Call me a snob if you will but I generally have a distrust of best-selling authors. While there are notable exceptions such as Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Robert Crais and Laura Lippman, most best-selling authors do not deserve that status.
Too often the bestseller lists is full of authors like Patricia Cornwell and David Baldacci, who were good in their early books but over time resort to formulas while their books drop in quality. I say this to explain why, until this month, I had not read any books by Mary Higgins Clark. But then a publicist sent me a copy of Clark’s latest book, I Heard That Song Before, which came out last week.
I initially balked at reading and reviewing the book, citing a backlog of books to read, and said the only way I’d consider reading it would be if I could interview the author. Well, that plan certainly backfired, as you can see. How often does one get the chance to interview a female writer who has written 24 best-selling novels, and sold more than 85 million copies of her books in the United States alone? Not bloody often.
As you will see she was unfailingly polite in the interview. Thanks to Clark, her assistant and her publicist for arranging this interview.
Scott Butki: Please summarize, in your words, what this book is about.
Mary Higgins Clark: The main character in I Heard That Song Before is a 28-year-old woman, married in a whirl-wind romance, who has to find out if her new husband murdered three people, including her father, while he was sleepwalking.
How did the idea for this book come about?
I read an article about two cases in the U.S. where men are now serving lifetime prison terms for murdering someone they loved while sleepwalking, and two men in Canada who were acquitted by a jury for the same crimes.
Which comes first in books like this one – the plot or the characters?
The basic storyline comes first, the main character is next, and then the plot develops.
What has been the high point in your literary career? The low point?
There are two – selling my first short story for $100 and my first suspense novel to Simon and Schuster for $3,000. I can honestly say I have not had a low point.
What is the best part of being a bestselling author? The worst part?
The best part is that the books (my ‘literary children’) are enjoyed and valued by so many readers. Obviously the financial end of it is joyful. There is no worst part, unless you count the moment the first sentence of the new book is written, and I wonder if I can tell a new tale.