Lawyers turn to fiction to unbutton their creative sides

Two published fiction writers in Halifax, Nicole Slaunwhite and Pamela Callow, find that there is a high number of lawyers who have turned to fiction or have expressed their interest in it as a career and hobby.

Love of language ties careers in law to literary pursuits, local authors say

Nicole Slaunwhite writes under the pen name Nicola R. White. (Robert Short/CBC)

When Nicole Slaunwhite started writing romance novels, she was embarrassed to tell other lawyers. 

The Halifax woman was afraid they'd see it as "too frivolous" or unprofessional, but it turned out that many were excited about her turn to fiction.

"I think people would find that the profession is more supportive than they expect," Slaunwhite said.

She's one of many lawyers who have turned to fiction writing as a hobby or alternative career.

Slaunwhite, who writes under the pen name Nicola R. White, believes a lot of her colleagues are creative people "underneath their rational self," and turn to writing as a creative outlet.

"They tend to be type-A personalities who like to have a project finished," said Slaunwhite, who owns Blue Sky Law in Halifax. "Lawyers typically have very full schedules. The work can be very stressful and so finding something that is completely different than your work life can be a very nice change." 

Original Sin

Slaunwhite has been writing since 2015 and is on a one-year sabbatical to focus on her fiction. She's the author of the self-published series New England Furies and Original Sin.

She's surprised by the number of romance authors who used to be lawyers. She knows of six and adds that two of her favourites are the Canadian romance authors Susan Lyons and Shelley Bates.

Nicole Slaunwhite, romance author and lawyer, finds a quiet spot in her local library. (Robert Short/CBC)

She's also a fan of lawyers who turn to crime writing, such as Canadians Catherine McKenzie and William Deverell.

Halifax's Pamela Callow worked as a lawyer in the 1990s before becoming a best-selling thriller writer. Like Slaunwhite, she has an undergraduate degree in English literature, which allowed her to feed her passion for writing before going to law school.

Using law in fiction

"I think the pragmatic writer ends up going to law school because there are many lawyers who are either writers as hobbyists or as professional authors, or they have expressed to me that they have goals to do that down the road," said Callow.

"Lawyers do have a certain appreciation for language and they have to use it."

Callow said her legal studies have influenced her writing and sharpened her research skills.

Pamlea Callow practised law in the 1990s before turning to writing full time. (Robert Short/CBC)

She's the author of the Kate Lange series, in which the main protagonist is a lawyer.

Her first book, Damaged, was inspired by a U.S criminal case and her second book, Indefensible, tries to answer a question she had at law school.

"What would you do if you were accused of a crime and you were innocent ? How do you handle that?" Callow said.

Pamela Callow has developed a successful writing career, telling stories about people she'd normally only see in a law court. (Robert Short/CBC)

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Clarifications

  • An earlier headline in this story used the word romantic. It has since been changed to creative to reflect that one of the authors in the story is a thriller writer.
    Jul 12, 2018 10:03 AM AT

About the Author

Aya Al-Hakim

Reporter

Aya Al-Hakim is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. She can be reached at aya.al-hakim@cbc.ca.