(This is third interview in my inspirational people series. To read more interviews please click here >)
Regina Puckett has been writing books for almost fifty years and lives in Tennessee with her husband. She has two grown daughters and four grandchildren. I asked Regina if I could interview her because I was so impressed that she writes books in lots of different genres: sweet romances, horror, inspirational, steampunk, picture books and poetry.
I felt there was a lot I could learn from Regina so I asked her loads of questions. I only wish I could have interviewed her in her home in Tennessee, rather than via email, as I would have been able to visit my cousin who is studying at Bryan College and see Taylor Swift’s old school and home.
How did you start your journey to become an author? Had you always wanted to write a book? I thought I’d written a lot of books (20) but that’s nothing compared to you, how many books have you written to date?
I’m not exactly certain when my writing journey started. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ve always wanted to be an author but I never thought a country girl from the backwoods of Tennessee had a chance at ever becoming one. It took some courage and a lot of gumption to go ahead and give it a shot anyway. I also figured if I fell on my face no one would ever know but me.
I’ve lost count but I think my book count is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 books and short stories. I’m working on another children’s picture book and my plan is to write three more steampunk books in 2016. I have a great idea for an historical romance and if all goes well I hope to publish it this year too.
I’m so impressed that you write books in different genres, that takes so much skill. What’s your favourite genre?
I love something about all of the genres I’ve tried so far. My first love was romance but at the moment I’m loving steampunk. It has generated an entire new world and characters for me to explore and they have been kind enough to let me join on their journeys.
How did you get the idea for your first story? And what was it called?
I don’t remember my first-first, but my first published novel, Concealed in My Heart, came about because of a dream. I spent two years building around that dream until I decided I needed to put it onto paper.
Did you always love reading and writing stories? What were your favourite books as a child?
My mom used to make me turn off the lights at night because once I started reading a book I had to finish it. How can anyone go to sleep without knowing how it’s all going to end? Are they going to fall in love? Is someone going to die? And who really did it?
My favorite book as a child was The Secret Garden. I still love that book.
How did you go about getting your first book published?
I went about it all wrong. It’s too sad of a story to tell and should be a cautionary tale for all first time authors to check and double check who you’re sending your babies off to. It took seven years to get my rights back on Concealed in My Heart. Once I did though, I found a great editor and then published Concealed in My Heart as an indie author on Amazon. (For UK readers, an indie author means a self-published author)
My suggestion to anyone thinking of publishing as an indie author is to always have your book edited by a professional. I don’t care if your mom, grandmother or big sister told you that your book is perfect it still needs a good editor to give it that final polish. If you decide to skip that step, you might find out the hard way how harsh some reviewers can be. It isn’t easy recovering from a bad review, so why tempt fate?
Did you study creative writing at college or go on any writing courses?
I didn’t study creative writing while I was at the university. I wanted to focus on art and painting and didn’t want to use my credits on writing. I did switch in mid-stream from art to English but with a focus on teaching English in a high school setting.
My lessons on creative writing have come from the rejection letters I’ve received from publishers. Several editors were kind enough to tell me why they weren’t interested in publishing my books. Over the years I finally figured out that I could either cry and quit or I could take their advice and improve my writing skills. I should be a fair writer by the time I’m a hundred.
What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve ever faced?
Rejection. It stings and really never gets any easier.
What are your favourite TV shows and movies?
I love Downton Abby, NCIS and Once Upon a Time. My favorite movies are the Harry Potter Series. You can’t get any better than Harry Potter.
Who are your favourite authors?
J. K Rowling, Clive Cussler and I just discovered Anna Katherine Green.
Who are your favourite poets?
Longfellow and Keating
If you could have a dinner party and invite four people (alive or dead) to come, who would you pick?
J. K Rowling, Stephen King, Mark Twain and Jesus
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Read, sew, paint and listen to music
If you could have written any book in the world, which one would you pick?
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. It’s so sweet and it always makes me cry.
How long does it usually take to write one of your books? What usually takes you the longest – deciding on the plot? Do you have a plan on your wall, mapping out the story?
It takes about six months to write a full length novel and two months to write a novella. I don’t plot because it never works out for me. Once I have a story idea I just start typing and let the characters take me where they want to go. My characters always know best and never cease to amaze me. I have to keep a list of characters and characterizes typed and on hand, because I can never remember what color hair or eyes anyone has.
What are your top 3 author special moments that you’ll never forget?
I’ll never forget the day I signed my first publishing contract. I was so excited I thought I might die right then and there. I had to call everyone I knew and brag and brag. I’m surprised that smile didn’t freeze onto my face. There’s nothing like realizing the one dream I didn’t think would ever come true. I was just as excited when I held the first printed copy of Concealed in My Heart. There were several moments that happened that made me think I had made it big as an author – being featured in the local newspapers, book signing and winning awards. Every milestone I reach just makes me work harder.
Do you have a favourite out of all of your books? I know this is a hard question that you mightn’t be able to answer.
For a long time my favorite book was Love is a Promise Kept. I think it’s such a sweet tale about finding love and never losing it, but then I tried my hand at steampunk last year and wrote I Will Breathe. I don’t think I’ve ever written a better book. It touches on all of my emotions and gave me characters I can probably continue writing stories about until I die.
Who has supported you the most during your author journey?
My daughters. They always believed I could make my dream a reality.
Do you have a writing schedule/particular time of day you like to write?
I work full time so I write whenever I can get a spare moment.
Do you write in a home office or somewhere else?
I do have an office but since I bought my laptop I write in my big comfy chair in the living room. I write in between all the questions my husband asks. I usually have to give him my famous glare before he finally figures out I’m trying to write. He’ll give me about fifteen minutes of writing time before he starts in again. That’s okay. I have plenty of glares left in me.
When you finish a chapter/particularly tricky part do you reward yourself?
I’m just so happy to work through any tricky situations that I’m afraid to stop writing for fear of getting stuck again.
Who is your favourite character [from your books] and why?
Boy. I know he’s just a robot but he has the biggest heart and loves without asking for anything in return.
What is the hardest part of being an author?
Everyone thinks you’re rich. I’m just happy to buy a hamburger and fries with my royalty checks.
How does it feel to have fans?
I love my readers. They give me a reason to keep on struggling and writing during those times I’m certain I suck.
Have you got any big plans for 2016?
My plans are to write three steampunk novellas, a children’s picture book and a full length historical romance, but the only one I’m certain about is the children’s picture book, Spoiled Little Princess Wears a Rat. It’s written and waiting to be edited. I’m about a 1/3 of the way through completing the illustrations.
My planned steampunk novellas are A Man Called Rat, Building the Air and Alone in Forbidden. I don’t have a title yet for the historical romance- just lots of sweet and funny conversations happening in my head right now.