Author Interview: Colleen L. Reece

Colleen is one of the judges to help choose the top 3 stories in the Summer Writing contest. She, along with Donna Patton (you know Ms. Patton from helping her choose covers for her mysteries), are avid Andi fans and I trust their judgment with choosing the stories they feel best tell a story with the Circle C and Goldtown in mind. Let’s learn more about Miss Colleen L. Reece!

Website & blog: ColleenReece.com

1. Tell my readers a little about yourself; where you grew up and what it was like.

I was born in the little logging town of Darrington in western WA on October 1, 1935. I learned to read beneath the rays of a kerosene lamp in a home without electricity or running water. Our home had once been a one-room school where Mom taught all eight grades. The cloak room became my bedroom.

2. How old were you when you first discovered you loved to write, and what did you write?

As soon as I learned to read and write, about age 4—all kinds of stories that had been running around in my head.

3. What was your first published work?

My first writing “sale” followed a June 31947 letter to a radio contest. I was eleven years old, and my parents could not afford very much in those days. I wrote this letter and won a bicycle!

Dear Free for All,

I’ve heard of the “Gang” as you call them and if they can’t guess this, something is wrong. Because, it’s easy as pie. Most of the children around here have bicycles, but I don’t have. Daddy goes up every day to fall timber (as we live in the heart of the timber country) and by the time he gets home, the store is closed. But if I had a bicycle, I could go to town and bring thing [sic] home in the day-time. Although there are lots of trees around here, money doesn’t grow on trees and neither do bicycles.    

I’ve written before and so, Free for All, if you don’t send me a bicycle pronto,  I’m going to spend more money in postage writing to you than the bicycle costs.

If I won it, I would be the happiest girl in the Universe. There is one chance in a million and I’m taking it. I wrote in on a quiz once and I won some money so I’m signing myself

The Lucky Girl, Colleen Reece

4. What were some boulders on your rocky road to becoming an author?

Boulder #1 – When I was 17, I wrote The Staircase Mystery by kerosene lamp light, a full-length novel designed to out-Nancy Nancy Drew, and out-Hardy the Hardy Boys. I typed it on cheap paper, underlined the title in red (gasp) and submitted again and again. Two-and-a-half years later, I received a contract. The company loved and praised the book—and wanted me to send them $1,800 to publish it! I did not do it and thank God my yellowed-page, unsold manuscript still lies in my closet and shouts, “amateur” at me. Years and years later, Mrs. Marlow and I spent time together at a writers renewal. She brought an early work, and I brought The Staircase Mystery. We laughed so hard it is a wonder why didn’t fall off the beds.

Some good did come from those books. Our first works did have interesting characters, settings, and plots. We knew we could finish a complete book. I also learned what a vanity press was: Publishers who ask for money for books like mine that should NOT be published.

Boulder #2 – Decades after that early Staircase incident, I wanted to write an inspirational romance. Unwilling to spend a whole year writing a manuscript and then finding out I probably couldn’t sell it, I wrote one chapter and submitted it. World. Class. Dumb. Three days later (and this was before email!), I got a letter saying that the editor really liked my chapter and (gasp!) wanted to see the whole manuscript! I figured I’d just blown my chance for a contract because I did not have the entire book written. The happily-ever-after is that I finished that book fast, and she bought it. The Heritage of Nurse O’Hara, my first novel, came out in January 1977. I sold Avalon Books ten more titles. Moral to this story? Before contacting a publisher, at least have a good first draft completed.

5. How many published books do you have in print?

More than 175, with 6 million copies sold.

6. Which is your favorite kid series that you wrote, and why is it your favorite?

The Juli Scott Mysteries: Mysterious Monday Trouble on Tuesday, Wednesday Witness, Thursday Trials, Friday Flight, Saturday Scare, and Sunday Suspicion.

There is a lot of me in this series. Julie and I are strong Christians. We both wanted to be an author. Juli dreams of building a colonial mansion overlooking the Skagit River, which I wanted to do if I ever got rich and famous. Neither of us ever did, but in the books, Juli’s friend Shannon’s grandfather built the Skagit Inn in the exact spot (an important part of the series). 

7. Many aspiring young authors wonder if they can make a career out of writing what they love. Very few authors can make that work. You are a success story. How did that happen?

I was working and winning honors (Secretary/Administrative Assistant of the Year) at a good-paying government job in the summer of 1977. I’d had a couple of inspirational novels published and had just finished Belated Follower, my one and only Biblical novel, a book I felt compelled to write. While driving to work one morning, I prayed, “Lord, what am I doing spending most of my time and energy on the job? I could be making the world a better place with my writing.”

I listed all the reasons that was not practical, then found myself writing down, “I feel like Peter, James, and John must have felt when Jesus called them to leave all and follow Him. I gave notice that same day. The summons to serve Jesus was so powerful it outweighed all the obstacles, then and ever since.

8. What do you always keep in mind when you are writing?

To write only those things I feel God leads me to write, and to honor Him by making sure everything I do is acceptable to Him.

9. What are your recent titles, and what are you working on right now?

I recently did a revision of my finest book ever, Belated Follower, the book that led me to walk off my job into full-time freelance writing. An interesting note: Written in 1977, it was not published until 1995. However, when it came out, it brought in more praise than all my other titles combined. God’s timing is perfect. He knew I needed those extra years of growing as an author to do this special story justice.

Lexi’s Last Chance will be published soon. A shy Canadian girl, the only one not invited to her high school graduation party, moves to the United States . . . and vows to become someone who will gain respect from those who persecuted her. Among my favorite titles.

10. Most of us know you as a successful novelist, but during your career as a writer, you have written much more than novels. What other ways have you been published?

Over 1,300 short stories and articles in magazines, mostly Christian, as well as many inspirational gift books, especially Walking with the Master (God’s provision and protection all the days of my life). From Lamplight to Limelight, Journey of Joy, written at students’ requests, shows how God multiplied the “someday” book I wanted to write as a child and led me to become a best-selling author.

11. Have any of your books been translated into other languages? If so, which ones?

Several of my older books have. A Gold Star for Eric, the true story of a little boy who lived with my parents and me from age 8 to 18, started out as a short stories serial in church weekly take-home handouts. In 1989, the stories became a book, which later was translated into Spanish and Portuguese. The Portuguese edition has sold over 28,000 copies and continues to touch lives for Christ throughout Brazil.  

12. You are advanced in years, Colleen, yet still writing strong! What is an important piece of advice you can give to young writers who would like to emulate your success?

Yes, I’m 86 on the outside but always young on the inside! Advice? Learn all you can about the craft of writing. I never had the opportunity to take writing classes and workshops, although starting in 1979 I began teaching them (from having developed expertise in the field). I was fortunate in having editors who saw potential in me and went out of their way to mentor me. Unfortunately, editors today can’t or won’t take time to mentor beginning authors.

Find yourself someone with whom to share. For over 25 years, Mrs. Marlow and I have brainstormed, and monitored each other’s work. Most importantly: Write what you feel God wants you to write and never compromise your ideals in order to get published.

The best test of any manuscript is whether you would be proud to show it to Jesus.


Thank you so much, Miss Colleen Reece, for taking your time to share with us. I loved your interview and I hope other readers enjoyed it too!

If you have a question for Miss Reece, leave a comment. She is a follower of Andi’s blog and I’m sure she’ll see your comment and take time to answer.

Published by Andi Carter

I'm the main character in the Circle C Adventures series. I live on a huge cattle ranch in 1880s California. These are my adventures.

44 thoughts on “Author Interview: Colleen L. Reece

  1. Thank you Miss Colleen for all the advice! I’m making my way to publish a book I wrote and you gave excellent advice. I love how you say to check yourself and make sure you would be proud to show it to Jesus. I’m asking my mom for some of your books! They sound so amazing!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. How nice to hear from you, Emma. Good luck with your writing. If I’d had Mrs.Marlow as my teacher when I was a kid or teenager, I wouldn’t have waited until I was 42 to really start doing anything with my God-given talent. I am so proud of her and all she has accomplished. My motto is ”
      Writing Books You Can Trust to Inspire and Entertain.” If you don’t already have a motto, it is good to choose one. It “brands” you and lets readers know up front what you stand for. Glad you will be getting some of my books–maybe my favorite kid-teen series, the Juli Scott Mysteries? I just went back and read the 7-book series!

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      1. Thx for suggesting that I make a motto to show what I stand for. I’ll have to think hard on that one. I’ll let u know when I think of one!!! 😁

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  2. Wonderful interview! It’s so inspiring to hear how a successful author started and grew in their writing. It gives me hope that I’ll grow into a better writer and a published one as long as I keep it up 🙂
    and oh! I never finished my story for the contest! It slipped my mind. I suppose I’ll wait for the next one

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    1. Good to hear from you, Bree. You remark about being a better writer and a published one as long as you keep it up is so true. Never lose your dream! God knows which doors to open for u, and just the right time. We don’t need to try and batter them down (ha ha). sorry you missed the contest, but Mrs. M. has lots of them. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You do realize that the comments should be questions for my guest, Colleen Reece, and not for me to answer, right?
      Hang on cuz in a couple of weeks MY interview with the questions you all asked is coming up in two parts! I will answer your questions on that upcoming post

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  3. My father always told me, “Have faith and persevere.” As I read your interview, it brought those words back into my mind since they describe your journey. Congratulations on a life well lived and a big thank you for giving me the opportunity to share a small part of it as your student and your friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for asking Emma. Because the way God led me into writing was so clear, He helped me face rejection slips. And there were many. It really hurt when some of my best writing got turned down, so I developed a system to help deal with it. For every story or article, I set up a notebook page with as many possible target markets as possible listed, Then I put them in the order that seemed the most promising. If # 1 didn’t take it, I already knew where to send next–and made a practice of getting it out the next day.

      This was back when everything was done by snail mail instead of email with attachments, Another trick was to keep a lot of manuscripts going the rounds. I wrote lots of short stories and articles in between writing books. It didn’t hurt so much getting a return if I had other manuscripts still out there, GRIN

      Finally, I asked myself, “What if I gave up after the first, or third, or 10th or whatever try? What if the very next submission ended up in a sale? That’s when I promised the Lord, “If You send the inspiration, I will write and submit until it sells or I run out of places to send. Please stop where it can do the most good and reach whoever needs it most.” He did, over and over.

      One time I sent something to Guideposts and it was rejected. After a few more tries, I sent to a place way down on my list. The editor bought. I will never forget the exact wording of what he said. “Rest assured, if this never helps anyone else, it came at a time in my life when I desperately needed to here what you had to say. Thank you.” I cried with joy.
      Colleen

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  4. Knowing God had called me to write for Him, even when what I considered my best work got rejected, often many times.Every job has something we don’t like as well as other duties. A former secretary, I disliked filing, so I decided to view rejection slips as “filing.” I round-filed them (put in the waste basket!) Colleen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to ask to another question but what is the age group for your Romance Novels? I’m thirteen and a very dreamy, romantic person but my parents want to make sure I read my age group.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Mrs. M. is right. I concentrate on characters and story. My books contain love, but aren’t mushy, which neither Mrs. M. or I like. Characters have high ideals which they refuse to compromise, yet aren’t goody-goody. Faith is part of who the characters are.

    One woman told me, “Thank you for writing books I can give to my twelve-going-on-twenty-year-old grand-daughter without a qualm.” A teen girl wrote, “It is hard to be a PG teen in an R-rated world. Because of the choices your heroine made, I will do the same.” A greater reward for me than all the money or fame in the world.

    And I don’t mind your asking questions at all, Emma. BIG SMILE.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I ordered and received two of your books, Walking with the Master’ and ‘Going Home Again.’ I’ve read them and you are now one of my favorite authors!!!!!! I love you and your books so much! They are amazing! You are so talented and you honor God in your writings! Your life is an amazing testimony to God’s faithfulness! I’m so happy to call you my sister-in-Christ! If we don’t meet on earth surely in heaven!

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    1. I had a lot of fun writing Books 1 and 2–just sorry that I got so busy with other projects I didn’t get to write more of the series, but some of my good writer friends carried on the story line.

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  6. So glad you you like my books, Emma. Yes, God has been good to me. You may be interested in Lamplight to Limelight, the full story of the many ups and down from wanting to write a “someday” book to becoming a full time author. It includes writing tips of what to do and what NOT to do. GRIN.

    You are right. We shall meet in heaven if not before. What a day that will be!!! In the meantime we just go on serving God and telling others a bout Him. God bless. Colleen

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    1. I believe almost all of Colleens books are available to buy as print books…. You can find the various options on their product page on Amazon. I think a couple of the bigger collections might only be on Kindle, but you just have to see.

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  7. Mrs. M. is right Almost all of my books are available in both print and Kindle, except for some of the recent multi-title collections which are just Kindle.

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