Mary Higgins Clark
Monday, May 26, 2003
By Patricia Sheridan, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Best-selling suspense author Mary Higgins Clark has kept her loyal fans turning pages since her first mystery novel, "Where Are The Children?" was published by Simon and Schuster in 1964.
But one of her most interesting books is her memoir, "Kitchen Privileges." It tells the tale of her humble beginnings in the Bronx, her mother's struggle to raise three children alone and her journey from secretarial school to flight attendant to internationally known author. She will be in Pittsburgh Thursday for the FRAXA Research Foundation's benefit gala at the Omni William Penn. Fragile X syndrome is the leading cause of inherited mental retardation and autism. For tickets to the event, call 724-625-3092.
Q: What is your connection to Fragile X?
A: Well, my grandson David is a Fragile X kid, and I've been very active with the Fragile X research ever since he was born. I go to the different cities when we are having an affair and have donated significantly to the research. We are all so eager to find a drug or vaccine that will help. My grandson was diagnosed early -- as an infant -- because the doctor was knowledgeable. You know, the Fragile X problem was only identified about 16 years ago.
Q: After 40 rejection slips from publishers telling you you weren't good enough, what made you think you were?
A: [laughing] You got a printed rejection slip saying it was not worthy. But I knew I was going to make it. I had 11 short stories in the mail by the time the first one sold. And I did start getting little scrawled notes at the bottom of the rejection slips saying: "Not right for us, but try us again."
Q: How do you feel about popular novelists being looked down by the more literary crowd?
A: Oh, sure. Well, I mean, there are always those who are going to say, "If it's popular, it's therefore commercial and therefore not worthy of us." [laughing] Oh, please, you know. I think if you tell a good story and people want to read it, then that's indication enough whether it's worthwhile. I think many popular stories are well written and well characterized.
Q: Who is your favorite author?
A: Me. Well, obviously I'm very partial to my daughter, Carol Higgins Clark. She's a darn good writer. I've always loved to read the suspense and mysteries. There used to be a justice story in our Sunday paper at home. It laid out a case. "At 7 o'clock in the evening 12-year-old Janie Tompkins went for a walk with her dog and promised to be back in 15 minutes and her battered body was found..." they would give all sorts of clues and I would study those clues avidly from the time I was 10 or 11 years old.
Q: Do you ever find yourself trying to solve real mysteries, like the Laci Peterson murder?
A: Oh sure. You know I like to watch for the clues. I think one of the most significant of all is one of the simple ones in this case. If it's true -- she did not open her draperies that morning and that's the first thing she would do when she came downstairs to the front room is open the draperies. I do exactly the same thing, and open the draperies to the back garden. I do it instinctively, and I think that's a very telling clue.
Q: Do you know the outcome of a plot before you begin to write the story?
A: I need to know where the book is going. I need to know he did and this is the reason, or she did and this is why. It's as though you've shot an arrow at a goal, a target. And you are working toward that target.
Q: Is getting the movie deal the supreme symbol of success?
A: Well, I wouldn't say so. I think if you're lucky enough to have one of those enormous blockbuster movies, that's great. Tom Clancy's movie, remember, "The Hunt for Red October," helped to launch him as huge. And John Grisham's "The Firm." I'm told my books aren't sexy enough for a big film, nor violent enough. So I do a fair amount of television movies.
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