing acronyms and symbols on the older stones that didn’t make sense to me. I’d come home and research them, but it wasn’t always easy to find the answers.

So I started reading every book I could on the subject of historic graveyards and symbolism. Most of them claim that the reason our ancestors used symbols is because they were illiterate. Only recently did I take a close look at the literacy rates in the USA. This is a big topic in itself, but long story short, we have been and continue to be a highly literate nation.

That said, we have forgotten the meaning behind many older symbols. And while we all use symbols each and every day, us modern folks tend to use them in a much more literal manner than our ancestors.

I get into this more in the book, but here’s a quick example:
On a modern headstone, a horse’s bridle most likely means the deceased enjoyed riding horses.

On a historic headstone, however, a bridle and bit symbolize control over one’s less than saintly urges. If I look into this person’s life in more detail, I might learn that they were part of the Temperance Movement during the Prohibition Era, that they belonged to a strict religious sect, or some other thing that has nothing to do with horses.

One of my biggest realizations while writing Understanding Cemetery Symbols is that our ancestors used symbols in a much more poetic way. It think it’s an ability that we’ve lost to a certain degree in our era.

So, really, when it comes to understanding symbols in a deeper, more nuanced manner, I think that us fancy 21st century folks are the truly illiterate ones!

JR: I was excited to pre-order Understanding Cemetery Symbols and can’t wait for the companion workbook. That’s such a brilliant idea. I love workbooks and journals that chronicle memories of places visited! 

TS: Well, you’re a writer, too, so maybe loving workbooks comes with the territory!

Like any reference book, I’m sure every person will have their own way of using Understanding Cemetery Symbols. I can’t help but have little daydreams of people keeping a copy in the glovebox of their car, so it’s handy for spontaneous trips to historic graveyards. I’d really love it if my book inspired people to visit graveyards in their area for the fun of it.

I’ve created two companion workbooks for Understanding Cemetery Symbols. As a series I’m calling this group of books, Messages from the Dead, because our ancestors left symbols on their headstones as messages to the living.

The companion workbooks are: Graveyard Journal: A Workbook for Exploring Historic Cemeteries, and Ghost Hunters Journal: A Workbook for Paranormal Investigators.

02 Graveyard Journal 300Graveyard Journal is a workbook for keeping track of all the cemeteries you visit. It has room to record the details for up to 50 different burial grounds.

Ghost Hunters Journal, on the other hand, is a place for paranormal investigators to keep track of the various experiences they have, whether they are in a haunted cemetery or elsewhere.  03 Ghost Hunters 300

Even if you don’t use these companion workbooks, it’s a good idea to write down the details of your cemetery visits. Details can get fuzzy over time. You may forget which cemetery has your favorite angel statue, where the key to the graveyard gate is kept, or which farm to market road leads to your favorite country burial ground.

Keeping all this info in a handy dandy notebook can save you a lot of time. Plus, as you mentioned, notebooks make fun keepsakes!

Also, if you or your readers ever share photos online from your own cemetery visits, I invite you to tag them with #TuiSnider #GraveHour and/or @TuiSnider, so that I can enjoy them and respond to you.

JR: I know you never stop moving. You give lectures and seminars. You write for your travel blog, your author blog, and you host a weekly writing chat group…not to mention saving time for family, including caring for an elder parent! You are the Hustle Queen of Indie Writers. Will you be taking a break after this book release, or do you have the next one already planned?

Tui: While I knew that cemetery symbolism is a huge topic, it really hit home while writing Understanding Cemetery Symbols. People have been dying for a very long time, after all, and it doesn’t look like they will quit any time soon!

Seriously though, every single chapter in this book could easily be expanded into an entire book of its own.

01 Understanding Cem Sym 300There’s a chapter on crosses, for instance. Sounds simple, right? But not only are there well over 300 different types of crosses, but nearly every cross goes by at least four different names, and has an extensive history behind it. Needless to say, I couldn’t include every single type of cross in Understanding Cemetery Symbols. So there’s a possible book topic, right there.
The same goes for my chapters entitled “Saints, Angels and Other Beings,” “Cemetery Architecture,” and “Plants, Flowers and Trees.” And don’t even get me started on the chapter about “Clubs, Secret Societies & Organizations.” Considering that at one time there were over 2000 active fraternal organizations in America, you can see how there’s another topic that could easily grow into a book of its own!


That said, when I give presentations, audience members really love hearing about all the quirky graves I’ve seen, such as the military grave for Douglas the Confederate camel, or the alleged space alien grave in Aurora, Texas. So, while I don’t yet have a title for that one, I have enough bizarre burial stories to fill a book. That one could well be my next book, actually!

JR: Thanks so much for coming to the blog and chatting with us. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Tui: You’re welcome! I think exploring cemeteries is a great hobby. It gets people out into nature and it helps us connect with art and history. I certainly hope Understanding Cemetery Symbols inspires other people to get out and enjoy these open air museums!”

More of Tui’s travels can be found on her blog: Tui Snider’s Offbeat & Overlooked Travel.
Understanding Cemetery Symbols is available for preorder now.

7 thoughts on “Author Interview – Tui Snider

    1. That’s what I thought, too! I preordered it. I’m thinking it would be a fun thing to do with my daughter, so I also got the workbook! 😀

    2. Thanks so much for reading! And it’s a surprisingly interesting topic, isn’t it? 🙂

    1. It’s a good time to snag ones for gifts. The paperback is 1/2 price during the preorder phase!

      Maybe you can find a historic graveyard near you that does tours in October. 🙂

  1. Thanks again for sharing my book with your readers, Julie! It was fun answering your questions. 😀

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