Sunday, December 10, 2006

I have encountered this letter from Mary Higgins Clark dedicated to Book Club Readers. The Letter's Headings is:
A Special Letter from Mary Higgins Clark to Book Clubs

Dear Book Club Reader,

The question I am most frequently asked is “where do you get your ideas?”
The answer is anywhere and everywhere. I was twenty-two years old when I
took my first writing class. The professor’s advice to his eager would-be-fiction
authors was this: “you tell me you know you can write, but you have a problem
beginning, a problem choosing a plot. Here’s how you do it: take a situation that
intrigues you, maybe it’s something you read in a magazine or a newspaper or
something you overheard in a restaurant. .. Ask yourself two questions:
‘SUPPOSE’ and ‘WHAT IF?’ and turn that situation into fiction.
That advice has been the cornerstone of everything I have ever written
but I have added one more question to the ones he suggested: ‘WHY?’ The
reason is that in a suspense tale, if four people had every reason to plan and
execute a major crime, only one would go over the line and actually commit
the crime. He or she had to have been so angry, so psychotic, so vicious, or
so hurt, that with or without realizing the consequences would have taken a
life or, in the case of Two Little Girls in Blue, have kidnapped two small
children. In a number of my books, The Anastasia Syndrome, Remember Me and
Before I Say Good-Bye, I have included an element of psychic phenomena. It has
always been an interest of mine. Then, over the years, I have read articles about the bonding between twins and have always been fascinated by the fact that even when separated at birth and raised in totally different environments, there were still remarkable similarities in the way they dressed, the colors they used in their homes, even in some cases the fact that the first name of their husbands and the names they chose for their children were the same.
I’m not sure when I decided to explore the idea of a plot line involving
identical twins. I had started to read books on the subject and was astonished at the countless incidents of both physical and mental telepathy that existed between many of them. One of the books quoted a twin who took part in an experiment on twin telepathy as saying, “when my twin goes out, I can imagine what he is doing and see the place, like right now, even if I’ve never been there or seen the place described.” Reading that quote made me realize that in some instances it was possible that identical twins are so entwined that even when they are separated by distance, they can see and hear what the other is doing. That was when I knew I had a potentially good story to tell and the plot began to take shape in my mind.

SUPPOSE identical twins are kidnapped on their third birthday?

WHAT IF after the ransom is paid, one twin is returned and everyone believes the other one is dead?

SUPPOSE the mother realizes that the two are communicating, but cannot
convince anyone else of that fact because people believe that in her grief she is
unable to accept the death of her little girl. There are a number of instances that turned up in my research in which, when one twin died, the connection was so strong that the other one died within hours. That added another element to the plot. SUPPOSE the missing twin is desperately ill and the other one starts to fail?

WHAT IF the race to save the missing one becomes a race to save both their lives? I thought it was a great starting place. And then I got into the WHY. Who
kidnapped them and what was his or her motive? Who were the others who might have committed the crime? About ten months later, the book was finished. The tale had been told. I’m so glad that the members of your Reading Club have chosen Two Little Girls in Blue as a book to discuss. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Warmest wishes,
Mary Higgins Clark

Source: Simon & Schuster / A CBS Company / A Reading Group Guide
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