By day, Julie Clark teaches fifth grade at Roosevelt Elementary School. But between 4 and 6 a.m. – what some might still call “night”– she writes novels, the second of which was recently released to popular reviews. The Last Flight is a thriller that hinges on two women swapping plane tickets, and the escape that the switch offers for one of them.
Julie says that keeping her two roles distinct allows her to focus better on each. “Being with kids all day really snaps you out of whatever plot problems [you encounter],” she says. “It just vanishes between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.” Teaching and writing each allow her “to use my brain creatively, but in a very different way.”
Julie started writing in earnest in her early 40s, after the youngest of her two kids started sleeping through the night. However, she recognized her ambition to write from a young age, crediting Judy Blume’s Blubber with her epiphany. “That was the first moment that I thought I want to write stories that affect people in that way,” she recalls.
In light of the discrimination against women in the world, Julie notes, “I feel that it’s really important that we’re mindful of the women we write on the page.” She is wary of “unreliable, hysterical, and crazy” portrayals “giving people permission to discount women.” “I don’t know very many ‘crazy’ women,” Julie continues. “I know a lot of strong women, a lot of really smart, hardworking women – and those are the people that I want to write about.”
"How do you escape a “perfect” life? This is the question plaguing Claire Cook, the protagonist of Julie Clark’s new psychological thriller The Last Flight. To onlookers, Claire’s life seems idyllic. Married to the scion of a political dynasty that rivals the Kennedys, she lives in a palatial Manhattan townhouse with a staff of ten. But, what no one sees is that Claire is a prisoner in her own home with an abusive husband. What they don’t know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish. A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a stranger equally desperate to escape her life".
Julie grew up in Santa Monica and sees a big change between the place “that I grew up in, which was a sleepy little beach town in the 70s and 80s,” and the Santa Monica of now, which is “very different. It’s much wealthier, [and] the entertainment industry is very much present.” She compares the former Montana Avenue, with its gas stations and convenience stores, to its current composition of glitzy boutiques and restaurants. But for Julie and other lifelong residents, “the Santa Monica I knew is still there underneath,” she says. “We’re still doing our thing and visiting the places of our childhood.”
The Last Flight, published by Sourcebooks, was chosen by the Book of the Month Club and Library Reads for June and is a July Indie Next pick. Find a copy at your nearest local bookstore at Indiebound.org. *Photo by Eric A. Reid
By Anne Wallentine