Most people might have slowed down by now. But Mary Higgins Clark is decidedly not most people. With more than 50 best-selling books to her credit (100 million copies of her thrillers are in print in the United States alone) and a new novel, I’VE GOT MY EYES ON YOU, just released, the “Queen of Suspense” is still on the move. In fact, this Bronx-born denizen of Saddle River, N.J., produces two books a year.
Clark, who celebrated her 90th birthday on Christmas Eve, always makes time for her many (many) fans and will put her pen down long enough to be recognized by her fellow writers. For her “distinguished service to the literary community,” the Authors Guild Foundation on May 16, 2018 will honor Clark, along Fulcrum Publishing’s Charlotte and Robert C. Baron, and Vida: Women in Literary Arts.
Beyond her prodigious and well-received work, Clark has been an indefatigable supporter of the FRAXA Research Foundation, a Massachusetts-based non-profit leading the way into research of Fragile X, the most common inherited form of autism.
Clark indulged our own (resident Clark fan) Carol Beggy in a few questions about her work, her fans, and her philanthropy.
CB: Mary, if I can be so bold as to call a literary hero by her first name, how do you do it? Specifically, you’ve continued to write books that resonate with readers when other authors would have taken their winnings and retired to the beach or the mountains.
MHC: Yes, call me Mary. It’s very flattering that readers have enjoyed my books over the last 43 years. I am at heart a storyteller. That’s what I do. I’m not much of a cook, although my five children did not starve to death. I can’t sew a stitch. Nothing I planted in the garden grew properly. So, what would I do all day if I didn’t write? I hope I never find out!
CB: Are your fans really as loyal as they seem? I overheard two people waiting at the airport, one was reading one of your books, and the conversation involved them first trying to not ruin any plot lines and then debating various stories you told. Do they engage you about your stories? How do you keep it all straight?
MHC: I have been blessed with many readers who say, and they mean it, “I’ve read every one of your books.” We’ve had a relationship that’s lasted over 40 years. I love it when readers tell me my book kept them up until 2:00 in the morning. It’s also great when they tell me which of my books is their favorite. It’s gratifying that their answers are many different titles.
CB: Even within the industry, you have a large following of fans. I have been at Book Expo, the annual publishing industry trade show, and when you are doing a signing the editors, librarians, other authors in attendance “fight” for a spot in your line. (You and James Patterson get that same treatment.) Does it ever surprise you or make you pause that you’ve achieved a kind of rock star status?
MHC: I can honestly say I am living my dream. I know so many people who are wonderful writers who can’t make a living doing it, who get very modest contracts if they can get published at all. I must share a story from the old days. The first book I wrote was a historical novel on George Washington. Its title was ASPIRE TO THE HEAVENS. This was 1968. I would go around to the few bookstores that carried it and volunteer to autograph the copies. In those days the stores could not return a signed book for credit, so every signed book meant a sale. I made a pact with God. If I ever become famous, I’ll never refuse a request to sign a book. I’ll always remember that a signed book meant a sale.
CB: I have a Little Free Library (one of those take a book, leave a book, swapping stations) in front of my house. Your books, any time or format, are among the fastest moving. I put one in the Library’s shelf and it is gone. I even saw an older man take one telling me that he loves to read your books, but people give him a hard time. Has it ever surprised you to learn that someone was a fan?
MHC: My publisher tells me that about three quarters of the people who buy my books are women. But I’ve been delighted to hear from so many men who became readers when their wife, girlfriend or mother insisted that they give my books a try.
CB: As new audiences find you, do you ever want to go back and re-tell a story or re-do a book?
MHC: Not really. Whenever I finish a book, I say, okay, I’ve told the best story I can possibly tell. The only time I have regret, and maybe that’s too strong a word, is when a lot of readers tell me they figured out early on who the killer was, and they were right. I remember in one of my early books I introduced a character who was expert at imitating other people’s voices. That skill makes people very uncomfortable, and they immediately suspected him. I try to keep readers guessing, but when the killer is revealed, I want the reader to agree that there were clues along the way that built a case for this person to be the killer. Nobody likes an ending that comes out of left field.
CB: I understand your son Dave plays an important role in your writing. Can you tell me about that?
MHC: Dave started working with me about five years ago. In the beginning he was doing research and handling my email correspondence with my editor. I developed arthritis in my hands and typing became difficult. I started dictating to Dave. He would bring back what I wrote with some suggestions on how things might be said differently. They were good. It quickly evolved into talking plots and characters with him and the results have been very good. Dave came up with idea for my current book, I’VE GOT MY EYES ON YOU.
CB: Now to the non-writing work that you and your family have dedicated yourselves to: advancing research toward improved treatments and a cure for Fragile X, which affects your grandson. What’s the most important thing people who have not been directly affected by this genetic condition should know about it?
MHC: It’s not always obvious that a child has Fragile X, so if you see a child who is having a hard time – anxious, afraid. having a meltdown – it’s quite possible that they are doing the very best they can. But despite challenges, most people with Fragile X are very friendly and love humor.
CB: Fragile X has been a cause close to your heart. Tell us why it’s so important to you?
MHC: There are so many worthy causes and diseases to be cured, but the impact is greatest when it hits close to home. When my grandson was born, his parents quickly became aware of a relatively new organization called FRAXA Research Foundation. Almost 30 years ago, shortly after my grandson was diagnosed, Katie Clapp and Mike Tranfaglia came to my house, shared the story of their son Andy and how they were devoting their lives to finding treatments and a cure. I was so moved that I pledged $1 million to FRAXA and I hosted a fundraising gala in New York City.
CB: You and now so many members of your family are big supporters of FRAXA Research Foundation. Could you tell us a little bit about FRAXA?
MHC: FRAXA is a national 501c3 nonprofit founded in 1994 in Newburyport, MA. FRAXA’s mission is to find effective treatments and a cure for Fragile X, the most common inherited cause of intellectual disabilities and autism. To date, FRAXA has invested over $27 million into cutting edge biomedical research, yielding discoveries that are changing the lives of families coping with fragile X.
CB: Of the many FRAXA fundraising parties/events you’ve attended, tell me about the one when your granddaughter Elizabeth gave a remarkable speech, “This is my brother”, about her brother David who has Fragile X.
MHC: I thought it was remarkable. Elizabeth has always been so wonderful in how she has gone out of way include her brother in every facet of her life. I’ll never forget her line, “I judge people by the way they treat my brother.”
CB: How can people help?
MHC: There are two ways people can help. Research is expensive. FRAXA is such a worthy cause. And the research they are doing is making a difference in the lives of those affected by Fragile X. There’s another way the relatives and friends can help a family with a child who has Fragile X. Many of them are so good about minding the kids so the parents can have a break. What they should also consider is the sacrifice that siblings of Fragile X kids make. If you can take care of the child with Fragile X while the family and the non-affected siblings have a chance to do an activity together, that is so helpful. We should remember that the siblings of kids with Fragile X are really special, too.
I hate running. Hate it with a deep burning passion. Why do I do it? Still trying to figure that one out. It all started in 2010 when I decided to run my first 5K. I ran the Jolly Jaunt through downtown Boston. It was cold and I thought I’d never make it, but I did and it felt great. So, I started training to run a half marathon, I mean why not? I ran one in July of 2011 and crossing the finish line was unreal. I wanted to bottle that feeling and carry it with me. But you can’t and you are left with sore legs and a cool medal. Next step? Might as well run Boston, right? So I did. On the hottest day ever. I crossed the finish line in a brisk 7 hour and 9 minutes. Friends, I have yet to replicate that one.
After running Boston last year, I just lost something. I had to quit at the half marathon and felt terrible about it. I also caught a lot of shit for not finishing. People can be pretty mean on the internet. Fast forward a year – I’m ready to go again.
It’s the 2013 Napa to Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon Destination Race on July 21st and training has started in earnest. And by earnest I mean training runs on Saturdays, and many week days spent making excuses as to why I’m not running that day. (I blame Netflix for my inability to lace up shoes on workdays.) Last week we hit up DW Field Park which, to quote my coach, is a beautiful spot in an otherwise not so pretty place. It is a hilly three and a quarter mile loop which circles Brockton Reservoir and the day was perfect for it. We start as a group but packs quickly pull away and I’m usually on my own. In my patented run til I can’t breathe, then walk for a bit training plan, I took on these almost 4 miles with gusto. The weather was perfect, the scenery was so beautiful and everyone I passed said hello. This is what I love about running in these types of places… real runners don’t go here. Real runners can be assholes. I do understand it, charity runners like me are slower, don’t know all the etiquette, and take numbers that a qualifier could have. But seriously, running is for everyone, don’t be a dick. But I digress…
Why did I choose this half marathon? First off, I’m running with Team Challenge helping to fight Crohn’s and Colitis – both diseases are horrible, so any little bit I can do to help is great. Secondly, the race is in Napa and there is wine at the finish line. WINE AT THE FINISH LINE. The finish line is at Cuvaison Carneros Winery, which is a sustainable estate that produces distinctive chardonnays and pinot noirs and now I’m drooling. I plan on soaking up all Napa has to offer while I’m there and squeeze that half marathon in between tastings. In fact, I plan on having my post race meal delivered to the amazing tasting room.
Back to reality… I finished up my lap in a little under an hour. Let’s hear it for a 14 minute mile! Next Saturday it’s 6 miles, so I better get my butt in gear with the weekday runs, binge watching will be postponed to the next rainy day. I’ve got a ways to go in this journey, but it’s always the first step that is the hardest. And friends, nothing feels better than keeping a promise to yourself.
Each year a few hundred people come together at The Curley Center on M St Beach for Harpoon Helps Cupid Splash raising funds for Save the Harbor, Save the Bay. Save the Harbor is an amazing organization whose mission is to restore and protect Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Bay, and the marine environment and share them with the public for everyone to enjoy. What is the Cupid Splash? Well, we dress up in silly costumes (in our case it was prom dresses) and run willingly into the harbor with the understanding that once we get out of the water there will be Harpoon beer and burgers from Sullivan’s. JetBlue provided prizes for the best costume and top fundraisers This year to add insult to injury it snowed. SNOWED. Good thing Kennedy’s Crew runs on vodka. Thank you to everyone who supported us and donated to our cause!
Billy Porter, Tony-winning star of the colorful musical “Kinky Boots,” trades his drag gown for the director’s chair with Huntington Theatre Company’s production of “The Colored Museum,” a scathing comedy that cycles through nearly a dozen vignettes that explore slavery, modern gender roles, beauty standards, and other issues as they relate to the African-American culture. Each theatrical exhibits offers a chance to comment, critique, and frequently satirize — as any good “Museum” would.
WHERE: Avenue of the Arts/BU Theatre
WHEN: March 6 — April 5
When newly minted Super Bowl champ Rob Gronkowski appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Monday night, the host asked the dancing tight end if he would read an excerpt from Lacey Noonan’s erotic novel “A Gronking to Remember.” Not one to be easily embarrassed, No. 87 told Kimmel that he’d give it a go, but that he hadn’t read a book “since the ninth grade.” Gronk even referred to that last book as “A Mocking to Remember” and then “A Mockingbird to Remember.”
That got us thinking that now that Gronkowski is in the off-season, we’d make a vacation reading list for him. (I asked the help of our Facebook friends to offer some suggestions as well.)
The Gronkowski Summer Reading List:
- Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” (or the Gregory Peck movie adaptation) since Scout & Co. didn’t seem to leave much of a lasting impression. And, Gronk can be caught up when the new sequel is released.
- Nicole Barrick Chiasson suggested we “keep it classic and start easy?” So her suggestion is Maurice Sendak’s classic “Where the Wild Things Are.”
- Kathleen Drohan wrote that she thought Gronk should have some spirituality on his readling list so she proposed “The Tao of Pooh.”
- Meg Harris gave a twist on Don Miguel Ruiz’ “The Four Agreements” and suggested that Gronk might create “The Four Agronkments: 1. No Readin’ 2. No Writin’ 3. No ‘rithmetic 4. Girls
- Ryan Bruner thinks that maybe Gronkowski would make for the perfect replacement in “The Gronk That Stole Christmas.”
- styleboston’s dear friend Mary J. Kakas “went there” and suggested Gronk might first start with elocution lessons, but lightened up a bit and said that he should read “War and Peace.”
- Cathy Kleinbart made such a wonderful suggestion that we almost claimed we thought of it: “Make Way for Ducklings.”
And, we’d like to throw on the list the not-yet-released (due in March from Triumph books) “Pumped” by the staff of the Boston Globe. Yes, that’s its actual title.
By the way, since Gronkowski’s appearance on Kimmel’s show, “A Gronking…” has since risen to a “No. 1 Bestseller” on Amazon.com.
I realize I might bring some of this on myself, but I seriously walked into the dark side this time.
Salt and I were waiting in my car to go into an appearance and I got a ping on my POF profile. So I read it and it was well written, funny, and seemingly real. The holy trifecta! I showed it to Salt, my best girlfriend, to get his opinion. He had the same thought as me, a normal boy, and we decided to bring it to the program. Like I said, I might have brought this on myself. Here is a brief snippet of what he said…
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Kennedy is a smarty pants. Every morning she shows off her knowledge of all things pop culture during “Can’t Beat Kennedy,” everyone’s favorite part of the “Karson and Kennedy” show on Mix 104.1. When she’s not on air she’s hanging out at the L Street Tavern, sneaking her dog Elvis onto M Street Beach for a game of catch, or checking out the incredible music scene in Boston. Newly single, she’s dived into the world of online dating and has determined she is very bad at it, but knows it’s funny to watch. She loves a good adventure, fears nothing but tinfoil, and wants to try everything once. And the fun stuff twice. “And I’m serious about the tin foil,” she says.
Bryan Margaca is a D.P./Independent Cinematographer with over a decade of experience telling stories around the world behind the lens. Shooting and lighting in a variety of production settings – commercial, indie narrative, documentary, fashion broadcast segments, corporate, multi-cam events, and many more. Offering full creative and efficient shot quality through V-Neck Media. Brooklyn based. Boston raised. 2013 New England Emmy Award Winning Production. Looking to be inspired and impressed.
Newly opened BoMa has character out the wazoo, making this little hole-in-the-wall a force to be reckoned with. Beautifully handcrafted cedar and walnut carpentry, an over-sized pergola above the bar, and massive distressed beams along the ceiling make this South End hot spot effortlessly chic.
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