Sharing Time With Author Mari Collier

My Interview with MARI COLLIER!

The life of an author is very demanding.  If you aren’t listening to the voices in your head, writing or editing their stories, then you’re beta reading, proofreading, promoting, or networking.  Bearing that in mind, I want to thank you for taking time to visit with me and my readers!
1.     How would you describe yourself?
As a child of God and someone who keeps trudging on no matter what happens. I also have a skewed way of looking at the world and I’m able to break into laughter at the follies of man and nature that no one seems to see but me. At least the latter holds true since my husband died. He saw the folly of everything too. Miss that man. I could list all the things I’ve done, but some are rather improbable, so let’s say I’m someone who enjoys life and likes to study people.
2.     On your personal website, you talk about writing as a child.  You said you began working for the Audubon Advocate when you were only 13 years old and that you even had pieces published in Children’s magazines – That’s impressive!
·        How did you begin writing and how did it lead to a job with a newspaper?
I always made up stories for my youngest brother and me to act out. This was before I could write. I so confused him, he ran around asking, “Who you? Who I?”
Then we had to write a story for English when I was in the sixth grade. The other two girls in the class liked it so much, they asked for a romance. I wrote it for them. They loved it. I thought it insipid. Then I started writing a Western. Unfortunately, I killed off everyone but who I thought would be the main character and his sister. My college attending, English major, brother laughed uproariously, and said, “You can’t do that.” 
Mama was writing the column for the Douglas Township happenings for the newspaper. I had continued writing stories that went nowhere and filling in for here when she was too busy with the washing, gardening, canning, etc.  She decided to turn the column over to me.  She could pick up more pin money with selling her crocheted products. I called people and found out if they had visited anyone, or anyone had visited them, birthday parties, etc. The pay was like three cents a line, four cents if it was published in the Society page. The monthly checks were usually for less than $4.00, but more than $3.00. I had visions of being a journalist.
The published children’s story came much later.
·        In your bio, you mention being published in Children’s magazines.  You said the pieces were bedtime stories you told to your children, a trait you inherited from your father.  Was your dad an author, and if so, was he your biggest influence? 
No, he would tell us a bedtime story that he thought would amuse or amaze us. There weren’t any bedtime story books to read. Sometimes he would tell a folktale, but most of the stories he wove from his own imagination. Papa was an Iowa farmer, hardworking, God fearing, strong, gentle man with the most astounding memory I’ve ever encountered.
·        Who was/were your influences and what else inspired you? 
Besides my parents and the brother that laughed, the next biggest influence was Pastor Kaning. He taught the catechism classes that I attended. His study discipline and explanations were fantastic. The biblical events and later the march of faith across Europe and the Americas would be interwoven with the history of the eras. I even learned the early Lutheran immigrants migrated from the South into Texas in the 1830’s.
I kept writing short stories as I was certain I did not have the discipline to write a novel. None of the magazines liked my Twisted Tales, but my husband did and kept encouraging me. The story I had started when I was eleven or twelve wouldn’t go away and I kept writing it, changing characters and tearing up the pages. It wasn’t until I revived Anna, the mother, that the story became a novel.
3.     You’ve been a published writer for a long time, and in different facets of the industry.  Do you feel like things have changed throughout the years?  If so, how, and do you feel it’s been for the better or worse?
When I started submitting stories, magazines were still publishing short stories. Now they do not. Literary magazines and university presses accepted them and still do, but they want “literary” stories. Mine are not that. They are old fashioned type stories of human and sometimes not human happenings. Any novel one wrote had to go through an agent and then to a major publisher. There were more major publishers then, but an unknown not living in the New York or San Francisco area meant that anyone looking at what you wrote wasn’t going to happen. Then the vanity presses and small presses started nipping at their heels. The big game changers were the Adobe Press and then the Kindle. Suddenly stories could be published and sold without the big publishers or the vanity presses.
My Gather The Children did go through a vanity press on the advice of my brother. I should have known better. It took seven years to regain my rights. Earthboundwas picked up by a small press. I knew that was in trouble when I was told I was their bestselling author. I then started publishing through Smashwords, then the Kindle site, and finally the Create Space paperback option that Amazon offers. Now, I’m with Creativiaand they do all the hard work of formatting and cover design. Even better, they do a certain amount of advertising. The latter is something that I did not know how to do and like many authors, I’m terrible at promoting or marketing.
·        Is there a different process for publishing in magazines than to publish a novel?  If so, can you explain it to us?
Most magazines now want articles. That means true life or local type stories. Research is essential and any time you write about someone or quote them, you need their written permission. Novels can still be sent to agents for submission to the “big” publishers.  Another option is to send them directly to smaller presses, or e-publishers. Now all the submission are pretty much done online, but not all. As always, no matter what type of writing or publication, adhere to their guidelines for submission.
·        Is it easier to publish in a magazine or to write a book?  Do you prefer one style over the other?  If yes, why?
Since I don’t write articles or children stories anymore, I can’t answer about sending to a magazine in today’s market. Over the years I have changed from writing mostly short stories to writing novels. It is easier to write the novel as the people and conversations have been with me for decades.
·        In your overall publishing experience, what’s surprised, frightened, or encouraged you the most? 
There was a real surprise when one of the college university magazines rejected my story, but two of their editors wrote me notes telling me what a wonderful story teller I was and how my characters came alive with just a sentence or two.  I kept writing. The next surprise was when the small press accepted Earthboundand the first time Earthboundhit the top ten of the bestselling novels for that genre. That was before I joined Creativia.
·        If you could go back and re-do something in your writing career, what would it be and why? 
I would never, never go through a vanity press again, and I would have written more while I was working at the loan companies, then for my husband, and while employed at Nintendo.
·        What advice would you give to a novice author or journalist?  Would your advice be the same; why or why not?
Write, write, write is now a standard answer, but still valid. I’m not sure what age you mean when you say novice. The writer of novels or short stories needs the literature and fine writing classes, both need grammar and/or English when taking college courses, but I would advise the journalist to check with the hometown newspaper and see what they want and recommend. They might even offer an internship as our local paper does. The journalism craft has its own style of writing. They do not need all of the descriptive scenes in a story.
4.     You say you work for “the greatest little museum in the world,” Twenty-nine Palms Historical Society.  How did you become involved with the museum and their “Old Schoolhouse Journal”?
I love history, plus I was not ready to retire when I did, but my husband was ill. Thank God we had those last eighteen months together. After he passed away, I had to do something to ease the pain and ache. I had stopped writing on Gather The Children and written the most violent one, Man, True Man. I needed contact with people again and the Old Schoolhouse Museumneeded docents.
We’re a small group and I met the then editors and asked if they would be interested in a Snapshots in Timearticle. They said yes, and after that was published they asked for more. Somehow I was elected to the Board of Directors, wound up taking an archival class, and then became the archivist for our group. By the way, the U. S. Post Office insists that the city must be spelled Twentynine Palms. The hyphen is one too many characters for their rules.
·        Can you tell us more about the journal you write for – what type of articles do you publish and what topics are covered?
The Old Schoolhouse Journal is the quarterly journal the Twentynine Palms Historical Society publishes every three months. It tells what events are planned, what board is doing, and includes articles from the past or a new, researched article. The Snapshots in Time column covers the new exhibit or event inside the Old Schoolhouse and lets our members that cannot physically visit our Old Schoolhouse Museum “see” the display. Don’t laugh. Not all of our members live in the United States or in California. Sometimes the descriptions become humorous when describing the notes from the classes or the items put up for the holidays or Weed Show. If the latter makes you curious, go to my website and Link to the Twentynine Palms Historical Society. Prepare to be awed. The Accessions Column is a straightforward listing and description of the donated items to our museum. If they aren’t there, the donor will call and be quite upset. A simple explanation is usually sufficient:  the editor asked for the column two days before the item was donated or the proper release form was not signed.
·        Has the museum and journal affected how you write at all?  How does writing articles differ from novels?  Do you have a style preference?
I much prefer writing stories whether novels or short stories, but the columns are for the museum and there wasn’t anyone else to write them. The museum is now attracting some younger members to fill in the spaces so I may retire one of these years, but this still keeps me connected with people.
·        What has article writing taught you about creative writing, if anything?
That column writing is more like journalism and I prefer to tell stories. We did have two reporters from the area that would sometimes submit articles, but alas they moved to Texas.
·        What sort of writer do you consider yourself?  Do you identify yourself as a journalist, sci-fi writer, or something else entirely?
Julie, I had never really thought about it until now. The answer must be that I am a storyteller. My stories usually highlight some aspect of family life, but not always. Humans and beings from other planets have the same basic needs:  Shelter, food, work, leisure time, love, and companionship. When those needs aren’t met something interferes with the web that holds societies together.
5.     What is your favorite genre?  Would the answer be the same if we specified it to what genre you love to read most compared to what genre you love to write in most?
History and archaeology and then science fiction.
6.     How did you find our publisher, Creativiaand what made you decide to sign with an independent publishing house?
One of the authors in a Writing Group on Facebook had signed with them. She urged me to submit to them. She was glowing in her praise of what they were doing for her novels. I took her advice as setting up the novels on Create Space was taxing and finding a suitable cover was another problem. Fortunately, the small press publisher allowed me to keep the covers, but my novels weren’t moving that fast. They sold, but sporadically. Did I mention I’m terrible at publicity and marketing? 
·        How has Creativiaimpacted your writing career?
They have definitely impacted everything. The pocketbook is fuller and reviews pop up from all over. I used to know everyone that wrote one. That is no longer true. The time I spend writing or getting the word about my new novels or anthologies has impacted my reading. I would love to read more, but the time slips away.
7.     Before we close, is there anything you would like readers to know about you or your work?
It’s speculative fiction. The characters are all invented and, yet, they will have characteristics of people I have known. Anna’s personality is based on my mother, a passionate, hot tempered woman who could out work any normal person. She was also what the world would call a clairvoyant. My works are stories of love, striving, and survival no matter what world, planet, or the circumstances.
·        As an author, I understand just how tough this industry is.  There are days when each of us wonders why we do what we do, struggling with a poor review or harsh criticism.  That being said, can you tell us what drives you to continue to write?  How do you get past the painful hurdles we all face?
oI guess you could say I’m something like the old, pioneer woman. You just keep working because it is there to do.
·        In contrast, how do you deal with success?  Are you comfortable with praise or how do you cope with attention?
oOh, heavens, I admit to being vain enough to enjoy every minute and word of praise. I’ll also admit that I nearly broke out in tears when someone told me they loved Gather The Children so much that they re-read it. To think that one of my stories had evoked a response like that was a bit overwhelming.
Thank you again for sharing your time and talents.  I wish you all the success in the world!
you can follow these links to your country’s Amazon page to purchase her books:
US Readers     UK Readers     


  • This is fascinating. This author has been a big influence on my own submissions to Creativia and also her faith and wisdom has impacted this old brain quite a bit. I am an author, too, and agree with much of what Mari says, but my parents were a lot different and my early experiences were a lot different. Let's say that I admire this author and anything she might have to say, although we do not always agree on the fine points. An excellent interview and thank you for this.

  • Thank you for your lovely comments! I, too, think Mari Collier is a sweet lady!

  • How did I miss thanking you for this? Thanks so much. It's always fun to share with you.

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