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Former O.J. Simpson prosecutor talks 'Killer Ambition'

Updated 10:33 am, Monday, June 24, 2013

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  • Marcia Clark, former Los Angeles prosecutor, spoke to a group of women about her latest novel at Ladies Who Launch and Females Over 40 event at the Callari Auto Group on Tuesday, June 18. Photo: Megan Spicer
    Marcia Clark, former Los Angeles prosecutor, spoke to a group of women about her latest novel at Ladies Who Launch and Females Over 40 event at the Callari Auto Group on Tuesday, June 18. Photo: Megan Spicer

 

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One of the rules of fiction writing is to write what you know.

That being said, it would come as no surprise that Marcia Clark, former Los Angeles prosecutor famously known for her involvement in the O.J. Simpson case that started the morning of June 13, 1994, is now a murder-mystery novelist.

Clark was in the "hot seat" on Tuesday as women involved with Ladies Who Launch and Over 40 Females gathered in the Callari Auto Group showroom in Darien to listen to her journey of becoming a writer and about her latest book, "Killer Ambition."

Ironically, the day before her appearance was the 19-year anniversary of the widely televised chase between Simpson in a white Ford Bronco and the Los Angeles police in tow on the Los Angeles freeways.

To write her novels about a female prosecutor, Clark said, she drew on her experiences working in the special trials unit in the Los Angeles district attorney's office as the first female there with four older men.

"They called me the `lawyerette,' " Clark said to the women in the audience, who laughed. "But they didn't do it for long."

"Killer Ambition" tells the story of the kidnapping of a major Hollywood mogul's daughter and the media's scrutiny of the lead prosecutor, Rachel Knight, and the major trial, something Clark experienced during the Simpson trial.

"It's really fun to write courtroom scenes and I get to tell everybody what to say," Clark said, saying that after her first book, Publisher's Weekly wrote a headline that read "Clark Turns to Fiction to Control the Outcome."

"Like that's a bad thing?" Clark joked.

The moderators, Kathy McShane, managing director of Ladies Who Launch Connecticut, and Christine Oleynick, who leads the Fairfield chapter of Over 40 Females, asked Clark questions throughout the night, such as if she learned anything about herself through the writing process.

The hardest, Clark said, was writing about the most emotional scenes.

"One of the horrible experiences of law enforcement is having to make notification to families of murder victims," Clark said. "Having to write those scenes was horrific. When you're writing it, you have to feel it and it's horrible and it's a horrible pain to put yourself in the position of each character. It's fiction, but in the moment, it feels very, very real."

The event, a collaboration of Ladies Who Launch, which is a network for female entrepreneurs, and Over 40 Females, a network for women over the age of 40, was important for Clark because she said too often, people think that women are incapable of working together.

"I really wanted to show in this novel that women do support each other," Clark said. "And the degree and complexity that they do is really unique and special. There's too many of these shows about these women at each other's backs and at each other's throats and that's not really true."

Clark said that right after leaving the D.A.'s office, she did miss being in the courtroom, but as time went on, those feelings went away. That came a surprise, since Clark said when she was a prosecutor, it was all she wanted to do -- and that was that.

"They were going to have to carry me out of the courtroom in a pine box," Clark said. "That was my plan."

Instead, Clark returned to her childhood dream of being a writer, saying that her favorite detective was always Nancy Drew.

"Nancy!" Clark yelled as she pumped her fist in the air. "She's 84! I cracked the case, though. Every time her dad was out of town a maniac case landed in her lap."

Clark's message to those who are writing books is that while you may think you are boring, not everyone else will think that.

"Your experiences are unique to you and are uniquely important," Clark said. "And if it's really important to you and you've been bitten by the bug and you need to write, don't give up. Be relentless."

Judy Goss, the founder of Over 40 Females, said she was truly surprised at how open and relatable Clark was during the event. "I was expecting someone more closed off," said Goss, who lives on Long Island. "I guess there is the stereotype of the prosecutor. I was expecting someone who was going to come up and say, `Here's my book. Here's what I did. I gotta go. I gotta go back to New York.' I was so surprised. I really was surprised about her relatability."

"Killer Ambition," as well as the other Rachel Knight novels, are available in hardback and in the Kindle store.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; @Meg_DarienNews