Home Features Entertainment Women's History NJ: Best-Selling Author Mary Higgins Clark

Women’s History NJ: Best-Selling Author Mary Higgins Clark

Best-selling suspense writer, Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins was born in the Bronx, New York, on December 24, 1927. She was one of three children to her Irish father and American-born mother, who was also of Irish descent. As an author, she is more famously known as Mary Higgins Clark. As someone who found success later in life, she is an inspiration for potential writers of all ages.

Higgins Clark developed an interest in writing early on in her life. By age seven, she had already composed her first poem and even began keeping a journal. While still in grammar school, she would also write plays, which her friends would act in.

The Great Depression had not affected Higgins Clark’s family when she was still a baby; but by the time she was 10 years old, her family experienced significant financial troubles. Her parents had owned an Irish pub, and many of the bar’s patrons were unable to pay back their tabs. In 1939, Higgins Clark’s father died in his sleep, and her mother struggled to support her three children. When her mother was unable to find a job, Higgins Clark moved out of her bedroom; this allowed her mother to rent the room out in order to help pay the bills.

Best-Selling Author Mary Higgins Clark

Mary Higgins Clark attended Villa Maria Academy after she graduated from Saint Francis Xavier Grammar School. At the Academy, the principal, as well as several teachers, encouraged Higgins Clark to grow her writing abilities. She made her first attempt to get published at 16, but her manuscript was rejected. During this time, Higgins Clark also worked as a switchboard operator at the Shelton Hotel to help pay the bills; unfortunately, her family was still forced to move out of the house and into an apartment.

Best-Selling Writer Mary Higgins ClarkAfter Higgins Clark’s older brother, Joseph, graduated from high school, he enlisted in the Navy; he wanted to both serve his country and help his mother support his siblings. Several months after enlisting, though, Joseph contracted spinal meningitis and passed away. If a silver lining could be found in Joseph’s death, it would be that his mother received his life pension. She was once again able to support her children.

After graduating from high school, Mary Higgins Clark attended Wood Secretarial School in Manhattan. She worked briefly as a secretary before becoming a flight attendant for Pan American Airlines. She stayed with the airline for only a year before marrying her neighbor, Warren Clark. The couple eventually moved to Washington Township in Bergen County.

Not long after marrying, Higgins Clark began taking writing courses at New York University; she even formed a weekly writing workshop with classmates. While in college, she wrote a short story entitled “Stowaway;” the story is about a stewardess who finds a stowaway from Czechoslovakia on her plane. After six years and 40 rejections, the story was purchased by Extension Magazine in 1956 for $100.

The Long Road to Success

In 1968, Mary Higgins Clark published her debut novel about George Washington entitled Aspire to the Heavens. To set a good example for her children, she enrolled at Fordham University at Lincoln Center in 1971; she went on to graduate summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy eight years later. While attending the university, she published the two novels Where Are The Children? and A Stranger is Watching.

Though she has worked a variety of jobs, Higgins Clark has never stopped writing. She has published more than 50 novels, all of which are still in print; she has sold more than 100 million books worldwide. A number of her books have even been adapted to film and television. Higgins Clark has perfected the art of crafting relatable characters and an immersive world of mystery. Today, she lives in Saddle Brook and also owns homes in Manhattan, Spring Lake, and Dennis, Massachusetts. She continues to enjoy writing every day.