Each of her 51 books has been a bestseller in the United States and various European countries , and all of her novels remained in print as of [update] , with her debut suspense novel, Where Are the Children , in its seventy-fifth printing. Higgins Clark began writing at an early age. After several years working as a secretary and copy editor , she spent a year as a stewardess for Pan-American Airlines before leaving her job to marry and start a family.
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She supplemented the family's income by writing short stories. After her husband died in , Higgins Clark worked for many years writing four-minute radio scripts until her agent persuaded her to try writing novels. Her suspense novels became very popular, and as of [update] her books had sold more than 80 million copies in the United States alone. Mary Theresa Eleanor Higgins was born on Christmas Eve , although some sources mistakenly cite as the year,  the second child and only daughter of Irish immigrant Luke Higgins and his American born wife Nora, also of Irish descent.
She was born about a year and a half after the birth of her older brother, Joseph. Her younger brother John, followed three years later. The family lived off the earnings from their Irish pub and were fairly well-off, owning a home in the Bronx and a summer cottage on Long Island Sound.
The family was thrown into further turmoil in , when young Mary returned home from an early Mass to discover that her father had died in his sleep. Nora Higgins, now a widow with three young children to support, soon discovered that few employers were willing to hire a year-old woman who had not held a job in over fourteen years. Higgins Clark and her mother prayed constantly for him, and their neighbors came en masse to give blood for the many transfusions the young boy needed.
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Despite the dire predictions of the doctors, Joseph Higgins survived. Higgins Clark credits his recovery to the power of their prayers.
To help pay the bills, she worked as a switchboard operator at the Shelton Hotel, where she often listened in to the residents' conversations. In her memoir she recalls spending much time eavesdropping on Tennessee Williams but complained that he never said anything interesting.
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On her days off, Higgins Clark would window shop, mentally choosing the clothes she would wear when she finally became a famous writer. Despite Higgins Clark's contribution to the family finances, the money her mother earned babysitting  was not enough, and the family lost their house and moved into a small three-room apartment. When Joseph graduated from high school in , he immediately enlisted in the Navy, both to serve his country during war and to help his mother pay her bills.
Six months after his enlistment he contracted spinal meningitis and died. Soon after Joseph died, Higgins Clark graduated from high school and attended Wood Secretarial School on a partial scholarship. After completing her coursework the following year, she accepted a job as the secretary to the head of the creative department in the internal advertising division at Remington Rand.
Her growing skills, as well as her natural beauty, were noticed by her boss and others in the company, and her job was expanded to include writing catalog copy alongside future novelist Joseph Heller and to model for the company brochures with a then unknown Grace Kelly. Although she enjoyed her job, Higgins Clark's imagination was sparked by an acquaintance's casual comment, "God, it was beastly hot in Calcutta. By the end of the evening Warren Clark had informed her that he thought she should work as a stewardess for a year, and then they should be married the following Christmas.
Higgins Clark accepted the somewhat unorthodox proposal. For most of , she worked the Pan Am international flights, traveling through Europe, Africa, and Asia. One of her flights became the last flight allowed into Czechoslovakia before the Iron Curtain fell. At the end of her year of flying, on December 26, , Higgins Clark happily gave up her career to marry Warren Clark. The workshop, which persisted for almost forty years, met weekly. At each meeting two members would have twenty minutes each to present their latest work. The other members would then have three minutes each to offer constructive criticism.
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One of her professors at NYU told the class they should develop plot ideas by reading newspapers and asking themselves prompts such as, "Suppose? They became such good friends that Higgins Clark named her fifth and last child for her. Higgins Clark herself filmed a television commercial for Fab laundry detergent. The commercial, which aired during the I Love Lucy show, earned her enough money that she and Warren were able to take a trip to Hawaii.
After the last heart attack in , they felt that Warren would be unable to work again, so Higgins Clark called a friend who wrote scripts for radio shows to see if there were any job openings.
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The day that she accepted a job writing the radio segment "Portrait of a Patriot," Warren suffered a fatal heart attack. His mother, who was visiting at the time, collapsed at his bedside upon discovering that he was dead. In one night, Higgins Clark lost both her husband and her mother-in-law. Her work was good enough that she was soon asked to write two other radio series.
For their first Christmas without Warren, Higgins Clark's only gifts to her children were personalized poems describing the things she wished she could have purchased for them.
By the late s, the short story market had collapsed. The Saturday Evening Post , which in named Higgins Clark's short story "Beauty Contest at Buckingham" one of their ten best of the year, was in serious financial straits and had decided to stop publishing fiction, and many of the popular ladies' were focusing on self-help articles instead. For their first Christmas without Warren, Higgins Clark's only gifts to her children were personalized poems describing the things she wished she could have purchased for them. By the late s, the short story market had collapsed.
The Saturday Evening Post , which in named Higgins Clark's short story "Beauty Contest at Buckingham" one of their ten best of the year, was in serious financial straits and had decided to stop publishing fiction, and many of the popular ladies' were focusing on self-help articles instead.
It is about George Washington and the love for his house. To ensure that her children would not have to struggle financially, Higgins Clark was determined that they should have good educations. To provide a good example she entered Fordham University at Lincoln Center in , graduating summa cum laude in , with a BA in philosophy.
During this time Higgins Clark became increasingly frustrated with her employer, and, although two of her children were partially dependent on her for their college tuition, she quit her job and joined two of her former colleagues in forming their own company to write and market radio scripts. Higgins Clark continued writing even during these hard times. Encouraged by her agent to try writing another book, Higgins Clark returned to the suspense stories that she loved as a child and which had provided her first success as a short story writer. While she was in the midst of writing the story, her younger brother Johnny died, leaving her the sole surviving member of her family.
To temporarily forget her heartache, Higgins Clark threw herself into her writing, and soon finished the novel. For the first time in many years she had no immediate financial worries.
Higgins Clark's debut novel about George Washington, Aspire to the Heavens was retitled Mount Vernon Love Story and rereleased in , the same year as her autobiography, Kitchen Privileges , which relied heavily on the journals she has kept all of her life. She has written several Christmas -themed mystery novels with her daughter, Carol. Although popular with readers, some critics have complained that the books are of lesser quality because the tone is much lighter than her solo output.
Higgins Clark dated throughout her widowhood. She described her second marriage to Raymond Ploetz as "disastrous," and had it annulled. In she married John J. Conheeney after they were introduced by her daughter, Patty. In , Higgins Clark happened to be in Washington, D. Because she had a press pass she was able to join the media waiting to hear the President's prognosis. When the doctor finally arrived to start the press conference, Higgins Clark was one of the few people chosen to ask a question. Currently, in , Higgins Clark has over 50 novels published, with millions of copies sold throughout the United States.
Her latest book that was released December , was titled The Cinderella Murder , and was co-written with author Alafair Burke. Six of her books were written with co-authors, including some with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark. As of [update] , she had written twenty-four suspense novels, which have sold over 80 million copies in the United States. Her suspense novels have been best-sellers, and as of [update] all are still in print, including Where are the Children? Her books are also bestsellers in France,  and have earned her the distinction of being named a Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters in France in Many of the books deal with crimes involving children or with telepathy.
While Higgins Clark is well aware that many people claiming to be psychics are behaving fraudulently, she believes that she has met people with genuine ESP powers. Nora Higgins, on looking at a photo of her eighteen-year-old son in his brand new Navy dress blues told Mary that "He has death in his eyes", and the young man died shortly after.
A psychic Higgins Clark visited just as her second novel, Where Are the Children , was being published in paperback told her that she would become very famous and make a great deal of money. Although at the time she laughed off the prediction, the following week her novel reached the bestseller lists and she sold the movie rights shortly after, truly launching her career. Higgins Clark has won numerous awards for her writing. She has been awarded eighteen honorary doctorates, including one from her alma mater, Fordham University.