I loved to make up stories, read, and disappear into my own world from the time I remember. Not that that was always possible on a farm on Southwest Iowa where there was no electricity and no inside bathroom. There was always farm work, but my parents made time for fishing, for meetings with the local Farm Bureau, church at least twice a month, sometimes a special dance in which my oldest brother was the lead guitar player and singer.
At the age of twelve my mother let me take over writing the weekly township column for the local newspaper. The pay? Three cents a line for visiting and four cents a line for birthday parties and wedding or bridal news. It was exciting and heady. Then allergies hit with full force. The only reason I graduated from eighth grade at the age of thirteen was the essay tests that all the country one room schoolhouse children had to take.
That summer and fall they hit again to the point where I couldn’t eat, sleep, or breathe correctly. One doctor did try the new allergy shots. The shots, however, had been tested on grown men much taller and heavier than I was. He suggested the only thing left was exploratory brain surgery at the University of Iowa. The next doctor suggested Mama institutionalize me in a mental hospital, and the last one suggested Mama take me home and let me die.
Mama, being a Christian, went down on her knees and prayed for an answer. She stood up and announced to my father, “I am taking her West.”
It is too long a tale to tell why we stayed in Phoenix, but that wonderful desert cleared my head, my infections and the bronchial tubes. I finished high school, married my high school sweetheart, and we purchased a home. Then two children arrived. I made up stories for them and sold one to Jack and Jill. By that time we had a new home on an acre and horses. I wanted a car, but would have to work for one. One story doesn’t buy a car.
The children were old enough to stay by themselves. I found a job and discovered men made far more. Yes, I proved I could collect in the rough places just as well as a man and the pay was four hundred a month more. That was the first time I had used a computer. I knew the U. S. Post Office was doomed.
My husband decided to move to the Northwest so the desert wouldn't bake his brains anymore. It became twenty-five years of gray skies and downpours. We did have an acre of land, but it was too wet too have horses. I continued writing short stories, but when I received two rejection letters praising my work and the periodical still didn’t buy, I went back to work.
Somehow I landed at Nintendo of America. They paid me to talk, write, read, and play games, and they paid extremely well. There was no time to write for to collect those outrageous bonus awards every six months it was extra hours. The best part was the insurance as my husband was more and more afflicted with arthritis.
When he could no longer work, we considered returning to the desert. Our daughter was here in the quirky, art made area of Southern California where the housing was incredibly cheap; not just inexpensive, but cheap. They also had a delightful small museum.
My husband saw me sitting in a trance one morning and asked what I was doing. I explained the story running in my mind and he said, “Why don’t you go back to writing? I always liked your stories.” When I showed him the first one hundred and ten pages, he said, “I want to know what happens to that young man.”
I was about halfway through the scifi western Gather The Children when he passed away. I became so angry, I wrote the violent Man, True Man first and then went back to the other stories. It was a long learning curve, but the association with Creativia has been most rewarding. Earthbound earned an Amazon Best Seller Award last year and the rest of the six novels of Chronicles of the Maca have been doing well. Even the Twisted Tales anthologies are selling.
The little museum deserves another line. I enjoyed working there so much, they elected me to the Twentynine Palms Historical Society’s Board of Directors. If you are ever here, stop by and see what a one room schoolhouse looked like.
Interviews & media
Mari Collier's website
Interview: Sahara Foley's blog #1
Interview: Sahara Foley's blog #2
Lucy Pireel's blog
Marnie Cate's blog
KCDZ 107.7 FM
Lit World Interviews
The Sun Runner Magazine
Gather The Children
Before We Leave
Return of the Maca
Thalia and Earth
Fall and Rise of the Macas
Twisted Tales from the Northwest
Twisted Tales from the Universe
Twisted Tales from the Desert
Twisted Tales from a Skewed Mind
Man, True Man
The Silver and the Green
Author's note: Gather The Children
Gather The Children, Book 2 of the Chronicles of the Maca, has a long, convoluted history. I started writing the basic story when I was eleven years old. I killed off everyone in the Comanche raid on a small ranch in Texas but Lorenz and Margareatha. I even knew what Lorenz and Margareatha would look like as adults, and what Lorenz’s wife would look like when he was old enough to marry. I even knew his name would be Lorenz, I just wasn’t adult enough to give him the German spelling.
I cut pictures out of the old Saturday Evening Post magazine to illustrate what Margareatha and Antoinette (Lorenz’s wife) would look like. Unfortunately, Margareatha, the saloon gal, was dressed as a lady and Antoinette, the perfect Southern lady, was dressed as a saloon gal. It was the features, I wanted to illustrate, not the clothes. I gave it all to my near-genius, University of Iowa, English Major student to review. He burst into loud guffaws. “You killed off all your characters. You can’t do that.” I was so hurt I put it all away; except the story wouldn’t leave my head.
A year later I started again, and went from the Comanche raid to when Lorenz was a violent teenager. His scholarly, gentle Uncle would give him a home. Then I realized the Uncle wasn’t strong enough to control him. After a few months, there was this huge, lumbering strongman that could, but to have a valid standing as a step-father, I had to resurrect the mother, Anna. The story hit another snag when I hit fourteen and was too ill to do anything. Mother took me to Arizona.
My teen years were a blur of schooling, work, dates, college, and then marriage to a tall, handsome man with the gray eyes, dark wavy curling at the sides hair, broad shoulders, and dead shot abilities of Lorenz. There was even the cleft in the chin.
The story wouldn’t stay buried, so I took a correspondence course in writing. It was fits and starts for years as more characters appeared and told me their stories and life. The final pieces fell into place when different planets, beings, and wars were there. The Maca’s mother who had destroyed the Justine planet was there, and refused to be ignored. Still I could not put it all down. I had written short stories and even sold one to Jack and Jill, but I feared writing a novel.
One day my husband saw me sitting there gazing off into space and asked what I was doing. I explained the story running through my mind. “Why aren’t you writing it down? I always liked your stories. For some reason that was the catalyst. Gather The Children was flowing. Lanny was able to read through page one hundred and ten. “I want to know what happens to that young man.” My beloved husband never found out, but the one that looks like him will live for hundreds of years with his Justine genes.
It took a while longer to complete as the anger that consumed me after Lanny’s death meant that I sat down and wrote the most violent novel of the entire series. Gather The Children was finished later, but became my first published novel about the family with alien genes, their barroom brawls, their gun fights, and their struggle to survive in a land devastated by Civil War. Creativia has republished the novel and given the story new life.