Storied speaker 

A stranger is watching. Where are the children? A cry in the night. Suspense killing you yet?

Those phrases also are titles of novels written by The New York Times bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark, the “queen of suspense.” The esteemed crime writer will speak Tuesday at Literary Voices, annual fundraising dinner to benefit the Metropolitan Library System. Each year, an influential literary speaker headlines the event; past names include former first lady Laura Bush and actress Jane Seymour.

Despite Clark’s storied career, the veteran novelist said she hasn’t yet conquered some fears that come with writing: “I don’t think any author who is honest does not say when he or she starts a new book, ‘Oh, God, can I do it again?’” But she has done it again ... and again. In fact, Clark released her 45th book, The Lost Years, yesterday.

“I think most of us give our all to telling the story that we’re telling. And then we hope that it is a story people will enjoy,” she said.

Enjoyable, indeed, as Clark has mastered the art of not only suspense, but portraying strong female protagonists.

“I’ve always wanted to write about a strong character,” she said.

According to her, it’s about giving readers characters they can connect to and root for. For example, she said, consider the abduction of a woman wearing a see-through blouse in a bad part of town at 4 a.m., versus a young mother on her way to pick up her child from nursery school, when a stranger hiding in her backseat commands her to drive the opposite direction.

The latter scenario elicits more empathy.

“She is every woman,” Clark said.

“She is you. She is your daughter, if you’re a certain age. She’s that sweet girl down the block. But we want to see her get home … safely.”

Clark feels safe in a city as friendly as Oklahoma City. She holds fond memories of a previous trip, where she got a turquoise necklace she still wears.

For aspiring creatives who cannot attend Literary Voices, she offered this advice: “We’re all eclectic. What do you pick up at the end of the day when you’ve had a rotten day and you want a glass of wine or a cup of hot cocoa and just curl up and read? ’Cause whatever you like to read … that’s your clue as to where your talent is.”

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