Transcript of the interview with author
Best selling author of the mystery novel
Aired at 9pm eastern, on Friday, August 25, 1995
Conducted by Peter Anthony Holder
the evening talk show host on
CJAD 800 AM, Montreal

CJAD: We have a very special guest, who is in our Toronto studios. On the air with us right now is Carol Higgins Clark. Her new book, which is published by Warner Books is entitled ICED. It is the new Regan Reilly Mystery. How are you Carol?

CAROL: I'm fine, how are you?

CJAD: I'm doing okay, nice of you to join us. We'd also like to thank our sister station in Toronto, CFRB who graciously allowed us to use their studios so that you could be there in Toronto while you're on your on your whirlwind book tour. This new novel ICED. Tell us what it's about.

CAROL: Well I have my continuing character, Regan Reilly, going to Aspen at Christmastime. She's a private investigator. She thinks she's going to be there to ski, but there have been some art thefts and a kidnapping....well she doesn't know there is a kidnapping, but she's got to figure out what's going on.

CJAD: This is not the first Regan Reilly mystery you have written.

CAROL: No this is the third.

CJAD: When you first started the first one, did you think that this would be an ongoing character?

CAROL: Yes, because I had talked to Warner Books about it and they had wanted me to create a character who would play in a number of books.

CJAD: For those who have not read your mysteries, how would you describe it to what's gone on int he past....for instance I know there's a sense of humour in it that a lot of mystery novels don't necessarily have.

CAROL: Yeah, that's exactly how I describe it. Humorous suspense. I don't have a lot of brutal crime in mine because it's not too funny, obviously, and I just have Regan. She's single and thirty and having fun and something always happens where ever she goes. For instance, in my second book, SNAGGED, she's at a friend's wedding when something happens. And in this book she goes to Aspen at Christmas and she's not on a case but because something happens she has to figure it out.

CJAD: As I mentioned earlier, you're travelling on this whirlwind media blitz for the book. And you're here, there and everywhere doing interviews all the time, and I'm sure one of the things that always comes up is that they talk about your mother, Mary Higgins Clark.

CAROL: That's okay, I love my Mother (laughter)

CJAD: That's good! Now the one thing that's interesting about your stuff is that it certainly is....even though you are both writers, and you're both mystery writers, suspense writers, that's where the similarities seem to end.

CAROL: That's right. Well she could use humour in her books, but one reviewer said she goes for the jugular and I go for the funny bone. I guess that's the basic difference. Hers are real edge of the seat psychological suspense. Whereas again, I use the humour.

CJAD: When one is growing up, one sometimes is guided toward the family business. Was that what happened to you?

CAROL: Well actually, it wasn't anything deliberate. I was home from college and she had her second book that had to be retyped for her agent. She was still working full time, supporting five children, and she didn't know how she was going to get it done. It was before computers, so I said I'd do it. I sat down at the kitchen table with her typewriter and started retyping and making comments and notes. And when I got out of college and started studying acting, I did that for all her books, so I was really learning a lot along the way.

CJAD: Now you mentioned that you studied acting and you have done some work as an actress including some work in stuff that was written originally by your mother.

CAROL: Actually, I filmed A CRY IN THE NIGHT in Montreal four years ago.

CJAD: And it was here at the Film Festival if I am not mistaken, correct?

CAROL: That's right.

CJAD: You're an actress, you're a writer. Do you have a preference for either, or?

CAROL: Well, right now, writing is my focus. This is my third book and I still want to act, but I have a contract to write the books and hopefully I will be able to do both.

CJAD: Is there a preference?

CAROL: Well writing is more difficult, (laughter). You sit there and have to pull it out of the air. But it's very fulfilling. You're by yourself at a computer and that's why it's nice when you're acting. You're with a whole group of people.

CJAD: What is the writing process like for you and how does it differ from your Mom's?

CAROL: We actually work a lot alike. I get up in the morning and sit down at the computer. I take more notes before hand. She kept saying to me, "just start writing and the characters will start to make it happen." But it really is just getting an idea of what you want to write. I wanted to use Aspen at Christmas time, so I went out there and did the research. My Mother starts with an idea as well. In her most recent book it was plastic surgery, so she researched that and started writing. Mine goes by location. Hers goes more by a topic.

CJAD: How much research do you go into for a story, either for location or plot or what takes place within the various professions of the characters that may become involved.

CAROL: Well it was tough going to Aspen at Christmas (laughter). I went there two Christmases in a row and went skiing and bought the local newspapers and went to the parties and bought the books on Aspen. That was not very difficult to do, certainly. For my second book, I had a murder at a panty hose convention and I had gone to a panty hose convention with a friend of mine. That book is SNAGGED. (laughter). So I went to all the seminars and of course took a humorous look at a panty hose convention. So it's fun kind of research, it's not real hard core. I just try to give the idea of what it would be like if you spent the week in Aspen over Christmas and then developed the characters from there.

CJAD: Would you consider yourself a humorous person? Where does the humour for your novels come from?

CAROL: Everybody in our family is like that. We always told stories and jokes. My Mother says it helps being Irish, (laughter). That was always the way I was brought up, with a lot of humour at the dinner table.

CJAD: Is there any of you or any other member of your family, for that matter in Regan Reilly?

CAROL: Oh sure. A lot of my friends thinks that Regan is me. And of course with her mother being a mystery writer. But as a writer you always use what you know and take things from life so, sure, I think there is some of me in Regan.

CJAD: Who is the target audience for you novels? And the reason why I ask that is because sometimes unfortunately when a female writer comes along and writes a mystery with a female heroine, they always say, "well that's a book that women are going to read."

CAROL: Yeah, when I'm writing, I just write for myself and what I'd like to read, and if I can make myself laugh that's good, but I've had a lot of men who like my books too. I think some of them might have been scared by a panty hose convention in SNAGGED, but this one is skiing, and then it's word of mouth. But it's surprising a lot of men who have said, "oh, I read ICED and I liked it, and looking forward to your next books." So it's really hard to say.

CJAD: How about the mentioned that you worked on A CRY IN THE NIGHT, a film based on one of your mother's works. How about turning your works into film.

CAROL: Well that sound like a good idea, (laughter). There's been some talk of it. No definite deals have been made yet.

CJAD: Is that ever in the back of your mind when you write the characters, and when you're writing do you visualize what the character looks like and what all the characters look like and how it might play out in your mind? Especially being an actress, how it might play out in a scene? Or do you work that way?

CAROL: Well, it is in my mind, but I don't write specifically for film. But it is very visual, I think. I definitely do imagine what my characters are like. And then the fun part is if you're walking down the block and you see someone, and if I'm with my Mother I'll say, "oh my God, that's a Bessie or that's an Eben from ICED, and that's really what is fun. But I definitely have to create a physical image in my mind as I'm writing it.

CJAD: The combination of suspense and comedy doesn't necessarily come up very often.

CAROL: Well, actually, Elmor Leonard, Carl Hiassen. There are a lot of mystery writers who do use humour. It's just not what you think of necessarily because if you have crime going on, you don't have a lot of yucks going on at the same time.

CJAD: Is it something that comes naturally to you or do you look at a manuscript and go, "okay, I've written this particular story and maybe this is a little grim here, I could use some humour here", or is there a natural flow to it?

CAROL: I think it's more of a natural flow actually, because when I started ICED, I tried to make it more serious and I had a murder at the beginning and then I had a lot of people depressed because it was the holidays. And I went on and on and it just wasn't my style at all. And then when I started it over again, the humour just came naturally and I let it flow. I don't say I have to inject more humour into a certain scene, because if it's not there naturally when I'm writing it, then it almost seems like your forcing it.

CJAD: Obviously you worked your way up the best seller list. There comes a time, obviously, when there is competition within the family. How does that work out?

CAROL: Well actually, I tease my Mother because last week, I was number sixteen on the Publisher Weekly List and it only goes up to fifteen. So I told my Mother, "if it weren't for you, I would have been on the list." (laughter). She said, "oh give me a break!" No, we both are thrilled. And also we do a lot of shows together. Everyone's interested in the whole mother- daughter concept. So there's not competition. We laugh about it, actually.

CJAD: Your work is different then hers. Hers is different then yours. Do you critique each other's work?

CAROL: Absolutely. I give her...I've written two pages and I hand it her and say, "what do you think?" And she does the same thing when I go see her. She just finished a novel, a novella actually. It's called SILENT NIGHT. It's set a Christmas time and it will be in the stores in October. But I read that for her and gave her suggestions. It's just nice to get the feedback, because when you are writing and you are at the computer by yourself, it's tough. You like to get criticism from someone you know you can trust and who just wants to help.

CJAD: Would you consider your Mother an influence and would she consider you an influence on her work?

CAROL: I don't think I'm an influence on her work per say but....

CJAD: Is she on yours?

CAROL: Well, I learned from her, certainly, but the fun part is like changing dialogue in her books. She uses old fashioned expressions and you say, "Mom, no 30-year-old would use that expression," or in one of her books she had the girl going out on dates trying to find out who killed her friend through the personal ads. And she has her meeting these guys at bars in New York City. And I kept saying, "Mom, nobody goes there." So I changed the names of all the bars and PEOPLE MAGAZINE said, "Clark offers a well informed tour of New York's singles haunts." So that was my big contribution to that book, so if you call that influence.....yeah! (laughter).

CJAD: There have been books in the past that have been co- written. Have you ever considered working together with your mother on a mystery?

CAROL: We laugh about it, but I don't thinks so, because, she's under contract with Simon and Schuster. I'm with Warner Books. Maybe we'd write a short story together some day, but I don't think we'd write a whole book.

CJAD: What about your acting. As you say, you're busy with the books now. You don't do as much acting as you used to because of the writing. Do you miss that? Tell us a little bit about your acting career?

CAROL: Well I did the movie based on my mother's book, A CRY IN THE NIGHT. And then I had done smaller parts in TV and film. I did a reading of Wendy Wasserstein's play UNCOMMON WOMEN AND OTHERS at Carnegie Hall. No, I definitely want to do it because I think once an actor, always an actor. I just want to get back to auditioning a bit when I'm writing the next book. If you can get pattern down of getting a few hours of writing done each day, then you can free yourself up to have time for other things.

CJAD: Do the two worlds look at your work in both worlds differently. Do they look at you when you audition as "oh here comes the actress/writer Carol Higgins Clark or vice versa when you're writing?

CAROL: Oh no, people do think of me as a writer and again, it's only been the past couple of years that I've had these three books, so I haven't been auditioning much. I'm just starting again, so we'll see what happens with that. If they say, "here comes the writer."

CJAD: How about a sort of combination. Screenplays?

CAROL: What do you mean?

CJAD: As in writing a screenplay, either of your work or other works.

CAROL: Someone who directed my in the audio version of my book said, "you've really got a screenplay here," because I have so much dialogue, but I don't know how to write a screenplay, at this time anyway.

CJAD: No you see, I find that interesting because you are known for writing dialogue.


CJAD: And you think that would be almost a natural step.

CAROL: Right, I just don't know....(laughter)....I have no idea how to write it. I've never typed screenplays for my Mother, so I have no idea how to do it. But I think if I did a class in it, and worked with someone, I could probably learn.

CJAD: As an actress you also have the opportunity, unlike some other authors, to do the audio version of your book. Is there a lot of acting involved in doing that?

CAROL: Oh yes, you're in the studio for three days and you want to try and make each character sound a little bit different because the listener is only listening to one voice and it's all these different people, so it does require a certain amount of acting, definitely.

CJAD: You work with a director in that type of situation, correct?

CAROL: Uh-huh!

CJAD: So here we have your book, with your words, it comes from your mind, but you have to take direction.

CAROL: (laughter). WHAT DO YOU MEAN? No I didn't mean that when I wrote that. (laughter). Sometimes she's say, "what about trying it like this?" and actually it was funny because when I write something I have it in my mind of the way I think it's said. And then you get to hear what someone else's interpretation of it is, because it's on the page. It hasn't been said out loud. She was great, the director, and it really worked out well.

CJAD: Now you've also done, if I'm not mistaken, you've also have done a reading of your mother's book, is that correct?

CAROL: A few of them.

CJAD: A few of them!

CAROL: And she read my first book. She said she'll never do that again.

CJAD: Why not?

CAROL: She said it was such hard work. She was in the studio for three days and she said, "oh my God! It was unbelievable." Because it is trying to do a lot of different characters. In that book, it was DECKED, I had characters with English accents, and she was doing the accents and she put a lot of energy into it. She was good, but she said, "get somebody else the next time!" (laughter).

CJAD: As an author, as an actress how do you feel about books on tape in general?

CAROL: I think they're great. A lot of people who either have a lot of problems with their eyes or can't read, or are in their car going on long trips and wouldn't have the chance to read the books otherwise....I think they are wonderful, because in all they get people interested in books.

CJAD: Does it change in any way, shape or form the feel. I mean, there is a lot of imagination involved in reading the book. Do you think that changes something when you do the book on tape?

CAROL: Well again, you're giving someone an interpretation that they might have imagined it differently if they were reading it. And the other thing is they are abridged versions of your books too, so it takes out some of it, but I still think they are good to have.

CJAD: What are you working on next?

CAROL: I'm going down to Branson, Missouri to research the Country-Western scene. And I'm going to called the booked TWANGED.

CJAD: (laughter) Where do you come up with your titles, because I still love the title SNAGGED.

CAROL: Well, actually, when I was trying to come up with a title for the first book, which was a murder on a cruise ship, I wanted to use a nautical term and we were laughing saying how about CRUISING FOR A BRUISING (laughter). But that wouldn't have worked. And my Mother came up with DECKED. She said, "how about DECKED?" And I talked to my editor and she liked it, so we called the first book DECKED. And then when started writing about a murder in a panty hose convention I said, well this has to be SNAGGED." And that's when it started.

CJAD: Now do you feel you locked into this "E-D", (laughter)

CAROL: I love it though (laughter). It's so hard to come up with titles that work, and if you can have titles that identify your books that's great. Because they are easy to remember. It's just one word and I'm glad. And people are always giving me suggestions. I was with a bunch of librarians and they suggested I do a murder in a library and call it STACKED. (laughter) So every time I'm introduced when I'm speaking somewhere, someone always makes a joke about a new title. So it's kind of fun people get a kick out of it.

CJAD: Now, Regan Reilly, your character...your friends think it's you. You are an actress. If it were being cast tomorrow, would you put yourself in it, if not, who would you put in there in the role?

CAROL: I think of it as me, certainly, and I don't know who else right now. I hadn't really thought about that. About who could play it. But I would certainly love to, yeah.

CJAD: Well it certainly out there right now. It's on the list. It's on the way up and you're busy on the tour. And you know, you really don't have to do this because it's a success Carol.

CAROL: (laughter) It's fun to do this. Again because when you're writing, you're sitting there in a room by yourself for months on end. It's nice to get out and see different places and meet different people. So I don't mind it at all.

CJAD: When you get out there, and you do book signings, I'm sure. You meet the people who have read your work. Do they sometimes give you a different interpretation of what you were thinking when you were writing it in the first place?

CAROL: No actually you'll get things like a woman came up to me at a signing last week and she said, "I have one criticism," and I thought "oh-oh." I said, "what's that?" Well Regan's father is a funeral director. So she said to me, "my husband is a funeral director and we don't use the word 'coffin'. We use the word 'casket'. A funeral director would never use the word 'coffin'." I said, "oh, okay, I'll take that criticism." (laughter) "I'll check it in the next book, correct it." But it's nice to get the feedback from people. People say, "oh I read your book and it really made me laugh," and "when's the next one coming out?" That's really nice as a writer.

CJAD: When is the next one coming out? I know you're working on it now.

CAROL: I'm working on it. I'd love to have it out next summer, because so many people do their reading in the summer time, but it depends on how fast I can get it done. Otherwise next fall.

CJAD: Well Carol, I thank you for talking with us.

CAROL: Thank you , it was great.

CJAD: And continued success with all the working. The writing and the acting.

CAROL: Okay.

CJAD: And we look forward to seeing a dramatization of your work somewhere down the road

CAROL: Okay!

CJAD: Take care.

CAROL: You too.

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