If you pick up any book by USA TODAY bestselling author Lauren K. Denton and read a chapter, you’ll quickly see her love and appreciation for the beauty of Alabama. All of her novels are set in Alabama, with many featuring her hometown of Mobile.

Growing up, Denton often found herself at Page & Palette, a quaint bookstore she liked to visit in Fairhope. Her interests first started on the “palette” side of the store, where she would sit and draw as a young girl. But soon, her love of drawing turned into a love of reading—and eventually, writing.  

(Lauren K. Denton, Author/Facebook)

Much of Denton’s inspiration is drawn from her Southern upbringing and the places and people that surrounded her. “Most of the time I start with a setting,” Denton explains. “I wish more people knew just how beautiful Alabama is. I want people to feel like they’re here.” This is why Denton’s books are full of rich, vivid details of Alabama scenery, from the beaches in the south to the mountains up north. One reviewer even mentioned how they could practically smell the magnolia blooms while reading Denton’s description. 

Her books are full of authenticity when it comes to relationships and experiences. Like most authors, she’s been asked if any of her characters are inspired by real people in her own life, to which her answer is “No, not really.” She goes on to explain, “There are so many authentic family dynamics and friendships and marriages I want to explore through the characters.” 

While Denton studied psychology in school, she quickly found herself back in the writing world. She began in the PR and marketing field, and then finally made the move into fiction. When it comes to the writing community in Alabama, Denton says, thankfully, it is a strong one. “It’s a very friendly community,” she states as she reminisces about reaching out to other writers at the beginning of her career. Several successful books later, that community has continued to be helpful in more ways than one. Denton explains, “Writing can be an isolating career. It’s good to know we aren’t alone.” This community would especially be beneficial when our world was faced with a bigger technological issue: artificial intelligence. 

Last year, Denton found herself in the midst of something out of a science fiction novel. She, along with many other authors, was on a list of authors whose books were used without permission to train Artificial Intelligence systems. In 2023, The Atlantic published an article titled “These 183,000 Books Are Fueling The Biggest Fight In Publishing And Tech” revealing the new challenge that writers would have to face.

(Lauren K. Denton, Author/Facebook)

Two of Denton’s books, The Hideaway and Hurricane Season, were both used to help train AI systems how to write. One day with a few friends, she tested it out herself, asking a popular AI platform to write a 500-word story in the style of Lauren K. Denton. “It was so eerie,” Denton recalls. “I was sitting there, watching the computer generate a passage that sounded so similar to something I might very well write. It gave me chills.” 

And while it may have scared her in the moment, it doesn’t concern her long term. “I’m not worried about it. Part of the fear surrounding AI is simply its newness. It is still just in the unknown right now, but people will figure it out and find a way to keep it in check in time.” We discussed how the invention of the e-reader didn’t replace tangible books, and how the camera didn’t replace the art of painting. “The people with stories to tell will still find a way and be able to tell their stories. And the people meant to read their stories will still find them,” Denton concluded.

One place people can find stories like Denton’s with authentic Southern flair is at several annual author events hosted across the state. The Hoover Public Library will be hosting the 31st annual Southern Voices event, a celebration of writing, music, and art. Another popular event is the Monroeville Literary Festival, where readers and writers can join together in the literary capital of Alabama on March 1st and 2nd. 

You can find more of Denton’s writing by visiting her website, subscribing to her newsletter, or checking out her monthly column in The Homewood Star.