In a world filled
with so many complex media images confronting our families, it's a simple
pleasure as a parent to be able to share a book with your teen. The trick
is finding the right book and getting the teen to agree to read it. Author
Regina Doman has made this trick a little less challenging by writing a
series of books that are both engaging and appropriate for teen (and
"grown up") readers. The title of Doman's latest installment,
Black as Night: A Fairy Tale Retold
(Bethlehem Books, July 2004, paperback, 430 pages) may sound a bit dark on
the surface, but the story abounds with a light and faith that transcends
the classic fairy tale it is based on. I had the opportunity to share this
book with my thirteen year old son, who joins me in highly recommending it
to other families.
Regina Doman, who has also authored The Shadow of the Bear, is a busy mother of five. She recently took time to share the
following interview and information about Black as Night.
LH: I'm pleased to share the following Book Spotlight interview with
Doman, author of
Black as Night: A Fairy Tale Retold. Regina, could you
please tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?
RD: Well, for starters I'm the oldest of ten kids, and I'm married to a
wonderful man, Andrew, who's the oldest of eleven. Big families sort of
run in our genes. We have five children now, and from our point of view,
we're only halfway done. :) (All depending on God's continued blessings of
new life, of course) My husband co-owns and runs a web development
company. He works from home, and we homeschool, so our life really
revolves around the home! We have five kids, eight cats (free kittens!
Please take!), one betta fish, and one chicken. God's blessed us with a
good house, good friends, and a great parish in Front Royal, Virginia.
Before I married, I worked as an assistant editor for Catholics United for
the Faith, and for a while I was a freelance writer for various Catholic
publications. Now I just write novels and manage projects. I have this
dizzying array of projects - among them a radio drama, a comic book
proposal, and a Catholic book series. I'm also about to get a children's
book published - Catholic artist and good friend Ben Hatke did the
illustrations. It's called
Angel in the Waters, and it's a sweet book
about a baby in the womb and his guardian angel. Sophia Institute Press is
publishing it this Christmas.
LH: First off I have to ask, how does a mom of five find time to write a
book like this?
RD: That's a good question! I want to assure your readers that I'm no
SuperMom, so the time spent on writing books doesn't come without
sacrificing other things. I fail a lot, and I don't finish many things
I've started. I could be a much better homeschooler - in fact, I don't
think I'm a very good one. And when the current novel is approaching to
the final draft, my house is approaching Armageddon. Fortunately, I have
patient children and an even more patient husband who loves my books and
enjoys reading them. And plus, I'm writing adventure novels, not
philosophical treatises. They're fun to work on at the end of a long day.
In fact, more than one book has gotten finished because my husband has
come by my computer in the evening and said, "Okay, where's the next
chapter? I want to find out what happens next." Writing books is, in a
way, sort of like our television. Which brings me to another point - we
don't have a television. I don't think I could watch TV and write novels.
I just simply don't have the time. When I'm really thick into writing, I
can't even watch DVDs or answer email or surf the Web either. Plus, more
than anything, I just love it. It's something I'm willing to make time
for, because I love it.
LH: The plot of
Black as Night sounds oddly reminiscent...can you tell our
readers a little bit about the story and its characters?
RD: As you insightfully noticed, the story of
Black as Night is based on
the quite familiar fairy tale, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." My
first book, The Shadow of the Bear, was also based on a fairy tale, the
less-known story of "Snow White and Rose Red." What I did in both books
was to take a traditional fairy tale, and set it in modern times, and
retell the story, without any more magic or fantasy elements other than
Grace and coincidence. I decided to write the books this way for several
reasons. One was G.K. Chesterton's observations that most modern novels
(read: especially ones for teens that I had read growing up) were about
odd people in a boring world. Whereas, he said, fairy tales are about
ordinary people in an extraordinary universe. I decided to tell a story
about two ordinary girls in New York City who view the world, and
everything that happens to them, from the viewpoint that it's
extraordinary - like a character in one of G.K. Chesterton's romances (
such as The Man who was Thursday, Manalive, The Poet and the Lunatics). So
I created Blanche and Rose, two sisters with two unusual outlooks on life.
Rose is everyone's favorite - she's bold and adventurous and loves beauty
and poetry, and she sees a deeper archetypal meaning in everything.
Blanche is quieter, more contemplative - and more pessimistic. She, too,
has a semi-mystical view of life, but she sees the darker side of things,
and approaches situations with caution, if not fear.
The first book begins with the coincidence of these two ordinary girls
with extraordinary outlooks meeting a young man who's on a most unusual
mission, one that's secret, and a bit threatening. The Shadow of the Bear
is the story of how the two girls, like the sisters in the fairy tale,
discover his secret and defeat the enchantment that ensnares him.
Black as Night continues the story. This particular book is Blanche's
book, so, like her viewpoint, it's a bit dark, more serious than my first
one. It follows the same storyline as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,
which I assume your readers are familiar with, but of course there are
some differences. Such as, instead of seven dwarves, there are seven
friars who work with the inner-city poor. And there are additional
characters, including Rose and her mother, from the first book. But
there's still a magic mirror, a sleeping potion, and a wicked queen.
LH: I have to tell you that my 13 year old son and I both loved this book!
Who is your intended audience for the book?
RD: I love hearing that! It's funny, because we discovered a similar thing
with the first book: although I wrote the book for teen girls, it really
struck a chord with teen guys who picked it up. I think it's because there
are two pretty strong teenage male characters in the first book.
(I should mention that the first book had two (unofficial) strong male
editors - my husband and his brother - who helped me work out the big
climax at the end. Their influence shaped the first book. And of course my
husband gave a lot of input into the second book as well.)
So I decided to make this second book "for the guys."
Black as Night is
written from three viewpoints, two of them male. One viewpoint character
is Brother Leon, one of the friars, a scrappy, ready-for-anything
Jamaican/Hispanic Franciscan novice. He takes a real interest in Blanche,
and helps her to face the evil that's threatening to overwhelm her,
physically and psychologically. All the friars are great characters.
They're really "manly" men, and I based them on Franciscans I knew in New
So my intended audience for this book is really both guy and girl teens. I
wasn't sure if I could write for guys when I wrote my first novel -- now,
I have a bit more confidence, so I'm shooting for that.
It's funny, because this male/female audience dynamic can make for
problems. In the first book, there's a scene where the girls go thrift
store shopping. I've had SO MANY female readers comment to me how much
they loved that scene. I've also noticed that any male reader who didn't
finish my first book put it down when they came to that scene. (Those
males who did finish the book usually skipped over it.)
On the other side of the gender divide, the second book has a fight scene,
and one of my (women) editors at Bethlehem Books said at one point, "Why
do they have to fight? And why do you have to go into such detail about
who hit who when? I don't understand why you included this scene." I had
to explain that this scene was the 'Guy' equivalent of the shopping scene.
LH: Themes of faith, love and service abound in
Black as Night . How does
your faith life impact upon your writing?
RD: Seriously, it's everything. I see my writing as my personal vocation,
my call from God. It's something between Him and myself, my having to
fulfill what He gives me. I was fortunate to have two strong Catholic
parents who always put their faith first, and that's how I was raised. I
take my writing pretty seriously - I'm one of those people who could never
say, "Oh, it's only a story." I have a sense of responsibility about what
I write. Please understand that I don't use my stories to preach - but
yet, in another sense, I do. I feel strongly about things, and I write
what I feel strongly about. My faith is one of those things.
LH: I was so impressed by the level of detail and accuracy in
Black as Night. How did you go about researching and preparing to write this book?
RD: This is really the first book that I bothered to do research on. My
first book - I pretty much fudged. But
Black as Night was a hard book to
write - the story went through at least fourteen separate versions, if not
actual drafts, before the book was finished. Along the way, I started to
feel the need to get more specific and to visualize things clearly. As you
can see from the three pages of acknowledgements, I had a lot of help.
Just so you know - the story always came first. I didn't research first
and then write. I wrote, and then researched as I needed to, to make sure
that things were accurate, and sometimes to help me write the scene more
For example, it's difficult to write a court scene when you have no idea
what the laws about drug possession are, and I ran into that problem
pretty quickly. So I started making phone calls when I finished what was
supposed to be the final draft of the book (but was actually version three
or four). In the course of writing, I ended up calling the Drug
Enforcement Agency, JFK airport, the NYC morgue, and lots of other places.
I discovered it's fun to do this sort of research, because about every
fourth person I would talk to would be thrilled with the idea of helping
an author, and would be happy to tell me all sorts of details. I sent
complimentary copies to many of these sorts of people who I talked to. One
man at the Metro North Customer Service was delighted with my questions,
and I learned so much about New York subway tunnels. He actually helped me
pinpoint the exact location of some of the train sequences - that was fun.
Also, going back to the "fight scene" (there are actually three fight
scenes in this book), my friend and sometimes-business-partner Jason Manak,
who knows judo, helped me choreograph them, which was so valuable that
I've gotten advice on fighting for every book I've written since then. I
think I can now write a pretty believable fight scene, even though I still
don't know how to actually do any real fighting myself.
Having said all this, I'm sure that there's still some errors in the book
regarding details - but that reflects my mostly non-meticulous
personality, and not the experts I consulted.
LH: Bear, Blanche, Rose and Fish all appear in your previous book
The Shadow of the Bear as well. Do you have future plans for these characters?
RD: Yes. Everyone's been asking me, "But what about Rose?" She only has a
cameo appearance in this book, and I know how much readers love her. Well,
the good news is that I have a third book that's all about Rose. It's the
final volume in the "Snow White and Rose Red" trilogy, which is in a
completed draft, and though I say so myself, it's a really, really good
book. It's a very FUN book, as Rose is a very fun character. I can't say
too much about it, because the editing process hasn't begun on it yet, and
in my experience, my books can change substantially in the editing
I do have other books I've written based on fairy tales that right now are
still "in the till" - I don't yet have a publisher for them. Three of them
are completed, and I'm about to start writing a fourth. They feature
different characters than these first three books, but they're still based
on the same motif of ordinary young adults in extraordinary circumstances.
LH: Regina, thank you again for taking the time to participate in this
interview and for sharing this wonderful story. Are there any closing
comments or thoughts you'd like to offer?
RD: I'd like to tell your readers about my next project, which I am
actually not writing, but which I'm editing. My experience in publishing
for Catholic teens has led me to believe that there's a crying need for
more fiction for this audience. So I'm working with some new young talent
to create a series of Catholic teen novels. These books will be shorter
than mine, and they will be a running series, like the ubiquitous Sweet
Valley High series that was everywhere when I was growing up. I'm not
writing the books, but I'm the editor of the series. Unlike Sweet Valley
High, we're hoping that both guys and girls will enjoy these books. And of
course, unlike Sweet Valley High, they will feature an authentic Catholic
worldview and Catholic characters. And since I'm involved, there's going
to be more than just relationship problems and romance -- there will be
threads of danger and mystery running through them as well as the usual
The stories revolve around a new private high school started by a group of
parents. The school begins when the favorite religion teacher at their
local Catholic high school is fired. In protest, the parents rally round
the fired teacher and pick him to be the principal for a new private
Catholic school. So the school starts, barely financially afloat, with
just six kids. This is all background.
Book One begins when a nominally-Catholic girl gets yanked out of the
nearby public high school by her mom and thrust into this group of serious
Catholics. Things take off from there, with mishaps, pranks, rivalries,
squabbling amongst the serious Catholics (of course) and ... something
We still haven't picked a name for the series but our website for the
project is CatholicTeenNovels.com. And I hope your thirteen year old son
will enjoy them, too.
Thanks again for the opportunity and happy reading!
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