Three Times A Charm with Marie C Collins

Welcome to Three Times A Charm. I love to introduce readers to people involved in children’s publishing. Today we have middle grade author, Marie C. Collins joining us. She’s going to talk a little about her book. But first tell us a little about yourself.

I’ll share a few pieces of me that relate to my Secrets of Farbookonia series. First, I am guilty of extreme house envy. I covet big old Victorian homes. They call to me with their turrets and window seats and attics. They intrigue me and comfort me. Their paneled walls, old portraits, and butterfly collections reek of stories. Since I was a child, it’s been clear to me that life is just better inside these houses. And so book 2 of my series – my work-in-progress – is set in one.

Second, like my character Anne, I have a very active dream life. I have had several dreams set in the same Victorian house of my own design. I don’t know what it would look like on the outside, because inside, its corridors seem to go on forever. In my dreams, only I know where to find its false walls and other secret places. And knowing these things saves my hide!

Finally, I know this is a bit of a tease, but it has to be because of spoilers: One dream Anne has in A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp is a dream I had when I was her age. And one character in the book came to me in a dream years before I even thought about writing A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp. Readers who want to guess at these things after reading the book are welcome to do so on my website.

I believe you are the first author to use the 3’s theme when talking about yourself. I tip my hat to you! Now, tell us more about your book.

Once you find out your mother is an alien, what ISN’T possible?!

That’s what 12-year-old Anne and 10-year-old Atticus Reade want to know. Minutes after learning that their mother is from the planet Farbookonia and that their parents’ secret project has put them all in danger, the children are wrenched from their sheltered existence in the Midwest and whisked off to a safe sleep-away camp in New Jersey — each with a tiny, protective “Globot” on one shoulder.

Painfully aware they’re not like the others at camp, Anne and Atticus do their best to fit in while concealing their alien background and the “special talents” that go with it. But everything is so new to them, they have a hard time sorting reality from fiction. Quirky campers, campfire ghost stories, a bizarre camp director, Anne’s mysterious dreams, and Atticus’s unusual animal encounters are all equally disturbing.

Just as they start getting the hang of life among young Earth humans, a broadcast on the Rec Hall TV shakes things up, and things that are truly strange emerge from normal newness. It turns out Anne and Atticus — and their new friends — may not be safe at camp after all. A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp soon thrusts them into a reality they wish was fiction.

I recommend A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp to readers who like:

I myself struggle with these comparisons, but a friend who works in a library has told me she recommends A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp to readers who like:

         The Kane Chronicles, The Lightning Thief, “and everything else Percy Jackson-related,” all by Rick Riordan; and the Seven Wonders series by Peter Lerangis.

I haven’t read these, but to me they look a little more adventure-driven than A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp. I would love any reader feedback on how A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp compares with other books they’ve read.

Now it’s time for The 3’s. Or rather, it’s time to carry on with The 3’s. Give us the top three answers to the following questions to help us know you better.

Top 3 books you recommend reading and why you recommend them.

What writer can resist this question? The challenge is limiting it to three ... I chose these for their strong female characters, because I believe we still need more of them.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is my all-time favorite novel. It is so many stories, rolled into one: The horrid family situation Jane deals with as an orphan; the boarding school story in which her friend dies of consumption with only Jane to ease her suffering; the 5-alarm romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester; and the mysterious mad woman in the attic! What’s not to like?! Jane is a smart, confident, plucky underdog with immense presence in spite of being tiny and lacking social stature. And Thornfield is a one of the great houses of literary fiction.

With Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery gave literary fiction one its most unique, loveable, and memorable heroines. As readers of my book know, I named one of my two main characters “Anne” in honor of Montgomery’s famous redhead. I didn’t try to model my Anne on hers, but it’s possible they share a characteristic or two. In Green Gables, Anne Cuthbert’s determination to be true to her values and intelligence make the series what it is — with some help from three equally memorable characters: Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert and Gilbert Blythe.

Elizabeth Bennet of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is strong but flawed. Like many contemporary YA heroines, she has a hard time seeing past her own perspective, and that gets her into trouble. But another reason to love Pride and Prejudice (as if Mr. Darcy is not enough) is the strong, clear voice of Jane Austen as the ironic narrator who neatly skewers her society with her long, sharp sentences and descriptions.

Top 3 tools of the trade you couldn’t live without.

As someone whose schooling straddled the typewriter and the Mac SE — and who *cough!* had to drop typing in high school or face failing it — number one, hands-down, is my computer.

Standing again in the brink between two eras is number two: The Internet. Remember when fact-finding required an hours-long trip to the library? No? Consider yourself lucky. I know I do. Almost all of my research — and there was a lot of it — was done online.

Number three involves tools of my own making. I am very visual, so I use a 2-foot-by-3-foot pad of sticky notes to design my settings. I refer to these drawings constantly while writing (the camp maps I include in A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp started out on this pad). I also use other visual tools, like tables to track the threads of my stories (e.g., a column for each day at camp) and concept maps to visualize plot elements (e.g., how events converge at the end of the book).

Top 3 personal mantras or inspirational phrases.

I chant “Don’t think, just do,” to wake myself out indecision and procrastination. It’s not that I resist thinking — quite the contrary: It’s that I can over-think things.

Continuing the old house theme, in the Doctor Who episode, “Blink” (which first introduces the weeping angels), Sally Sparrow enters a musty old house and says, “I love old things. They make me feel sad.” Her friend, Kathy Nightingale, looks at her strangely and says: “What’s good about sad?” To which Sally replies: “It’s ‘happy’ for deep people.” (The sentimental side of me feels vindicated by that statement! I often find myself having to explain why I prefer drama over comedy — and I do not lack a sense of humor!)

To me, this quote, by the poet Nikki Giovanni, is an antidote for apathy and a prescription for living mindfully:

“There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don't expect you to save the world I do think it’s not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair and disrespect.”

Marie, where can our tech savvy readers find you and your book online?

Thank you for visiting with us today, Marie. Continued good fortune to you and your book!

GUESTS WELCOME!  I’m always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.


  1. Thanks for having me today, Kai :)

  2. Wonderful guest post! I love meeting authors. I think your story sounds like an exciting read, Marie!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Tyrean :)

    2. I love meeting new authors too, Tyrean. Thanks for visiting.

  3. Nice to meet you, Marie! Your classic reads are all high on my list too. Love the premise of your story.

    1. Hi there, Crystal - same to you! Always glad to meet a kindred spirit in the reading department. And I appreciate the kind words. :-)

    2. They are classics for a reason :) Nice of you to stop by, Crystal.


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