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Lisa Shea: Celebrating Sutton Through Mysteries

by Christine Galeone

Each November, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) offers a challenge to writers to begin and complete a novel between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. Meeting that goal requires strategy, discipline and dedication. But some writers enjoy tackling even more.

Lisa Shea, a resident of Sutton, is one of them. In 2012, she decided to write “Aspen Allegations,” a romantic mystery novel that’s set in Sutton, in a way that called for even more of those three essential NaNoWriMo requirements. “I've always loved the beauty of the landscapes here in Sutton,” Shea said. She later added “I committed myself to write a chapter a day and to have each chapter feature that day's actual events and scenes. So, on Nov. 1, I went walking through the Sutton woods, looking for where a person might come across a dead body. I stopped to chat with a forest ranger, and he became a part of my story.”

Her commitment paid off.  By the end of the month, she had finished her first draft of “Aspen Allegations.” But the prolific author of mystery and romance novels – as well as some nonfiction books – didn’t stop there. That novel became the first in her Sutton Massachusetts Mystery series. Using the same methods, she has also written and published five subsequent novels in the same series. And she hopes to continue writing one each year for as long as possible.

The romantic mystery series features Morgan, a woman who finds peace in practicing daily yoga and joy in hiking the trails of Purgatory Chasm. While the series centers on mysteries solved by the amateur sleuth and the romance that blossoms between her and a park ranger named Jason, it also gives readers deep insight into what life is like in Sutton. It also reveals how the town has changed since 2012.

But continuing to write each novel in the series in one month by writing one chapter a day isn’t easy. “If I wait until after the month is complete, things are changing so quickly around town that I could easily end up including something which is anachronistic,” Shea explained. “It's important to me that I represent what the town was like at that one moment in time. I want the overall progression of the series to show how our world is changing and shifting around us on a daily basis. It can also be challenging to get to specific locations on the day I need to, in order to write the chapters in order.”

Surmounting those obstacles has been rewarding in more ways than one. Her work has earned tangible rewards, such as a Gold 2013 Independent Publisher Regional Book Awards IPPY award for “Aspen Allegations.” But the series has garnered intrinsic rewards as well. “I greatly treasure bringing to light locations and situations which even some locals might not be aware of,” Shea said, noting that she also likes spotlighting local artists and musicians. She noted “We have stunning walking trails. We have serene ponds on which to kayak. Further afield, I have readers from around the world who write to say they love reading my descriptions. It's as if they are there walking the Sutton trails alongside me.”

And Shea, who’s the founder and leader of the Sutton Writing Group, hopes that others will experience the same joy that writing has brought her. “I want to encourage any and all writers out there to pursue their dreams,” she said. “Even if you just have the inkling of a story in mind, jot it down. I run a free monthly writing group at the Sutton Library. We meet the second Thursday of every month from 6pm to 7:45pm. We're warm, supportive, and would love to have you join us.”

For more information about Lisa Shea’s books, please visit her website, www.LisaShea.com.  Her books are available on Amazon.com. If you would like to suggest a Blackstone Valley author for this series of articles, please contact Christine at [email protected]