For our inaugural interview, we’ve had the privilege of interviewing the talented Regina Swint. A creative writer since childhood, Regina hails from beautiful Rome, GA, and is an alumnus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Colorado Technical University. Swint is currently serving in the U.S. Army. Her book, The Other Side of 30, has received praise from many reviewers, including:
IOB (that would be In Our Books, aka Andrea and ina) jumped at the chance to ask Regina about her book, her interests and how writing happens in the midst of real life in the military. – Editor [ina]
IOB: Regina, for people who haven’t “met” you yet on the internet (yet!), can you tell us about your background as a person and as a writer?
RS: I’m from a large extended family with a lot of creative people. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was very young. I grew up writing in diaries and journals, and I took many writing courses in college. My undergraduate degree is in English Literature. I’m currently serving in the U.S. Army, stationed in New York. I hope to retire from the Army in about 2 years, so that I can pursue my writing career a little more. Although I have published one book of fiction, and it is enjoying moderate success, I am still relatively new to the business of writing and publishing. I’m learning a lot from many of the writing groups and forums that are out there.
IOB: What inspired you to start writing?
RS: I wanted to be a writer because my uncle Harvey was a great poet in my eyes, and I wanted to move people the way he did. Also, when I was growing up, my grandmother used to tell a lot of great bedtime stories, many of which I was sure she made up, or that were passed down to her by word of mouth. I wanted to one day capture some of her stories on paper.
IOB: What genres of fiction do you enjoy reading?
RS: I mostly like literary fiction and women’s fiction, but I also enjoy reading an occasional mystery.
IOB: Please tell us about your writing successes.
RS: I don’t believe that I’m in a place yet to call myself a successful writer, but I’m trying to stay the course. When I published my first book, The Other Side of 30, in 2010, I was very pleased. The story was about three years in the making, and another seven years or so to finally get up the nerve to self-publish. I received a lot of encouragement from friends and family, many of whom I met on the Internet, via blogging. Others were old friends from high school and college, some of whom helped me to get my book into the university bookstore for sale on campus. That’s a great big deal for an unknown and self-published author.
I’m now in the process of learning the publishing business, and I’m planning to re-release The Other Side of 30 as a 2nd edition by Christmas. I’d like to think of it as a new and improved version, with a new cover and tighter editing. I’m also putting together a special book project with multiple contributors, which will be sold for charity. The book will be called Up from Here. Ideally, that book will be released around the holidays, too, and it will serve to launch my publishing house, New Renaissance Ink, LLC. More about my projects and special projects can be founds at my websites, Write on Time, and New Renaissance Ink.
IOB: The Other Side of 30 has some themes that many of us can relate to: the unexpected places we find (and don’t find) love, how to understand what we want in our lives as we move through adulthood, and what we’re willing to do to get what we want. How did Sebrina Cooper’s story come to you and how was it influenced by things you’ve experienced?
RS: Sebrina is composite of many people, with some personality traits and quirks similar to my own. Her story came about as a writing experiment that just developed into a longer piece of work. One of my writing professors used to encourage us to write from the perspective of someone else, and to write without judging the character. I tried to write Sebrina as a person with many flaws, but with many good qualities, too; and I hope that there was some balance.
IOS: How do you combine your working life with your writer’s life?
RS: My daily work life takes up most of my time, and I don’t spend as much time writing as I would like. I usually only get to read and write for pleasure on the weekends.
IOB: How do you manage to keep up conversations with writers who write in different genres, and may be of different ages and nationalities?
RS: I’m fortunate that I can reach out to other writers via the Internet, and that there are so many forums available on many sites, including blogs, and sites like She Writes and Facebook. It is possible that because of my military background and lots of exposure to people of different cultures, nationalities, and age groups, that I’m able to communicate comfortably with other writers as people, and without regard to where they are from or what they write. In my experience, the other writers are very gracious and always willing to offer feedback and share their insight. Because I don’t speak any other languages, I find myself very fortunate, because the writers who are of different nationalities have been kind enough to communicate with me in English.
IOS: When sitting out in Afghanistan, what did you read or write?
RS: When I was in Afghanistan, I wrote a lot of random thoughts, but nothing very formal. It was mostly just notes and emails to family and friends back home in the States.
IOB [Andrea]: I guess that many readers, including many readers new to your work, would be interested to read about your time in Afghanistan – well, me for a start. Have you considered writing about your time in Afghanistan?
RS: I have considered writing about my experiences in Afghanistan, but I have not developed anything yet. Many of the thoughts and memories are very fresh, and I’m sure it would be very difficult to share any more than I have already shared in my notes, blogs, letters, or essays. If I write extensively about my experience, I will want to do justice to the story I plan to tell, and to do justice to my comrades who have had experiences there, too. Their feelings are very important to me.
IOS: What you would tell other writers about the pros and cons of self-publishing?
RS: There are many pros and cons to self-publishing. I think one of the greatest pros would be that there is a nearly-instant gratification to seeing your work published and available to the world. Self-publishing also means that you have a lot of, if not all of the creative control of the work. Everything is done according to what you like, when you like and how you like. And there is also some flexibility in the pricing for self-published authors.
I also think there are many cons to self-publishing. Probably the greatest con is that the ability to self-publish can lead many writers to do too much too soon. While it is very exciting to publish, distribute, and sell on your own terms, it can be exhausting to try and cover so many details without any help or guidance. I think self-publishing requires a lot of energy, and should be considered carefully before one makes the decision to self-publish or to use a print-on-demand (POD) service. There are so many options and services out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and even to be taken advantage of by some less than honorable service providers.
It’s tempting to rush through it, but rushing can lead to making mistakes and delivering a product that’s not as good as it could be. As a self-pubbed author, you have to even harder to ensure that you’re providing a high quality product, because self-published books tend to have a reputation for low quality with poor editing and poor development. I think the best thing to do when considering self-publishing is to be careful and do plenty of research. Ask questions and learn from the experience of as many others as you can before making a decision.
IOB [Andrea]: You are a hard-working woman, and I admire you for your fresh and direct style, your energy. Have you any advice you’d like to share?
Thank you very much. Yes, my days get very long, sometimes, and I find myself wishing there was more time to just write and relax. As for advice, I try to share this same advice whenever someone asks me about writing. Just read as much as possible. Read, read, read! Read books, not just magazines or sports articles, or something on the Internet. The more you read, the better and stronger your writing skills will become. When you write, try to write honestly and without inhibition. Take time to develop your writing voice and practice using it. Write because you enjoy it. Write for love of the craft.
IOB: About your work: What links or what reviews would you like us to refer to?
RS: I’ve received some very kind reviews of The Other Side of 30 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and from a few bloggers. Here are a couple of links:
IOB: How can we help you to move forward with your writing?
RS: Allowing me to participate in this interview has been very helpful, and I appreciate your kindness. I would appreciate any support that you can offer, including sharing my work with others, and helping me to generate as much buzz as possible about me and my work. Word of mouth is a great way to spread the word. Thanks, so much, for inviting me to this interview.
IOB: Regina, thank you so much for sharing your time, thoughts, and writing with us!