Oline Cogdill

titleMarcia Clark’s role as the lead prosecutor in the infamous 1995 O.J. Simpson trial put her in the public eye. Since her resignation in 1997 as a prosecutor for the State of California, Clark has worked as an Entertainment Tonight correspondent and, with co-author Teresa Carpeter, wrote Without a Doubt, a nonfiction book based on the O.J. case.

Clark now makes her fiction debut with Guilt by Association (Mulholland Books/Little, Brown), a legal thriller whose heroine is Rachel Knight, an assistant district attorney in L.A.’s elite Special Trials unit.

Mystery Scene caught up with Clark for a Q&A before she launched her book tour for Guilt by Association, which has been earning positive reviews.

Q: What inspired you to write Guilt by Association.
A: I’d loved writing since I was a kid, but it never occurred to me to write full time until I finished co-writing Without a Doubt. At that point, I was excited about the prospect of writing a thriller, but a little – well, let’s face it – a lot daunted by the prospect of writing a book. Then fate, in the form of writing scripts for a legal drama on television, stepped in. The experience of script writing gave me enough confidence to get the ball rolling, and so I began novel writing.

After trying a few different perspectives and styles, I realized that what I really wanted to do was revisit my happiest years as a prosecutor, effectively combining my two greatest loves: prosecuting and fiction writing.

I was big fan of “Tales of the City” by Armistead Maupin, who created a beautiful world filled with fun, quirky and interesting characters. And that’s what I wanted to do: create a world that would be an ongoing series with recurring characters who’d – hopefully – also be fun, loveable and interesting. And I wanted to create a world that would convey the excitement and satisfaction, as well as the camaraderie and fun, of being a prosecutor.

titleQ: What was your inspiration for heroine Rachel Knight.
A: Rachel is a composite of many different women I’ve known, which means, of course, that I’m in there somewhere, too. But I think of Rachel as being my “avatar”: smarter, stronger, faster, etc. My real contribution to Rachel is my flaws: obsessive, headstrong, impatient, sometimes impulsive, and always smart-ass-y.

Q: Have you been a lifelong mystery fan? Any favorites?
I have definitely been a lifelong mystery fan, and I have so many favorites, I don’t like to name favorites because I invariably forget to mention someone I love. But I will specifically mention one, because he’s passed and I want to add my voice to the many who keep his name alive: Robert B. Parker. He was a huge inspiration to many, many readers and writers, not just me.

Q: You show a different view of L.A. in Guilt by Association. Do you love Los Angeles?
I suppose I do love L.A, though I sometimes forget because I get distracted by the obnoxious traffic and smog. There’s no city like L.A. When you fly over other cities, you see tightly wound concentric circles of lights; a localized hub surrounded by suburban quiet. But when you fly over L.A., the lights of all the various cities go on and on for miles. The spread of urban-style living is huge and wide.

As a result, L.A. is actually an umbrella that covers many different cities, each with its own unique character. This naturally provides a lot of grist for the mill and a great palette of colors to choose from in writing a book.

Q: Will the O.J. trial always be a part of your profile?
Of course. That trial was a significant moment in history, and it was broadcast across the country, day in and day out, for a year and a half – you couldn’t escape the coverage even if you wanted to. As a result, I think everyone involved will forever be associated with it.

Q: I love the way you show Rachel’s friendship with the other women. Too often women are at odds in novels and movies. Are LAPD Detective Bailey Keller and prosecutor Toni LaCollette based on your own friends?
Yes, they are – I’m happy, and very lucky, to be able to say. I, too, am weary of seeing women portrayed as being at each other’s throats. It’s a clichéd notion that whenever there’s more than one woman in the room, they have to be in competition with one another.

The truth is, women generally understand each other in ways men simply can’t, and that allows them to share a unique closeness. In this series, I want to show the truth about how important women are to each other and how they go the extra mile and beyond for their friends.

Q: What next?
Writing novels – I hope! The second in the series comes out a year from now.