Friday, February 3, 2012

Julie Compton: The Story Behind the Story

Julie Compton is fascinated by why people behave the way they do. This fascination has taken her from the practice of law to a career as a writer, culminating in two successful novels that combined elements of both.
Although Compton has been writing “as long as I can remember,” she never thought of making a career of it. She worked for private law firms until the birth of her second daughter when she began staying home with her children and writing seriously. Six years later, she resumed practicing law for a “dream job” as a trial attorney with the US Department of Justice that offered the privilege of working on some of the largest corporate bankruptcies in the country. She returned to writing full time in 2003 when her family moved to Florida for her husband's job.
The idea for her first novel, Tell No Lies, in which an assistant DA compromises both his professional and personal principles in his quest to become top DA, sprang from two separate incidents. “Back in '96 or '97, I heard a radio report about a politician who had been caught doing something unethical, and it got me thinking about what compels someone to do something so obviously wrong. Perhaps I'm too na├»ve, but I believe most people go into politics for the right reasons, but somewhere along the way they take a wrong turn. At about the same time, I read a newspaper article about a teenage boy who was involved in a crime of some sort – I don’t remember the exact nature of it. His mom claimed he was innocent despite what appeared to be  a mountain of evidence against him, and I found it so interesting how a parent could rationalize the evidence away. I put the two concepts together and wrote the framework for the novel.” Compton worked on the first draft for three years, spent another three years editing, and in 2008, Tell No Lies was finally published. Many critics have compared her to Scott Turow, and Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review, calling it “a taut, tense cautionary tale complete with courtroom drama and a surprise ending."
Although Tell No Lies has been described as a legal thriller, Compton sees it more as a book about family and relationships. “When I started writing, I didn’t intend for it to be a mystery. I saw it as a relationship story with a mystery imbedded in it. I wanted to explore what makes a generally good person start sliding down the proverbial 'slippery slope'.”  After the novel's release, Compton was fascinated by how much of a lightning rod her protagonist turned out to be. Readers' reactions inspired her to write a sequel, tentatively called Keep No Secrets.
Compton finds it easier to balance her writing and personal life now that her children are older. She even finds time to volunteer as a guardian ad litem for neglected and abused children, a position which heavily influenced the themes of domestic violence in her second thriller, Rescuing Olivia, released in 2010.  Rescuing Olivia is the story of a Florida biker whose girlfriend disappears from the hospital after a motorcycle accident. In his quest to find her and save her life, he is forced to face the demons of his own past if he is to have any chance of saving Olivia from hers. Publishers Weekly called the novel "intense" and "entertaining," and Kirkus Reviews aptly labeled it a "[m]odern-day fairy tale" in which "Compton burrows . . . deeply into Olivia's and Anders' troubled back stories and dramatizes in such psychologically compelling terms the swain's attempt to rescue his princess." Compton hopes her readers will come away from her books realizing that “there’s always a story behind the story.” And that’s the story Compton wants to tell.

For more information, visit the author's website at

Next: Randy Wayne White - Doc Ford and Dinkin's Bay


  1. Great profile, as always, Jackie. I know the lovely and talented Julie Compton, and you've managed to capture her perfectly here. Thanks so much for continuing to tell the stories of Florida's wonderful authors. (And PS, though I love the pix you've included of Julie, I miss her ''motorcycle mama'' photo. Vrrrom, vrroom!)

  2. Hi Jackie: If not for my friend Nancy Cohen, I would never have known about this site. I live in west central Florida but tend only to meet other authors at conferences, so this is awesome. Loved reading about Julie and her career.
    I think it's awesome that you are spotlighting Florida authors and look forward to meeting others.