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Eyes Wide Open

Mary Higgins Clark's fiction relies on observing life's details.


An interview with Mary Higgins Clark is like a visit with an old high school chum, with tips on fiction writing along the way.

Clark will celebrate her 25th anniversary with publisher Simon & Schuster as her latest thriller hits the bookstores. With a first printing of 1.1 million copies, "Before I Say Good-Bye" (Simon & Schuster, $24.95) is also the Doubleday Book Club Main Selection and Literary Guild Main Selection.

She will be at Borders in Thousand Oaks from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday to discuss and sign her book. Anticipating a huge turnout, Borders plans to issue numbered tickets at 9 a.m. that day for the signing, which will take place after the discussion in the evening.

With 21 hardcover bestsellers--12 made into films--Clark has no plans to slow down. She is a writer, after all. "I was writing from the time when I could hold a pen and wrote in journals and diaries," Clark said. Today, when she looks back at what she wrote after her father's death, when she was 10, she finds it poignant.

As a widow with three young children, her mother struggled to save their home by taking in roomers. Clark recalled the little sign that read "Furnished Rooms--Kitchen Privileges." Clark's memoirs will come out in the fall of 2001--titled "Kitchen Privileges."

Clark herself was widowed in 1964 with five young children to raise. She had been writing short stories and finally sold one for $100 after six years and 40 rejections. She framed that first letter of acceptance, she said. She went on to write radio scripts and then a book that was remaindered as soon as it came off the press.

She wrote every morning between 5 and 7 a.m. before she got her children off to school, and that is still her best time to write. The phone doesn't ring, you make a cup of coffee and nobody bothers you, she said.

Her first mystery, "Where Are The Children?" was published in 1975, followed by a succession of bestsellers with varied subjects, among them the world of high fashion, post-traumatic stress disorder, serial killers, in vitro fertilization and HMOs. Her latest novel, "Before I Say Good-Bye," explores psychic phenomena and communications with the dead.

"I think a lot of people have an absolutely genuine ability--as though a little window opens up and they see something," she said. "Do I believe the dead are speaking to us? No, but I think that people who love us who are dead may very well sometimes be there when we need them."

Clark said she always keeps her eyes open to the what, if and why of life. Her next book, titled "On the Street Where You Live," looks at the history of the 1890s and a present-day attorney and ties what happened back then to the present, she said. Awarded Grand Master of the 2000 Edgar Awards by the Mystery Writers of America--one of many honors over the years--Clark would rather tell you how impressed her granddaughter was to find out that Tina Turner reads her books.

"I thought, 'Thank God, I thought I'd go to my grave unnoticed,' " Clark said, laughing.


* Sunday: 11 a.m. Jeffrey Deaver will discuss and sign "The Empty Chair." Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 374-0084.

* Monday: 11 a.m. Storytime with books that squeak, sing, talk and pop up. Borders, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 497-8159.

* Monday: 7 p.m. The Spiritual Book Discussion Group, facilitated by the Rev. Gifford Smith, will focus on Deepak Chopra's "How to Know God." Borders, 497-8159.

* Tuesday: 10:30 a.m. Ginger Sands will perform and sign "The Gift of Make-Believe--Collected and Composed by Ginger Sands for the Young and the Young at Heart." Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura, 650-9688.

* Tuesday: 4:30 p.m. The Life & Times Biography Program for school-age kids will focus on L. Frank Baum, the author of "The Wizard of Oz." Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 160 S. Westlake Blvd., 446-2820.

* Tuesday: 7 p.m. Pepperdine professor Michael Collings conducts an ongoing poetry workshop. Borders, 497-8159.

* Tuesday: 7:30 p.m. W. Timothy Gallwey will discuss and sign "Inner Game of Work," Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 446-2820.

* Wednesday: 10:30 a.m. Ginger Sands will perform and sign "The Gift of Make-Believe--Collected and Composed by Ginger Sands for the Young and the Young at Heart," at the upper-level of the Pacific View Mall, 3301 E. Main St., Ventura.

* Wednesday: 7 p.m. The American Girls Club Meeting will focus on "Samantha." Ventura Barnes & Noble, 4360 E. Main St., 339-9170.

* Wednesday: 7 p.m. Lynne Franks will discuss and sign "The SEED Handbook." SEED is an acronym for Sustainable Enterprise and Empowerment Dynamics. Borders, 497-8159.

* Thursday: 7 p.m. Genevieve Obert will discuss her book, "Prince Borghese's Trail," and show slides of her vintage car rally adventure. Ventura Barnes & Noble, 339-9170.

* Friday: 6 p.m. Mary Higgins Clark will discuss and sign her new thriller, "Before I Say Good-Bye." Borders, 497-8159.

* Friday: 7 p.m. Storytime about teddy bears. Ventura Barnes & Noble, 339-9170.

* Saturday: 7 p.m. Pajamamania welcomes Delta's Corner for Kids, celebrating some of the best stories in African-American children's literature and picture books with members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Borders, 497-8159.

Information about book signings, writers groups and publishing events can be emailed to or faxed to 647-5649.

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