Mother C.L. Collar, left, and her daughter, Jennifer McMurrain, relax between signings. Along with fellow authors Lynn Donovan and Sherrilyn Polf, McMurrain and Collar also donated copies of their books to the library, and Phillip Lee of Memorial Library and Donovan are looking at making Authors Day an annual event to help promote local authors’ works. L&T photos/Robert Pierce
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
They lived in the same house for many years in the tiny Texas Panhandle town of Darrouzett, and though they no longer share the same roof, a mother and daughter do now share the same occupation.
While it may be common for many businesses to see family members working together, related writers are likely somewhat of a rarity.
C.L. Collar and her daughter, Jennifer McMurrain, though, are an exception to that rule, and the two, along with fellow authors Lynn Donovan and Sherrilyn Polf, were in Liberal last week for Memorial Library’s Authors Day, a day designed to allow the writers to donate a copy of their books to the library and sign books for readers.
McMurrain said she first got inspired to write simply by watching her mother, and she noticed how hard it was for Collar to get published.
“She would send out the query letters,” McMurrain said. “She’d get the rejections back. We’ve all gotten them.”
McMurrain has worked in libraries in Amarillo, Texas, and the town she now calls home – Bartlesville, Okla. That time amounted to about four years, and the younger author said having worked around books for so long, she found it difficult to not be inspired to write.
“Every time a new book would come out, I would study the cover and back cover blurb,” she said. “I knew I wanted my name and my story in those stacks. So I was inspired to write every day. Working at the library kept me inspired and visiting the library now that I'm a full-time author helps keep me inspired.
When one of her first books, “Quail Crossings,” came out, McMurrain went to work for the book’s publisher, TreasureLine Publishing, learning the businesss of printing books from inside out.
“When Mom finally got her novel finished, I opened up a small press,” she said. “TreasureLine decided they didn’t want to publish books anymore.”
That small press has allowed McMurrain to also publish Collar’s books.
“Now, I nag on her to keep writing,” McMurrain joked.
The daughter said her mother instilled in her a creative bug, as well as a love for imagination and the written word.
“Basically reading in general,” she said. “It all started with my mom.”
Though she now writes children’s fantasy, Collar’s first love was poetry, particular humorous poems, which she said were rarely seen when she began writing.
Collar began writing as early as age 10, after reading fairy tale poems, which she said she fell in love with.
“We had an assignment in school to write a poem,” she said. “I wrote mine and have enjoyed writing poetry every since then. Then when my children were born, I wrote a lullaby for them, and then when they reach junior high, I wrote poetry for them to recite for poetry interpretation in Texas UIL.”
Those youth would later graduate, and when they did, this left time for Collar to pursue one of her writing dreams, writing a children’s novel.
“I took a writing course through the mail,” she said. “That was the only way you could do it back then. That’s when I started with my first novel.”
Collar said writing children’s literature is not much different than poetry, and the transition between the two genres was an easy one.
“I read many fabulous books on fairy lore and legend to get most of my information,” she said. “Then I started writing my children’s fairy tale. I have loved fairy tales since childhood and wanted to bring these fascinating creatures back into the family living room. I believe both of my books ‘Katie McCory and the Dagger of Truth’ and ‘Finding Fey,’ do just that.
Besides publishing Collar’s work, McMurrain likewise critiques her mother’s writings, with the mother doing the same for her daughter.
“I have two writers groups in Bartlesville,” McMurrain said. “There’s the big Word Weavers group that has 35 members, and I have a smaller critique group. They read all my stuff. My mom reads all my stuff, and I read her stuff. Sometimes, we get the bigger group to read that stuff. I wouldn’t publish anything without letting my mom look at it first.”
McMurrain said it is hard to narrow down what genre she writes, penning books in categories such as historical fiction, paranormal and contemporary romance, inspirational and horror. She added she has also many types of stories, including novels, anthologies and short stories.
“I have started a paranormal young adult series, called ‘Haven: Fire Demons’ that I just really love and hope to have it out in 2015,” she said.
McMurrain said she refuses to box herself into one genre.
“As writers, I think we’re meant to tell stories, all stories, no matter their genre,” she said. “It is my opinion that the big New York publishing houses are the ones that made the rule that you can only write in one genre, and I don’t play by their rules.”
Collar likewise does not like to stick to one style of writing.
“I write mostly fantasy, but I have written short stories in many genres,” she said. “Some are inspirational and others humorous.
Of course, most types of writing require much in the way of research, and McMurrain said she takes advantage of today’s technology tools, including the search engine Google, which she considers her “best friend” when it comes to penning a book. She said, though, when it comes to historical fiction, nothing is better than going to the source.
“For Quail Crossings, which is set during the Great Depression, I talked to three ladies in my hometown of Darrouzett, Texas, and got their first hand experiences of that time period,” she said. “Absolutely, the best kind of research as well as cataloging their personal history. Something I wish every child, grandchild, or great grandchild would do before their grandparents are gone.”
McMurrain said, however, when it comes to other writings such as paranormal, she comes back to Google.
“I also have a friend who is a paranormal investigator, so I turn to him with technical questions,” she said. “It’s good to have friends in weird places.
Mother’s Day was last Sunday, and both McMurrain and Collar said writing together has made the mother-daughter bond stronger.
“We have always had a strong bond, and I am truly grateful for that, but writing has brought it to a new level,” McMurrain said. “We are both passionate about our writing careers and having her beside me while we both accomplish our dream makes it even better.”
Collar said writing definitely brings her and McMurrain closer together, and with her other daughter, Brandy Walker, designing book covers for the authors, Collar said this makes writing truly a family thing.
“I really enjoy having my girls take this roller coaster ride with me,” Collar said.