I'm delighted to have my friend Melanie Dickerson as a guest on The Borrowed Book today. Melanie is the author of The Healer's Apprentice, a Christy Award finalist and winner of The National Reader's Choice Award for Best First Book. Melanie earned a bachelor's degree in special education from the University of Alabama and is a former teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama.
Welcome, Melanie. Your book The Merchant's Daughter recently released. Please give us a blurb about the book.
An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice.
Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff--a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past. Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.
This book has been compared to Beauty and the Beast. Is it loosely based on that fairy tale? If so, what inspired you to do this?
The Merchant's Daughter is a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I have always loved the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, and after I wrote my first fairy tale retelling, The Healer's Apprentice, which was based on Sleeping Beauty, I knew I wanted to write a whole series of fairy tale retellings set in Medieval Europe. As my idea for a Beauty and the Beast story unfolded, I felt drawn to a misty, mysterious, rural England setting. I also was inspired by Jane Eyre, one of my favorite stories, so there are some elements of that story as well.
Your heroine Annabel is an appealing young woman. What has influenced her life to produce the feeling she has a calling to enter a nunnery?
She is influenced by the fact that nearly all of the men she's ever known have been either lecherous or extremely selfish. Men want to marry her, but she doesn't want to marry them. And her brothers just want to marry her off to save themselves. So marriage isn't very appealing to her. Her second motivation is that she desperately wants to know what's in the Bible. She wants to know what God said, and she doesn't know any other way to get to read it except by going to a convent. She sees very few opportunities to do anything worthwhile or desirable in her tiny village, and that is why becoming a nun appeals to her.
If Annabel reminds us of Beauty, then Lord Ranulf must be the Beast. What has happened in his life to turn him into a recluse and rumored to be a terrifying individual?
Ranulf was badly injured in a wolf attack when he was a teen boy, which left him with only one eye, one of his hands badly mangled, and scars on one side of his face. So physically he is "beastly" looking, but emotionally even more so. He has been hurt by his wife, who died of the plague, along with their firstborn child. He has a bad temper and a grudge against beautiful women.
I know your first book The Healer's Apprentice was a finalist for the Christy Award. How did you react when you received the news?
I was ecstatic, of course. It was a dream come true. I ran and told my husband immediately. I felt humbled and grateful. So, so, so, grateful.
Describe what it was like to be honored at the prestigious ceremony with so many talented writers.
To be honest, I felt small. LOL! There were so many other writers there that have written so many more books than I have, gotten so many awards and been read by tens and probably hundreds of thousands more readers, so I kind of wondered what I was doing there. But the Zondervan people were super nice, and the ceremony itself is designed to make the authors feel appreciated, so I enjoyed it. And, maybe this sounds bad, but at one point I looked around and recognized publishers and senior editors from several of the largest CBA publishing houses, and I thought, Nearly everyon in here has rejected me at one time or another. LOL! I felt kind of humbled and vindicated at the same time!
What do you want readers to take away from The Merchants Daughter?
I hope they will take away an appreciation for all the opportunities we have as modern Americans. I hope they will appreciate their Bibles more, and that they will see beyond a person's outward appearance. And I hope they will realize that love is more that attraction, it's more than a feeling, and that character is important. And I just hope they come away with an appreciation for romance God's way.
What are you working on now?
Right now I'm working on my fourth fairy tale retelling, a Cinderella story. My third, a Snow White story, comes out in August, and I can hardly wait to see what the creative team at Zondervan does with the cover--and the title! I was never able to come up with a good title, but I'm excited to see what they come up with! They did an amazing job with my first two books.
What words of hope would you like to leave with our readers who may be struggling with problems?
Ask God for guidance. Don't be afraid to hear from Him. If you truly want your life to have purpose, you can ask God and listen to what He says. God does have a plan and a future for you. "For I know the plans I have for you' declares the Lord,' plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11. And God's plan is always the best.
Julie Lessman has a great list of Hope Scriptures on her website. I recommend you print them off and read them several times a day if you're really struggling and need a dose of God's hope. As God's children, He gives us his empowering grace. And God gives us victory. We are His heirs. We have the authority of Jesus Christ, but sometimes we live like we're defeated. But because we're in Christ, we are more than conquerors! Even when we fail, we are still victorious. So much of the time we don't realize this or walk in it. (I'm giving myself a pep talk here!) But we have the victory, the empowerment, and the authority of Jesus himself. We need to remind ourselves of that when we get discouraged. His spirit within us will lead us back to encouragement and away from the discouraging messages of the enemy. So stand firm.
Thos are wonderful words, Melanie. Thank you for sharing them with our readers, and thank you for being a guest on The Borrowed Book today. We'll be looking forward to your next book's release.