Summer Augustine woke up one morning in 2014 and said to herself, “I want to write a book.” By this time, she had almost 15 years of legal experience and had transitioned from criminal courtroom law to civil litigation. However, writing motions and briefs was suddenly no longer enough. “[The idea to write a book] haunted me while driving to work,” says Augustine via phone from her Pacific Palisades home. “Not just a passing thought in my mind, but far more pressing and urgent. It consumed me.”

Augustine wasted no time. After greeting her administrative assistant, she remembers, “I asked her, ‘What kind of book should I write?’ [My assistant] said, ‘You used to be a DA; you should write crime!’ And I said to her, ‘Do you know how many years it took me to forget about crime?’ ” When the assistant suggested romance, Augustine knew she’d found her genre. 

That evening, when she returned from work, Augustine began penning a love story that incorporated crime. “I went home at 6 p.m. and sat down to write, and I kept writing until 4 in the morning,” she said. “On weekends, I’d get up at 4…and write until midnight.” An avid reader of John Grisham’s courtroom dramas and Danielle Steele’s sweeping romances, Augustine was easily able to transition to writing. “You know the way that you love to read a good book, and real life interrupts you, and you just want to get back to the book?” she asks. “I had the same feeling for what I was writing. I had to know what happened next.”

2This all-consuming project became A Brush With Love, A Brush With the Law, Augustine’s first novel. Even after completing the book, she only saw writing as “a hobby” and a means of connection. “I didn’t want to be an author,” she says. “I published [the book] for the purpose of letting friends who lived in [other] states read it.” However, she began to reconsider when a stranger approached her at a party. “My friend had given [this woman A Brush With Love] to read,” Augustine recalls. “It came up that I was the author, and she became so excited and said, ‘You wrote this? I’m so star-struck!’ ” The encounter drastically altered Augustine’s perspective on her own writing. “It’s not just my friends complimenting me anymore; it’s a complete stranger who loved this book so much,” she says. “I thought, ‘I have to rework everything. There’s got to be a plan for this.’ ” 

Part of that plan was a spinoff of A Brush With Love that picked up where happily-ever-after left off. “There’s a villain who’s arrested at the end of the book,” Augustine explains. “I thought if there’s an arrest, there has to be a trial. I started to envision the trial while driving to work and was compelled to write…about it.” The result, White Jr.’s Trial, follows these legal proceedings supervised by Jack Wayne, who is also featured as a main character in the next spinoff, The Suspect. “I could envision a fun and great story revolving around him, so that naturally developed,” she says.

In White Jr.’s Trial, senior prosecutor Jack smells a rat when the case, involving a young man of privilege and the attempted murder of a former sex worker, is assigned to an inexperienced underling. Suspecting his boss is in cahoots with the defendant’s wealthy father, Jack is determined to locate Sarah Cartwright, the deputy district attorney (and heroine of A Brush With Love), who got Richard White Jr. arrested before disappearing. Courtroom intrigue abounds throughout:

All eyes fixated on White Jr.…The twinkling eyes of eager journalists, salivating at White Jr.’s potential demise, were worse than the prosecuting attorney’s determined face. As soon as White Jr., reached counsel table, his team of defense lawyers encircled him; and he felt much safer. He knew his father was going to get him out of this.…But Katelyn Kruz had other plans for White Jr. She planned to make a name for herself convincing the judge, against all odds, and against a legendary defense team, to deny bail and order that White Jr. be held in jail, pending trial.

1Kirkus Reviews calls White Jr.’s Trial “[a]n engaging courtroom tale…some high-action danger adds unexpected excitement.” Though this review was posted in April, none of Augustine's books are currently available, and there’s a reason for that: “I unpublished [A Brush With Love] in 2014 after less than a year,” she says. “I know that I can write, but I’m not an expert in the business [of writing], mainly marketing. I think there’s a benefit to working with people who do it as their living.” She’s now pursuing traditional publishing by querying literary agents. “The quarantine has let me do that,” Augustine says. “I’m at the point in my life where I can give it a lot more attention.”

In the meantime, Augustine has completed The Suspect, which is about Jack Wayne’s post-trial life on the run, and she’s working on a fourth novel featuring a secret passage Wayne discovers that ends in the home of a reclusive art collector in the south of France. Augustine is in no hurry to abandon the characters she first created in 2014. “It’s fun to [include] a little tidbit that occurs in my first book, that readers come across in one sentence in my fourth book! Little dots of connections make the readers happy.”

After completing this series, Augustine plans to keep writing both crime and romance, “sometimes mixing [the genres] and sometimes keeping them independent,” she says. “I know that…readers gravitate toward one genre, [but] there’s definitely an audience who will like an interweaving of the two.” No matter the genre, Augustine prides herself on writing for women. “I put the feminine touch on a John Grisham novel.”

In the meantime, Augustine hasn’t stopped litigating, writing, and getting inspired. For the latter, she has a specific place: “my blue velvet armchair that sits right in front of my window that faces the ocean,” she says. “I sit there, and the ideas just float to me.”

Lauren Emily Whalen lives in Chicago and is the author of two young adult novels.