Intrigued, I requested it for a birthday present . . . and when it came, I stayed up all night reading it! I absolutely loved how this talented author could take a beloved fairy tale, set it in modern day New York, remove all traces of magic and yet . . . and yet it remained magical, somehow!
Regina Doman was an instant hit for me.
A few years later, after that first novel was renamed Shadow of the Bear, I discovered two sequels, Black as Night and Waking Rose, which I also enjoyed. Since then, Ms. Doman has written several more books in her Fairy Tale series. She has gracious agreed to visit the Goldstone Wood blog and tell us about her stories, her writing, and her newest release, Rapunzel Let Down. I hope you will enjoy meeting this talented author.
First, the official write-up:
Regina Doman is a Catholic wife, mother, author and editor. Currently she runs her own company, Chesterton Press, which publishes and distributes quality Catholic fiction. When she worked as the editor of Sophia Institute Press' fiction line, Rachel's Contrition became a #1 Best Seller in Amazon's Women's Fiction category, and winner of the 2011 Catholic Arts and Letters Award for best adult fiction. As an author, she has written the Fairy Tale Novels, a series of books for teens and adults that places fairy tales in modern settings with Christian themes interwoven. The fifth book in that series, Alex O'Donnell and the 40 Cyber Thieves, won the 2011 Catholic Arts and Letters Award for best young adult fiction. Her only picture book Angel in the Waters has sold over 120,000 copies. Regina and her husband Andrew live in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley with their children. To the question, “How do you manage to get it all done?” Regina responds, “What makes you think I get it all done?”
Welcome, Regina! I am so pleased to have you visiting today. Would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee?
Regina: Tea, definitely, caffeinated or herbal, and always in a teapot! Hobbies include watching my kids, listening to my husband talk about our farm, and sewing and dyeing stuff. I can sew clothes fairly well, but many times if I want a new outfit quickly, I just dye something I already own a new color. Currently working on a batch of teal blue for the summer wardrobe. Hope it turns out okay. www.Dharmatrading.com is my go-to place for dye stuff, and they have yummy silk scarves.
What let you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller?
Regina: Oh, yes, as soon as I learned to write I started telling stories. My parents are quite eloquent in their remembrances of that fact.
Please tell us a little about your business, Chesterton Press. What led you to start that company?
Regina: Necessity. I needed to self-publish the sequel to my first two books, and I couldn’t find a Catholic company willing to publish them, so I did them myself. We officially became a publishing company when we took over a series that we had developed for Sophia Institute Press, John Paul 2 High, in 2011 (check out www.johnpaul2high.com). We are an odd company in that we don’t accept submissions from outside authors (so sorry, everyone!) but mainly focus on developing new series that we start ourselves, working with authors we already know. So I can’t look at your existing manuscript, but if you came to me and said, “I’m a talented and passionate writer and I’m willing to write something, anything,” I might just find a project for you. But you’d have to be a really good writer, excellent about meeting deadlines, willing to work with odd editors, etc.
I remember the first time I read Shadow of the Bear, I was impressed by your obvious love of the classics and how you incorporated that love into your work. In your opinion, how important is reading to the life of a novelist?
Regina: Actually, that’s hard to say. I’m a television major, and my orientation is towards theatre and screenplays, so I’m kind of atypical for a novelist. I actually haven’t read most of the classics (though I am well-acquainted with the canon of Western theatrical literature, thanks to a great formation at Franciscan University). And today I don’t read much fiction, though I do read a lot of nonfiction, particularly history and politics. However, I do love poetry of almost any kind – European, American, classical, modern—and it’s true that I have incorporated a lot of that into my books. There’s a real overlap between poetry and the theatre, so perhaps that’s where I get it from? If pressed, I would say that I think writing traditional metrical poetry is a good exercise for any writer, particularly writers of fantasy, because it trains you to have a good command of the English language. During college, I had a hard time writing fiction, but I started writing terzanelles – this very tricky metrical form, and I ended up writing at least a hundred of them by graduation, in my spare time. Looking back, I think that really expanded and enriched my vocabulary, and made me aware of the sound of language in a way that nothing else did. Of course, studying the performance of Shakespeare probably helped too.
Tell us a little about your newest novel, Rapunzel Let Down. How long have you been developing this idea? How did the writing of it compared to your previous work: more difficult, easier, about the same?
Regina: This is a very different novel from my earlier novels, and I actually have it labeled as adult fiction. It’s really for older fans of the Fairy Tale Novels, college age or above. While all the books deal with moral darkness such as date rape or struggling with same-sex attraction, the earlier books did so ambiguously and subtly. Rapunzel Let Down is different. This story, like the fairy tale that inspired it, is a cautionary tale against premarital sex. It’s hard to do a story like that ambiguously! So I’ve been trying to put out the word that this is not a book for homeschooled fifteen-year-olds! It’s a book for parents and for older teens, or really for any teen who’s already learned the sad state of sexuality in this day and age and who is looking for answers and hope.
The story is about a prince who fails: who falls from grace. Instead of rescuing the maiden in the tower from the witch who imprisoned her, he kind of takes advantage of the situation. In the earliest versions of the story, the prince gets her pregnant. I’ve read versions today that say the prince “married her right then and there in the tower.” But marriage really is meant to be a public act, and if they were married, then why didn’t he bring her home with him? The sad and unspoken answer is that the prince just finds the whole situation too convenient: no responsibilities, no need to explain to his parents why he’d like to marry a peasant girl imprisoned in a tower.
Rapunzel finally starts to suggest that she make a flaxen ladder with which he can get her down, and he never brings up the fact that he could easily get ladders, flaxen or otherwise, from the palace that he returns to every morning. But he never mentions it. Thus the prince is severely punished for his taking advantage of the peasant maiden Rapunzel. The witch traps him and he falls from the tower and is blinded. Rapunzel wanders in the wilderness and gives birth to twin babies, which makes it clear what the nature of their relationship was. The blinded prince becomes a miserable beggar in the wilderness, until one day he hears Rapunzel singing and goes to her. Then the true magic of the fairy tale becomes manifest: she weeps over him and forgives him, and through forgiveness, his sight is restored. Then “he is no longer lost” but recognizes that he is near to his own kingdom. He takes Rapunzel by the hand and leads her and their children to his father’s house, where he marries her and makes her his queen. Forgiveness is the key to the happy ending, and the key to the conundrum of men and women, and the messiness of our relationships. I feel this old tale has a lot to teach us today, and I could not resist telling this story in full.
One really neat thing about this book is that for the first time, I’ve really been hearing from male readers. They’ve said they find the book extremely true-to-life, and very moving. And one of my friends after finishing it exclaimed, “My seventeen year old son needs to read this book!”
Who is your favorite character in this newest novel and why?
Regina: This book is really a guy’s story, since it’s the prince who falls and who has the most lessons to learn. My “prince” is Herman McCaffrey, nicknamed Hermes, who’s the son of a conservative Catholic pro-life senator. Hermes has a good upbringing, but he kind of takes his faith for granted. He falls for Raphaela, a girl who’s been raised by an isolated and very reclusive scientist, who happens to be a hardcore feminist. Their secret summer romance (yes, in a tower!) leads to his fall.
Hermes is “all boy” with a robustly masculine Irish romantic imagination. He’s sensitive to beauty, but he’s still growing, still immature in a lot of areas. He’s also very much a risk-taker with a good dose of pure Irish luck. But as he observes, when his luck runs out, it really runs out.
He was my first very sanguine hero, who is “not a serious guy, not by a long shot,” but who yearns to be a hero. He was very interesting to write because he’s very transparent: his struggles were very obvious. Also, he thinks on his feet and makes quick decisions, sometimes quite unexpected ones. I love the way his character is transformed. That’s all I can say without giving spoilers.
What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration?
Regina: I’m finding I need solitude more and more, and that’s hard to come by these days, with three teens of my own and four little ones. They need me too. So it’s hard to find the sacrificial time it takes to write a novel. That’s one reason why I’ve slowed down. I wrote most of the Fairy Tale Novels when my children were young and went to bed around 8 PM. Now, it’s not so easy.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?
If you were forced to pick a single favorite author, who would it be?
Regina: C.S. Lewis. That Hideous Strength is my favorite novel. That’s the short answer, since you forced me. J
So what is next on your publishing horizons? Can we look forward to more fairy tale retellings from Chesterton Press?
Regina: In a couple of years! This is the last fairy tale I have completely finished: I wrote it in 2004, around the same time I was finishing writing Waking Rose and The Midnight Dancers. It will probably take me a while to write another one. There are others, but they are much less finished. In the meantime, I’d love it if readers checked out the other series we are developing and publishing such as John Paul 2 High, Catholic Philosopher Chick and the upcoming Ruah Chronicles. Find out about all these at ChestertonPress.com and at our Facebook page.
Personally, I’d really like to start writing a completely new series that I’ve been working for a while, but for that, I need time. Fortunately, my teenagers love my books, including Rapunzel Let Down, just as much as the rest of you do, so that makes it easier.
Can you share a short snippet from Rapunzel Let Down?
Regina: Sure. As I said, this is a book for older readers, and there’s a lot of it that’s just not appropriate for all ages. But I think this is a section that is more appropriate, and may touch many readers. It may perhaps help you understand why I chose to tell this story.
READ EXERPT HERE.
Thank you so much for being here today, Regina!
And Imps, I encourage you to give Shadow of the Bear a try. I really loved it, and I bet you will too! As for Rapunzel Let Down, some of you readers will love it as well, but Regina has kindly included this caution for her cautionary tale. Please do read it before deciding whether or not the newest Fairy Tale is for you!
A Cautionary Tale that needs a Caution for the Reader
I have received some questions asking why I am saying that Rapunzel Let Down is a heavier and harsher book than the other books in the series. In some ways, it's so very different from the other books that I seriously contemplated releasing it as a different series altogether. However, it is still a Fairy Tale Novel, told in the same manner as the others, part of the same universe and involving some of the same characters.
However, it is clearly a book for older readers of the Fairy Tale Novels, and I am happy that there are now so many of them who are ready for a book like this one. Although I wrote this book in 2004, I am only publishing it now, because I feel many of the fans have grown up and are facing deeper and darker questions about human relationships and the problems of human sexuality. This is a book for them.
I will try to inform you of the contents of this book without giving away the story. Please forgive the abstract and ponderous and somewhat allegorical language as I attempt to do so. The story is hopefully not as didactic as it may sound below.
This book presumes that the reader has already become acquainted with the sad state of human sexuality, and knows something of the sorrows and the burdens of the loss of innocence, and the banal sexual depravity that taints so much of our lives. This is a book for readers who are searching earnestly for answers to those problems, even subconsciously, and who need hope.
What does this have to do with the fairy tale Rapunzel? Everything.
Rapunzel Let Down is the story of a young couple in love who falls from grace and innocence into mortal sin, which lacerates and divides them, seemingly forever. Consequences of their actions deal them a stunning blow that plunges both of them into suffering and drives them forward on a dark and lonely journey. Each seeks to escape that wound, and along the way each encounters cunning and dangerous dragons who promise to solve their problems, the problems of human sexuality.
The dragons come out in their full colors in this book: prostitution, pornography, forced abortion, rape, lesbianism, homosexuality, child molestation, and vicious hatred of the other sex all make an appearance. Characters speak openly about sexual aberrations using blunt and profane language. While very little is graphically shown, many things are frankly discussed as possible solutions to the problem of man and woman, and their genius for wounding one another.
As an author, I usually try my best to use veiled language to convey harsher topics. In my previous books I was able to touch on some of the above subjects obliquely. But when I set out to write this book, I realized I was writing for a different audience entirely.
This book is not for readers who are innocent of the above dragons. Parents, please do not allow me to initiate your child into these particular evils! I have never had a desire to be edgy in order to be cool, to push the envelope, or to give a tour of secret sins, even to warn against them. If your sons or daughters are innocent of any or all of the above topics, please don't let them read this story. Read it yourself and judge when they will be ready for it.
But if your sons and daughters have already seen the dismal state of the human condition, if they are sad and struggling, if they are questioning and angry, then this is a good book for them. I hope to give some answers and some hope.
You see, my purpose is not to inform readers of these evils: I'm telling this tale for those of us who are already sick at heart over them. The only reason I'm offering to walk readers through this dark valley is to show them the passionate glory of the heights and mountains that lie beyond it. There is something of the epic about this tale, and perhaps that's why I felt that for once, the dragons had to be shown in their true size and shape.
Some stories just come along, seize the author by the throat, and demand to be written. Rapunzel Let Down was one of those tales. It was a terrifying roller-coaster of a book to write, and I hope it will be to read. And I would be grateful beyond words if it helps readers of either sex find healing, forgiveness, and courage in their relationship with one another.
Asking for your prayers, I remain