At 89, mystery doyenne Mary Higgins Clark is still going strong. Her first book, a biography of George Washington, was published in 1968; her latest suspense novel, All by Myself, Alone (Simon & Schuster), is a bestseller.
Over the intervening years, Clark has maintained her approach to writing. “The way I tell a story has really not changed very much over the years, from the first [1975 suspense], Where Are the Children? to the new kid on the block,” Clark says. “You have to go in there as if it’s your first book every time. I absolutely believe that’s true; it’s the way I’ve lived what I do.”
The idea for the cruise ship setting of Clark’s new book came from her editor, Michael Korda. Clark adds how much she enjoys cruises. “Years ago I was asked to speak on cruise ships. Since I was a widow, I always brought a girlfriend with me, and two other friends shared in my freebie. We called ourselves ‘The Sail Aways!’
“For this book I decided this is going to be the master of all cruise ships,” Clark continues. “All the material about the Titanic, which still remains the most luxurious ship ever built, gave me the background for my novel. There’d be a squash court and things like that.” She laughs and adds, “And I love the idea of having a killer on the ship.”
With 37 suspense novels, three short story collections, a historical novel, two children’s books, and a memoir, plus the books Clark has penned with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark, as well as her Under Suspicion series with Alafair Burke, Clark still manages to keep her writing fresh.
“I follow the newspapers for an interesting case,” Clark says. “For this book, the main character’s fiancé has just been arrested the night before the wedding, because God knows there’s enough in the news about these hedge fund guys ending up in prison.
“You also want to tell the best story. It’s as though when you’re pregnant, you do all the exercises, eat the right food—you’ve done the best you can and hope the baby is in great condition. It’s the same when you’re writing a book. You put your all into it, change things to make it better, so when it’s turned in and printed, you wait for the responses, and hope it comes out the best it can be.”
Clark is a BookExpo veteran. “It’s always a great experience to see all these people looking at books and to see how many books are printed every year,” she says. “You realize how blessed you are to have a book that has not only been reviewed kindly, but has also sold well.”
Today, 2–3 p.m. Mary Higgins Clark will sign in the Autographing Area, at Table 2; this is a ticketed signing.