May 8, 2010 / 7:46 PM / in 8 years

Higgins Clarks celebrate Mother's Day as best sellers

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Suspense authors Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol Higgins Clark are set to celebrate Mother’s Day in high literary form -- by residing together on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

<p>American novelist Mary Higgins Clark poses near the beach as she attends the MIPCOM in Cannes, October 9, 2001. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>

Both women released mystery novels on April 13, with the elder Clark’s “The Shadow of Your Smile,” ranking No. 6 on the Times’ Hardcover Fiction best sellers list on May 7. Her daughter’s “Wrecked,” the 13th in her series featuring private investigator Regan Reilly, ranked 28th on the same list.

“We like to release our books on the same day so that we can travel together,” said the proud mom, 82, the author of 28 previous suspense novels.

The elder Higgins Clark’s books have sold over 100 million copies in the U.S. alone, and two have been made into feature films, including “Where are the Children” and “A Stranger is Watching.”

Born and raised in the Bronx, Mary Higgins Clark said she always wanted to be a novelist but attended secretarial school and also pursued a brief career as a flight attendant in 1949 for Pan American Airlines until she married Warren Clark in 1950. She explained how that career came to an end.

“You had to quit. You couldn’t be married and fly in those days,” she told Reuters. “They felt that a married woman had to be home with her husband.”

The decision proved to be fortuitous. As soon as she returned from her honeymoon, Higgins Clark decided to take a short story writing course in New York City that “taught her everything” she knows about writing books.

She began writing short stories, selling her first one to Extension Magazine in 1956 for $100. Then her life took a turn when she was left a young widow and mother of five by the death of her husband from a heart attack in 1964.

PURSUING A DREAM

Higgins Clark took to working on short radio scripts to earn money, and pursued her dream of writing books, publishing her first novel, a fictionalized account of the life of George Washington, in 1969 with Meredith Press, with modest success.

Her big break when Simon & Schuster bought her first suspense novel “Where Are the Children?” for a mere $3,000 in 1974. The paperback rights sold a few months later for a reported $100,000 and the novel became a bestseller. She traded in her beat-up car and bought a Cadillac, she said.

Carol Higgins Clark, her fourth child, was born in 1956, and as a girl would help her mother by typing manuscripts.

“We didn’t have computers in those days. I did that for my mom on a number of books,” she explained. “I used to talk to her about plots and characters and I found it really interesting. That’s when it all started,” she said.

Nevertheless, Carol initially pursued an acting career, landing various roles in productions such as Wendy Wasserstein’s “Uncommon Women and Others” and some film parts.

She turned her attention to writing when a drama coach, knowing her family’s literary background, encouraged her to try writing as a way to explore character motivations.

The two authors said they often read each others works-in-progress but were too busy on their recent books. They said they were stunned when an editor pointed out that some of their characters’ names needed to be changed because they were so similar.

“We think so much alike!” said the younger Clark, who added that she’s very careful about choosing characters’ names, often referring to the Internet to make sure they are original.

In the United States, Mother’s Day is celebrated on Sunday, May 9.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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