The Sirens of Suspense

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An Anthony Award-nominated website on all things mystery.

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California native Marcia Clark is the author of Guilt by Association, Guilt by Degrees, Killer Ambition, and The Competition, all part of the Rachel Knight series. A practicing criminal lawyer since 1979, she joined the Los Angeles District Attorney's office in 1981, where she served as prosecutor for the trials of Robert Bardo, convicted of killing actress Rebecca Schaeffer, and, most notably, O. J. Simpson. The bestselling Without a Doubt, which she cowrote, chronicles her work on the Simpson trial. Clark has been a frequent commentator on a variety of shows and networks, including Today, Good Morning America, The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, and MSNBC, as well as a legal correspondent for Entertainment Tonight.


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We’re often taught to write what you know, and you’re definitely doing that. You’ve worked both sides of the aisle, starting your career in defense before moving to the prosecution, as have your protagonists (Rachel Knight for the prosecution, and Samantha Brinkman now, for the defense). What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing each side, both narratively and for characterization?

Having the ability to speak from personal experience is always an advantage. It allows me to bring more authenticity to both the characters - criminal lawyers meet the, uh...colorful characters - as well the cases and the manner in which they're handled. And even though the cases must - of necessity - be more complex and pulled out than the average cases, I can use my experience to give a more realistic depiction as to how they'd be investigated and handled in court.


Have you ever considered writing a protagonist in a different profession, which do you think would be fun to explore on the page?

I have considered writing a protagonist who wasn't a lawyer! A couple of years ago, I actually sketched out a story in which a juror was the protagonist. I ultimately shelved the idea because it wasn't quite working and I had to get on to my next book. But I still think about it, so I might dust it off and take another run at it. I really enjoyed writing for a lead character who wasn't a lawyer and had no experience with the system.


You mentioned in a past interview that, often, authors are afforded a level of anonymity in their profession. You haven’t been afforded that luxury. Do you think your pre-existing level of celebrity has been a help or hindrance, and does your readers’ pre-conceived notions of you ever affect how and what you write?

I don't know what my readers' pre-conceived notions of me are exactly, so they really can't affect what I write. As for whether my "pre-existing level of celebrity" has helped or hurt...who knows? I've heard there was some push back when I first came out with the Rachel Knight series, some people who dusted me off as just a "celebrity author" who probably had a ghost writer. But I haven't heard much of that in the past few years. I guess - or hope? - that maybe now, seven novels later, they realize that wasn't true.

In case there are some who still think that way, I want to assure them that I'm writing every word myself. Not that it wouldn't be nice to pour myself a tall Margarita, put on my pool floaties, and let a ghost writer do all the work! :-)


You’re now doing court-appointed appellate defense work. Is that what prompted the switch to a protagonist who specializes in defense? Does the work provide ideas for Samantha’s future cases?

Actually, I've been doing court appointed appellate defense work for the past ten years - since before I even started the Rachel Knight series, which featured a prosecutor as the lead character. So no, that work didn't play a part in the creation of Samantha Brinkman - who is a defense lawyer with a distinctly...shall we say...different? - approach to the pursuit of justice.


In your latest, Snap Judgment (out August 29), Samantha is tackling her third case, which deals with obsessive love, suicide and revenge porn (with a side of gang lords thrown in for good measure). What were your inspirations? What’s coming next for her, and you?

My inspirations were some of the real life issues affecting us today. Revenge porn, human trafficking and the ways in which young women - and men - can become entangled in a relationship that descends into obsession are all subjects that are part of our world.

As for what's coming next for Samantha...who knows? Samantha leads a wild life with very few boundaries. Anything is possible. For me? There are some things brewing on the horizon. Hopefully one of them will be a vacation! :-)



COMMENT ON THE INTERVIEW by using the Comments box further down on this page, or on our Facebook page and be entered to win a copy of SNAP JUDGMENT! (U.S. entrants only, please.)



What she's reading now: THE FORCE by Don Winslow.

Thing she wishes she'd known when she started writing: How much WORK it is!

If she could have one superpower: Hmmm...I don't think I'd want to be able to read people's minds. Too scary. I guess I'd like to be able to fly. Such a handy superpower when you think about it.

If she could meet one of her characters: Sebastian Cromer—Samantha's abusive step father—so I could kill him.

If she could invite four people to a dinner party: Sarah Paulson, Janis Joplin, Clarence Darrow, Maya Angelou..