Monday, March 27, 2006

Pro-File: Mary Higgins Clark

Ed here:  Mary Higgins Clark is not only a brilliant suspense novelist and an international bestseller but also one of the nicest, most decent people I’ve ever worked with.  I believe she was in Mystery Scene eight times over the eighteen years when I was editing it.  And she always made it a pleasure.  I’ve taught mystery fiction six times and I always lead off with Where Are The Children?  It is one of the true classics of the mystery field and students are always astounded when they see how carefully and cunningly the book was structured and written.  They suddenly understand just how difficult it is to write a novel of that stature.

1.  Tell us about your current novel.

My current novel, Two Little Girls in Blue, is a story of identical twins, Kathy and Kelly, who are kidnapped on their third birthday.  After paying the ransom, Kelly is returned – Kathy is believed to be dead.  At the Mass of the Angels, Kelly tugs on her mother’s hand and says, “Kathy wants to come home now.  She is scared of the lady.”  Only the mother believes that the twins are communicating and begins a frantic search for her missing child.  I’m happy to say that Publishers Weekly says, “Clark at her best in this chilling tale of kidnapping, murder, and telepathy.”

2.  Can you give us a sense of what you’re working on now?

The title of the next book I am working on is, I Heard That Song Before.  It’s about a young landscape architect who marries the widowed owner of the estate where her father has worked as a gardener.  But a childhood memory of being in that house puts her in the crosshairs of the killer.

3.  What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

There is a wonderful old saying, “If you want to be happy for a year, win the lottery.  To be happy for a lifetime, love what you do.”  I love writing.  I would write even if no one ever read what I did, but to also have been successful, is obviously very gratifying.

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?

My Irish Catholic guilt is that the volume of mail I receive is so heavy and no sooner do I sigh with relief because I caught up with it, that an avalanche more arrives and the guilt starts all over as I don’t get to it.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

My advice is to tell a good story.  Isaac Singer said, “I do not care how eloquent your phrases, how polished your prose, unless you are a storyteller, you are not a writer.”

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?

I think there are many great mystery writers who in their day were enormously popular but are not readily available in bookstores.  I am sure that sometime in the future, I will be among them.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel.  Most writers never forget that moment.

My first novel, Where Are the Children, was bought by Simon & Schuster.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  They paid $3,000 and it could have been $3,000,000.  I wrote in my journal, “I have sold to Simon & Schuster.”  I leaned on my pen so hard, I tore the page.

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