Monday, November 18, 2013

Interview Feature: Melanie Dickerson

Love fairy tales? Well, you've come to the right place. Our featured author today is known and loved for her award-winning, historical (no magic!) retellings of all our favorite fairy tales. And, as you imps will be particularly pleased to notice, her most recent retelling is none other than Cinderella. How perfect is that?

Please welcome Melanie Dickerson!

Melanie Dickerson is a two-time Christy Award finalist and Carol Award-winning author of The Healer’s Apprentice, The Merchant’s Daughter, and The Fairest Beauty. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). A former teacher and missionary, she earned a degree in special education from The University of Alabama and now lives near Huntsville, Alabama with her husband and two daughters.
You can find out more about Melanie and her books on her website:

Melanie is with us today to talk about her writing, particularly her new release, The Captive Maiden. And do be certain to check out the end of the interview, because she's offering a giveaway!


Hi Melanie! Welcome to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog. First off, why don't you tell us a littel about yourself! Personality, hobbies, etc.
Melanie: I used to have hobbies, before I started writing! I do love watching movies with my two daughters. I love doing Beth Moore Bible studies with the ladies at my church. And I’m a facebook junkie, chatting and checking up on my friends when I should be working or cleaning my messy house!
What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller?
Melanie: I loved writing from the time I was probably around 11 years old. I think it started as a passion for reading stories and just gradually turned into a passion for writing them. I stopped writing after I graduated high school and took about a 15-year hiatus before I started back.
Tell us a little about your new novel, The Captive Maiden. How long did you work on this story? How did the idea come to you? Is it connected to the other fairy tale retellings you’ve written?
Melanie: The Captive Maiden is the story of Valten, who is the brother of Gabe, the hero from The Fairest Beauty, and the son of Rose and Wilhelm from The Healer’s Apprentice. This story was written in less time than any of my other stories. The bulk of it was written in a month and a half. I knew I wanted to write Valten’s story, and I thought it would be a great Cinderella story, and I got the idea to make it about tournament rivals, because Valten loved competing in tournaments. And tournaments and knights just naturally make me think of one of my favorite novels, Ivanhoe, which inspired one of my favorite scenes in The Captive Maiden.
Can you pick a favorite character from this story?
Melanie: I loved my heroine, Gisela, because she was spunky and sweet, but I have to say that Valten was my favorite character. He was the hardest to write, because he is the tough, silent type, but he turned out sweeter and more attractive than I had thought.
What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration?
Of course, I am inspired by fairy tales, and I am inspired by classic literature, as I mentioned above. When I need renewal of inspiration, I sometimes watch movies, especially movies based on classic novels. I also listen to music, types of music and lyrics that make me think and feel more deeply. It’s good to take a break from the computer and writing when one needs a renewal, I think.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?
Melanie: I think I am rare in that I love all the parts of the writing process. I love the first draft stage, the editing and revising stage, and the research stage. I probably get tired of the research stage the most quickly, and the first draft stage is the most difficult, because it is always terrifying, especially when I’m writing the first few chapters! I’m afraid it’s terrible!
Since you write fairy tale retellings, I’m sure this will be a tough question . . . but if you had to pick, what is your favorite fairy tale?
Melanie: My favorite is actually Beauty and the Beast. There is so much meaning and so many possibilities for that story! There's something about it that has always fascinated me.
So what is next on your writerly horizons? Can we look forward to more fairy tale retellings? Or perhaps something completely new?
Melanie: I have a couple of completely new projects in the works, but everything is historical romance, just different time periods and settings. But I also have another fairy tale. I’m writing a Frog Prince story, and the heroine is Margaretha, Gabe and Valten’s sister.
What are you actively writing right now?
Melanie: I have two books that I am halfway through the rough draft. One is a Regency romance, and the other is my Frog Prince story. But I am currently planning on completely rewriting a couple of other books. So I feel like I have four projects going at once! My job at the moment is to decide which one I’m going to concentrate on, starting next week! But I can never bear to leave a project unfinished for long, so you can bet that I will be working very hard until all four of them are polished and ready for my readers!
Can you share a short snippet from The Captive Maiden?
Melanie: Sure! This scene is when Valten first sees Gisela in the streets of Hagenheim. He doesn’t remember that he met her when they were both children. But she remembers him.

Excerpt From

The Captive Maiden

When Valten turned around, the girl was staring at him.
No wonder Ruexner had noticed her. Her eyes were a clear blue, without a hint of gray or green. Her features were bold and generous—long, thick eyelashes, a straight, proud nose, a full brow, a gently squared chin, and high, prominent cheekbones. Her skin fairly glowed, and he had to remind himself to breathe.
She seemed to be studying his face too. “Thank you.” She abruptly turned away and continued on her way as if nothing had happened.
He stood stunned. Should he call after her? He only knew he couldn’t let her walk away, so he followed her.
As she turned down the narrow street to the blacksmith’s, she looked over her shoulder. “Do you want something, my lord?” She added the last phrase with a bit of slyness in her voice, it seemed. She must realize who he was.
Never good at making conversation with maidens, he ransacked his brain for something appropriate to say. Another way Gabe had been better than him—talking with women. His brother always knew what to say, and it was always something charming or clever. Valten’s experience was much different. He’d had little time for women due to his travels and training, and most of the ones he’d met he’d only spoken to briefly. Their fathers had paraded them before him at balls given for the tournament knights, but he’d never known them long enough to feel comfortable. He had not been ready to marry, and therefore he had no interest in showing them how lacking he was in the art of conversation.
He hoped he didn’t sound like Ruexner as he said, “A fine destrier you have. He looks very much like my horse, Sieger.”
She turned and gave him her full attention. He marveled at her self-reliant expression, a unique trait in a woman, especially one who was less than twenty years old and obviously poor. Or maybe she was only eccentric, wearing ragged clothes to disguise herself, as he was doing.
“Thank you. He is a great horse.” Then she turned and continued walking.
He still wasn’t ready to let her go.
Thank you so much for sharing, Melanie. It was lovely to have you on the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog today.
And now, dear imps, you have a chance to win yourselves a copy of The Captive Maiden! Be certain to enter your name below." rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway



Anna said...

Fun interview! Congratulations, Mrs. Dickerson! :D

I want to read The Captive Maiden so badly!! But I can't enter the Rafflecopter because I don't have Facebook!! :'( I will have to get it some other way... ;)

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

Whoops! Anna, I had the Rafflecopter set on Facebook as a mandatory step to enter . . . which was completely unintentional! I have fixed that problem, so you should be able to enter through some of the other options now.

Sarah Pennington said...

I cannot wait to read The Captive Maiden! It sounds awesome, and Valten sounds rather interesting. I like the strong, silent type.
Question: which of your fairytale remakes was your favorite to write?

Jenelle Leanne said...

I love fairy tales, and your books sound amazing.

Question: What is your least favorite fairy tale?

Galadriel said...

What recent movie would you turn into a fairy tale if you could?

Rina's Reading said...

I love Valten's horse' name! Great job bringing a bit of German into the story. Question: Do you speak German? Or do you just look things up for the books?

Dom said...

Wow! I am super excited to get a chance to read your book. I love retelling of Fairy Tales. You said that your favorite fairy tale was Beauty and the Beast, what is your favorite adaptation of that fairy tale and why.

Ryebrynn said...

Wow. I've wanted to read one of Melanie's books for awhile, so this is epic.
Melanie, you've read Ivanhoe? That's one of my favorite classics!
What are you planning on writing next?


Anonymous said...

I have read all of Melanie's books, (I think), and found them all fun and interesting... can't wait to read The Captive Maiden!!! :) I especially enjoyed reading the one about Snow White, The Fairest Beauty.
A great thanks to Melanie Dickerson, for writing Christian fairytale retellings! They're pretty rare I've found!
A question... are you going to continue writing fairytale retellings after the Cinderella one, Melanie?
Thanks for this! Would love to win a copy of Captive Maiden! :)

Meredith said...

I loved this interview and have been intrigued a long time by your fairy tale retellings. Being blind, I have been unable to locate them in an accessible format but hope to read them one day. Congratulations, Mrs. Dickerson.
Is it particularly challenging to retell fairy tales without magical elements? For instance, what is your stand-in for the "frog" in "The Frog Prince?" Hope this question makes sense.

God bless you and keep up the outstanding work.

Unknown said...

Your books sound so intriguing! Thanks for stopping by and offering a giveaway. :)

My question: How do you take the rather two-dimensional characters of fairy tales and breathe life into them, making them more realistic and historically accurate?

Anonymous said...

I first came across your series while browsing the internet. I saw the cover of The Healers Apprentice and thought "Wow that looks interesting!" Sadly, I haven't had a chance to read it yet. Definitely going on my Christmas list!
Question: What inspired you to write this gene of fiction?

Anna said...


Melanie Dickerson said...

I'm so sorry I forgot to come over earlier today!
Thanks for all the great comments!
Anna, I see you were able to enter the drawing. Yay!
Sarah, it's so hard to say which was my favorite. I think The Merchant's Daughter (Beauty and the Beast) was the hardest. I will go with The Captive Maiden, since the story just seemed to flow, and the romance was really fun to write. :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Jenelle, my least favorite fairy tale? That's hard to say. I don't like fairy tales with sad or violent endings. I don't particularly like Little Red Riding Hood, so I'll go with that one. :-)

Galadriel, I am not sure which movie would make a good fairy tale, but I really loved Penelope. If you haven't seen it, it's wonderful. It's kind a Beauty and the Beast story but the beast is the woman, and she has a pig snout and pig ears. It's really romantic, trust me. :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Rina, I spent one summer in Germany, and that town really inspired my setting, but I don't speak German, sadly. I just look things up. :-) Hopefully I'm not too inaccurate. I'm going to try to get a German speaking person to help me make sure I get the grammar and everything correct with the next book. :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Cajun Huntress, I really like the book, Beauty by Robin McKinley, and I also like the Disney Beauty and the Beast movie. And as I said earlier, I love the movie Penelope. It's not exactly a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but it's similar.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Ryebrynn, Ivanhoe is one of my favorites too. I'm working on a Frog Prince story and a Regency romance--a romance set in the early 1800's in England. Not sure what I'll do after that!

Anonymous, thanks for coming by! So glad you enjoyed The Fairest Beauty! Yes, I am writing a Frog Prince story and hope to write more fairy tale retellings after that, but I'm not sure which ones yet!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Meredith, thanks so much for stopping by! I really hope my publisher will some day make an accessible version of my books. I will suggest they do just that. I have been hoping for audio format. We should start a letter-writing campaign. :-)
Yes, sometimes it is challenging to make the fairy tales work without magic. For my Frog Prince, I have a young Englishman who gets stranded in Germany where he can't speak the language. He is actually from a very wealthy family, where he is a lord, but in Germany, everyone thinks he's mad, since they can't speak his language and he can't speak theirs. He ends up working in the stable at Hagenheim Castle where the stable master calls him "Frog Boy." The heroine is Margaretha, and she is almost the only person in town who can speak English. So the frog thing is mostly symbolic. :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

Rebeka, I love breathing life into the fairy tale characters! It's kind of a process, but I usually get an idea about the characters right away, what kind of people they are, and part of it is based on historical accuracy, and also what fits with the story and with the other characters, plus what makes sense according to the situation the character is in, if that makes sense. :-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

A, what inspired me was watching Sleeping Beauty with my daughters. I thought it would be fun to take the premise of the fairy tale and make it more realistic, fleshing out the characters and putting them in a real historical setting. Then it just seemed natural to write a whole series of fairy tale retellings. :-)
And I always tell people to request my books from their library. That way they will get to read it and so will other people! :-)

Unknown said...

Melanie, I love your idea of rewriting fairy tales into real life scenarios, and look forward to reading your books! I have always desired to write my own such tales, but I have a similar problem having too many wonderful story ideas going at once. How do you decide on which story deserves your dedication,and what do you do to keep from getting overwhelmed?

Emilyn J Clover said...

I myself write fairy-tale-like stories but am trying to set them apart from the originals. I enjoy your books!

Question: do you outline or do you have a small idea of how the story is going to go?

Melanie Dickerson said...

Charii, there is usually one story that is more insistent than the others! Also, a publisher's deadline is another great motivator! I just have to decide on a story and stick with it until it's finished. And since I'm a person who hates to leave anything unfinished, I usually finish one story before moving on to the next. Usually. :-)

Writer4Christ, I have never been an outliner, but I am becoming more of a plotter. I try to make sure I have certain parts of the story already decided, and certain aspects of the characters already set in my mind before I start to write. I am starting to write more of this down. I used to keep it all in my head, but I guess my head is just getting too crowded. :-)

Megan Wilson said...

Hello, Melanie! You are easily one of my favorite authors! What is your all-time favorite fairytale? And if you haven't written about it, will you ever do so in the future?

Janalyn Voigt, escape into creative worlds of fiction. said...

Your books have the best covers, Melanie!

We share a love of writing that evolved at a young age from a love of reading. I wonder how many other authors can tell the same story?

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Megan! So happy you like my books! :-)
My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast. I did retell that tale in The Merchant's Daughter, but I feel like I will retell it again in the future. It is just too good and there are so many themes in that one fairy tale to explore, that I think I could write several more and just do them in different time periods and with slightly different twists! Maybe I'll do a Regency B&TB story, then a Southern 19th century B&TB story, then maybe a contemporary B&TB story. The possibilities are endless! :-)

Janalyn, yes, I agree with you about the covers! LOL! And I think probably most writers can say that they loved reading at an early age! Thanks for stopping by.

Megan Wilson said...

Oh, that sounds awesome! My sister adores Beauty and the Beast, so if you do all those different versions I will be sure to let her know! :)