A couple of weeks ago I asked Regina if I could do an interview with her on my blog. She very graciously agreed, and here it is! This is especially to promote her visits to the Milwaukee "Celebrate the Faith Homeschool Conferance" on April 24th and 25th, and to the Living Bread Bookstore in St. Paul Minnesota on the 26th. If you live near one of those areas, I highly encourage you to go and meet this really amazing woman.
*On the Fairy Tale Novels*
You recently announced on the Forum that your next novel is going to be titled "Alex O'Donnell and the 40 Hackers." Can you tell us a bit about that?
Well, I'm hoping to begin working on it in May, if possible! But I have no idea how long it will take me to finish it. I picture it as being a very light book, after the heavy issues of Waking Rose and Midnight Dancers. But then again, Waking Rose was supposed to be the light, fun book, so who knows what will happen in the writing? I'm planning to base it on the story from the Arabian Nights, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, which has always been one of my favorites. In that story, a servant girl saves the day, and Kateri Kovach is "playing the part" of the servant girl in my retelling.
Your first three Fairy Tale Novels dealt with primarily Catholic characters. However, in "The Midnight Dancers" you introduced a Protestant family and showed interaction between Protestant and Catholic characters. Was that a challange? What sort of response have you gotten to that?
It was fun to do a Protestant family. I actually could have made the Durhams Catholic, since I know Catholic families who have the same sort of struggles the Durhams have. However, since Durham-type Catholics are so rare, I thought it would take too much time to explain the family environment, so I decided on having them be from a small Protestant church instead. I had several Protestant friends read it, including a pastor, to make sure I was fair and accurate. The response from both Catholics and Protestants has been wonderful. I think that in a culture like ours, it's very easy to become suspicious of beauty, so I don't blame the Durhams for not understanding it. It's something we all have to learn.
Your Fan Forum has over 360 fairly dedicated members and we know you have many more devoted fans out there. What is your reaction to the fandom? How does it make you feel to have so many young people (and older ones too) adore your books in that way?
It's fairly wild. I never really particularly wanted or needed to be famous, so I suppose my reaction is, "Wow. Kind of cool." But I don't really need the attention. That being said, I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled, that people like my books and my characters. A book to me is like a child -- you raise it, you keep it at home and you take care of it, polish it up, teach it everything it needs to know, and then send it out into the world... Now in many senses, the books belong to you all, the readers. If you find them wonderful and fulfilling, then I'm very happy, because the books have done what I wanted them to do. I just hope I can do it again.
You are involved in the new Catholic Youth series, "John Paul 2 High." What is your role in that?
I've done everything but write the books myself, and sometimes I've even helped with that. As a result of being asked to come up with some Catholic teen fiction, I conceived the project as a way to help some talented Catholic writers I know get published, and to satisfy the need that many Catholic teens have for a fiction series they could call their own. I sold the idea to a publisher, Sophia Institute Press, and organized the writers into what became known as the John Paul 2 High team. We come up with the stories together and I assign writers to particular books -- then the writers have to do the tough work of the actual writing. Usually writers are solitary lonely workers, so I think our writers are happy to have a group to support them and encourage them to keep going. My role is to call meetings, hassle writers, edit and proofread and typeset the books -- and do as much promotion as I can. It's been unbelievably hard work, but fun too.
Book #2, "Trespasses Against Us" is due out this month. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Wow, this book is pretty intense. It's probably among the three most intense books we have planned out thus far. It deals with quite a few issues -- everything from kissing to dating to anger to fighting evil. There were two team members who worked together to write this book, Christian Frank #2 and #3, and I think they did a tremendous, tremendous job. I'm trying to get them to write Book 4 for us next. (Christian Frank #1 is hard at work on Book 3.)
What are the plans for the future of this series?
My goal is that, using several writers writing simultaneously, we can publish three books a year. Right now we're far from achieving that, but I'll settle for one a year. I'd love it if Book 3 could come out this year, though. I have ideas for up to 21 books, and we could do more with it. It all depends on how people like the first books. But I love these characters, the John Paul 2 High kids, and I hope readers grow to love them too.
What is your favorite writing enviroment? Are there rituals you do/things you need to have around to encourage the writing flow?
I'm actually laughing. Now that I have seven kids, I can't be picky about my rituals or the environment. To me the ideal time to write is -- whenever I have time to write! What's becoming clear to me is that I need a comptuer without email or internet access in order to actually write, so I don't get distracted. But I'll write any time I can find time. Early in the morning, late at night... sometimes during the day, if I need to. My husband works from home, so he helps take over the kids if I really need time to work. The reason I write late at night or early in the morning is so I don't have to be interrupted, not because of distractions or noise. I don't need silence to work: my computer is actually in the kitchen area, so I can hear the kids and what they're up to. I don't work on my novels every day: most days I am busy now with email and editing and homeschooling. When I work on a novel, I have to shut down the other things.
What books would you say have been most formative in your growth as a writer? Would you recommend them (or any others) to aspiring authors?
Three: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, and The Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spiirt by St. Maximilian Kolbe (the latter is a compilation of his writings by another author). For me, philosophy and theology inspires my work more than any other kind of writing. I would definitely recommend them to other writers. For actual writing style, I've been influenced by The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri, Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle, and the enormous amount of poetry I've read all my life long. I believe poetry is really important to learning to love language. My favorite poet is the prophet Isaiah, but I also love T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare, Chesterton, Tolkien, Keats, and many, many others. For many years, memorizing poetry was my hobby, and I still like to do it, when I have time.
As a Christain writer, but even more as a Catholic one, I'm sure there are a lot of challanges you face that a mainstream author does not. Could you tell us about some of them? What advice would you have for a young Christain/Catholic writer?
Oh, I don't know if my challenges are harder than other author's. Writing is difficult, no matter who you are. There are no easy ways out. My particular challenges are to try to reach a Catholic audience that has no cohesive Catholic culture or identity. Since they are lacking that, I can't use a common subculture ("hey I'm Catholic just like you, so enjoy my book") to entice them to enjoy my book: I have to impress them by my craft. But that's okay: a well-written book should be enjoyable to everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. So that's also my advice to young authors: there is no excuse not to apply yourself and learn how to write well. Don't try to cut corners for your Catholic or Christian readers: work hard to reach them and entertain them. And keep your eyes on Christ as you write. Let Him inspire you.
If you wrote a book that was not based on a fairy tale, do you have any idea what it would be about?
I'm actually working on one -- okay, three -- right now, based on the book of Genesis. I am actually planning a series of novels on the Old Testament: it'll be my next project. I'm very enthused about it. These books will probably be more for adults, but hopefully Fairy Tale Novel fans will enjoy them as well. Pray for me! I know that always helps me.
Many, many thanks to Regina for taking the time to answer my questions!