Elaine Marie Carnegie
The Long Road To Being An Author
by Mari Collier
Please welcome Mari Collier to the Writer's Journey Blog!
It seems I’ve lived a long life. I was born on a farm in Iowa in my parent’s bedroom on a mattress they had made. It was covered with oilcloth during the birth while Mama was attended by the midwife and latter nurse/helper for two weeks, Tante Anna. Tante is the German word for Aunt. The doctor arrived later as this was a Sunday morning.
This house had a bathroom, but no electricity. The other farms my father rented and then bought did not have electricity, nor did they have an inside bathroom. At least the farm he bought had running water to the kitchen and to the washhouse. If any of you have read my first three science fiction tales, you know they contain American history. I’ll bet there are people wondering how I could write about births at home and what our German immigrants did if the child died shortly after birth. In a way, it was family history.
I loved to hear my parents and one older brother read to me. I also loved the few movies we saw. I would see these same types of stories in my head, make up parts of it, and have my younger brother help me act them out. Of course, he ran around asking, “Who you? Who me?” My older brother Norman would write plays for us. He always gave me the part of a princess. My little brother would be the hero, and Norman the villain. This was when he was home from the University of Iowa.
I decided to continue to make up stories that were Westerns and I would take the hero or heroine’s place as I really enjoyed acting. To me, that was the reason to make up the stories.
Our schooling was a one room school. The teacher boarded at the neighbors. History and English were my favorite subjects. Then we had to write a story for English. For some reason, I wrote about Lazarus, the Wandering Jew. I have no idea how I even knew about him. The two girls in my class liked my writing and wanted a romance. I loved Westerns, so made it a Western Romance. They thought it wonderful. I thought it insipid and began to write a Western story.
I even knew what the characters would look like and cut pictures out of the Saturday Evening Post. Then I showed it to my near-genius brother, the English major at the University of Iowa. He doubled over laughing as I had killed off everyone but two characters. “You can’t do that,” he said.
The story was put away, but Mama decided I wrote well and turned over the Township column for the local newspaper to me. For the first time, I received money for writing. Then I pulled out the story again and began another chapter. The boy that lived would be reunited with his scholarly uncle. Only the uncle couldn’t control him, and suddenly there was this huge, gentle giant of a rancher that could.
Even I realized the man couldn’t raise the kid without some sort of legal authority so I resurrected, Anna, the mother, and she was married to the gentle giant. Needless to say, I kept putting the story away.
My allergies became so bad I could not live in Iowa. Mama took me to Phoenix. I completed my school years there and in summer went to stay with my near genius brother in San Francisco. He introduced me to Kraft Ebbing, but also science fiction. I even read Zena Henderson. A woman could write about aliens living on Earth! I pulled out my “story” again.
Instead of writing every day, I married my high school sweetheart. We bought a house, a car, and produced two children. I took a writing course through the Book of the Month Club. I did manage to sell a children’s story to Jack and Jill Magazine but kept writing science fiction tales that kept being rejected. The story I started so long ago, just kept getting more and more chapters. One editor said college tuitions wouldn’t increase that much and rejected a short story. Of course, the tuition fees are much higher. Another rejection came with two editors raving about the great story and great characters. I didn’t pursue writing until I retired.
Then all the chapters of my first book, became two books as I realized no publisher would take a chance on a new author penning so many words for one novel. Baen publishing hung onto it for four years. I finally asked for it back.
My near genius brother had changed his mind and written a wonderful blurb for my novel and recommended I go with his vanity publisher. Every instinct said, “Don’t do that.” He insisted they were honorable. They weren’t. They did not edit. They insisted I change the title, and then they published it at the cost of thirty dollars per book. I still managed to sell about one hundred copies of Gather The Children.
Then I discovered Smashwords. They were great teachers. I published several short stories on their site. One of the writers’ magazines started BookBaby and they offered a special deal at $99.00. I took it. They did a quick edit, great cover, and published Before We Leave as a digital on Amazon. Then I self-published Return of the Maca. Next thing I knew, I found a small press for Earthbound. A miracle. Great edit and so-so cover, but it sold well. When I was told I was their bestselling author, I knew that wouldn’t last. It didn’t.
I became an independent again. Then I submitted to an Independent Publisher. Said Independent Publisher has become almost traditional. They paid for translations into Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. They have even paid for my novels to become Audible, and my books are not only on Amazon, but Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, and Apple online. My royalties have increased tremendously. It was a long journey, but my books have sold all over the world.