Melissa Stevens

Melissa Stevens said she set her paranormal novel series “Kitsune” in the Gila Valley, based on fond memories from the 20 years she was a resident.

GRAHAM COUNTY — Those people in line at the grocery store may not be what they seem.

That’s the feeling author Melissa Stevens presents in her book, “Hunt,” third in a her series about a clan of shape-shifters set in the Gila Valley.

In addition to the latest release, the first book of the series — “Change” — is now available as a free online download.

The series, called “Kitsune,” tells the tale of a typical teenager, Nickie, who discovers her supernatural heritage after accidentally shifting shape into a wolf following a life-threatening accident while hiking with a friend — and fellow Kitsune — on Mount Graham. Nickie strives throughout the series to manage the new powers, new family and new enemies brought into her life with the discovery of her unusual gifts.

Stevens, who employs a pseudonym to protect the privacy of her family members, many of whom still reside in the Gila Valley, said her subject matter was largely inspired by the numerous books of the same genre she enjoyed from a very young age.

About two years ago, as she was beginning to form the story in her mind, Stevens said she fondly recalled the adventures she’d had exploring in and around Graham County during the years she lived in Duncan with her family, and later with her husband and children. Eventually, Stevens realized that the diverse array of wildlife, varied terrain and her own experience with and knowledge of the area would make the Gila Valley a perfect backdrop for her supernatural story.

“I missed the Gila Valley, having been away for several years now,” Stevens said. “I don’t visit as often as I’d like to, so I think the memories and nostalgia just came out as I was writing.”

Though the setting of the “Kitsune” series is familiar to any Graham County resident, Stevens said that the characters and events in her books are works of fiction, with one exception. Her latest novel, entitled “Robin’s Nest,” and not an installment of the “Kitsune” series, is due for publication later this year, and like her other novels, is set in a location with which she was familiar — Duncan. The main character in that novel, Stevens said, inadvertently came out much like Stevens’ real-life best friend, who she said has been a major influence on her life and career.

“Robin’s Nest,” according to Stevens, was actually the first novel-length story she wrote but held back because she felt it needed polishing before being revealed to the public. Stevens has also written a short story, called “Escape,” which is available on her Web site, along with her other novels, of which she said she plans to write more.

“Nickie’s story isn’t quite finished with the end of ‘Hunt,’ but I took a short break to finish the novel I started before I’d even imagined the ‘Kitsune,’” Stevens said.

“Change” is available for free download at several Web sites where books can be purchased, including Amazon.com and smashwords.com. Though she currently has no plans of appearing for book signings locally, Stevens said she hopes to have a booth at the Graham County Fair this October, where fans can ask questions, purchase books and have them signed.

She hopes to get other authors to make the booth a sort of literary gathering. Novelist Mary Hanley, author of “Romance and Murder on the Sea Patel,” has tentatively agreed to participate. 

More information about Melissa Stevens and her work is available at http://melissastevens.us/books/kitsune/.

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