Marymount Manhattan College Writing Center Kicks Off Irish Writers Series
Carol Higgins Clark & Mary Higgins Clark
“Irish Voices: Irish Women, Irish Desires…Songs from the Soul” got off to a delightful start at the Writing Center at Marymount Manhattan College with a talk by mother-daughter mystery writing sensations, Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark. The Clementina Santi Flaherty Lecture Series will also feature evenings with Edna O’Brien (Oct. 17), Nuala O’Faolain (Nov. 14), and Alice McDermott (Dec. 6). Tina Flaherty, an award-winning writer and pioneering businesswoman, who generously funded the talks, explained her admiration for Irish writers, especially females. “They are willing to reveal themselves, their vulnerabilities, and their strengths…People don’t understand strong women, don’t understand that they bleed like the rest of humanity…I want to expose the work of these writers. Some are not household names and should be.” Malachy McCourt, the beloved writer and actor and an enthusiastic attendee, weighed in with a twinkle in his eye, “Ireland is a matriarchy. The Irish look down on their women with reverence. They have Mother Ireland and Mother McCree.…It is time for the Irish, time for its women writers to be recognized.”
In her warm introduction of the Clarks, Flaherty described them as examples of “strong women who bleed and hurt but also succeed…They have a particular ability to speak from the heart and soul and are not afraid to do so.” Like many top authors, Mary Higgins Clark experienced early rejections before going on to pen over 24 best-selling suspense novels that have sold over 80 million copies. Explained Flaherty, “All feature strong, independent women who have a problem they must solve themselves.” Mary’s daughter Carol Higgins Clark has also authored many best-selling suspense stories, including the “Regan Reilly Mysteries,” as well as co-authored, with her mother, a best-selling holiday mystery series. The daughter, vivacious and witty, has also had success as an actress and has recorded the novels she wrote with her mother.
Mary always wanted to be a writer. “It’s an itch I have to scratch.” As a child, she loved to listen to stories. “It was always the Irish…They’ll find shamrocks on my DNA,” she muses. Carol got involved in the family business by “being around it” and helping her mother with typing before the advent of the computer. They started co-authoring seven years ago and, “It’s fun,” reports Mary. “We’re always looking for ideas and it helps to be Irish.” They sometimes shift characters into each others stories and Carol is mindful of her mother’s advice, “If someone is mean to you, make them a victim in your next book.” People and incidents are often lifted from their own lives. After experiencing a blackout, they put one in a novel. Research is critical. “I will hear from someone if anything is wrong,” reports Mary. “I always go to the experts. I don’t want a nurse or doctor to say, she doesn’t know what she’s doing… It’s fun to get educated along the way…I learned from a detective that an innocent victim doesn’t seek a lawyer.” The two women took a 9-day cruise on a “bad, smelly” ship to research their latest holiday mystery, Santa Cruise. Mary gets “back to her characters every day and asks, “Where are we now and where should we go.” While writing, she almost always knows how a story will end. “I know who did it and why but the ‘way’ is still getting to me…I run with something that is clearly a dramatic situation.”
Justin Shaver, president of Marymount Manhattan, hopes the “Irish Voices” series, a major initiative, will “raise the conversation about literature and show off our little jewel boxes—the Writing Center and the college.” Lewis B. Frumkes is director of the Writing Center.#