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The Author Speaks

Interview With Mary Higgins Clark, Author of New Novel 'I'll Walk Alone'

At 83 she shares her wisdom with aspiring writers

Q. Really?

A My mother was a diehard Democrat, and she would go trotting around to get the vote out. She would help all the older ladies get to the polls. She loved politics, and that's something I think I would have enjoyed very much. But I wouldn't have been the person I am today. I am a writer. And I've always said, let others decide whether I'm a good writer. I know I'm a good Irish storyteller.

Q. What else don't we know about you?

A. I love a good party. I'm the one who would climb out of my casket to go to my wake! And when I die, put a nice big spiral notebook, a couple of pens, and a glass of wine in the casket, and I'll be perfectly content.

Q. Is there a question you've never been asked all these years and always wished someone would ask you?

A. I don't think so, though you could fool me. Somebody did ask me once, "Do you remember your first kiss?" And I thought, oh, sweet Jesus. Whoever kissed me good night after a dance was so utterly insignificant, I have no idea! (Laughs.) I came from that era where no guy would dare to get fresh with you, including when you were engaged. My contemporary gals and I just look at these kids today — all of these Page Six people who say things like "See my baby bump?" — and we say, "Holy mother of God." I'm not judgmental. I just shake my head.

Q. For those who aspire to write something, what advice would you offer?

A. If you need to write, you will write. If you say, "I don't have time," or "I'll write it as soon as I retire," or "as soon as the children are grown," "as soon as I have a nice quiet room," "as soon as the dog dies" — you're playing games with yourself. There will always be a new set of excuses. You will find the time to write if you're compelled to write.

Q. What about seeking practical help or instruction?

A. If people tell me, "I know I can write," I tell them, "Go to the local community college and take a course." It's awfully hard to just sit down at the computer and say, "Now I'm going to write." But if you're in a writing course, whether it's fiction or nonfiction, you'll get assignments and you'll have to complete them, whether they're short stories or anything else.

Q. Perseverance — your trademark — must be another tip to share.

A. Of course. Keep at it. You can't just finish something, send it out, and if it's rejected, say, "I guess I'm not a writer." I wrote 11 short stories before the first one sold, and that was after 40 rejections. And it sold for $100, incidentally! You don't stop writing just because you don't sell something.

Next: It's the stories that matter. >>

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