Local Spotlight: Author Jill Sheeley keeps the Fraser books coming
Brush Creek Village resident writes of dogs who save the day
Jill Sheeley may have been onto something meteorological when she wrote the latest installment of her “Adventures of Fraser the Yellow Dog” children’s book series.
“Fraser Rescues Christmas,” which was released earlier this season with illustrations by Tanya Richards, cites an impending blizzard as the call for a helping hand from that plucky canine Fraser and his human companion Courtney to ensure Santa can make the usual gift-giving rounds.
Sheeley, who lives in Brush Creek Village just on the outside edge of Snowmass Village proper, wrote the book well before the forecast came out for Christmas weekend. But after a storm rolled in Friday that dropped feet of snow over the weekend and canceled or diverted most of the flights into and out of town, some young readers may have been hoping for a bit of Fraser magic to keep the festivities rolling according to plan.
“Looks like Fraser’s Christmas adventure (with) the huge blizzard came to life this year!” Sheeley sent in a text message Dec. 24.
Writing may have preceded experience in this case, but it’s usually the other way around for Sheeley, whose fictional Fraser was based on the very real longtime family dog of the same name (the real-life Fraser died in 2008). Courtney is a character inspired by Sheeley’s daughter; Kip, an Australian shepherd whose kid-lit adventures came after Fraser’s, is based on Courtney’s own pup. Sheeley also wrote a memoir, “Those Were the Days: Memories of an Aspen Hippie Chick,” about her early years in Aspen, and a young adult novel, “The Blue Bottle,” that follows Courtney on a Caribbean trip.
“Most of the books are truly written from our personal experiences or something that’s happened to a neighbor,” Sheeley said in a phone interview Dec. 23.
That includes “Rescue on Snowmass Mountain,” the first-ever iteration of the “Adventures of Fraser the Yellow Dog,” which takes into account the Sheeley family’s connections to Snowmass. Sheeley did stints at Sam’s restaurant as well as Gwyn’s High Alpine; her late husband Don Sheeley was a patroller there and her daughter — then just 9 or 10 years old — was itching to ski Hanging Valley Wall at the time.
“That made total sense for the first book to be in Snowmass,” Sheeley said. Other installments followed Fraser and Courtney to the Maroon Bells and to Star Mountain; Kip’s adventures hit up plenty of other familiar sites around Aspen and Snowmass.
What maybe makes a little less sense is that Sheeley often ties her books to this area and to specific times of year — her first book, “Christmas in Aspen,” was also a seasonal one — but she wouldn’t necessarily tell someone else to take the same approach. Can a book that takes place at Christmas work even when the holiday is over?
“Of course, I asked myself that back in the day when I used to do a lot of consulting for people who wanted to, you know, publish their own books … and I would have never told a client to write a seasonal, regional book — never,” Sheeley said. “And here’s what I’ve done, but you know, it’s kind of one of those things when you get an idea, you kind of just go for it.”
The idea this time around came after a book reading she did at the Hotel Jerome during the Christmas season in 2019. (She returned to the hotel along with a smattering of other locations around town to read the latest book this December.)
But the book is one that Sheeley thinks will have some momentum even now that the countdown to Christmas is back to a year away.
“I just kind of feel like people who have had the first group of books, they’re always looking for the next story,” Sheeley said.
After this December storm cycle, they might start looking to Sheeley for the next forecast, too.
Want to shine a spotlight on a Snowmass Village local? Email Kaya Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first opioid overdose reversal medication known as Narcan was recently approved for over-the-counter purchase, and many pharmacies within Pitkin County received their first shipments this week.