This Thursday at the annual Edgar Awards honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television, Mary Higgins Clark will give out the Simon and Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award to the best women's suspense novel of the year.
For bestselling suspense author Mary Higgins Clark, there are two important numbers.
"I don't hide my age, I'm 88," she says.
And then, there's the really important number.
She just published book number 53 "As Time Goes By" the latest from the woman whose books have sold more than 100 million copies.
She follows a formula — finish writing by Christmas, get it on the shelves for Mother's Day — traditionally an important time for the sale of her books.
Mary Higgins Clark long ago settled into a rhythm, and yet she says the process gets no easier.
"The first 50 pages I write over and over and over again," she says." In the process, I say 'The plot is miserable, the characters are stiff. I might as well throw it out the window.'"
Her accent is still straight out of the Bronx, where she was born and bred.
She has enjoyed more success than she ever could have imagined, signing several multi-book, multimillion-dollar deals.
She has four homes, including an apartment by Central Park.
"People write wonderful books that great reviews and nothing happens," the author says. "And I understand how frustrating and heartbreaking it is. So the fact that I've managed to stay on the best seller list and often number one for all these years. I'm very grateful."
The success was borne out of years of rejection and the refusal to give in to doubt.
"When I sold my first short story "Stowaway" it was out 42 times before it was accepted for $100," Clark recalls. "I thought I had died and gone to heaven."
"My mother said 'Mary is going to be a very successful writer,'" she remembers. "And I knew I was going to be."
Writing has long brought Higgins Clark joy, in a lifetime that has seen its share of sorrow.
"We could play stickball here," she says. "We could jump rope in the middle of the street. Everybody knew everybody."
She grew up in the Pelham Parkway section of the Bronx and attended Villa Maria Academy, a self-described nice Irish Catholic girl surrounded by family and stories.
"In the Irish storytelling, they are natural story tellers," she says. "Naturals. They will go to the store for a bottle of milk and come back with something happened along the way."
Her father died when she was 11.
A brother died a few years later in World War II.
Money was tight, so as a high school student she worked nights and weekends as a telephone operator at a hotel in Manhattan
She was already nursing her dreams.
"If I got downtown early, I would walk along 5th Avenue and choose the clothes I would have when I was a professional writer," she says.
Higgins Clark worked for a year as a Pan Am stewardess, married a guy from the neighborhood and had a family.
And she always wrote.
However, after 15 years of marriage, tragedy struck again in 1964 when her husband Warren died suddenly, leaving her a single Mom.
"(I had) five little kids. (They were) five, eight, ten, 12 and 13. And, I felt I didn't have any right to fall apart. I had a friend in town whose husband died. And, she tried to commit suicide. Her kids were all screwed up. And I thought I'm not going to let that happen."
She worked as a radio scriptwriter but continued to pursue her dream of being an author. There was plenty of rejection along the way.
"One of the editors at Redbook wrote 'Mrs. Clark your stories are light, slight and trite.' And I said I'll get you baby, I'll get you."
Her first book, a story about George and Martha Washington, did not sell, perhaps because some believed it to be a religious book thanks to its initial title "Aspire to the Heavens."
Her second book, the suspense tale "Where are the Children" started slowly but eventually became a best seller.
At that point, Clark was working during the day and attending Fordham University at night.
She was on her way to class when she got the call from her agent that changed everything.
"And she said 'Mary are you sitting down?' I said 'yes.' Simon and Schuster has offered $500,000 for 'A Stranger is Watching' and a million dollars for the paperback rights. Think about it.' I said 'Think about it? Call them back, don't let them change their minds.'"
She has managed to mix family with work by co-writing several Christmas themed novels with one of her children, her daughter Carol.
Except for her 2003 memoir, 'Kitchen Privileges', she's primarily written suspense, in part because it's been so successful.
However, another reason can be found on the bookshelf.
"Do you like romance? Then that is where you belong. Do you like science fiction? Is that what you read? If you like suspense? That's your field. If its nonfiction? That's where you belong. I mean it is like a little clue rather than just say what will I write about? What do you read?"
Her admirers are legion.
However, many critics have either ignored her work or called it formulaic.
"Long ago, my daughter Carol, the writer, and I were told if someone is mean to you, make them a villain, a victim in your next book."
Mishkin: "So if I did something to upset you, I might make it into the next book?"
"Well, it would be so sad. Someone is being interviewed and then suddenly the host says I don't feel right and crumbles to the floor and they found out you've been poisoned."
To be in the book, a small price to pay.
After her first husband died in 1964, Higgins Clark remarried a marriage she calls "disastrous."
Since 1996, she has been happily married to former financial executive John Conheeney.
"I was born to be married," she says. "I loved being two by two. Warren died in '64, so it was '96 not counting 'Mr. Wonderful' as we call him. So it was a very long time until i was happily married again."
There is at this stage in her life the inevitable loss of close friends.
But there are plenty of grandchildren, and places to call home, and books still to write.
In addition, there is always the next sinister idea.
"So now Lady Haywood is found dead and our main character has the necklace and we'll take it from there," she said.