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Mt. Lebanon author keeps it flowing in 'Pretty Little Liars' series

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
The special Halloween episode of 'Pretty Little Liars,' titled 'Grave New World,' stars Troian Bellisario, Ashley Benson and Shay Mitchell. It airs Oct. 22.
Daniel Snyder
Sara Shepard

The characters of “Pretty Little Liars” surround us and live within us, says the Pittsburgh-area author of the bestselling book series that became a hit television show.

Sara Shepard, who moved to Mt. Lebanon about two years ago after living in many places, says the book series' characters — including the competitive Spencer Hastings, the pretty but insecure Hanna Marin and the lesbian swimmer Emily Fields — have complexities despite their stereotypical high-school roles. And we all can relate to at least one of them somehow, even with their less-flattering traits, like — well, lying.

The characters are likable despite their flaws, says Shepard, who is giving a presentation Oct. 19 at South Park Township Library.

“I think we've all been in situations where we have kind of evaded the truth. ... We're good people, but there's lot at stake,” she says. “I think a lot of people can relate to that. They're lying for good reasons, pushed into lying or they're scared. It's a fun theme. Secrets and lying ... everybody can relate to that.”

“Pretty Little Liars” is “about high school, but it's also a mystery, and kind of about bullying,” says Shepard, who grew up in Downingtown, Chester County, near Philadelphia, and got the inspiration for the “Pretty Little Liars” story from being a suburban teen. She graduated from high school in 1995.

“They are definitely high-school themes,” she says, “but I think anyone can relate to the stuff girls go through.”

At Shepard's presentation, she will talk to fans and autograph books. The event includes prizes and giveaways.

“It's very exciting. I have some friends who are big fans of that library,” Shepard says.

Her parents, Mindy and Bob Shepard, are Armstrong County natives and graduates of Kittanning High School. They now live in Canonsburg.

The first “Pretty Little Liars” book came out in 2006 and stayed on The New York Times bestseller list for several years. The series tells the story of high-school girls navigating a world of gossip, suspense and deceit when their leader, Ali, goes missing. The 14th book in the “Pretty Little Liars” series, “Deadly,” comes out Dec. 4. The series will end with the 16th book, when all of the girls graduate from high school.

“It just seems like it needs an ending,” Shepard says. “I didn't want to take them to college. I wanted to keep them all together in the same place.”

ABC Family created a television series based on Shepard's books, and the network has picked up “Pretty Little Liars” for a fifth season. Meanwhile, a spinoff, “Ravenswood,” is scheduled to premiere on ABC Family on Oct. 22, following the “Pretty Little Liars” Halloween episode.

Shepard says she was surprised but thrilled when her books transformed into the small screen.

“I didn't see it coming,” she says. “It was kind of nice when it happened. ... I am comfortable with just being a writer. ... It was just ... a wonderful thing to fall in my lap.”

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7824.

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