A Little Bit of Everything with Author of 450+ Books Lisa Shea
Interview With Lisa Shea
As the author of over 450 books from a variety of genres including mystery, romance, science fiction, and paranormal, you certain have a plethora of experience writing in different forms. In your writing journey, have you come across a particular genre that happens to be your favorite?
I seem to keep coming back to romance. Even when I don’t start out writing a romance, somehow a romantic relationship tends to develop. I was writing a mystery short story series, one a day, set in Salem. My intention was for the female detective to remain single. Then in one of the stories I had her meet a character and somehow they became romantically entangled. I didn’t intend for it – it just sort of happened. That’s happened to me in a number of my books. I suppose I just have a romantic soul.
Is there a specific genre that you are concentrating on right now in your writing?
I have I think 33 different series that are all ongoing, so I get scolded by my fans for leaving them hanging with series X or series Y. Whatever series I work on, I have all sorts of readers from the other series lobbying for me to work on their series next. Right now I’m finishing up my fantasy series based on the classic Cinderella / Snow White / Beauty and the Beast / Sleeping Beauty heroines. I want to make sure the final book does a solid job of giving each heroine her time to shine and a satisfying ending. It’s taken me a while to figure out how I wanted to do that, but I think I’m finally there. I’m hoping to have that final book done shortly.
After that, I want to write the final book in my Newgate series set in a real-life copper-mine-turned-prison in Connecticut. Newgate was used to hold prisoners during the Revolutionary War. I got stalled on the final book because all of the court libraries were closed due to the pandemic, and I needed their records on a particular trial from the late 1700s. Now that things are opening up again, hopefully I can get those details and finish up the book. I tend to be quite attentive to accuracy when I write historical books which can get me delayed in situations like these.
But my medieval romance readers are eager for another book in that series, my Sutton Massachusetts mystery series readers want another book in that series, and so on. So at some point I have to get to each series.
When you first decided that you wanted to be author, did you originally have one specific genre or purpose in mind, or did you always want to dabble in a little bit of everything?
I grew up absolutely obsessed with the Lord of the Rings books. This was an age without smartphones, so during my hour-each-way school bus commute I would simply close my eyes and think up storylines where Aragorn and I protected hobbits and villagers from danger. When I was a teenager, I wrote my first medieval romance with a sword-wielding heroine and a rugged ranger-type partner. Soon I was writing more of them, and that is now my 16-book medieval romance series.
It’s funny how quickly our world changes. When I first started writing the medieval romances, there were very few romances involving sword-fighting women. Most women in the stories had to be rescued by men from whatever situation they were in. Nowadays, there are countless examples of weapon-wielding women in stories, TV, and movies. Rather than waiting to be saved, these women seek a partner to stand alongside them. It’s been a great evolution to watch happen. I’m honored to have been a part of that.
I’ve always been interested in other genres, too. As a teen I had pending ideas for science fiction stories, fantasy stories, and so on. It’s just that I was so obsessed with the medieval stories that they called to me most strongly. Once I got a few of those books written and out of my system, there was more space to let the other ideas flow, too.
At this point in your writing career, you certainly have a good amount of experience (since you have even published books about the writing process!) but at any point in your journey did you try to limit yourself to being just one type of writer?
I always encourage authors to write what they want to write, and I follow that same advice myself. If I want to write a science fiction epic story, I write it. If I want to write a paranormal story about a woman who leaves her body during a traumatic car crash, I write it. I enjoy writing the storylines that take me over. There never seemed to be any reason to restrict myself. I suppose my only caveat is that everything I write under my real Lisa Shea name is teen-friendly, and I stay to that. I want teens who like my style to know anything they see of mine is appropriate to read. For the stories I write that have some racier content, I use a pen name, to keep it separate.
Does having the choice to write in a variety of given genres give you a sense of freedom or do you sometimes find yourself intimidated with so many options to choose from?
All the stories I write spring to mind as something really exciting, so I am actively drawn to my stories. Sometimes I have an intense dream about a young woman in regency-era Bath, England. Sometimes my car slides onto the rumble strip late at night and wonder what it would be like if I heard a secret morse code message in the rumbling. These are things I then want to write about. There’s never any sense of intimidation in the situation. I’m eager to write about the topic and then I plunk down and write about it.
The only negative I would mention is that I now have fans of all these different series who want me to work on THEIR book next, who get grumpy when I work on something else next. So that’s something to manage. But given that George R. R. Martin has been making his fans wait nearly ten years for the next book in his popular A Song of Ice and Fire series, I try to take it in stride when a reader gets grumpy with me for making them wait a year or two.
Do you ever find that the different genres you are writing about combine and overlap when you are coming up with story ideas?
My story ideas spring to my mind without any concern for genre. They’re stories about people and situations. There’s a bookstore in Salem, Massachusetts that I adore, so I wondered what it would be like if the bookstore owner had the ability to see ghosts. It turned into a cozy mystery with romance. I love the classic Worcester lunchcar diners, which were built right here in Worcester, Massachusetts, so I wondered what it would be like if an attentive person overheard conversations in the diner and then solved mysteries / problems based on what they heard. That turned into my mystery series with a heroine with Asperger’s. It of course became a romance, too.
I understand the importance of genres when people browse books in a physical store to find something they’re interested in. At the same time, I love stories which are character driven. I’m sure every story has a bit of a mystery – a puzzle to solve or figure out. Nearly every story has character growth and change. Mine happen to generally get romance woven into them, even when I don’t intend for it to happen. So does that make all of my stories literary-mystery-romance? I suppose you could say some are historical, due to the era they’re set in. And some are paranormal, when I mix in ghosts or magic or alternate dimensions. But in general, I don’t think about genre much when a new idea blossoms in my brain. I simply enjoy the fun of exploring the characters and the situation they’re in. I see where the story takes me.
Of all of the works that you have created during your time as an author, do you have a specific one that happens to be your favorite? If so, what is it about that work that makes it so special to you personally?
Different stories appeal to me depending on my mood. Some of my stories are light-hearted and fun. Others are moody and pensive. If I’m in a moody, pensive mood, I can absolutely delve into one of my moody books and become lost in it for hours. I write about characters and situations I adore, so I love reading my own work. But if I was feeling moody and pensive and tried to read one of my happy, joyous books, I’d probably put it back down again and switch books. So it’s all about the mood I’m in.
So with that being said, the book which would appeal to me most right now would be Finding Peace. It’s book 2 in my medieval romance series. Book 1 is fairly light-hearted and fun – a woman has to choose from five eligible bachelors to marry. She and her sister have lots of playful banter. But with book 2, the heroine is a woman struggling to recover from an abusive relationship. It’s much more gritty and somber. Helping battered women is a topic I feel quite strongly about. I didn’t want to lead with such a heavy topic in my medieval series, but it was important for me to tackle the topic quickly in the sequence order. I like the strength the heroine finds and how she is able to draw herself up. So that’d be the one I reached for right now.
Do you have any advice that you would give to authors who are unsure what genre to write for?
I always, always say to write what you adore. Don’t worry about what publishers tell you sells well. Don’t research genres. Write a story you adore with characters you can personally relate to. Write about what you know. You can bring your locations and scenarios to vivid life when you’ve lived them. The more you infuse your scenes and characters with your own knowledge, the more they come to life in a unique, one-of-a-kind way.
Think about all the times J. K. Rowling got turned down by publishers. Publisher after publisher told her, “Nobody will want to read your story.” She believed in what she’d written and she just kept going. She finally found someone willing to work with her and the rest is history. Believe in YOUR story and characters. Find ways to infuse them with life. Sure, get advice from others on proper spelling and grammar. Get guidance on making the plot understandable. But in terms of the story you want to tell, and the characters who carry the reader along, they are yours. Trust in them. Lift and share them with the world.
“I am a fervent fan of honor and loyalty. I bring to life worlds where compassionate individuals stand shoulder to shoulder, steady in their desire to make the world a better place for all. Most of my profits are donated to support battered women’s shelters. I currently have over 450 published works on Amazon.
For aspiring authors, I have over 500 pages online exploring how to develop time management, write that book, lay it out, and get it published. Visit LisaShea.com for all the details, and feel free to email with questions!”