"I really didn't want the spotlight," the lawyer, 62, says in the current issue of PEOPLE. "But there was no way to escape it."
Originally a defense attorney, Clark says she joined the Los Angeles District Attorney's office in 1981 so she could "stand up for the victims."
She became a member of the special trials team – which focuses on high-profile and complex capital cases – but tried to keep her communication with the press to a minimum.
"I would chase them off: 'There's no story here. There's no story here. Go away. There is no story here.' I was not helpful," she says. "The very last thing I wanted to do was be in the middle of something like what happened with the Simpson trial."
But in 1995, that is exactly where Clark ended up.
Myung J. Chun / AFP / Getty Images
When the trial began, Clark was in the middle of a divorce from second husband Gordon Clark and a custody battle over their two sons – Kyle, now 26 and an economist, and Travis, now 23 and working at a startup – Clark was viciously mocked in the press for her failed relationships, parenting style and appearance.
"There was real hostility there," she says of her interactions with the press.
Clark also faced criticism over her physical appearance and underwent a physical makeover during the trial.
Pool / Getty
Five months into the trial, she faced a public humiliation when topless photos of her – sold by her first husband – hit the tabloids.
"It didn't bother me as much on a personal level as it did professionally," says Clark.
For more from Clark – including why she thinks Simpson "got away with murder" – pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now
"They called it The Mommy Show," she says.
But when The Mommy Show was over and Simpson was acquitted, Clark left the courtroom – and the DA's office – for good.
She was offered the chance to write a memoir, but "all I wanted to do was disappear," she says.
It wasn't that easy, though.
"My friends said, 'People are not going to forget about you. You were on TV 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a year and a half. You're kind of hosed,' " says Clark.
So, she decided to make a go at pursuing her childhood passion for storytelling.
Coral Von Zumwalt
Now, Clark – who took a decade-long break from practicing law before spending the last 10 years handling court-appointed criminal appeals – is releasing a new novel, Blood Defense, which tells the story of fictional criminal defense attorney Samantha Brinkman.
"I chose a pathway that has provided me a kind of nice life and allowed me to help others," says Clark, who mainly works from home. "I get to do what I love and no one sees me!"
Clark's new crime thriller Blood Defense is available in bookstores May 1 and her best-selling Simpson trial memoir Without a Doubt (featuring a new forward) is available in e-book form now.