By Traci Chapman
While for many 2020 was a time best left forgotten, Mustang author Regina Jennings did what those who know her say she does best – made lemonade out of lemons, as the saying goes, and in the process expanded not only her catalogue of works, but also the honors she’s tacked up while writing them.
Jennings’s work centers on historical romance, looking back to times that in ways were much simpler than 2020 and the global pandemic that continues to impact worldwide. But while the last year offered perhaps more than its fair share of frustrations and challenges, for the Mustang author it also provided opportunities – a busy time of writing and publication, as Jennings looks forward to the next adventure.
In fact, 2020 saw two new Jennings publications – beginning in November, when Jennings’s novella, “Broken Limbs, Mended Hearts” was released as part of The Kissing Tree compendium in October.
“We wanted to write a collection of stories set in a small town that spanned several generations,” Jennings said Monday. “Karen Witemeyer first proposed the idea of an oak tree full of carved initials just outside a fictional Texas town; with the help of our publisher, we recruited Amanda Dykes and Nicole Deese to write the other two novellas, with each author taking a different era.”
A month later, the first novel of Jennings’s Joplin Chronicles series was released. The story of a female Pinkerton agent sent to Joplin, Missouri, to find a missing girl, “Courting Misfortune” received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Her newest tome followed the four-part Fort Reno series, centered locally at western Canadian County’s Fort Reno, a location that recalls days of the U.S. Cavalry – and which provides the historical backdrop for the three books and one novella of that series.
“That was an honor to be able to share stories inspired by our local history with readers around the world,” Jennings said.
Jennings uses the word “world” literally – in a story with a plot twist that could be a part of her own work. That story also began in 2020, when the author received an email from Mathilde in the Netherlands, asking why the Fort Reno series’ second book – “The Lieutenants’ Bargain” – would not be translated to Dutch.
Because Jennings has no say over which of her books are translated and which are not, she referred Mathilde to the Dutch publisher – who, in turn, reached out to the Mustang author, explaining because a character was killed in the book, they passed on translating it. So, Jennings decided to see what she could do to keep the story alive for Mathilde and others in the Netherlands who wanted to read it.
“After looking at the work it would take, I realized that the scene in question was in the next to last chapter, and there were only a couple of references to the event afterwards – literally an hour of rewriting to have the character injured instead of killed, and I could have ‘The Lieutenant’s Bargain”’ available for Dutch readers,” Jennings said. “We worked out the details and now ‘Een Onderpand voor de Luitenant”’ is available for purchase.”
There was yet another change to the story for those readers – the dedication of the book to Mathilde in gratitude for her pushing for the book’s publication, Jennings said.
“Readers, never underestimate what you can do for your favorite authors,” Jennings posted to Facebook when recalling the experience. “Publishers listen to their readers, and all those posts about books, reviews and recommendations go a long ways – and sometimes it’s just a single question that gets a book translated for the readers of a whole nation.”
Next up for the author are two virtual library presentations in March – one each in Oklahoma and Texas – about Kate Warne, the nation’s first female detective, who joined the Pinkerton Detective Agency in 1856.
Honored with several accolades, the Mustang author’s novella “Intrigue a la Mode” was a short form finalist for a 2020 Christy Award, honors established in 1999 to recognize faith-based novelists. Jennings also is a National Reader’s Choice Award winner, a 2017 Oklahoma Book Award finalist and two-time Golden Quill Award finalist.
Other Jennings’ series include the three-story Ladies of Caldwell County and four titles that comprise Ozark Mountain Romance, as well as the freestanding “An Unforeseen Match.”
A mother of four who homeschools her children, Jennings said her writing process also takes place between frequent church mission trips and times the family travels with Jennings’s husband in his work as an insurance adjuster.
Beyond history, Jennings said her family inspires her work, which centers on strong female characters and deep relationships. Specializing in historical romance fiction, the Mustang author has centered many of her stories on the developing west of the 19th century.