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.
Ms. 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.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What is your educational background and what kinds
of writing and creative work have you done in your career?
Doman: I graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 1992
with a degree in TV Communications with a concentration on drama and scriptwriting.
After graduation, I got a job as assistant editor for Catholics United
for the Faith in New York City, where I worked for about two years before
I met and married my husband. During my time in the city, I sort of "fell
in" with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and lived in a house
for young adults that they still run down there, St. Elizabeth's House.
I loved living in New York, and it definitely sparked my creativity. For
a while I was also freelance writing in the Catholic press, mostly for
Our Sunday Visitor, YOU! Catholic Youth Magazine, and other smaller
The week I had my third child, I handed in my last article as a freelancer,
and haven't really written articles since. I made the decision to concentrate
full-time on creative projects, like novels, radio dramas, comics, and
other things of that sort. So my background is in nonfiction writing,
but I am today primarily a fiction writer. I've written six novels and
published two (the third will be published next year), written two radio
scripts (both in post-production), and created proposals. I can go crazy
on proposals: I have one for a Catholic comic book series, a fashion magazine,
and a Catholic teen novel series.
The difficulty about creating proposals is that eventually someone takes
you up on one. And that has actually happened with the last project, which
is in development now: I'm the editor of a new series of teen novels for
Sophia Institute Press. (I knowgoing over to the competition. Sorry,
Ignatius Press.) But I still hope to go on publishing my own books with
Bethlehem and Ignatius.
IgnatiusInsight.com: You rewrite fairy tales. So are your books for
children or for older readers?
Doman: I know that this is a common misunderstanding with my books,
so I'd like to start with a clarification: My novels are not for children.
They are books for teens.
My first book has a near-seduction and several violent encounters, including
references to a death by strangulation, and three near-murders by beating,
suffocation, and gunfire. I always try to make this clear when I'm marketing
my books that these are young adult novels, not children's books. I know
the fact that they're based on fairy tales is confusing for a lot of people.
We have this idea that fairy tales are only for kids, and Disney movies
reinforce this. But they started out as stories for adults, and today
there's a significant market for fairy-tale-retellings for teen readers.
That's the genre that I write in.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Doman: I've been pretty much writing stories since I learned how
to write, as my parents can attest to. After having me, my parents gave
me nine younger siblings, and I was always writing plays and forcing my
siblings to act in them. One summer when I was twelve I had tremendous
plans to mount a production of Macbeth, starring my eight-year-old brother.
And it was going to be a tragedy. I'm serious. It didn't quite come to
fruition. I guess I've always aimed high and not worried too much about
failure. Failure means to try again. Or try something else.
My parents also gave me a strong faith life and a sense of personal vocation:
to look deeply for what God might expect from me. Looking back, I had
a very strong sense early on that I was meant to tell stories, and a sense
of responsibility towards God regarding that. I'm not saying my work is
specially fired by the Holy Spirit or anything, but just that He had given
me a gift and He expected me to use it. I like to identify with the man
who was given two talents in Christ's parable: maybe I don't have as much
talent as the great geniuses of our time. That's okay. He expects me to
be faithful with the gift I've been given.
Because I was the oldest of a large family, I had constant contact with
teens even after I stopped being one (my youngest sister is thirteen).
So I still had a sense of being in touch with the needs of their particular
audience. I don't really see that changing. Wellwho knows? Maybe
it will change when my own kids get to be teenagers and I have to do more
with teens besides write books for them!
IgnatiusInsight.com: In 1997, Bethlehem Books published your first
book, Snow White and Rose Red: A Modern Fairy Tale. Tell us about
that book and how it came about.
Doman: I made contact with Bethlehem first when I published a list
of ten good children's books in Nazareth Journal, back in 1993.
One of their editors like my list, and wrote to me. We exchanged letters,
I did a feature article on their community for Our Sunday Visitor,
and mentioned that I had a manuscript. They said, "Oh, we don't do
new manuscriptswe just do reprints. But send it anyhow." So
I sent them my project, which was the odd idea of taking a favorite but
obscure fairy taleSnow White and Rose Redand retelling the
story in New York City. I had always loved fairy tales and myths, and
I was fascinated with the idea of setting the story of two girls who rescue
an enchanted prince in today's world. Can fairy tales still happen? That
was the question that haunted and hooked me.
After sending them the manuscript, I got a call from Bethlehem saying
that they loved the manuscript but it needed a lot of work. They weren't
kidding. I rewrote the entire book several times before it was publishable.
They are excellent editorsI was honored to be the author of their
first original book for teens.
My book isn't a 1950's throwbackit's not a sweet book. I'm a child
of the '70s, a teen of the '80s and, growing up in the teeth of the sexual
revolution, I lost the innocence of the imagination early, as many kids
today still do. I have no nostalgia for a safer and purer timeI
never knew one.
My two heroines, Blanche and Rose, face the ugliness that is out there
today, and they don't back down. They face the battle for the culture,
and they fight it by how they live their lives. I think that's one reason
why teens love them. And the "enchanted prince" of the story,
Bear, is a great characterguys seem to identify with his sense of
purpose and his convictions. He's on a lonely, dangerous mission for justice
that few would understand or appreciate, and I think that resonates with
One scene that was debated by the editors is the scene where Rose is tricked
by her prom date into a bedroom, and he attempts to seduce her. When she
resists, he starts to force her. She gets out of it in a very clever way,
and is not frightened, but instead is really, really mad at him. She's
so mad that she chews him out in the hallway at school the following week
with this lecture on chastity and how a real man treats a woman. The publishers
kept the scene in, and I'm glad they did. Not because I want to be needlessly
crass, but because kids, particularly girls, know that this possibility
of being exploited and abused is out there, and they're afraid of it.
I wanted to write something that would face that fear and make it back
down. Again, this has to do with fighting hopelessnessgiving kids
the idea that there is a way out. There is an answer. There is a better
way. If you can show it to them imaginatively, they might be able to make
it real in their own lives.
Of course, the main thrust of the book is not a lesson in chastity.
It just happens to be part of the growth of Rose's character, so I used
IgnatiusInsight.com: What is the relationship between your first [teen]
book and your newest book, Black as Night: A Fairy Tale Retold?
What is it about?
Doman: After the first book was published, I started to get a small
but steady trickle of letters and emails from teen girls who'd read my
book and who wanted another story about the same characters. I had promised
them another book, and I struggled to keep that promise. The problem was
not that I didn't have another ideathe problem was how to work out
that idea. The sequel, Black As Night, went throughI kid
you notfourteen major versions before I wrote the final story.
Black as Night is Blanche's book, based on a more-familiar fairy
tale. I drew on my experience with the friars in the South Bronx to write
it. Blanche, who's been continuing to live her hidden life of modesty
and virtue, finds herself subjected to mysterious and vicious attacks
that seem to come out of nowhere. She's helped by seven friars who work
with the inner-city poor. Personal vocation is a big theme in this book:
Blanche is going through the crisis that I suspect many young adults experience
when they're about to choose their life's path.
At one point, she says, "I just wish I knew why I felt so under attack.
It's as though my life has turned into a chess game...I just keep trying
to go straight ahead and mind my own business...now every piece is after
me suddenly." The friar talking with her points out that in a chess
game, if you keep going straight ahead, you're going to start invading
enemy territory, even if you're just a pawn. Blanche has always been a
good Catholic, but she's found out that the older she gets, the more strongly
she's attacked. Her childhood faith is being tested in order to grow into
an adult faith.
The subtext of the a book is about choosing your life's path as well as
dealing with issues from your past. And of course it's a book about romance,
because choosing your life partner is a critical decision young adults
usually make during that time.
There will be a third book about Rose, the more spirited sister whom everyone
wants to hear more about. It's titled Waking Rose, and will hopefully
come out next year, which will complete the "Snow White and Rose
IgnatiusInsight.com: Youve said that you are fascinated by fairy
tales because they are not, like typical realistic teen books, about weird
people in a mundane world, but about ordinary people in an extraordinary
universe. Unpack that remark a bit, if you would.
Doman: I received that insight from G.K.Chesterton, who said in
"Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have
a much more exciting time, while odd people are always complaining about
the dullness of life. This is also why the new novels die so quickly and
why the old fairy tales endure forever. The old fairy tale makes the hero
a normal human boy: it is his adventures that startle him: they startle
him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero
is abnormal... hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately
and the book is monotonous."
This struck a chord with me when I was a teen, because it's an apt description
of the mainstream fiction available for teens. So many books I was reading
then featured a teenage protagonist who saw himself-herself as weird,
different, an outsider, not filling parental or societal expectations,
needing to break out and be different and not a clone ... etc. etc. etc.
It's the same with most adult books too.
I still joke that you can tell a modern novel even if it's about a Stone
Age tribebecause in the modern novel, the protagonist is almost
always the one lone hero who goes apart from the tribe. Who feels
strange, not akin to his fellow bear-eaters. He finds their ways strangely
uncomfortable. He doesn't like to eat raw bears. He has yearnings for
something kinder, gentler, higherforforindoor plumbing...who
knows? Whatever! There's always that telltale annoying self-centrism and
the smug downgrading of any culture before birth control. As a counterpoint,
the novel Kristin Lavransdatter plunges you right into the culture
of the Catholic Middle Ages. Kristin doesn't critque her worldshe's
a part of it. It's so refreshing -- she's an ordinary person in an extraordinary,
dangerous, and wonderful world, which is of course even more extraordinary
to us moderns.
My heroines view their universe as extraordinaryas an adventure.
And their "universe" is the world of New York City, with all
its ugliness and danger and loneliness. They're on an adventure, but they
know they're just ordinary girls. Of course they're not really ordinary,
because of their outlook. That was how I set out to take G.K. Chesterton's
challenge and write a modern novel as if it were a fairy tale. By some
crazy finger of God, I succeeded.
In part two of her interview Doman talks about the state of young
adult literature, including the Harry Potter books. It will appear on
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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