Author Interview: Regina Doman


I’m a Catholic. I’m a wife. I’m a mom. I’m a writer. I’m an editor. And a writing consultant.  My three loves are God, other people, and making things.  The kind of neat thing about writing fiction is that it allows me to combine all three.  You can’t create a story without involving God in some way, whether you’re arguing with Him, raging at Him, laughing with Him, or just telling Him what you see. He’s the first and final audience, close as our own self-consciousness. And every character you create is based at least unconsciously on someone you’ve met, usually someone you love (even yourself).  And making stuff – putting in the fantasy element that’s your own invention – that’s how each storyteller can make the story completely unique to them.

I love writing fiction because it brings a meaning into existence that’s hard to beat: I feel most alive when I’m in the midst of writing a story.  It’s one of the best parts of being human.

Regina Doman is the author of the Fairy Tale Novels series, co-author of Catholic Philosopher Chick and Habemus Papam, and editor of the John Paul 2 High series.



How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Good question! Depends.  When I have to hunt for a name – when one doesn’t just simply appear naturally – I look for something archetypal, something that touches the core of the story. Most of my novels are based on other stories: fairy tales, usually. So I look at the core of the story and pick a name that speaks to that deeper meaning.  There’s usually a lot of layers to the name for an important character. So my first two heroines (in The Shadow of the Bear) were based on Snow White and Rose Red.  Rose Red became Rose, so that was easy, but Snow White became Blanche – not only because it’s the French word for white, but also because of the character Blanche de La Force from Bernanos’ screenplay The Carmelites, a young nun during the French Revolution who struggles with overpowering metaphysical fears, something my character shared.

In The Midnight Dancers, my heroine was the daughter of strict fundamentalist parents, so I was guessing they would give her a Biblical name. It was important to the story that she be very attractive, so I picked the name Rachel, since the Biblical Rachel was beautiful, passionate, and a touch unorthodox.   In my most recent book, Rapunzel Let Down, most readers have commented on the name of the hero, Herman McCaffrey, nicknamed Hermes.  It was important for the book that the hero represent a strong male archetype, but one that was not completely positive. Hermes was the god of gamblers and thieves, and my character is a bit of both. He’s cocky, a gambler, and in some ways, not completely above board.  I think he’s a sympathetic character nevertheless.  I picked the heroine’s name, Raphaela, because it somewhat resembles the name Rapunzel, and I wanted it to sound beautiful and a bit esoteric and remote, like an Italian fresco.

For minor characters – I’ll do everything from scanning a phone book to posting a contest of Facebook to just picking a name I happen to see in front of me (since I do a lot of graphic design for marketing the books, I think I’ve named a few minor characters after Adobe software engineers… you know how they flash all their names at you while the software is booting up…). But theme is the primary thing, and I like to use names of minor characters to underscore theme whenever I can.

Has your fandom impacted your writing in any way?

I guess so.  It’s really encouraging to know so many teens like my books, but I find it easier to write for my close friends that I know well, like my husband.  William Carlos Williams admitted he wrote “for myself and for my friends, and to ease the passing of time.”  I think I’m more like that. That’s funny because I’m an extrovert: I love interacting with and meeting fans, but I still find I have to isolate myself and really think in order to come up with a story.  Don’t get me wrong: I love group projects like managing the John Paul 2 High series and Catholic Philosopher Chick, and I’d probably do well with a writers’ table setup (I was trained as a scriptwriter).  But I can’t get away from a need for solitude, particularly as my life is very full right now with three teens at home and four other kids, and a homestead farm.

Do you try to clear up any misconceptions about Catholics in your work, or do you write primarily for a Catholic audience?

Both. I just write, and I think my Catholicism comes out in the work, and that makes other Catholics love the books in a special way.  But my first book was written for my best friend’s younger sisters, who were not Catholic. My first publishers were former Protestants, and some of my most committed fans today are not Catholic.  I don’t really have an apologetic mission or anything in the books I write myself (however, some of the books I have edited for Catholic publishers are more focused on that). However, I suspect I write with the awareness that not all my readers share my religion, and thus I think I try to make some aspects of my beliefs more understandable if they come up in the story. But Catholicism is about mystery, and I have no problem leaving some things mysterious and unexplained. For example, it’s never explained why the heroes of The Shadow of the Bear were willing to lay down their lives to keep a chalice and ciborium (vessels used in a Catholic Mass) safe. It’s just a given, and I think most readers accept that.  I had some comic fun with Catholic beliefs in The Midnight Dancers, particularly where the heroines misunderstand the hero’s devotion to Mary.  But I didn’t ever really explain it. Fairy tales are mysterious, and it’s fun to link the mystery to something that is equally mysterious even in our day and age.

Do you have any favorite children’s books?

Oh yes. If you mean picture books, I personally think there’s a Renaissance going on in picture books right now that no one is really clued in on.  There’s just some really truly beautiful work being done right now by artists like Fred Marcellino, Dennis Nolan, Marianne Mayer, Laurel Long, and in the recent past by Chris Conover, Barbara Cooney and the late Tricia Schart Hyman, truly magnificent work.  It’s hard to notice because there’s so much junk out there, either deliberately ugly stuff by jaded artists like Matt Groening’s (the Simpsons) or just bland copying.

Among the upcoming greats, I would count my good friend Ben Hatke, who writes graphic novels (check out Zita the Spacegirl) and has been trained in the Italian school of art.  Wait till you see his new book, Julia’s House. One of my favorite picture books for sheer kid cuteness is Froggie Went a Courting by Chris Conover – hard to find, but worth it!

Do you have a favorite Disney princess?

Like I said, there’s a lot of lame art out there. J  Actually, Disney Studios started out fairly good, and they definitely were able to create beautifully animated women before other studios caught up. But most of what’s done today in merchandising is just copying earlier work, and after a while, it gets lifeless.  I really enjoyed Tangled, and I have affection for the original Disney Snow White and Cinderella. Sleeping Beauty was a product of that angular modern 60’s minimalism, and she doesn’t do much for me, though she’s got cool hair.  I truly hate and despise Ariel and Belle: there, I’ve said it. Jasimine, I have a soft spot for, and I guess the Frog Princess wasn’t too bad.

But I’d take any nameless princess drawn by H. J. Ford for Andrew Lang’s Fairy Tale Books over any one of the Disney princesses, any day.  If I had to be a princess in a fairy tale, I’d want to look like one of them. Google “Henry J. Ford Illustrator” and see what I mean.

Recently you worked with artist Sean Lam to write a manga (Habemus Papam!) based on the life of Pope Benedict XVI.  How is writing manga different from writing a novel?  How closely did you work with Lam to produce the finished result?

That was my first manga, and it was definitely an enriching and intense experience!  It was really hard!  Like I said, I’m trained as a screenwriter, so the visualization wasn’t hard, but absorbing the manga style was a learning curve, and accepting the conventions of the genre. I LOVED working with Sean Lam: he is such a gentleman and so talented!  It was amazing to see what my characters became in his hands. I’d love to collaborate with him again: we’ve talked about some different ideas, but nothing’s in the pipeline yet, aside from a 40-page comic on the life of the new Pope Francis, which we’re currently working on together.

What do you hope readers take away from Habemus Papam!? Were you hoping to clear up any misconceptions about the pope when you wrote it?  What do you think Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy for the Church will be?

After writing his life, I personally really grew to love Pope Benedict, the former Josef Ratzinger. Maybe he’s not your standard manga hero, but he was good-looking and brilliant as a teen, but never a snob.  His own parents weren’t educated, but they were fearlessly against Hitler in an era when most adults were caving in and keeping their heads down. They were Josef’s heroes.  And because he was from a dissenting family, all the other adults in authority called him an idiot and a troublemaker – so he never really knew how smart he was – I don’t think anyone else believed he was a genius outside of his parents and siblings.  It wasn’t till after the war that he was able to study theology and people started saying, “Whoa! Genius in the room!”  But he never lost his humility and the ability to talk to ordinary people like his parents.  He was very clever, and very wise – as well as being good. He had the ability to figure out what the best good thing to do in a situation was, and he knew his limits.

I think most people slammed Pope Benedict out of ignorance: they wanted to hate God, or the Church, or religion, or standards of right and wrong, and focused on him as the target.  But Benedict grew up as a dissenter in Nazi Germany – he already knew what it was like to be demonized and unfairly slandered, so I think that while it hurt, he was used to soldiering on without public approval.  And I think that most people who took the trouble to understand him grew to love him, or at least respect him.   And I think that his influence on the Church, through Vatican II  (which he contributed to as a 35-year-old theologian, the “Wonder Kid”) and its implementation, will be enormous.  He really was one of those theologians who looked at the modern world and the questions modern people were asking and said, “We can work with that.”  If your readers want to get a small idea of his impact, outside of reading Habemus Papam, they should pick up a copy of YouCat, the Youth Catechism. It’s easy to read, and uses the traditional question-and-answer format in a clever way that’s very Josef Ratzinger: the questions are questions you’ve probably asked yourself, such as “What does God have to do with my life?” And it gives you a serious and challenging answer in response.

Do you have a favorite saint whom you ask to intercede for you when you write?

G.K. Chesterton – my press is named after him, and he’s not a saint, but he could be one day if he got a few miracles under his (ample) belt. “Mr. Chesterton, pray for us” is our daily prayer before beginning work. He’s my personal inspiration, and I’d love to see more teens reading his work.  Maybe you’ll see some more of that showing up in my work sometime soon!

What are you currently working on now?  What can we expect from your publishing company, Chesterton Press, in the future?

Aside from our new Fairy Tale Novel, Rapunzel Let Down, which just came out…

Man, if we ever get our act together, we hope to launch a new fantasy series, currently called the Ruah Chronicles (or the Chronicles of the Ruah – we’re still arguing about that), plus eventually publish new books in the John Paul 2 High and Catholic Philosopher Chick series – and just maybe another Fairy Tale Novel in a few years.  And if lots of you buy Habemus Papam and the new book on Pope Francis, you just might see some new manga from me. I’m really looking to explore the medium further with some pretty cool stories, so stay tuned!

And I do have a new series “about which I wish to remain coy” for now, but it’s based on some familiar Bible stories, but with a new twist. If you pray for people, then pray for me: I always find prayers help with that tricky thing known as Inspiration, and with that even trickier tyrant called Time.

Thanks for the interview!


Rapunzel Let Down RAPUNZEL LET DOWN (THE FAIRY TALE NOVELS): Hermes McCaffrey is sick and tired of sharing his life with his father’s political career and his overbearing older brothers. So during his family’s vacation in New England, when he meets Raphaela, a lovely and brilliant girl dreaming in a hidden tower, is it surprising that he wants her all to himself? But visiting Raphaela is dangerous, and not just because of her mother’s paranoia about strangers or her estate’s sinister caretaker. When Hermes decides to go too far, the results are devastating for Raphaela … and for Hermes as well.

What happens when falling in love means falling into deep sin? Can sex destroy love? And when you do fall from grace, is there any way back?

Read Krysta’s review.

2 thoughts on “Author Interview: Regina Doman

  1. revgeorge says:

    Great intensive, thorough interview. Enjoyed reading it. I’ll have to add Ms. Doman to the long list of authors I need to check out.


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