A Brief Stay at Human Earth Camp

A Brief Stay at Human Earth Camp - Marie C. Collins

You don't realize how much coming-of-age stories influence you until you're an adult looking back on your teenage years. So many of the books that I read at the time were changing how I perceived and reacted to situations. 

It's because of this that these books are so vitally important to our community. And I love seeing the spin that each individual author puts on the genre. Marie C. Collins uses the fantastic and science fiction aspect to force her two main characters to rapidly mature. 

I cringed as I saw where the plot was going in the first few chapters. First of all, I hated camp as a child. So much. The kids were never nice. I never fit in. And I was out of my comfort zone. So imagine that multiplied by 100 and you've got the plot of A Brief Stay at Human Earth Camp. 

Despite the awkwardness, there are some great lessons in maturity and learning to be courageous that young adults can take away from this book. Overall a great read. 


Some Bio Information

Marie C. Collins lives in Lambertville, New Jersey (USA), with her two dogs, George Eliot and Henry James, who—in spite of their snoring and a tendency to sniff horrifying things—are very good company (and in return, endure Marie’s insistence that they LOVE being kissed on their snouts). Marie holds a BA in English & Journalism and an MA in English Literature and has worked for 30 years as a writer/editor for hire. She has a daughter she adores, Laurel Pellegrino, who is now a doctor in Seattle.


Q&A

1. Where did you get the idea for your book?

I knew I wanted to write a sci-fi series for the 11-15 age group that was fun and adventuresome, but also grounded in what life is really like in your early teens, so one day I sat on my front porch with a clipboard and pen to brainstorm. I was toying with thoughts about “cultural difference” — the fact that so many of us are blends of races, ethnicities, and cultures — when the idea of being “half alien” came to me as an ultimate form of difference for a sci-fi story. Within an hour, the Reade family, their special talents, and their home life were on the page — including the Globots and some Farbookonian characters we’ll meet in later books. I also knew the parents would make incredible robots. So my first ideas were about where I wanted the series as a whole to go. Then A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp came about because I felt Anne and Atticus needed an introduction to Earth human society before any of the rest could happen. 

2. What age group did you write for?

My target readership is 11-15, so it straddles two audience categories: Upper-middle-grade and the young side of YA. 

3. Who is your favorite character in your work?

I have a soft spot for all my characters. I put some traits of myself and my daughter in the main characters — mainly our orientation to the world (we were both very shy as children). Also, like my character Anne, I have a crazy-active dream life. I gave her one dream I had when I was her age (the diving dream), and a character in one of her last dreams (the map man) came to me in a dream years before I even thought about writing the book. But that doesn’t make me partial to them. They’re all very different and I love them all. 

4. Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

For me, the more I know about where I’m going, the better I write. If I don’t know where I’m heading, I wander hopelessly or spend too much time on details and events that interest me but don’t move the plot. To maintain control, I use many practical tools — outlining, charting, diagramming, deep questioning. But having said that, I don’t map out the whole book before I start writing. I know the ending, then it’s more like map, write, map, write, map, write.

5. How would you describe your writing style?

This may seem like a contradiction, since I’ve written a long book, but I tend be economical (as opposed to repetitive), something that earned me the descriptor, “snappy,” from a few different teachers over the years. I am also very visual. I try to focus on details that conjure a strong sense of place. Other than that, I prefer to leave a description of my style to others.

6. What’s your favorite scene that you’ve ever written?

My favorite chapter in A Brief Stay at Earth Human Camp is Chapter 35: Robot Logic. But I would have to say my favorite scene to write was the final one, in which the actions of several characters converge and climax. I really enjoyed working on the timing and tension of that scene.

7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?

In writing for young readers, my goals is to provide a challenging, fun, and stimulating read that engages them fully, invites them to imagine themselves in the action, and makes them not want to put the book down.