Thursday, June 12, 2008

Interview with The Sword and The Pen

This interview was published in "The Sword and the Pen," the newsletter of The Young Writer's Club. I am happy to republish it here with their permission.

Recently, author Regina Doman, was kind enough to fill out this interview for us via e-mail. Mrs. Doman is the author of the series, Fairy Tale Novels. These modern, Christian stories are based on different fairy tales, creating an awesome twist between the reality of our modern day world, and the romance of the fairy tales that everyone loves. For a full overview of her three completed novels, turn to page ten. Visit Regina Doman’s website at: www.FairyTaleNovels.com

Q: Was writing always something you wanted to do?

A: Yes, definitely. Pretty much as soon as I learned how to write, I knew it was how I wanted to tell stories.

Q: What influenced you most as a writer?

A: “Other stories” would probably be the most honest answer. But oddly enough, reading philosophy, theology, and even literary criticism (which generally deals with how stories are constructed) can give me ideas. I got the germ of the story for The Midnight Dancers from a quote by the philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand.

Q: Do you have a favorite amongst your four novels?

A: That’s a hard question! For a long time, Waking Rose was my favorite. But I really like Midnight Dancers too. It tends t be true of me that the book I’m writing is usually my favorite book at the time.

Q: Were parts of the books (such as Rose and Blanche’s hilarious trips to the thrift store) ever based on real events in your own life?

A: Oh totally! But generally speaking I don’t like to write about events in my own life: I’d rather pilfer other people’s lives. For instance, some of the adventures that befall the friars in Black as Night actually happened to some friar friends of mine. And Rose’s dream about the Styrofoam balls in the first book was an actual dream my best friend from high school had.

Q: Which character appeals to you most: Bear, Fish, Blanche, or Rose?

A: Fish is definitely my favorite character. I think it’s because he has the most conflicts and the most assets: I feel like I could write more books about him. And although Rose was more fun to write, Blanche was more challenging and more interesting, because of her internal conflicts. But my favorite parts of Black as Night were Bear’s parts. I still love that guy.

Q: When you wrote Shadow of the Bear had you already planned out its sequels?

A: By the time I finished the first book, yes, I had definitely planned out the other two books. It took me ten years to write the first book (if you measure from the time I had the initial idea to the time the book was published) One day during that time – I remember that I was in a parking garage with my nine siblings, waiting for my parents to come back from something – I had the idea, and said out-loud to whichever sibling was next to me, “After I finish this book I’m writing, I’m going to write two more, based on “Snow White” and “Sleeping Beauty.” My sibling said, “Huh, that’s nice,” and went back to doing crossword puzzles or whatever it was that the rest were doing.
But all I did was sketch out a few ideas until the first book was published. Then I started on the sequel, but it took me alot longer than I had expected.

Q: Your website (www.FairyTaleNovels.com) mentions that Waking Rose was actually completed before Black as Night. Was it difficult to write the stories out of sequence?

A: Yes, but writing novels is hard enough anyhow. But keeping the books consistent wasn’t as difficult as it might have been, since I had several opportunities to revise all the books along the process.)

Q: Did the completion of your first novel make it easier to finish the others?

A: The publication of the first novel definitely made it easy to publish the others. As author Ronda Chervin told me, publishing your first book (with a traditional publisher) is the golden key that opens the rest of the publishing world to you, generally speaking.

Suddenly everyone takes you seriously when you’ve published a book, even if it’s only a obscure book by a tiny publishing company. (Self-publishing is generally looked down upon: it means you’re a vain upstart not good enough for real publishers.) And there’s nothing like a deadline and a waiting contract to make you want to write more.

But if you mean, psychologically, was it easier to finish the other two books when the first one was done? Somewhat: but The Shadow of the Bear was not my first book. My first book was an obscure and meandering allegory that I had written after college which I finished in 1992, The Pilgrim’s Dilemma. It was unpublishable, and still is, but the psychological lift that I received from finishing it was enormous. I had proved to myself that I could write a book, and I knew that it was only a matter of time before I did it again.

Fortunately, my second book was much better, and actually publishable!

Q: Your blog says that you are revising the first chapters of Shadow of the Bear. How significant are the changes?

A: Hopefully not too much! I had been bothered for years by how slow the opening chapter was: I’ve said before that was my least favorite part of the book. The main changes were to eliminate some of the slowness that mars the opening chapters. But hopefully everything that made readers love the first chapters is still there.

Q: Do you have plans to continue the Fairy Tale Novel series after Midnight Dancers is released this summer?

A: I’d like to. I have promised at least two more books, “Alex O’Donnell and the Forty Hackers” (based on Ali Baba) and another thriller based on Rumplestilskin (as yet untitled). And I have two other books, already written but not yet ready to be published,
about which I shall remain coy for now, and an idea and some outlines for a totally new one. It would be nice to have about ten books in the series, if I keep getting ideas.

Q: Can you give us any advance hints on Midnight Dancers?

A: Those who read my website (www.reginadoman.blogspot.com) and those on the Fairy Tale Novel Forums (http://forum.fairytalenovels.com) know a few things that I’ll repeat here: The fourth book will be about Paul Fester, who first appeared in Waking Rose, and a blended family of twelve girls (two widowed parents, each with six daughters, got married – I needed a blended family to have twelve teens and preteens!) Rachel is the oldest girl, and the heroine of the novel. The family lives in a Civil-War era house on the coast of Maryland. I’ll try to tell you something new: Rachel’s Father and Stepmother are very serious Christians who are attracted to a very simple way of life – not quite Amish, but definitely heading in the direction of plain, unadorned simplicity. Rachel, who’s what some would call a “typical teenager,” wants nothing of it. From her point of view, her parents’ Christianity is holding her back from enjoying the best years of her life. then she and her sisters discover a secret in their house that changes everything…stay tuned to find out the rest this summer!

Q: When writing the first draft of a novel, do you think it is better to focus on telling the story, or the more technical aspects, such as grammar, ect?

A: Focus on telling the story, absolutely. Grammar and all that is for later drafts.

Q: Your novels do a fantastic job intertwining the fairytale elements with the reality of our modern day world. Was it difficult to fit your plots into the fairytale context?

A: Sometimes it is difficult. It’s a pretty complicated process that I go through to
write the books. I start with the fairytale and ask myself, ”What does this fairytale really mean? What is it really about?” For instance, “Snow White” is about temptation and sin, on a really basic level. Then I look at the core images in the fairytale: what are the elements that we really associate with that story? I mean, there had to be an apple in my version of “Snow White.” I don’t just look at traditional elements.

I look at modern elements, like movies, too, because these elements shape how readers think of the story.

For example, we’ve all been influenced by the Disney versions of the fairytales. In the original “Snow White” the prince doesn’t waken Snow White with a kiss: that was an element Disney added. But I put the kiss in my book, because that’s become an important expected element in the tale. And I put a symbolic dragon in my “Sleeping Beauty” as a nod to the dragon-villain in Disney’s film. I give myself more liberty with plotlines so long as there are enough elements of the original fairytale so that teh stories still “feel” like the old fairytales. Like I said, complicated!

Q: What advice would you offer to young writers’ aspiring to take a Christian novel all the way to publication, as you have done?

A: Be persistent! Try not to get discouraged: it is a very discouraging business to be in: you have to be prepared to be disappointed again…and again…and again…! But persistence can pay off in every area: in writing (starting a draft all over again, starting a new book when one has proved hopeless) and especially in publishing (finding a publisher, finding an agent, marketing…).

About getting published: try to be as good as you possibly can be, but recognize that part of the process depends on luck (or God). I only got published because I got a break. I got lucky: someone noticed me, and when they did, my story was good enough to deserve the notice. There is definitely an element of chance in the whole process. It might not work for you. But if it does work for you, hopefully you will always recognize that you were lucky enough to get a break. It should keep you humble, and it should make you want to help others out as well.

And suppose you learn the writing process, you try to write, you try to publish and you fail…is it all for nothing? I wouldn’t say that! If we’re going to have a Christian revival of the arts, we need people at every level of the writing industry: we need Christian editors, Christian agents, Christian salespeople – and all those people have to understand the writing process and understand good storytelling. You might marry a writer: my husband did! you might have a child who becomes a writer. God can use anything. It’s definitely something worth trying. Just commit your talent to Him and ask Him to use it as He wants. You might be surprised at what He will do.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, this was GREAT! I'm excited to hear that there's more books around the corner! YAY!!! I'm so glad she posted this!

~Narnia-Gal~

Elizabeth said...

Hey this was really good!! :)

Out of curiosity, is "Alex O'Donnell and the Forty Hackers" really going to be its title????

Elenatintil said...

Yes, it is. Regina revealed that over on the Forum a couple of months ago. It looks like it's going to be pretty good!