An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Marcia Clark,
By Diane Slocum
Marcia Clark knows about prosecuting crimes. She gained fame as the lead prosecutor on the O.J. Simpson case. Now, she turns her knowledge to the fictional world of Deputy District Attorney Rachel Knight, a no-nonsense investigator who lets nothing get in her way while she is trying to unravel the mystery of who killed her friend and fellow DA, Jake, while simultaneously trying to solve one of his challenging cases that is handed to her after his death. Rachel is determined to prove that Jakes death was not part of a murder-suicide in a seedy motel room with a teenage boy.
It's not a literal truth, but it does convey a figurative truth. |
AUTHORLINK: Rachel gets away with a lot of unapproved activities to pursue her investigations. How does that fit with your experiences in the DA's office?
CLARK: It's not a literal truth, but it does convey a figurative truth. In a general sense, a deputy D.A. may find ways to get evidence analyzed or re-analyzed when a superior ordinarily wouldn't approve that move because he/she didn't feel it was necessary. I'm just hypothesizing, of course.
In Guilt by Association, I take that attitude to an extreme when Rachel Knight, unhappy with the manner in which the federal agents are handling the investigation of the death of her colleague, Jake Pahlmeyer, decides to do some investigating on her own even though the entire D.A.'s office has been recused from the case.
AUTHORLINK: Did you know when you started writing who the perpetrators of both crimes were and how Rachel would figure them out, or did you work through it as you wrote?
CLARK: I did know who one perpetrator was, but I didn't know who else was involved until I got deeply into the story and started to see how things would unfold. In this genre, you generally do want to be able to surprise the reader in some way – usually with "who dunnit." But it's important to me to show a plausible reason for the perpetrator to have committed the crime. That doesn't mean it's a reason that would have motivated you or I, but it has to make sense from the perpetrator's point of view. I don't mind that a perpetrator comes out of left field, as long as they feel believable.
AUTHORLINK: If new plot lines developed, did you have to go back and change earlier chapters to make them fit?
CLARK: I sure did!( Laughing.) I went back a number of times, thinking, 'this makes more sense' or 'I like this better.' But then, with each of those changes, I'd have to go back through the whole book and fix whatever that point affected. It was a domino effect: each change required a series of other changes. I have to admit, it got a little messy at times!
I'd get to an impasse and ask myself, 'what now?' I'd take a walk, and think what would happen? |
AUTHORLINK: Did you ever have times when you didn't know where to go next? What did you do?
CLARK: Yes again! I'd get to an impasse and ask myself, 'what now?' I'd take a walk, and think what would happen? If I were at this point, what would the next step be? In that way, I hoped to keep the book as real as possible, tracing out an investigation as it really would unfold. And when it came time for Rachel and Bailey to start putting the pieces together, I tried not to make any of those crazy leaps of logic that take you out of the moment with a "whaaa? how'd you get there?"
AUTHORLINK: You have three strong women as your central characters – Rachel, Bailey and Toni – how did you develop them?
CLARK: I started with Rachel. Once I built out her character, I built out her world, looking for the connections she'd logically have made given her job and her personality. That naturally led to a great detective – Bailey Keller, and an equally tough and smart prosecutor – Toni LaCollette. Both of those women share her sensibilities about life in general, the job in specific, and of course, the importance of friendships and a sense of humor.
AUTHORLINK: What was different about writing and publishing your first novel compared to your earlier book on the O.J. Simpson trial? Did anything in the processes surprise you? How did your feelings differ?
. I'm the lucky fool who's got a great agent and a great publisher. I'm daily surprised at just how fortunate I am to have landed them.|
CLARK: Writing a novel was much, much more fun – in part because I'd always wanted to write a novel, and in part because there's so much freedom. I can invent the case, the characters, the good guys and the bad. And best of all, I can add evidence at will! That's not only liberating, it's great fun. As for surprises in this process, they were all good. I'm the lucky fool who's got a great agent and a great publisher. I'm daily surprised at just how fortunate I am to have landed them.
But on an emotional level, putting out a novel was much more nerve-wracking. A novel is my creation, so if people don't like it, they're rejecting something I dreamed up. That's much more personal than a trial memoir, where, love it or hate it, it wasn't my creation.
AUTHORLINK: What are you working on next?
CLARK: I'm finishing my second novel in the series, "Guilt by Degrees." It again features Rachel Knight and her buddies, Detective Bailey Keller and prosecutor Toni LaCollette – and new and different villain, a sophisticated and sharp adversary who poses a serious and twisted personal threat to Rachel.
About Marcia Clark:|
Besides enjoying the fun and challenges of working on her second novel, Clark is a frequent commentator and columnist on legal matters. Her trial memoir, Without a Doubt, was a bestseller. She lives in Los Angeles.
About Regular Contributor:
Diane Slocum has been a newspaper reporter and editor and authored an historical book. As a freelance writer, she contributes regularly to magazines and newspapers. She writes features on authors and a column for writers and readers in Lifestyle magazine. She is assigned to write interviews of first-time novelists and bestselling authors for Authorlink.