Shannon Davies: on the Creative Side
The business litigator turns on the inspiration both in front of juries and on the pages of her novels
Published in 2017 Oklahoma Super Lawyers magazine
on October 10, 2017
Updated on October 12, 2017
Shannon Davies has a habit of just getting it.
After a sorority sister suggested to Davies—who wasn’t sure what she was going to do after college—that she sit for the LSAT, Davies’ first response was, “What’s that?” Her second response was to pass it without much prep.
Years later, after just nine hours of a master’s level novel-writing class, Davies published her first novel, Hunting License, the first in a three-part series.
In between, she got that J.D.
“I was not going to law school,” Davies says. “But I applied to OCU anyway, even though I wasn’t going to go. Then on the first day, I thought, ‘OK, I’ll just go see what it’s about.’ People were crying, people were scared, people were freaking out—[but] I was like, ‘I love this.’”
She settled happily into a career as a business litigator. Then came a momentous birthday. “I remember turning 40, and that was a miserable day; but the next day, I wasn’t 40 anymore,” she says. “And I just started thinking, ‘It’s time for me to be my creative self.’”
That self had been nurtured during her days in theater at the University of Oklahoma. A knee injury derailed her dreams of following her theater friends to New York. But Davies had another creative outlet.
“Ever since I can remember,” she says, “I’ve had characters talking to me in my head. I wrote a lot when I was younger—mainly short stories.”
For a long time, she’d had an idea for a novel brewing. After her big birthday, she spent a few years painting, then got to work on her book. Her protagonist, Simms Mitchell, is a former religious cult profiler for the FBI who takes a gig with a blue-blood law firm, helping abused women get justice.
“While I was writing, I was wondering, ‘What if I don’t even know what I’m doing?’” Davies says. That prompted her to enroll in the novel class. “I wanted to know if I should just stop. But it was enjoyable on every level. I was the oldest student; watching these young people think about their creative selves was incredible.”
Hunting License, to be followed by Liquor License and Marriage License, was self-published in 2012. “I would have tried to find an agent and done all that stuff if I thought I needed to, but then I couldn’t do all that creative work myself,” Davies says. “Solving questions like, ‘How do I get it published, designed, the PR stuff? … I really loved that process.”
Davies says she wanted Hunting License to be a quintessential beach read. “I wanted a kick-ass woman who never gives up, never gives in. When I was crafting the story, I thought about how dangerous it is to be a lawyer. All of that stuff percolated together with the idea of cults. Then it was just fun putting it together: ‘How is she going to get through this, catch the bad guy?’ … I really liked creating the character David, the cult leader. It was meant to be something you can breeze through quickly and enjoy the pace.
“I think in my work you’ll see how strongly I’m connected to a woman’s journey,” she says. “I like to tell the story of a woman finding who she actually is.”
The novel-writing led to screenwriting. She’s got a few projects in various stages of development: a true-crime cold case feature, a comedy pilot, and an action-adventure feature film.
“I go out to LA several times a year and meet all sorts of interesting executives,” she says. “Never once have I met that stereotypical ‘mean, judgy LA type.’ There is just this buzz, and everyone is so excited to meet you and hear your story.”
Davies, who also has a work of literary fiction in progress, considers herself a full-time litigator and a full-time writer. “I’m lucky that I love both jobs so much,” says Davies. “To be your best as a lawyer, you need to be creative, think outside the box and tell a story that your jury believes. It has to be a true story, of course, but you have to sell it. Creativity fits the law naturally. Trial work is performance art.”