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Mary & Carol

Mary on storytelling:

400k WAV audio file
1.8Mb QuickTime movie

Carol on her mother:

215k WAV audio file
950k QuickTime movie

Mary Higgins Clark "You Belong to Me"

Carol Higgins Clark "Twanged"


She's known as the Queen of Suspense, but to Mary Higgins Clark, that means she's 'just a storyteller'.

Read the first chapter of "You Belong to Me"

Mother and daughter writers

Carol, Mary Higgins Clark work well together

Web posted on: Tuesday, May 12, 1998 4:59:14 PM EDT

(CNN) -- Mary and Carol Higgins Clark are perhaps one of the most popular mother-daughter tandems in the publishing world. Mary Higgins Clark is the top-selling female suspense writer in the United States, and her newest book, "You Belong to Me," has 45 million copies in print in the U.S. alone. On top of that, she was recently voted "Mother of the Year" by the Mother's Day Committee.

Carol Higgins Clark, meanwhile, is also a success. She's an actress, and has a new novel titled "Twanged". Both women appeared on CNN Sunday Morning on Mother's Day.

CNN ANCHOR LEON HARRIS: Happy mother's day to you.



HARRIS: Hey, how does that feel to be "Mother of the Year"?

MARY HIGGINS CLARK: Well, I was very flattered. I asked Carol if she voted.

HARRIS: Did you?

CAROL HIGGINS CLARK: I wasn't asked to vote. But I would have voted for her definitely.

HARRIS: Carol, what kind of mom is Mary?

CAROL HIGGINS CLARK: She's a terrific mother. She really is. She always has been. She's always taught us not to get upset about the little things, and as a matter of fact, we tease her. Because if you would come home with a great big problem and tell her about it, she would say, "Yes, but do you know so-and-so has a much bigger problem than you do."

HARRIS: There you go. Some perspective for you, huh?


MARY HIGGINS CLARK: Everything in perspective. That's right.

HARRIS: I've got one question I was begged to ask you this morning. And this is about you, Mary. You write these suspenseful, scary kind of stories. What kind of bed-time stories did you tell Carol?

MARY HIGGINS CLARK: "Now, children, go to sleep. I don't want you to worry when you hear the creaking on the stairs. The ghost promised he wouldn't show up tonight."


HARRIS: Carol, was it really that bad?

CAROL HIGGINS CLARK: She used to say, "There's a man behind the curtain. But don't worry about it."

HARRIS: Now, she didn't do that to you. Did she?

CAROL HIGGINS CLARK: No, she really didn't. No. It was later in life that she started writing these spooky stories. It was when I was in college, actually.

HARRIS: Mary, I want to know what you think is the real root of your success. It seems like every time you put pen to paper now, it's a guaranteed million seller, if not more. What do think is your secret? If you had to bottle it and sell it, what would you say the secret was?

MARY HIGGINS CLARK: Well, I think the secret for any successful writer is to be a storyteller. I heard (Nobel Prize winner) Isaac Bashevis Singer say that years ago. He said, "I do not care how eloquent your phrase is, how polished your prose, unless you are a storyteller, you are not a writer."

He said in medieval times the storyteller went from castle to castle. He began with the magical words "Once upon a time," and everyone went "shhhh" and drew closer to the fire.

Begin your books with those words. I think I'm an Irish storyteller. I don't write a book. I hang over the back fence and talk about the neighbors."

HARRIS: Tell us about "You Belong To Me."

MARY HIGGINS CLARK: "You Belong To Me" is about a psychologist who had been a prosecutor, which means she had a trained mind, has a radio show and starts to discuss a woman who was missing from a cruise ship three years earlier. And she starts to get phone-ins.

You know: "A man approached me on a cruise ship. And we never dated on the ship. He said 'let's not be seen. Let's not be talked about. And I would meet him at the different ports. And he gave me a ring that said 'You Belong To Me.'"

So I had a serial killer tracking lonely women on up-scale cruise ships. And I think that's a sweet idea, don't you?

HARRIS: Yes, that works. That's a nice cheery thing.


HARRIS: Carol, how about your book "Twanged?" As I understand it, there's a bit of an autobiographical twinge here?

CAROL HIGGINS CLARK: My female private investigator, Regan Reiley, her mother is a mystery writer. And she is a continuing character. So she's in all my books. But in "Twanged," I have a country singer who has a hit single whose mother is from Ireland. And she has been given a fiddle by her mentor from Ireland, but it turns out it has a curse on it if it leaves Ireland.

And she's heading to the Hampton's for a music festival. And Regan Reiley is there to protect her.

MARY HIGGINS CLARK: It's a very funny book. I write the psychological suspense. She writes the tongue-and-cheek humor and does very, very well.

HARRIS: Exactly, and that's why the two of you seem to offer such a great balance for folks that do keep track of the work of both of you. You guys ever steal ideas from each other?

MARY HIGGINS CLARK: No, I tried to steal an (idea about) a Santa Claus who was a fake. And Carol said, "You can't do that. That's what I'm writing in my book."

CAROL HIGGINS CLARK: One time she tried to use the name of a character that I had already used. I said to her, "Everyone's going to think I'm copying you. You can't use that name."

So that's the only thing we really argue about. We go around together. We did a book signing together yesterday. It's really a lot of fun to be in the same field together. We go to mystery writer's dinners and conventions together. So it's nice.

MARY HIGGINS CLARK: You know, it's the same as though a doctor says, you know, "My son or my daughter is going to be a doctor." And everyone says, "Isn't that wonderful? Aren't you proud?"

For some crazy reason, they think that a writer might resent another writer in the family. I had always said that Carol would support me in my declining years. But I got married, so she's off the hook.


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