as Night: A Fairy Tale Retold is a new novel for teens and young
adults from Bethlehem
Books, written by Regina Doman. Bethlehem published Domans first
book, Snow White and Rose Red: A Modern Fairy Tale, in 1997. Based
on a little-known fairy tale, it became something of a phenomenon among
That novel told the story of two very different sisters in New York City
and their unusual friendship with a mysterious young man named Bear. Black
as Night continues the story of faith, hope, and tested love while
touching on themes of euthanasia and holding onto beliefs under trial.
It is based on the familiar story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
with a twist: its set in the South Bronx of New York City, and the
seven dwarves are seven friars who work among the inner-city poor.
Doman makes her home in Front Royal with her husband and five children.
She works from her home as an author and creative projects editor. From
time to time, she gives talks on creative writing, fairy tales, and teen
literature to interested groups. IgnatiusInsight.com spoke with Doman
about her newest book, the challenges of writing fiction for young adults,
and her thoughts about books for teens, including the popular Harry
Potter series. This is part one of a two-part interview.
This is the second half of a
IgnatiusInsight.com: In your estimation, what is the state of teen
and young adult literature today? More specifically, what do you make
of the Harry Potter phenomenon?
Doman: The state of young adult literature - if it's not getting
better while I haven't been looking -- is about approximate to the state
of our culture today: very bad. But should that surprise anyone? I have
to admit I don't keep up with the teen literature that's out there today.
Based on my previous experience, I would guess most of it isn't worth
reading. See, I was a teen during the middle of the downward slope --
I was twelve when Judy Blume was writing her "shocking" teen
novels about menstruation and fornication, and frankly, I hated her books
and most of the books I read during my teenage years. What a depressing
time to be a reading kid. In fact, the first draft of The Shadow of
the Bear was written specifically for two teenage friends of mine
who begged me to write them something decent that they could read. That
sort of spurred me on to finish the manuscript I had started.
I fault those typical teen books for their self-centered and recreational/exploitational
view of sex and also, more seriously, for their hopelessness. The boredom,
cruelty, rebellion against who-knows-what, the narcissism, fame-seeking
-- it's depressing. What was also depressing was the relentless justification
of divorce, which I consider the single biggest lie foisted upon young
people via fiction by adults who should have known better. They're doing
the same thing with the gay lifestyle today. Most adults have a pretty
negative view of teens when it comes to sex - but I suspect that's because
too many adults are compromised by divorce and by birth contol themselves.
They project their own desires for recreational or non-monagamous sex
onto youth and throw condoms at them. I think this is a gross misunderstanding
of their audience. If young people are anything, they are romantics. They
don't want to be swingers, they don't want to end up in the divorce courts.
They see divorce as a tragedy and a failure. They want real love. Of course,
this is the heart of the Pope's Theology of the Body, and speakers like
Mary Beth Bonacci who can articulate this to teens find a warm reception.
I think it's unfair for Catholics to buy into this negative view of teens,
or even to fear them. The mass media culture and the adults who write
books for teens are going to be down on youth - they are going to be depressing,
they are going to give up on them, or they are going to want to sign teens
up for their agenda. Of course there's a lot of trashy teen literature
- there's a lot of even trashier adult literature, but we less rarely
get up in arms about that.
Harry Potter is, in a strange way, a bright spot for me. I have
actually read the books and I count myself a fan -- with some caveats:
1) The series is not finished yet, and my final judgment will be deferred
until I see how J.K. Rowling answers the questions she hopefully raises
in the first books.
2) I think it is singularly, even tragically unfortunate that she chose
a witchcraft motif for the books. She might have made them Jetson-space-age
types with the same storyline, and no one would have had a problem with
it. But in post-Puritan America and in this stage of the warfare for the
culture, witches are a bad choice.
3) I have read and respect Michael
O'Brien -- I have both editions of Landscape
with Dragons on my bookshelf -- and I find him insightful, particularly
on Madeleine L'Engle. But I do not agree with him on Harry Potter.
4) One perceptive female commentator, whose name I forget, observed that
people tend to like or dislike Harry Potter based on one factor:
their personal experience with the occult. Those who have had direct experience
with demonic possession, occult occurrences, or who have repented of or
are susceptible to the sin of occultism -- all of these people have, almost
without exception, an allergic reaction to Harry Potter. They want
nothing to do with it, they are alarmed and they naturally (and perhaps
rightly) want to protect the rest of us - or at least the innocents under
their care -- from it. The chief exorcist of Rome and Michael O'Brien
are both men who have had encounters with the Evil One (O'Brien portrays
this chillingly in his writings), and I can understand their reaction
to the books.
But, in the same manner, those people who have never really had a run-in
with the devil, and who are free of those particular temptations and tendencies
-- see nothing wrong with the Harry Potter books and movies. They
wonder what all the fuss is about. They sometimes say unkind things about
This is what I have found to be true in my own life. My husband was involved
in the New Age movement before he returned to the Church. He wants nothing
to do with Harry Potter, doesn't want us to own the books. I respect
that. Our children are not reading Harry Potter, nor do we have
plans for them to do so -- but no doubt it's a bridge we'll have to cross
at some point.
But myself -- I'm not the sort of person who's tempted by secret knowledge,
the inner circle, spiritual power, that sort of thing. It's just not my
sin. I did read the books, first for my own information, then with a bit
more interest. The first book is a negligible achievement, the second
admittedly clever, but in the third book I found things I wasn't expecting
to read in the most popular blockbuster in children's literature in today's
crass culture, namely that: a son needs a father. A young boy needs a
father, needs him badly, and needs to search for him. I wasn't expecting
that Harry Potter, of all people, was going to affirm fatherhood and --
dare I say? -- masculinity. And so I think I understand why kids are devouring
these books - especially kids from divorced and fatherless homes. J.K.
Rowling is tapping into those questions they desperately need answered.
And as I said, we don't yet have her final answers. So I am deferring
judgment. But I will say that in terms of plot, I've yet to meet a young
adult writer of her caliber. A badly needed standard of quality. All Judy
Blume could do was break taboos. This woman can tell a story.
And it's a shame that J.K. Rowling essentially wrote these books with
gross ignorance of the culture wars in this society. We don't live in
a vaccuum, and the fact that others have and will use these books to promote
witchcraft and the occult is troubling and problematic. It just goes to
show that even great artists (yes, I will call Rowling great) can't afford
to be ignorant, or the good they can do will be seriously compromised.
Too long of an answer, but there it is.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Who are some of your favorite authors, both fiction
and non-fiction? Who has had the most influence on your own approach to
Doman: The three most significant books I've read in my life, outside
the Holy Scriptures, are: C.S.
Lewis's Mere Christianity, G.K. Chesteron's Orthodoxy,
Maximilian Kolbe's works on Mary and the Holy Spirit. In that order.
Lewis confirmed me as a Christian, Chesterton as a Catholic, and Kolbe
confirmed me in my relationship with the Blessed Mother. The other significant
factor in my thought life has been the Pope's Theology of the Body. Philosophy
and theology gives me ideas. I don't know why. I hear sermons or lectures
and think of how I could work it out in an adventure novel. It's funny
how the two are connected for me.
My favorite book in the whole world remains Lewis's That Hideous Strength,
for the quirky uneveness of the plot, for the eerie suspense and horrific
conclusions, for the parallels with modern ghastliness, and most surprisingly,
for the Theology of the Body embedded inside it. I admire Charles Williams,
I love all sorts of poetry, I came to a late appreciation of Tolkien via
my husband, and I love The Silmarillion more than The Lord of
the Rings. Growing up, I had a strong attachment to Madeleine L'Engle,
but I see her theology as problematic. She's known as a fantasy author,
but she also writes realistic books with metaphysical underpinnings. As
she's a powerful writer, and I can't pretend she hasn't influenced me,
but I made a philosophical break with her years ago. I simply can't agree
with everything in the background of her stories. Young adult authors
that I did enjoy when I was a teen include Beverly Cleary (what a voice
of common sense) and Marylin Sachs.
These days I don't read much fiction -- too busy writing it, I suppose.
I read history, psychology, sociology, Reader's Digest, books about
whatever I'm researching. I still use Chesterton as a sort of road map
when I write fiction - he was able to create characters who were both
good and interesting - tricky to do, you know! I prefer writing about
the real world to creating fantasy worlds, and Chesterton, unlike Lewis
and Tolkien, set his stories in the real world, which is more like what
IgnatiusInsight.com: What are you currently working on and what do
you hope to write in the future?
Doman: I'm always working on something, particularly when I should
I am gearing up to edit Waking Rose with Bethlehem later this year
(visit the trilogy's website here).
And I have a
picture book coming out this Christmas.
And I'm editing this other series for Sophia Press, which is yet to be
named (information about it can be found here).
I'm searching for businesses who want to underwrite the costs for our
radio drama based on my first book (contact me here).
As you can see, I sort of have a website for every project; my husband
owns a web development company, so it's sort of natural.
This summer, I finished writing my sixth novel based on a fairy tale and
am researching my seventh. They're sort of expanding in scope as I write
them. The sixth one was set in New England among the family of a conservative
Catholic senator, and the seventh will probably be set on an Indian reservation.
I love working with fairy tales because they have these deep metaphysical
archetypes behind them that I can tap into. And I can use the contemporary
setting to prove to readers that, despite the chaos and fragmentation
of modern society, there still is order and purpose and meaning behind
our lives. God uses human beings to create His stories. I think my books
Read Part One of this interview here.
as Night: A Fairy Tale Retold
by Regina Doman
460 pp, Softcover, Ages 14-up. $11.95.
Circumstances have conspired to place Blanche Brier entirely on her own
this summer in New York City while Arthur ("Bear") Denniston is
in Europe and her family is on vacation. Blanche is fast becoming the focus
of a terrifying play of evil forces: so she intuitsand wonders why.
She is not sure she can trust her own sanity. Even the refuge she is forced
to take among some lively Franciscan friars does not protect her from dangerous
attacks. Blanche must rely on herself to sort out the ominous, seemingly
disconnected events which will not let up until all appearance of hope seems
gone. Yet meanwhile, Blanche's own heart's desires are being clarifiedas
are Bear's. In this sequel, patterned on another fairy tale classic, to
The Shadow of the Bear, the "night" is very black; yet the beauty
of honest relationships of faith and hope and of tested love brings light,
warmth and joy to this much-awaited new novel.
You can read an excerpt from Black As Night: A Fairy Tale Retold
More information about novels by Regina Doman can
be found at www.snowwhiteandrosered.com
or at Doman's web site, www.reginadoman.com
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