Rancho Palos Verdes’ Shawn McHatton took a road trip to his native New England a few years back and stayed in one of his favorite spots, a small town called Waterville Valley.

“My girlfriend and I were walking along the river and there were these strange rock formations somebody had put in place,” recalled McHatton. “We were a little bit out of town so it was a little bit freaky. It was kind of like a horror movie type scenario. We took some pictures and didn’t think much of it.”

Soon after he developed the photos and was looking at one he took of the rocks along the riverside.

“I thought what would have happened if we kept walking further. Then a blast of creativity came in,” McHatton said.

Ten weeks later he had the first draft of his debut novel, “Dead Man’s Mask,” which was published in September.

The novel tells the story of three teens who discover a dead body on a riverbed on the outskirts of a small town. One of the teens, Devin Hebbson, finds something strange, a dried leathery object, on the body and he takes it unbeknownst to his friends. When they tell the local authorities about the body, Chief of Police Ted Hannon tries to figure out why there’s a dead body of an out-of-towner in their woods while not alarming the small town residents.

“They go on their separate adventures … there’s monsters and magic and a bit of a love story along the way,” McHatton said.

While McHatton has been “dabbling” in writing for years, “Dead Man’s Mask” is his first novel. He was inspired by highly successful television and film projects.

“When I got this spark of creativity the second season of 'Stranger Things' had just come out and the remake of ‘It’ had come out about the same time. So I had the idea of the story and at the same time I was seeing that stuff. I was like, 'Could I write about 14 year olds?' I’m a little bit past that age now to say the least.”

McHatton moved to California 11 years ago, living mostly in the South Bay since, including Torrance and Manhattan Beach. He currently owns a small staffing agency that operates online and by phone, serving clients in Los Angeles.

When he first came to Los Angeles, he was visiting a friend in the Valley when they ventured out to the beach cities.

“I definitely fell in love with the energy and the atmosphere,” McHatton said.

McHatton hopes to write a sequel to “Dead Man's Mask” at some point, but now he resurrecting a fantasy novel, a passion project, that has been sitting on the back burner for years. He also hopes to tackle a script as well.

“I'm hoping to create a fictional universe of my work,” he said.

“Dead Man's Mask” is available to order at Lulu.com and for Kindle as well.

More information can be found at facebook.com/smchattonauthor.

Contact this reporter at mhixon@tbrnews.com or on Twitter @michaeljhixon.com.

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