It’s quite the accomplishment to acquire an honorary title in your lifetime, especially one that regards you as a master of your genre. Mary Higgins Clark had two. Known as both the “Queen of Suspense” as well as the “First Lady of Simon & Schuster,” Mary Higgins Clark, has passed away. She was 92.
“It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Mary’s contribution to our success,” wrote Carolyn K. Reidy, the President and CEO of Simon & Schuster on Clark’s official website, “and her role in the modern history of Simon & Schuster... There are more than 100 million copies of her books in print in the United States; they are international bestsellers and have been translated into every major and many less well-known languages.”
While Higgins Clark’s legacy is certainly one to be admired, 56 published books with a over a collective 100 million copies sold, it’s also a great reminder to those out there who are looking for creative success in the first few decades of their life and have come up short.
According to a 2017 profile by NPR, Higgins Clark didn’t publish the first of her 56 books until she was in her early 40s, she was a widow and was also taking care of her five children.
When she sold her first book, Where are the Children? to Simon & Schuster, they offered her a $3,000 advance. When it came time to publish a second book, the offer was slightly more generous, $1 million. “Think about it?” she remembers saying to her agent, “Think about it!? God’s sake, call them back!”
That was, apparently, the kind of enthusiasm and candor you could always expect from Higgins Clark, then and always.
The NPR profile also described her as having “perfectly coiffed” hair, manicured nails, and being elegantly dressed, supporting herself with a cane made of crystal. If I’d sold my second book for a million dollars, I too would be using a cane made of crystal, whether I needed one or not.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I can’t say that I’m one of the many who have picked up one of her over 100 million copies sold, but I think I’ll change that today. Higgins Clark seems like exactly the kind of person I’d like to share a dirty martini at a piano bar with, and she serves as the perfect example of why it’s worth it to keep creating, no matter how long it may take you to get your work out in the world.