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A Pretty Smart Girl: Corporate Lawyer Quits Job to Write Romantic Fiction

Leigh Kraushaar had flipped her lid. On a hot July afternoon, in what she calls her “Scarlette O’Hara moment,” Kraushaar shoved open the doors of her husband’s office, skirts in hand, one fist in the air and shouted, “With God as my witness I want to do something that makes me happy and I’m going to change this!”

Photo by Lissa Hahn

It was not the first time Kraushaar, a 46-year-old corporate attorney, had talked about quitting her job, but it was the first time she meant it. By the time she burst into her husband’s office, she had already spent 20 years buried beneath contracts and legal briefs and now she was ready to pursue her dream of becoming an author, even though she wasn’t sure it would work.

“I never thought I could make a career out of that,” Kraushaar said.

Despite the uncertainty, Kraushaar adopted the pen name Shae Ross and started work on her first romance novel.

“She really had decided it was time to burn the boats on the beach,” said her husband Mark Kraushaar. “She wanted to do something that was meaningful to her, that connected with her emotionally, and that was not title insurance.”

After a string of wins in several Midwest writing competitions Kraushaar was signed by Entangled Publishing. Her debut novel, “Pretty Smart Girls—Lace Up,” launched in January 2015. Inspired by her own experience in the corporate world, the book tells the tale of a romance between Ryan Rose and Jett Trebuchet, two participants in an Apprentice-style competition between two teams from arch-rival universities. Ryan and Jett struggle to keep their teams in the game but attraction starts to get in the way.

“She has a wonderful voice that really speaks to that age of firsts,” said Kraushaar’s editor Candace Havens. “First loves, first jobs, going to college…as her editor, I can’t wait to dive in when she turns a book in.”

Havens said “Pretty Smart Girls—Lace Up” is primarily read on digital platforms and is also printed on demand (POD) through Amazon’s publishing platform CreateSpace.

“It’s expensive to print books; by doing POD we are able to pass those savings on to the author,” Havens said.

“It also affects pricing, so without the overhead of printing books and keeping them in a warehouse, we can pass that savings on to the author and reader. The majority of our audience reads on a digital platform so it’s win-win for everyone.”

Before she quit her job, Kraushaar rarely shared her work with anyone.

“There wasn’t really anywhere to share it,” Kraushaar said. “I mean I’m in the corporate world, It’s not like I can hand someone a brief and say, ‘oh by the way can you take a look at chapter 14?’”

While Kraushaar’s transition from corporate attorney to author has seemed seamless, she said she is still adjusted to the demanding deadlines. Kraushaar said as an attorney she could still conduct a meeting after reading only 70 percent of the material, but with writing, the rules are different. “There’s no faking a writing deadline. Either you got it done or you didn’t,” she said.

Kraushaar said it is not at all unusual for her to be at her computer writing eight to 10 hours a day, sometimes more.

“The first manuscript of ‘Pretty Smart Girls—Lace Up’ took her about a year and a half to produce,” Havens said. “The second book, ‘Pretty Smart Girls—Fearless,’ she accomplished the same thing in two months.”

Kraushaar’s second book is scheduled for release this summer.

Kraushaar said romance appeals to readers because, unlike other genres, it is required to be uplifting.

“Nothing dark ever happens, or at least if it does happen in romance, it’s redeemed by the end of the book,” she said.

“Romance novels generally don’t leave you feeling like crap.”

While the career move was not easy or without stress, Kraushaar knows it was the right move.

In a blog post titled, “Fishnets, Plaid Skirts and f-bombs,” Kraushaar recalled a moment she spent in the audience at a romance writer’s convention in New York City.

“Most of the conferences I had attended in my career were hosted by attorneys and white-collared business types who were either arguing about something or expounding on hundred-page documents that no one bothered to read ahead of time,” she wrote.

“As I glanced at the diverse group around me, I realized that, unlike the audiences of my traditional career, this group was awake and enthusiastic…I had found my people.”

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