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Interview with Regina Rudd Merrick

Romance usually isn't the first theme that comes to mind when one mentions the book series about a teen amateur detective named Nancy Drew. Christian contemporary romance author Regina Rudd Merrick, who has loved romance stories since she was a kid, says it was the relationship between Nancy Drew and Ned Nickerson that ignited her love of reading romance.

By the time Regina was 13, she discovered early 20th-century novelist Grace Livingston Hill, whose heroines were mostly young Christian females. Pretty soon after that, reading romance would really become Regina's joy. "I found a grocery sack of 1960s Harlequin Romances in my grandmother's closet, and I was hooked!"

Reading romance soon turned into a desire to write romance, beginning with teenager Regina attempting to write a sequel for Gone With the Wind that contained a satisfying ending. "I think I only got so far as the opening, where Scarlett and Rhett, in their later years, were sitting on a porch of their home in Charleston, S.C., reminiscing. They had gotten back together, of course, and had a long and happy life."

Regina's love for reading and writing fiction swayed her toward a career as a librarian. She retired this past December, so at the beginning of this year she was finally able to write full-time.

Before 2018, Regina wrote when she could squeeze it in. Her first piece of writing published online was in the form of fanfiction. This came about after the TV show, Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye, ended. Regina didn't get the channel this was on at her house, but her sister did, and her sister had a friend burn DVD copies of the show for Regina. "After I watched them – only four seasons, and the love story just stopped! – she sent me down the rabbit hole that was fanfiction."

The site is where Regina began writing Christian-themed stories based on her beloved TV show. "I had an idea that I could write as well as some of the authors on there, so I started a story, with my sister as my beta-reader." Regina wrote several novel-length stories, including one she co-wrote with a friend. "The immediate gratification of feedback was wonderful, and it introduced me to a few now-published authors, namely Lorna Seilstad and J.S. Marlo, who were using fanfiction as a way to try out their writing, and this introduced me to the idea of publication."

Regina is blessed that her publishing house, the family-owned Christian company Mantle Rock Publishing LLC, is located right there in her home state of Kentucky. Better yet, one of the owners is author Kathy Cretsinger, who is a member of Regina's Ken-Ten Writing Group.

"Working with them has been wonderful," Regina says. "The editors, author Pam Watts Harris and Erin Howard, have been so careful to maintain my voice, yet make suggestions (not orders!) that make it so much better. The cover artist, Diane Turpin, has done a wonderful job on both books. I’ve gotten so many compliments on them!"

Regina would encourage any beginning writer to query small publishing houses. "You get so much more individualized attention, and the products coming out of the small presses are very good."

Speaking of very good products, Regina's first "product" with Mantle Rock was her debut novel Carolina Dream (April 2017), Book One in the Southern Breeze series. Book Two, Carolina Mercy, just released this July, and Book Three, Carolina Grace, releases in February 2019.

Even though her first book was published just a little over a year ago, Regina can already state what has been the best and worst experiences about being published.
"The best part is when you meet someone you've never seen before and they are just SO EXCITED about your book after having read it. The worst? That awful blank page when you start a new book. It’s like every time you start a book, you’re doing something you’ve never done before, and you have! Very frustrating!"

Notice the publishing dates between Regina's three novels, especially that Book Three comes out a mere seven months after Book Two. Regina is one fast writer! What are her speedy secrets? "I really don't consider myself that speedy. It took me about eight years on Carolina Dream, polishing, rewriting, rearranging, cutting out the whole first chapter!" The pace picked up with the other two books: Carolina Mercy took 11 months to write, and Carolina Grace took just six months. Regina says working full-time really slowed the process. Her goal now is to be able to write three books a year.

Why does she write contemporary romance? "When I began writing, I wanted to write the kind of book that I would read." Regina says one of those old Harlequin romances she still re-reads to this day is Sweet Are the Ways by Essie Summers because it's contemporary (for the '60s), it's swoon-worthy, and the faith story is such a large part of the tale.

What is the chief reason for writing Christian romance? "Mainly because I can't imagine not including my faith in my writing. After all, God gave me this gift, and He's the biggest thing in my life!"

Another big thing in Regina's life is her husband Todd, a man she's been married to for 35 years. These many-years-marriages run in the family: her parents celebrated their 55th anniversary this year, and her in-laws their 61st. These lasting examples and Regina's faith have contributed to helping her through difficult spots in her own marriage.

"Honestly, I don't know how you could face tough times without Christ! I think I knew, even as a teen, that 'happily ever after' looked different for everyone, and it hasn't been all hearts and roses, but marriage is a commitment, and we're both in it for the long haul."

Regina says being married for so long "definitely" helps her write scenes in her novels, both those of conflict and those that show love. "Like I said, it hasn't been all hearts and roses, but there have been some great times too!"

Her faith not only influences her writing and marriage—it factors into every aspect of Regina's life. Her Instagram bio states it quite succinctly: "Author, wife, mother, daughter, musician – Christian in all I do." Regina shows evidence of this in some examples.

"As an author, I give God the glory in all I do, and I try to point others to Him. As a wife, I try to support my husband in what God has called him to do. As a mom, I try to be an example of a Christian woman for them as they grow older. As a daughter, one of the reasons I stopped working full-time was to be more available for my parents and in-laws. As a musician, I’m keyboard and vocalist for our Praise Band, I’m organist for our services, and I’m in the choir, sharing God’s love to our congregation."

Giving God's love, and receiving God's love, is something Regina has been gifted with not only by participating in the above-mentioned activities, but also by being a member of ACFW. She's attended two annual conferences, and she says, "It changed my writing life."

She discovered at both conferences that the Christian fiction community is different than any other writing community. "The support and love you feel, simply walking from session to session, was like nothing I’ve ever felt. You could feel the Holy Spirit, and you knew you were in a group of believers." This support was especially shown at one conference where she found out she was anemic, and she felt bad the whole time she was there.

"God helped me muddle through the conference and get a request for a manuscript. I needed that encouragement, because even though the request didn't go anywhere, I knew that it was an idea that had merit. I just needed more training and practice, and more trusting God in the good and bad times."

Many people wrestle with this trust issue, particularly in stressful seasons of life, and they question why God doesn't always seem to be as loving and merciful as He is supposed to be. This subject is tackled by characters Lucy and Tom in Regina's novel Carolina Mercy when a hurricane hits, when Tom's mother is diagnosed with an untreatable illness, and when other tragedies strike.

God's mercy is one item readers will takeaway from Regina's most recent novel, but there is also a subject that is shown in all of her writing. "I do want readers to take from my books that regular people, those you consider 'good Christians' have struggles too."

What other areas from Regina's own life might she incorporate into her next novels? I'm guessing possibly a series involving Regina's love for baking, and one of those books might showcase her characters whipping up Regina's specialties of lasagna or Iron Skillet Chocolate Pie. Or maybe a series centered around her characters doing some "picking" – as in going antique shopping – at local Kentucky places like Windmill Antiques or Nonnie's Attic? Or, how about her characters having their own business, like the ones Regina loves to watch on HGTV like Fixer Upper, Love It or List It, or Property Brothers?

All signs point to the last option, especially with Regina's leading remark, "I've got some ideas for a future series that might bring some of that HGTV love into play!"


Melinda Freeland wrote her first "novel" at age 8 about Mr. & Mrs. Texas Toast, and their struggle to get off the plate before someone ate them. Today, Melinda writes fiction you can relate to—about humans—and their real struggles, not only in relationships, but also with understanding and trusting God. Love, Texas – Population 2 is her debut Christian contemporary romance novel. It was inspired by Melinda's reunion with her first love, her life as a small-town reporter, and her faith journey. Melinda lives in Texas with her handsome husband, two great kids, and her lovable Pug. She'd love to connect with readers at and on social media @authormelindafreeland and @melindafreeland.

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