Mary Jane Clark is the author of 16 novels, including 12 in her KEY News thriller series, and four in her Wedding Cake mystery series, the latest of which is THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC, releasing on January 21st. Aspiring actress and wedding-cake decorator Piper Donovan thinks she can unmask a killer, but she will have to conjure up some old black magic of her own if she hopes to live long enough to reveal the truth. Mary Jane may not have always been a mystery writer --- she took a three-decade detour as a writer and producer for CBS News --- but she can trace her love for mysteries back to her childhood and a few memorable Christmas gifts.
Childhood Christmas. It doesn’t get more exciting than that. The weeks of breath-taking anticipation. Dreaming of Santa Claus coming. Wishing for the most desirable presents. The wonder of waking in the very early morning and finding all the gaily wrapped gifts under the tinsel-strewn tree. Alas, five decades later, only a few of the presents still stick in my mind now: a Kissy doll and my Trixie Belden Mystery books.
We were a public library family, and to receive a book as a birthday or Christmas gift was a very big deal. To actually own my own books was a wonderful concept. It became a goal to collect every book in the series that became my favorite.
I eagerly and voraciously read each adventure of Trixie and her best friend, Honey. They belonged to a secret club. They rode and swam and ice-skated. They went to parties and travelled to interesting places. They were smart and curious and figured things out. They mesmerized me.
Though I have no idea what became of the Kissy doll, I’ve kept the Trixie Belden books all these years. I’m unable to give them away. They’ve survived various house moves and my two children who have their own Christmas dreams.
Pulling some of the old editions off my library shelf now, the pages are yellowed and dry. The covers are dated-looking and the simple illustrations are scarce. Yet, as I lovingly turn the pages, I find myself wondering at how I ended up writing my own mystery series.
There were many factors that led me to writing mystery and suspense stories. My father was an FBI agent. That probably had something to do with it. I was a writer and producer at CBS News, and I know for sure that experience led to my first novels. But maybe the real seed was actually planted by that jolly guy in the red suit with those Trixie Belden books he left for me under the Christmas tree all those years ago.
Thank you, Santa Claus!