I'm so stoked about this interview with author Melanie Dickerson. If you haven't read her novels yet, you have to. Melanie Dickerson is the award-winning author of TheHealer's Apprentice, her debut novel which won Best First Book at the National Readers' Choice Awards and came in fourth at the Family Fiction Awards. The novel also finaled for a Christy and Golden Quill award, and it earned a HOLT Medaillion Award of Merit.
Melanie has joined us today to talk about her newest release, The Merchant's Daughter! Please give her a warm welcome.
Questions & Answers with Melanie Dickerson
The first thing I really want to bring up is that you have a unique position in the Christian Young Adult market because there aren't too many historicals in this Young Adult genre. Were you initially worried when your first novel released?
Of course, authors always wonder how their first book will be received. But I believed my book would fill a void in the market and that young people who wanted a good historical romance—older readers too—would enjoy my book. Publishers worry about putting out something that is too “different” from the other things that are out there, but I wasn’t worried about that. I believed something fresh and different would be welcome.
The second thing that really makes your stories unique is the fact they're based off of fairy tales. How do you research the tales you choose to write about?
I do go back and read the original fairy tale, but sometimes I base my stories off the more familiar versions of the story. For instance, with my Sleeping Beauty story, The Healer’s Apprentice, I based it more on the Disney version than on the original Grimm’s fairy tale, which I found to be bizarre.
Is it a challenge to take a well-known, beloved fairy tale and spin it into something new and fresh that will capture and engage readers?
It is a challenge, but it’s fun. I like taking the basic story and asking myself what this story would look like without the magic, more fleshed out, and with a more realistic and historically accurate setting.
The Merchant’s Daughter is based on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. It’s set in Medieval England and is basically a love story between two very unlikely people who gradually fall in love and realize that God makes all things new.
What do you hope readers will take away from this re-telling of "Beauty and the Beast" that they may have missed in the traditional version?
I hope they will take away an appreciation for the original themes of the story, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that what’s inside a person is more important than the outside. It’s also a coming of age story, where a girl becomes a woman with a woman’s feelings and leaves behind her childish assumptions about men and about life, and even about God, in my version. My heroine and hero both mature and come to a better understanding of God’s nature.
When writing The Merchant's Daughter, did you cast your characters with certain actors?
No, I don’t really do that. I have a picture of them in my mind, but I don’t use real people. But it would be fun to pick the actors to play in a movie version. J
Have you traveled to the countries where your stories are set, and if so, what place did you most enjoy?
I lived in
Germany one summer,
in the town of Hildesheim, which was the
inspiration for the walled town of
in my first book, The Healer’s
|Once Upon a Time|
I've been dying to ask this question. What's your take on the new abc series Once Upon A Time?
I am actually watching it, and I like it. I haven’t followed a TV show in probably twenty years, but I thought I would end my hiatus and watch this one. So far it is holding my attention. I like the twists on the classic tales. The possibilities are endless.
So far, whose story in the series do you like best?
The one episode I missed was the one about Cinderella, but I’ve been planning on trying to watch it online.
Which do you prefer most: Grimm or Once Upon a Time?
I haven’t watched Grimm. I don’t like scary stuff, and the original Grimm’s fairy tales are pretty ... grim.
What fairy tale was your childhood favorite?
I think Beauty and the Beast was always my favorite. I even wrote my own version of the story when I was about eighteen. I still have that story and just discovered a few weeks ago. Apparently I sent it off to a magazine, but they must have rejected it.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I take my kids to school, then have a little Bible reading and prayer time, then check my email and read a blog or two and check facebook, which I really shouldn’t do until later because I usually get bogged down with that for an hour or more. Then I write until 3:00, when my kids come home from school on the bus. Actually, this is an ideal day, when no one is sick, and I don’t have pressing errands or other unavoidable distractions. Lately I’ve also been doing a lot of marketing stuff, like interviews such as this one.
Now, I want to shift directions a bit. Since it's Christmas time, I'd like to ask a few questions pertaining to that. What is your favorite Christmas song?
Actually, O Come, O Come Emmanuel is my favorite Christmas song, and I was very excited when I was able to use it in my latest book, The Merchant’s Daughter. It’s a very old song, from the 1200’s, and it fit perfectly into the scenes I used it in.
What do you enjoy most about Christmas?
I enjoy the general feeling of good cheer, the excitement of my two kids, and just the freshness of it. Christmas is always new, somehow. Something different about Jesus hits me, and I realize how blessed I am all over again.
What medieval Christmas tradition do you find most interesting?
The Medieval people loved tradition, and they loved holidays. They really knew how to celebrate! They would drink wassail, which was mulled cider or ale spiced with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and sugar. They also would cut down a huge log to place in their enormous fireplace—the Yule log—and let it burn for days. Medieval Christmas traditions are a fascinating study.
What is the last book you read?
I’m not even sure. I’ve been reading a lot of research materials lately, non-fiction stuff for the books I’m working on.
What can we expect from you next?
Well, Holly, I have a Snow White story, as yet untitled, that is a sequel to The Healer’s Apprentice of sorts, as the hero is the son of Rose and Wilhelm. You might see it in stores come August. But that’s just a rumor right now (wink-wink).
That sounds exciting. I think we'll all be eagerly expecting it :) It's been great to have you on Shelf Life today!
If you'd like to stay in touch with Melanie Dickerson, you can check out her website and blog, or follow her on facebook.
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