"I always wanted to write crime fiction," Marcia Clark says. "I was a huge Nancy Drew fan."
Clark will talk about her latest novel, Killer Ambition, at the Times Festival of Reading. But before her writing career came one as a prosecutor — notably in the 1994 O.J. Simpson murder trial. Clark, 60, has since become a familiar face on television as a legal commentator, most recently on the George Zimmerman trial.
But she is also busy pursuing that childhood dream, with three novels in print about Rachel Knight, a savvy, wisecracking lawyer who has Clark's former job title: prosecutor with the Special Trials unit in Los Angeles.
After a couple of other careers, how did you finally decide to write novels?
I came to it in a back-door way. I was drafted as a consultant for a TV show, and I ended up writing the scripts. Then I realized if there would ever be a time for me to write books, this is it.
What are the differences between writing scripts and writing books?
Writing a script is like haiku. You have 60 pages, and they have these big, wide margins. You can't ever be inside a character's head. You have to show everything. It's a wonderful discipline. You really learn how to use dialogue, how to bounce the ball between characters. In a book, you can stretch out a little bit.
Your main character, Rachel Knight, has close, supportive friendships with several women she works with. Did you consciously set out to create those relationships?
Yes, I really did. All those shows about real housewives, all those women at each other's throats — I can't stand that. That's not the women I know.
In my experience, when women work together, especially in a male-dominated profession — and (the justice system) still is that — they tend to have each other's back.
Those relationships are realistic. Who's going to be Rachel's friend? She's a workaholic, so she meets her friends at work, where most of us do.
In this novel, Rachel is trying a case that involves show-business celebrities and a high media profile. Why did you decide to write about that kind of case now?
When I started the series, that was the opposite of what I wanted to do. I wanted to write about the real world, not bizarro world. But it's not bizarro anymore.
The media case has become common. We have one after another; they're not even an event anymore.
So I was fighting reality. If she's working in Special Trials, her cases will be in that media spotlight. And I have something to add to the subject that other people don't, having lived through it myself.