When did you decide to be a writer?
I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid. I planned on being a popular novelist who lived as a recluse and was adored by millions. LOL! I wrote two novels when I was still in high school, but then I quit when I started submitting manuscripts and realized how hard it was to get published.
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
I wrote two novels when I was in high school, but I generally don’t count that, since I then took a fifteen-year hiatus. Then I wrote for almost seven years before I got “the call” last November.
Everyone’s journey to publication is different. Now that you’ve walked that road, what tips can you give to authors still hoping for that first contract?
Never give up. Keep praying. Ask God for direction, and if you need to know if this is what He wants for you, then ask him and expect an answer. He is faithful. Secondly, write the best books you can write. Don’t stop with one or two or three novels. Keep writing until you find your niche, until you write the book everybody is clamoring to buy, the book no publisher can resist. Study the craft of writing. Enter contests for the feedback. Win contests to get an agent or editor’s attention. Work hard and never give up.
Was there something about the experience of getting published that was a surprise to you?
I never expected it to be as hard as it was. A lot of tears and prayers went into those years of struggle.
Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?
I’m pretty disciplined. I try to write something every day, or edit something every day. But my discipline breaks down when it comes to checking email. I’m a compulsive email checker. :-)
What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?
I used to scrapbook, but when I started writing, that hobby fell by the wayside. I like to watch movies with my husband, and I like to cook, to make a recipe I’ve never tried before. I like to go to the gym (okay, I don’t LIKE to go, but I like that I’ve BEEN) and I like taking my kids places they love, like skating or the zoo or a museum. I love the Ladies Bible studies I do at my church. We have some wonderful ladies.
What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?
This is definitely a hard one! I love so many of the classics, like Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. That book has so much heart! Another favorite is Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn Dixie. Her style of writing is phenomenal and really pulls at my emotions. I also love A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson because the characters are so real and it’s such a sweet love story.
How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
It’s relaxing and is a great way to see what others have come up with, the stories, the characters, the themes.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
The Healer’s Apprentice is a Young Adult Historical Romance loosely based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. There’s a wonderful trailer that the people at Zondervan created here: http://www.melaniedickerson.com/books.html. I was so impressed, since it looks like a movie trailer, starring the model from the book cover.
Here’s a teaser:
When destiny sleeps, it can only be awakened by true love’s kiss.
In this historical romance loosely based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, a woodcutter’s daughter becomes the town healer’s apprentice. Rose is determined to overcome her weakness and prove herself a competent healer, or she faces marrying a disgusting old merchant her mother has picked out for her.
Lord Hamlin, the future ruler of the region, is injured and Rose must overcome her squeamishness to save him. He is everything that is noble and good, but loving him is forbidden. He is already betrothed to a mysterious woman in hiding.
With two noble-born brothers vying for her affections, Rose learns that the people of Hagenheim are not always who they seem.
Where did you get your inspiration for The Healer’s Apprentice?
I’m glad you asked, Lisa, because I love to tell this. :-) I’ve always loved fairy tales, and when I started getting the idea for The Healer’s Apprentice, my two girls were very young and they watched a lot of the Disney princess movies and Barbie movies which were based on fairy tales. One day they were watching Sleeping Beauty and I started thinking how unrealistic it was that a prince, who was betrothed from childhood to a princess, would meet a peasant girl in the woods and decide on the spot to marry her. I started thinking, what would this story be like if it was realistic? If it actually happened? And I thought, if this guy was betrothed and fell in love with someone else, he would feel a lot of inner conflict. He would want the respect of his family and his people, so he’d fight his attraction to this girl he’d fallen in love with. So that’s how the idea started.
I was also inspired by my time in Hildesheim, Germany. I spent six weeks in that town, which dates back from the 1100’s. Many medieval buildings are still there, including the entire town square, or Marktplatz. You can see this beautiful medieval square here: http://www.panorama-cities.net/hildesheim/market_place_5c.html
Which character is most like you?
The heroine, of course. :-)
Who is your favorite character and why?
I really love both the hero, Lord Hamlin, and the heroine, Rose. They are very real to me. I was actually shocked at how attached I became to them. When I watched the movie, Stranger Than Fiction, I remember wishing, really wishing I could meet them the same way the author in that movie was meeting her character. I made the mistake of telling my husband that, and he looked at me like I was off my rocker. :-)
Did you know how The Healer’s Apprentice would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?
I always knew the ending, but there were several plot twists that surprised me! One was the subplot involving Gunther and Hildy. When I started the story, I had no idea any of that was going to happen! The climax of their story came directly from research, from an actual law from medieval times.
What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?
That God had a good plan for Rose all along, and she only needed to trust God.
What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?
I’ve done the usual things, I guess—try to get the word out on Facebook, on my blog, and hired someone to create a website for me. Zondervan has made an unbelievably awesome trailer for my book, which you can see on my website, http://www.melaniedickerson.com/books.html and they’ve also sent me some wonderful bookmarks and postcards, and I’ve been giving those out wherever I get an opportunity, such as at my local RWA chapter’s annual Reader’s Luncheon. I’m very blessed to have an excellent marketing team at Zondervan, and I’m blessed by the talented creative team that created the book cover, which should appeal to the target audience—especially since I’m not sure how good I’m going to be at marketing!
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I have written a second medieval romance based on a fairy tale, The Beholder, which is a Beauty and the Beast story. I have a third that I’m working on now, based on Snow White. I also have another romance series set in the late 1800’s in my home state of Alabama. I’m hoping my agent will find a home for it soon.
Do you have any parting words of advice?
Don’t let anyone convince you to give up on your dreams. God is the God of the impossible. You can do anything He strengthens you to do.