Regina Jennings: Love on the Texas Range
1. Where did your inspiration for Sixty Acres and A Bride come from?
I was writing a Ruth and Boaz skit for a church production and had big plans for it—secondary characters, subplots, and a love story that didn’t get ironed out until they’d been married for a spell. Right as the dialogue started to jell I found out that the skit could only be fifteen minutes long. Bummer. By then I couldn’t let go of these characters until I’d heard their story.
2. What led you to explore the Ruth and Boaz story, in particular?
Oddly enough, the Ruth and Boaz skit I wrote was for our church Christmas play. The theme was Redeemer and we needed skits that demonstrated the idea of redemption. Being a Christmas play, it included the mandatory nativity scene complete with cheesy Bethlehem costumes. The last thing I wanted was to subject our volunteer cast to another drama in bathrobes, so I tried to think of costumes we could acquire without much effort. In Oklahoma almost everyone has cowboy boots and seeing how the whole story revolves around Ruth and Naomi’s efforts to save the farm, it was a natural fit.
3. What is the most challenging part about writing for you?
I could name all four of my challenges and in fact I did name them when they were born. Our kids stay home for their schooling, so—like the Lord—they are always with me. Usually I have my laptop open during the school day and tap out a few rough paragraphs while supervising their work, but polished writing rarely results. After lessons are finished we load up for basketball or band practice where I hide in a corner and try to scratch out a few more paragraphs before we head home for dinner. Most of my usable work comes from my evening writing sessions when Pa Jennings takes charge of the troops. In many ways, my situation is no different than other writers who have full-time jobs, with the benefit that I’ve already done my Mommy time during the day.
4. Did writing Sixty Acres and A Bride involve any special research?
I spent a lot of time researching the Chisholm Trail and cattle drives, and then included almost none of that information in the final draft. Oh well. If I’m ever on Jeopardy and the Chisholm Trail comes up as a category, it’s money in the bank.
Another area that garnered extra research was the Nahua/Aztec culture. For Rosa to truly feel like an outsider in Texas, she needed to be from a people group that had retained their pre-Colombian customs. We tend to think of Mexico as a homogeneous culture, but like the U.S. it has been influenced by many great civilizations, both native and imported.
And since Sixty Acres takes place in an actual location, I traveled to Caldwell County to look around, make new friends and enjoy some fantastic Bar-B-Q and banana pudding. When writing about 19th Century Texas it’s difficult to accurately describe a culture that included both tough cattlemen and their Victorian ladies, but seeing the beautiful architecture—the library, the bank, the courthouse—and then seeing the cattle trailers still parked around the square, helped me find the balance.
5. Why do you think it is important to be writing romance novels?
May I never see the day when romance is irrelevant. Don’t we all want to be cherished by someone worthy of our regard? Don’t we want to be set apart for someone special? God invented romance, and is our perfect Hero. He’s the Knight on the white steed coming to rescue his bride from the enemy. I feel strongly that Christians mustn’t delegate the telling of love stories to unbelievers. It’s our birthright. Love is our message.