A Tulsa attorney writes romance novels by night.
Although attorney Lauren Smith’s first romance novel was published in 2014, she has written fiction since elementary school. She says both her jobs require extensive research and prep.
If Lauren Smith mixed up her day-job writing with the penning she does for her passion, a surprised legal specialist might read, “Icy dread gripped Emily’s spine, paralyzing her limbs. She drew a breath as anxiety spiraled through her.”
That excerpt is from “Wicked Designs,” Smith’s first romance novel, published in 2014. Since then, the author has had nothing but success and is now working with three publishers on five series — but only when she’s not practicing bankruptcy and foreclosure law.
Smith has been writing since third grade, when she was chosen to represent her class at a writing conference — an honor she repeated the following year.
Even then, she read well ahead of her grade level. Nancy Drew mysteries. Sherlock Holmes and his “Hound of the Baskervilles,” although it gave her nightmares.
Unlike other girls her age, she didn’t keep a journal.
“My own life wasn’t that interesting,” she says. Instead, she’d grab a spiral notebook and a pencil to create stories.
“I’m still a hand writer,” she says. “It allows me to self-edit in advance.”
Smith likens it to an artist’s hand movements, although she doesn’t scribble on the page.
“I’m not a doodler,” she explains. “That’s the lawyer in me.”
Since fourth grade, she has wanted to be a lawyer like her father, because she enjoys the research and the prep.
“It’s not really about winning,” she says. “It’s more about persuasion and negotiating … trying to get someone to work with you.”
In college, Smith wrote a 105,000-word “high fantasy” novel — a genre similar to “Game of Thrones.” She followed that with a ghost love story for young adults.
But her new project has a different set of challenges.
“Historical romance has to be accurate,” she says, citing the extensive research required. As a history and political science major, Smith’s fascination with centuries-ago France and England proved to be helpful.
While studying at Magdalene College in Cambridge, England, she fell in love with the Regency era (from 1811-1820).
“It felt like magic on the grounds,” she says.
It was her curiosity about what kind of trouble the young men of those times might have gotten into that led to her “League of Rogues” series.
“They’re not bad boys, but they have some bad-boy qualities,” she says of the characters.
Smith is a disciplined writer and lawyer. Although her legal work requires 50-60 hours a week, she still writes 1,200 words a day on novels in progress. Before she starts a project, she blocks out the opening scene, one major incident and the climax. She creates everything in between as she goes.
Smith’s misconceptions about romance novels kept her from reading them until law school.
“They’re about love, not sex,” she now says, “and about overcoming obstacles.”
She says characters in romance novels always encounter emotional and physical challenges. Those recurring themes might explain why a 2014 study by two University of Toronto researchers found that romance readers are more empathetic than nonreaders and readers of other genres — able to identify with people not like them, to accept others’ flaws and to work together to accomplish goals.
Clearly, Smith’s book has struck a chord with many.
She says, “I recently learned that a woman in New Zealand has convinced her husband to name their baby after one of my heroes if it turns out to be a boy.”