She has given the world “Vampire Diaries,” “The Secret Circle,” and indirectly, the “Originals.” Her name is Lisa Jane Smith or more commonly as just L.J. Smith.
Who is the woman behind the books that inspired these TV shows? Was she instantly famous or was it a journey fraught with failure and frustration? Let’s explore these questions and more.
(1) From Failure to Famous
L.J. Smith did not begin her life as a writer. She was born in Florida, then raised in California, and then attended college in England. She got degrees in English, education, and psychology. It took a teacher criticizing a poem of Smith’s for her to realize she wanted to be a writer.
(2) “Vampire Diaries” Was Not Her First Series!
Smith’s very first published book was “Night of the Solstice” in 1987. It was followed by the sequel “Heart of Valor” in 1990. These were called the Wildworld Series and featured magic, danger, and the young adults caught up in them.
(3) Surviving Changes to Her Stories
L.J. Smith spent time as a teacher before she became a writer. That likely taught her patience, which she’d need when her books, the “Vampire Diaries,” hit the big screen. Julie Plec, the woman who helped make Smith’s novels into a TV show, made a lot of changes. For instance, the character Elena Gilbert was given a brother instead of a sister. Rather than having Elena Gilbert interact with two best friends, the TV series only gave her one. And finally, Elena was made a brunette instead of a blonde! The craziest change Plec considered, however, had to be changing the Salvatore’s to the Whitmore’s!
(4) Writing Books that Diverged From the Series
While the TV series used Smith’s books for inspiration, the TV series veered away from the novels pretty quickly. L.J. Smith grew more and more supernatural with the tone of her books. She began including angels, foxes, and even hell dimensions! While her readers didn’t mind the change, Julie Plec didn’t want the show doing the same. The TV series was called “Vampire Diaries,” so apparently it should stay true to the bloodsuckers.
(5) Protagonists Don’t Have to Be Pretty
It’s Smith’s opinion that the world is giving young women the wrong message. TV shows, movies, books, news channels, fields of work, they all teach women terrible lessons. In Smith’s view, this includes girls being told they must be pretty to succeed, they must wear makeup, heels, tight clothing, to be accepted by the world. Smith wants to fight back against these messages by writing about female protagonists who control their own destinies.
(6) Will L.J. Smith Ever Cover Zombies?
Smith has written about witches, sorceresses, magic foxes, angels, vampires, and werewolves. With all of those magical creatures out of the way, will we ever see the walking dead stumbling through Mystic Falls? It isn’t likely. When asked in an interview about zombies, Smith admitted she didn’t feel anything towards them. She knew they were the popular topic with urban fantasy audiences, but zombies still weren’t ever going to be her cup of tea!
(7) Wait! Which Was First, Edward Cullen or Stefan Salvatore?
This is actually a question asked by a lot of fans and for a time, it was a question often asked of L.J. Smith. When she first released her “Vampire Diaries” books, they weren’t very popular. This changed when the “Twilight” books hit the shelves. Suddenly, vampires were all the craze again! This accomplished both good and bad things. While Smith’s books were leaping into the hands of young people everywhere, there were also a lot of fans accusing her of stealing her ideas from “Twilight!” She patiently suggested these outraged people check the copywrite dates. Why? Because “Vampire Diaries” had come first!
(8) She Acts Out Her Books!
All writers have their own tricks to writing. One of Smith’s was often acting scenes out herself! In an interview with MTV, Smith said, “It’s embarrassing for an adult to admit this, but if there’s nobody around, then sometimes I put some music on, and I kind of walk around the house, and I sort of act out the parts that I’m doing because I’m so into it. I’m each of the characters in turn, slapping my hand, for Elena slapping Damon. Part of me never grew up.”
(9) Not All the “Vampire Diaries” Books Are By Smith!
Did you know that authors can be fired from writing their own books? This is what happened to L.J. Smith in 2011. While she is the creator of the “Vampire Diaries,” the rights to it actually belong to Alloy Entertainment. When Smith had a disagreement with Alloy Entertainment about the direction of the Salvatore world, Smith was fired from the job. The rest of the “Vampire Diaries” books were written by a ghostwriter. L.J. Smith took the high road in asking her fans not to boycott the TV series or the ghostwritten books. Needing to still get the story out in her own words, Smith went to Kindle Worlds and continued sharing her version of the Salvatore universe.
(10) Smith’s advice to other writers out there? In an interview on the Literary Connoisseur Blog, L.J. Smith was asked what advice she’d give to aspiring writers. She responded with “Write every day, even if it’s just a diary entry or a letter. And never give up. The publishing world can be harsh. But if you’re writing from your heart–if you truly believe in your book, and if it says what is in your heart, you’ll succeed.”