Julie Clark is the New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight. It has earned starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Library Journal, and the New York Times has called it “thoroughly absorbing”
Julie She lives in Los Angeles with her family. Her latest novel, THE LIES I TELL was published in June.
THE LIES I TELL is about a brilliant con-artist with a long list of victims under her belt. returning home to Los Angeles to carry out her biggest job of all: getting revenge on the man who ruined her childhood. There’s just one person who might stand in her way. An investigative reporter who has been secretly following her movements for years, Kat Roberts, who has finally breached her inner circle, assuming a fake name and identity in an effort to trick the con-artist into giving up her story as she is drawn into a deeper mystery than she ever imagined, and the question of who is hunting who—and why—becomes impossible to answer.
Other Books by Julie Clark
Transcript provided by automated software and only lightly edited.
[00:00:00.070] – Alan Petersen
You are listening to Meet the Thriller Author, the podcast where I interview writers of mysteries, fillers and suspense books. I am your host, Alan Petersen, and this is episode number 188. In this episode of the podcast, we’ll be meeting named Julie Clark, who is a New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight, which earned starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and The Library Journal. And the New York Times has called it thoroughly absorbing. Julie writes a domestic thrillers with lots of twists and turns, a lot of cat and mouse intrigue. Really enjoyed her latest book, the Lies. Itell, which is available now, is released in June. So highly recommended to check that out. I really had a good time talking with Julie about her novels, everything else. She’s also a teacher, so we talked about that as well, and a whole lot more. So stay tuned for that interview coming here in just a moment. Before I bring you my interview with Julie, I wanted to let you know about my own book. It’s called Gringo Gulch, and it was published on July 26. Really excited about that book. It’s starting to pop up now in the Amazon hot new releases and several other categories, so I’m very excited about that. It’s set in my home country of Costa Rica, and it follows a homicide investigator who is trying to catch a serial killer. And so he teams up with the FBI rookie profiler who heads down to Costa Rica to help him out. It’s a book that I’ve had in my head for many years, well over ten years. So I was very excited to finally have it out there again. It’s called Gringo Gulch. So if you want to check it out, go to ThrillingReads.com/gringo that’s G-R-I-N-G-O. You’ll be able to check it out there. Or just go to Amazon search by name or by Gringo Gulch and you’ll find it. If you pick it up, let me know what you think about it. I really would appreciate it. And of course, I need reviews and all that good stuff on Amazon. So if you’ve read it, please go do that. All right, that’s enough of my own book. Let’s check out Julie Clark and the lies I tell. And here is my interview with Julie.
[00:02:14.680] – Alan Petersen
Welcome to the podcast.
[00:02:15.890] – Julie Clark
Thank you. Happy to be here.
[00:02:17.700] – Alan Petersen
So can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your new book?
[00:02:21.390] – Julie Clark
Okay, well, The Lies I Tell is the story of Meg Williams, who is a con artist who travels the country under assumed names. She creates these elaborate backstories to back up whatever lies she’s telling, but what she’s really trying to do is she’s targeting a very specific demographic of people, specifically men, although I guess not exclusively men in the book, exclusively men who abuse their power in some way. But what Meghan is also doing. Besides getting rich off of these men who underestimate her and think that she is a dog walker. A life coach. An interior decorator. What she’s also doing is honing her skills as a con artist so that she can return home and con the man who she believes ruined her childhood. Stole her family home out from under her mother. And basically kind of set her on this path of drifting. But what she doesn’t know is that there’s a woman waiting for her in Los Angeles who is an investigative reporter, Kat Roberts. And she was collateral damage on a comment Meg pulled many years ago. And Kat has her own ideas about revenge, justice, and people facing consequences. And her plan is to infiltrate Meg’s life under an assumed name, create an elaborate backstory to back up her lies, and her goal is to expose Meg and take her down.
[00:03:39.280] – Alan Petersen
Telling two different timelines or like, two different POVs. Kind of curious from the writing perspective, is that something that you want to tell the story that way right away, or did it come to you when you started writing it? How did that develop that idea to do it for two different timelines in POVs.
[00:03:57.500] – Julie Clark
I think because both of the women are lying to each other. I think that you needed to be with each of them in order to be able to see their lives. See what their true intentions are. And to kind of watch as a spectator how they sort of circle each other and lie to each other and try to deceive each other all the while for each of them have their own reasons for doing this that they believe are correct and right.
[00:04:25.090] – Alan Petersen
And so this is so fascinating because the domestic thrillers seem to be so popular right now. So if you tell us a little bit if they’re not familiar, like, what makes a thriller or domestic thriller and why you think these are so popular right now, the sub genre, I think.
[00:04:40.610] – Julie Clark
The genre is popular because thrillers have characters doing things that we, as real people, would never, ever want to do. And so for the lies I tell, it’s a story of a con artist. Now, I would never want to be a con artist. You would never want to be a con artist. However, it is really fun and interesting to see a con artist target a specific demographic of people who maybe we as a society feel perhaps could use some consequences. So I think the thriller genre in general is fun to read because it’s exciting, it’s fast paced, but it also allows us to sort of live inside the skin of characters of people that we wouldn’t normally want to be ourselves.
[00:05:27.250] – Alan Petersen
And were you a fan of mystery and thrillers as a reader before you started to write your own stories?
[00:05:31.670] – Julie Clark
Oh, yeah, for sure. I read pretty much everything, but, yeah, thrillers and mysteries were definitely high on my list of things that I like to read.
[00:05:41.290] – Alan Petersen
What are some of the authors that influence you later as a writer?
[00:05:45.850] – Julie Clark
Well, the authors that really influenced me as a writer aren’t necessarily thriller writers. They’re more like Barbara King Silver. Anna quendin jodi Pico. Those are the writers that really kind of formed my writer brain, so to speak, as far as how they use language to sort of craft a character and to craft emotion on the page. Those three are just masters at it.
[00:06:10.270] – Alan Petersen
And did you always want to be a writer?
[00:06:12.790] – Julie Clark
I did. I mean, I always wanted to write stories that I loved to read, and so one of the questions that I always ask myself when I’m sort of stuck in a plot problem or whatever is if I can step outside of my writer brain for a moment, I can think well, as a reader, what would I really be excited about if my character started? What would I really want to see as a reader in this moment? Because we’ve all had those moments where we’re reading a book and it takes a turn that we didn’t expect, and we realized, oh, my gosh, that’s exactly what I want to see now. Thank you. I tried to think about that whenever I can, whenever I’m stuck in your path.
[00:06:52.570] – Alan Petersen
Before starting to write these thriller books, you were a teacher, right?
[00:06:55.910] – Julie Clark
I believe I am.
[00:06:57.210] – Alan Petersen
You are a teacher?
[00:06:58.350] – Julie Clark
Yeah, I still am a teacher. I teach fifth grade. So school is starting up in a few weeks, and I’ll be doing two jobs again.
[00:07:08.230] – Alan Petersen
Well, it’s been crazy to the last, obviously, the pandemic, I think it’s coming a little bit. It looks like it’s never going away. I don’t know. But how is it going for you as the teachers in the schools and the kids?
[00:07:18.750] – Julie Clark
Last year was pretty good. We were in person for the whole year. We were fully masked for most of it, which was fine. The kids were completely flexible about that and very cooperative and compliant, and I think that kept us open. We would have outbreaks every now and then, and we would do what we needed to do, but for the most part, we were okay. So I would imagine this year will be more of the same. I’m not sure about masking requirements. They kind of disappeared near the end of the year, and we had several major outbreaks before the end of the school year where we had to reinstate them. But again, the thing that people forget about kids is that kids are really resilient, that they can handle a lot. So as parents, we often wring our hands and worry about their development and what’s this going to be like for them long term. And the truth of the matter is that kids just get up and be a kid every day, and they look to the adults around them to see whether everything is okay. So as adults, if we can reassure them and let them know that, yes, everything is fine, kids will be fine, too.
[00:08:26.210] – Alan Petersen
Yes. Like falling down. Right. As an adult, when you fall down, you see a little kid falling down, they pop right up.
[00:08:31.870] – Julie Clark
Right. And if adults don’t react in any dramatic way, the kids will realize, oh, I guess they’re not worried, so I shouldn’t be worried, too. I mean, I think that goes for pandemics as well. Yes.
[00:08:43.060] – Alan Petersen
So do your students know that their teacher is a bestselling author?
[00:08:46.900] – Julie Clark
They do. I don’t know that they care particularly. They tend to nod and say, Cool, and then they move on. It’s not really something that best selling status is not really on kids radars.
[00:09:03.590] – Alan Petersen
I’m kind of curious about your writing process. Do you outline do you write the seat of your pants?
[00:09:08.780] – Julie Clark
I outline a little bit. I generally like to know where my book is going to start, and then from there, I kind of have an idea about the turning points along the way, like maybe three or four big turning points. And then I generally like to know how the book is going to end. But between those things, I don’t really know what’s happening.
[00:09:26.850] – Alan Petersen
And what do you use to write to? You use the Word or some other writing software?
[00:09:30.190] – Julie Clark
I use Scrivener for early drafts. I like the flexibility of being able to move chapters around, of putting things into the research, finding that I no longer need. However, I’m not able to delete. I like the note feature where I can leave notes for myself in the manuscript, and all of those things I really enjoy. But at some point, usually around the second pass with my editor, I’ll come and it’ll migrate into Word, and from there we’ll probably just stay in Word because it’s too much to go back and forth. Once you get kind of a final, final draft and it’s down to, like, the really tiny things, I’ll generally go over to Word.
[00:10:10.280] – Alan Petersen
Yeah. Most editors and proofreaders use Word anyway, right?
[00:10:13.530] – Julie Clark
No, they do. I mean, I have to export it every time I see them, so it behooves me to not stay too long.
[00:10:19.540] – Alan Petersen
In Scrivener, you mentioned your research. So how much research do you put in for this novel? And is it more or less than from your other ones?
[00:10:26.920] – Julie Clark
Everybody is different. My very first book, the Ones We Choose, is a contemporary novel about a geneticist, and so there’s a fair amount of science in that and little bite sized chunks to sort of go along with sort of her personal narrative of figuring out who she is and where she belongs in the world and her son as well. With my second book, The Last Flight, I did a ton of research on how to disappear, drugmaking, things like that. And then for the life, I tell I did a lot of research on con artists and sort of the psychology of con artists and how they sort of prey on our trusting personalities and life circumstances to get what they want from us.
[00:11:09.580] – Alan Petersen
What’s your writing routine like, especially when your school kicks in? Do you, like, try to always write? You write every day?
[00:11:16.350] – Julie Clark
I do, yeah. I mean, my routine doesn’t really change whether I’m teaching or if I’m on vacation. I find that it’s best to just stick with the same routine no matter what. So I get up very, very early in the morning to write. My alarm goes off at 345. I’m usually writing by four and I’m generally done by six. So that’s my routine. And then I go off. If I’m teaching, I go off and do that. If I’m not teaching, I might write till seven and then I have the whole day. So I still feel like I have a vacation. I don’t feel like I am losing my vacation to writing work. And so this schedule kind of works for me. It allows me to keep kind of the same pace, so there’s not a lot of fluctuation in my productivity.
[00:11:58.980] – Alan Petersen
Do you at least right from the same place, or do you mix it up a little bit?
[00:12:02.460] – Julie Clark
Generally, I write in bed. It’s the best place to be at 345 in the morning. Yeah.
[00:12:10.010] – Alan Petersen
I’d imagine it’d be kind of hard to just get up and start writing. Do you give yourself a word count goals or anything when you’re working on.
[00:12:18.780] – Julie Clark
A project or when I’m drafting a first draft? My word count goal for a first draft is about 60,000 words, like that’s for a first draft. And that’s pretty low. I feel like a thriller of The Last flight or the lies I tell would probably I think they both clocked in anywhere between 83 and 88,000 words. So for the first draft, I feel like 60,000 words is really good. It gives me sort of the framework that everything can kind of hang on. And then from there, as I start revising and adding character stuff and plot and subplots and all of that, I kind of beef it out from there. As far as, like a daily word count, when I’m working toward that 60,000 words, I generally try to get anywhere from 1000 to 1200 words a day. But again, generally right now, I’m working on a second draft, so I have 72,000 words and I sometimes can get it up to 80,000 words. And then it’s like, oh, I got to take that chapter out, got to take that chapter out, I got to take that chapter out, and then I’m back down to 72,000. So you spend a lot of time in the 70 to 80,000 range without really making much progress. You’re putting stuff in, but you’re taking other stuff out and so it’s sort of like walking on a treadmill for a while, but then you get over that hump and then pretty soon you’re starting to be very mindful about things you’re adding because you don’t really have the room.
[00:13:45.870] – Alan Petersen
And then these are standalone, right? The domestic thrillers are usually standalone series. Do you like that? Have you ever tried to write a series or?
[00:13:55.950] – Julie Clark
I don’t know, I mean never say never. I haven’t found a set of characters or a world that I felt like I could grow into multiple books. I love the idea of creating new characters, new lives, new worlds, new problems, new families, new situations, new settings. I love that part of writing. So to have all of that done would be pretty easy to go back and just pick up where you left off with the same people in the same setting with a new problem. But I don’t know, it hasn’t been something that I’ve been drawn to, but maybe who knows?
[00:14:30.510] – Alan Petersen
From the time that you start getting the idea to the book and then it’s finally out there, published, how long does that usually take?
[00:14:38.010] – Julie Clark
Probably two to three years.
[00:14:42.970] – Alan Petersen
The ideas in your head for a while before even start writing it?
[00:14:46.360] – Julie Clark
Well, I mean, it takes me a good year, year and a half to get the book anywhere where I’d want my editor to even look at it. Yeah, then it’ll take another year from there for her to edit it and for it to go through the production process. So two to three years.
[00:14:59.430] – Alan Petersen
And so you’re always working on books. Can you tell us what are you working on now? What’s coming up next?
[00:15:04.760] – Julie Clark
It’s a family drama about a daughter who returns home to her father is dying. He’s a world famous horror author, but he has long been suspected of killing his brother and sister when he was 15. And so she’s come home to write his book and finally discover whether he did it or not.
[00:15:27.560] – Alan Petersen
And I was reading on your website, it sounds like you have some of your books have been optioned for the screen. So what was that process like dealing with the Hollywood group?
[00:15:41.290] – Julie Clark
Well, I’m really fortunate. I have a very strong team behind me, so I feel like it’s easy when you have the right team. So I have film agents who shot my books to different producers and companies all over the place. And it goes from there. They read the book, they find a producer, they find a home for it, they figure out how that’s all going to work, they find a writer. And then the best thing to do as a novel writer is to not think about it, to let them do their job, and to not really think a lot about that. Because option is just an option. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything will get made. It’s just the right to hold onto your intellectual property until they decide they either want to do something with it or they want to give it back to you. So it could be everything. It could be nothing.
[00:16:37.110] – Alan Petersen
Yeah, I hear that a lot, that someone could take years.
[00:16:41.590] – Julie Clark
[00:16:44.210] – Alan Petersen
So I would like to ask my guests because we have aspiring writers who are listening to this podcast and what kind of advice would you give to an aspiring writer that’s listening to this?
[00:16:55.970] – Julie Clark
I always give the same advice that it came from a book called The Scene Book by Sandra Schofield. And it’s a really great book on sort of how to zoom in on your scenes in each chapter section, however, it is that you want to think about what is a scene and how to really create sharp, vivid scenes. But the advice that I got from that book was actually from her introduction, and basically it was advice on how to become a published author. And she said, you really only have to do two things. Number one, you have to think of yourself as a worker. And number two, you have to show up at the job. That’s it. That’s all you have to do.
[00:17:34.670] – Alan Petersen
That’s good advice. Yeah. Because if somebody was just right for a hobby, for fun, then that’s one thing. But if you really try to make it a go, you really have to look, take it seriously.
[00:17:42.980] – Julie Clark
You have to think of it as a job. And if you give it as a job, then it won’t ever be your job.
[00:17:48.770] – Alan Petersen
Yeah. Interesting. All right, so the book that you’re working on now, is that going to come out next year then?
[00:17:54.880] – Julie Clark
Is that usually we’ve not put a deadline on it. There’s I am being very cagey and how I want to it as long as possible.
[00:18:08.610] – Alan Petersen
Yeah. Nothing in set in stone. All right. And so the lies I tell it’s out now, recommend people to go check it out, a lot of twists and turns on that. I was very impressed with that, how you kept all these people in the spinning plates or whatever and brought it all in. It’s pretty cool.
[00:18:29.250] – Julie Clark
Thank you. Yeah, it was fun. It was a really fun book to write. And Meg Williams is probably one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever written. She’s this morally gray character who is doing the wrong thing for what she believes are the right reasons. And she’s sharp and she’s sarcastic and she’s brave, and she’s kind of sick and tired of the way the world works, and so she’s decided to take it into her own hands.
[00:18:58.090] – Alan Petersen
Yeah, I really got a really better call, solve kind of vibe with the cons and the whole world kind of dumping on him. So it’s kind of fun.
[00:19:07.610] – Julie Clark
Yeah. She’s definitely a character that readers will root for, and that was my goal, is to write somebody who’s doing bad things, and yet the reader is still going to want them to succeed.
[00:19:18.870] – Alan Petersen
All right, Julie. Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. Like I said, The Lies I Tell is out now so people could check it out.
[00:19:24.880] – Julie Clark
Thank you so much. I appreciate it.