Meet Veronica Hassenger. Veronica Hassenger fell in love for the first time at the age of ten. The object of her affection? Mysteries. Specifically, the first mystery she ever read, Agatha Christie’s Murder in Mesopotamia.
Her interest in creative storytelling increased with every novel she read—and was matched by a passion for music and zeal for the study of health and science. What’s a person to do? Well, why not do it all? And, Veronica did!
She remembers what sparked her enthusiasm for mysteries at a young age. “I’d been complaining to my mom that I was bored. She looked at me and said, ‘Try reading a book.’ That wasn’t the answer I wanted, but I grabbed one of the hardbacks from her bookcase. The cover intrigued me, so I looked inside,” she explained. To Veronica’s surprise, she enjoyed the book immensely—along with what she realized about herself. “I will never forget my utter joy at the realization I knew who the killer was. I figured it out…and I was hooked.”
“As soon as I finished Murder in Mesopotamia I searched mom’s books and found Nemesis, which I also loved. She didn’t have any more Agatha Christie novels, but, she went to the library every week, so I asked if I could go with her.” The library excursions quickly became a mother-daughter ritual.
“I branched out from the amazing Agatha Christie stories and read a variety of authors and genres. I enjoyed all kinds of books, from mysteries to thrillers to romance and more. I particularly liked clever mysteries that were fun to read and had great plots.” When a book wasn’t as enjoyable as she’d hoped, Veronica contemplated how it should have been written and wondered what it would be like to write. “Once in a while, I thought I could’ve written a book better…and wouldn’t it be fun to try?”
Her junior year in high school proved pivotal for Veronica. “It was Christmastime, and our class took a trip to a nursing home. One of my instructors gave us the assignment to write about it. When he handed the graded papers back he said ‘You did a great job on this. It was phenomenal’.
Being a typical teenager, I asked if I’d gotten an ‘A’. He assured me I did. That was the end of it…or so I thought. But, just before the school year finished, he took me aside and told me that he’d submitted my essay to compete in a statewide creative writing contest for Arizona high school students and that I won.”
The teacher told Veronica to go look at the official high school trophy case. Stunned at the news, she followed his instructions. “A huge trophy stood in the case with my name on it. I’d earned a trophy for my school, received a ribbon for myself, and realized for the first time that I might be able to write. I couldn’t believe it!”
Veronica’s love of music also surfaced at an early age. “In fourth grade, a group of musicians came to our school. They played beautifully, demonstrating their individual instruments. I was mesmerized by a woman who played the viola. She was so pretty, and I loved the music from the viola. I knew I had to play the instrument. I began that year and continued through high school. I was lucky enough to be chosen for the Phoenix Metropolitan Youth Symphony in addition to playing in my high school orchestra.” She received the Conductor’s Award for her high school in her senior year.
While studying for her Bachelor of Physical Therapy at the University of Tennessee—Chattanooga, she was selected to play in the Arkansas State University orchestra. Veronica still plays the viola and the piano.
Her career as a physical therapist began at a rehabilitation facility specializing in adults with neurological injuries, spinal cord injuries, and stokes. When the facility started treating children who’d been injured in car accidents, badly burned or the victims of child abuse, Veronica found more and more small patients assigned to her care. Then, her supervisors sent her to specialized training for treating children with severe injuries and trauma.
In 2005, she opened Williams-Shaw Therapy and specialized in rehabilitation services for special needs children. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2017. This past year, due to personal medical reasons, she left the physical therapy practice but plans to return once it’s possible.
In the meantime, Veronica firmly believes that when one door closes another one opens. “I wanted to return to things I love—like writing and reading. I watch tons of mysteries and love a who-dun-it,” she said. “I’m excited to be writing. I keep a ‘Brilliant Idea’ notebook and write down all my story ideas. I think that list may be longer than my stories.”
She’s currently writing her first novel, a cozy based in New England with an unusual amateur detective and a rare motive. The New Jersey native, who became an Arizonan at the age of five, is also crafting a trilogy that blends three popular genres—sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery—in a saga of five diverse kingdoms forced to work together if any of them are to survive.
Although those manuscripts are the first she wrote with the goal of being published, they aren’t her earliest foray into fiction. She laughed as she explained, “My Grammy always wanted to be a writer. She shared that passion with my mom (chapter member Linda Shaw), my aunt, and me. So, the four of us decided to write a book together. My Grammy knew exactly what she wanted to write—romance. Specifically, she wanted to write what she called a ‘lusty novel’. So, mom, my aunt and I signed on. Grammy wrote the first chapter. I read it and realized Grammy had hopped right into the lusty part on the first page. The rest of us chuckled, added plot and a few scenes then gave it to Grammy. She wrote more, edited our portion, and returned it. I perused the story and told her we couldn’t have a sex scene on every page. She looked me in the eye and said “Why not? That’s the best part”. The four of us finished the story, to Grammy’s delight. It’s one of my favorite memories of my Grammy.”
Veronica likes to stay active. A certified scuba diver, she also serves on the Sisters in Crime Grand Canyon Writers 2021 Task Force and the Election Results Committee. She will chair the Membership Committee in 2022.
In addition to her “endearing husband and two wonderful sons,” Veronica’s family includes Cupid, a nine-year-old Bassett Hound, and a six-year-old Bassett-Lab rescue named Lily.
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