A Conversation with Mary Higgins Clark, Author of The Shadow of Your Smile
1. In the introduction, you talk about attending a beatification ceremony. Do you consider yourself a religious person?
Yes, I do. I have always been a devout Catholic and continue to be one.
2. Why did you choose to write about the topic of miracles? Do you believe that miracles still happen today?
I chose to write it because I attended a beatification ceremony for Sister Angeline Teresa McCrory, who is credited with the healing of an unborn child. All sonograms showed the baby was hopelessly deformed. A crusade of prayers was made to Sister Angeline—the baby was born perfectly normal.
3. Monica, as a woman of science, said she didn’t believe in miracles. That’s a common belief in today’s society. Why do you think that is?
I think that in many ways we have become a secular and cynical society.
4. What message, if any, were you trying to send with this novel?
I don’t think I send messages. The beatification ceremony gave me the idea for this book. I think the themes in it are to a great extent good versus evil, and that good will triumph.
5. In the writing of a story, do you begin to feel a bond with any of your characters? Do you pull for certain ones, such as Monica, while disliking others, perhaps Greg Gannon? Or are the unlikable ones more interesting for their darkness?
When writing a book, I bond with all my characters. I try to become them—think as they think. A person like Greg Gannon is someone who, from the beginning, had a compulsive rush to power and, in the end, lost everything. The unlikable characters—the truly evil ones—are always interesting.
6. Many of your novels take place in New York City. What about the city draws you to it?
I was born and raised in New York City. It is the premier city of the world. I think most readers have a certain fascination for New York and would like to visit it. I help them to visit it in my books.
7. Both Monica and Catherine are healers, interested in helping others. Do you see some of these character traits in yourself?
I hope so—I think I do.
8. How do you write such intricately woven stories? Is it ever difficult to keep the strands together and make them connect in the end?
When I write, I draw a wide landscape. I sometimes wonder if I will be able to keep the strands together, but at a certain point in the book, a particular character decides what he or she will do next. Sometimes when I begin a chapter I have no idea where that character will take me. Fortunately, the strands do come together in the end.
9. Where do the ideas for your stories come from? Do you start with an ending in mind or does it grow out of the story?
The ideas for my stories almost inevitably come from a newspaper article I have read or, as in this book, a ceremony or meeting I attended. It is not so much that I start with an ending in mind as that I know who committed the crime and that knowledge makes it certain that the ending is coming in one direction to one person.
10. You have written dozens of bestsellers and have millions of copies sold. What keeps you writing?
I write because I love to write. Writing is necessary for me. I will always write, although if I ever feel that a book is not up to par, I will not publish it. I have instructed my family that when I die, they should put a spiral notebook and a pen in the coffin. I also told them to throw in a glass of wine.
11. What can you tell us about your next novel?
I haven’t the faintest idea yet, but I feel I am going to know soon.