I’ve been reading the work of Regina Doman for years and with every new book, I become more a fan of this amazingly creative Catholic mom. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Regina and am happy to share the following conversation. We’ll definitely be back soon with more exciting news on the anime work Regina mentions in this interview. LMH
Q: Welcome back to CatholicMom.com Regina! Can you fill us in on what’s been up with you and your family since we last connected?
Wow, it’s been a while! I looked back at the last interview we did together, and that was just after I published Black as Night, my second book, when your son was 13 years old. I’m curious to know how old your son is now and what he’s doing! A lot of things have happened since then! I was tickled to find that in the last question of that interview, I mentioned that I was helping to put together a book series for teens that was unnamed but was going to be really cool. That was the John Paul 2 High series and we just published the fourth book in that series, Undercover Papist. I’ve also published three more Fairy Tale Novels, worked as a fiction editor for two different companies, and started my own publishing company, Chesterton Press. Plus I’ve had three more children (a total of eight, though our one son Joshua is in heaven), and we’ve moved out onto a farm, so instead of kittens and betta fish, we have a llama, sheep, pigs (seasonally), and of course, chickens. Plus two small dogs, and five cats.
Q: Congratulations on the launch of Chesterton Press. Can you tell us about this new entity and what it means for both your work and for Catholic fiction?
Thank you! It’s been a wonderful consolidation of my efforts and given clarity to our focus about what it is our family is meant to do. We started the company when we took the John Paul 2 High series in-house this past fall (some of your readers probably know it was originally published with Sophia Institute Press). Previously, Chesterton Press only published my books, but now we’re publishing works we’ve developed and edited as well, like Catholic Philosopher Chick. On our website, www.chestertonpress.
Q: You’ve been so busy of late! Tell us all about your new novel Catholic Philosopher Chick (recently reviewed here by our own Sarah Reinhard). What inspired the book and is this a signal of new hope for the genre of Catholic Chick Lit?
I certainly hope it’s a sign of hope! For years I’ve wanted to do Catholic Chick Lit, and my sister-in-law Katie (who works on John Paul 2 High with me) and I kicked around this idea for a series about a Catholic convert desperate to study philosophy and find the perfect guy while doing so. We thought it was a great idea, but I didn’t think I could write it without help. Why? First, because I majored in television production, not philosophy, and I managed to escape from Franciscan U, degree in hand, without having studied a single Thomistic disputation or Aristotelian treatise. After years of being friends with graduates of Christendom College, I knew enough about philosophy to know how much I didn’t know. Second, because I’m not funny enough, and I knew this book had to be funny. Comedy writing is actually the most difficult kind of writing to do, and it’s so difficult that most people can’t do it unless they have a natural talent for it to begin with. I revere and cultivate writers of humor: I am honored to have a few of them writing for me, and I know how tough their job is. I didn’t think I had the smarts or the talent to write this book: so I did what I usually did in these situations: pray for the right writer to come along.
And boy did the Lord answer my prayer! A few years later, I reconnected with an old friend, Rebecca Bratten Weiss, who happens to be one of the smartest and funniest women I know. I asked her, “How’d you like to be a hack writer for me?” She said, “Oh sure, I don’t have any pride left.” So I told her about the story for Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut, and she loved it. Not only did she love it, but we were weirded out by several of the coincidences between her and the fictional character. Cate Frank, our heroine, wants to study Catholic philosophy. Rebecca has her master’s in Catholic philosophy (and a doctorate in English literature). Cate travels to Texas to study at the fictional Dominican University of Houston. Rebecca studied at the real-life University of Dallas in Texas. Cate is a Jewish convert. Rebecca isn’t a Jewish convert, but her mother is. The nicest coincidence of all is that Rebecca really is the perfect person to write these books. Sure, maybe I had the initial idea, and I did do some of the writing, but Cate’s voice is Rebecca’s. I’m happy to give her almost all the credit.
We’re currently working on Book 2 of Cate’s further adventures (Catholic Philosopher Chick Ups the Stakes is our working title). The books have no agenda or apologetics, they’re just a fun and funny read for Catholic moms to relax with. And no, you don’t have to know any philosophy in order to enjoy them! As co-writer, I made sure of that!
Q: As a major JP II High fan, I’m so happy to have the newest installations. Bring our readers up to date on the series. And can you shed any light on that elusive question, “Exactly who is Christian M. Frank?!”
This past Christmas we published Book 3 in the series, Summer of My Dissent, and this past Easter we published Book 4: Undercover Papist. In these two books, one of the main characters, Allie Weaver, leaves the Catholic Church to join a friend’s evangelical church, and her classmates from JP2HS mount a rescue mission by sending the school apologetics geek to Bible camp to bring her back. It’s got mysteries, it’s got humor, it’s got debates, it’s got parts that will make you cry, it’s got revelations and further mysteries. It’s one of our best books yet — but right now they’re writing Book 5, which promises to be even better.
As for the elusive answer to your last question, I asked the three writers who’ve written under the pseudonymn Christian M. Frank to answer. Here’s their response:
John Doman: Christian Frank is everyone – and no one. He is that elusive face in the crowd that you barely catch out of the corner of your eye. The police question him, just to see what he’ll say. Aliens ask him to probe them. He once wrote a boring book, just to see how it felt. It remains unpublished He is…the most interesting pseudonym in the world.
Andrew O’Neill: Christian Frank is this guy, or maybe this girl, who lives with his (or her) family (or not) in the beautiful, historic Shenandoah Valley in Virginia (or Pennsylvania). Frank attended the Franciscan University of Steubenville, or possibly Christendom College in Front Royal, or maybe some other place, and plans to write as many books as you plan to read.
Ryan Corrigan: Christian Frank is a generally benign bodiless entity. In the early 2000s he began writing Catholic teen fiction by channeling through unwitting host organisms. His interests include canoeing, authentic Indian cuisine, collecting Longerberger baskets, and barely marginal existence. Turn offs include wearing fur.
The three writers take turns writing the books and they use a pseudonym because it’s easier to catalogue the books that way. But at the end of each book, we’ll tell you the real name(s) of the writers who wrote it. They’re all devout Catholics and pretty funny to boot.
Q: I’ll admit to being greedy. I love the series so much I’d love to see it developed on film. Does your team contemplate a jump to the screen, and how can Catholic families get behind that dream?
A: I admit it’s always been at the back of my mind! It’s not completely out of the question that we could mount a web TV series of the books someday. We’d need money — which means we’d need the right producer. The best thing to do right now would be to pray that our Lord puts the pieces in place — and also to buy the books and spread the word about the series! Remember, they make awesome graduation and confirmation presents!
Q: What words of wisdom do you have for writers out there who have a goal of penning a book, but can’t seem to get started (or finished, for that matter)?
Be persistent. Don’t worry too much about how much talent you do or don’t have. In my work as an editor, I’ve met talented people who will never publish a novel because they just weren’t persistent enough. But I’ve also met people of lesser talent who I know WILL get published because they won’t give up. That’s the key thing, I think. And also, as a Catholic, dedicate your talent to the Lord. Give it to Him, to do with as He wishes. And I want to let people know that if they love fiction, writing a novel isn’t the only thing they can do to be a part of it. If there is going to be a Catholic fiction revival, we are going to need editors. Good editors. We need them badly! I often wish I could clone myself. We need agents: people who can both edit AND sell a story for a writer. We need salesmen, marketing people who love these kinds of books and want to help bring them to the world. So dedicate your desire to write fiction to the Lord and ask HIM what to do with it.
Q: What’s next for you personally and for Chesterton Press?
Wow, I’ve been writing manga comics lately for MangaHero, a really cool company I think your readers are familiar with. My first book with them will be released this month! It’s a life of Pope Benedict XVI, our Holy Father, titled Habemus Papam! It was an amazing book to write. It made me realize how blessed we are to have such a man as Pope. I hope readers will feel the same!
I’m also editing for them a book on Fr. Vincent Capadanno, known as the Father to the Marines, and St. Maximilian Kolbe. I’m currently writing another manga based on the Biblical Book of Esther. For Chesterton Press, we’re working on two new series, possibly three. Right now we’re not accepting submissions, but we’re working with authors we already know, some of whom I worked with at Sophia Institute Press. I’m also doing a lot of traveling this summer, teaching writing classes and talking at Catholic conferences about evangelizing the imagination. You can find one of the talks I gave this spring here on YouTube.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m just so grateful for everyone’s support and for the trust that Catholic parents have placed in us by allowing us to entertain their teens. It’s an honor I’m grateful for it. Pray for us, (and buy our books!) so that we’ll be able to keep on doing it. The website to remember is www.chestertonpress.com. Peace and good!
Copyright 2012 Lisa M. Hendey