Now, without further ado, the interview!
Prism: Welcome to A Girl of Many Colors! To start off our interview, please tell us a little about yourself.
Melanie Dickerson: Hi, Prism! Thanks so much for having me and featuring my book on your blog! I am a wife and mother of two girls, and I love to write historical romance. I live in north Alabama where it's hot and humid and very, very lush and green, since we've had tons of rain this summer. Once upon a time I was a graduate of The University of Alabama, then a special education teacher, and then a missionary for a year in Ukraine.
Prism: That sounds terrific! Have your travels and other life experiences contributed to your writing? If so, how?
Melanie Dickerson: Actually, I was in Hildesheim, Germany for six weeks while I was still in college, and the town inspired me with its wonderful medieval history and architecture. The Marktplatz in Hildesheim is the model I used for the Marktplatz (Town Square) in The Healer's Apprentice, and it is the setting for several scenes in the book. The town dates back to the 1100's and the buildings are authentically medieval. You can see the Marktplatz at this website: http://www.panorama-cities.
net/hildesheim/market_place_ 5c.html Truly inspiring, isn't it?
I loved writing stories in middle school and high school and I would pass around my stories, written in notebooks, to my friends and they would read them in class. I wrote two novels while in high school, but then I realized how hard it was to get published and when I started college I quit writing for the next fifteen years! But God gave me back my dream and my love of writing about seven years ago, and I can't imagine stopping any time soon.
Prism: Definitely! I've always wanted to visit Europe- it has so much history! It's great that you were able to use Markplatz for inspiration for The Healer's Apprentice. So, have you always wanted to be an author?
Melanie Dickerson: Pretty much, except when I was six I wanted to be a ballerina. But doesn't everyone?
Prism: That's awesome! So, why retell the fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty? What inspired you to create the story of Rose in The Healer's Apprentice?
Melanie Dickerson: I have always loved fairy tales. I think it's because I was a born romantic and no other children's stories were about romance!
But as I got older, I would read fairy tales and wish there was more to the story.
Several years ago, when my daughters were very young, they were watching the Disney movie version of Sleeping Beauty. I happened to think that the prince's actions didn't seem very plausible. Would a firstborn son, a prince, really turn his back on his family's and his subjects' expectations, break his vow to his betrothed, to marry a peasant girl he barely knew? I started wondering what the story would be like if the prince found himself falling in love with a poor girl--to his horror--when he was duty bound to marry someone else. And what if she was an honorable, worthy girl but was insecure, inept, and very aware of her low social status?
And the story took off from there.
Prism: That is truly brilliant. I really enjoy reading fairy tale retellings. There always seems to be more depth to the characters and setting! Is there a character in The Healer's Apprentice that you relate to or like the most?
Melanie: I relate to Rose, the heroine, very much. I relate to her feelings of insecurity, knowing that people are judging her by her social status--or lack thereof. And I relate to Rose's belief that she's not good at her job, feeling clumsy and inept. I also relate to her best friend Hildy's over-romanticism, her head-in-the-clouds mentality. I've always had kind of a split personality--Rose's practicality and Hildy's romantic airheadedness. :-)
Prism: You probably get this question a lot as an author, but what would be your advice to teen authors who dream of being published one day?
Melanie: Keep writing and don't give up! It takes most people a long time to get published, so be persistent.
Secondly, be teachable. Learn all you can about the craft of writing by reading books on writing, articles, and blogs.
Thirdly, write as much as you can. Write short stories, poetry, novels, whatever you enjoy writing, and just keep writing. The more you write the better you'll become. Besides, it will give you opportunities to apply all you're learning from the books, articles, and blog on writing.
Lastly, after you start submitting your work to publishers and agents, look at rejections as just another necessary step to getting published. Whatever you do, don't let a rejection devastate you. It's okay to be disappointed but you have to keep writing and submitting. A rejection is your "red badge of courage" so be proud of those rejections!
Prism: That's great advice- I'm sure many will appreciate it. Let's move on to some fun questions about you. What was a favorite book of yours as a child or teen?
Melanie: I loved so many books. I remember one of the first books I read and really LOVED was The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. I loved the adventure and excitement, and I related so much to that little mouse! I read so many of the classics and would get lists of "classic literature" and check them off one by one as I read them. I loved Ivanhoe, Old Yeller, Heidi, Little Women, The Three Musketeers, Anne of Green Gables, and when I got older I loved romances like Jane Eyre, and my all-time favorite, Pride and Prejudice. I read all of Jane Austen's books, and I continue to re-read them from time to time.
Prism: If you could go back in time and witness one event in history- what would it be?
Melanie: Hmmm. It would be something wonderful to experience the parting of the Red Sea. No, even better, the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem the week before he was crucified. I would have loved to have been there and seen the children praising Jesus and all the people excited about welcoming him. On the other hand, the people turned on him just a few days later, so that might also be sad.
I'd have loved to see Jesus, and to see him healing people, the blind and the deaf and the lame. That would be awesome.
Prism: That's great! I have to agree with your choice- biblical history is something that I would have been honored to witness. Do you have a favorite/life Bible verse?
Melanie: I've had different ones at different times in my life. One that I quote to myself a lot is 2 Timothy 1:7. "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline." I have to tell myself that when I get scared or feel intimidated. I also like Ephesians 5:1&2. "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." It reminds me to "live a life of love." And another favorite is 1 Peter 5:7. "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
Prism: Truly awesome verses to live by. What would you do if you were given $10,000 with the condition that you had to spend it on someone other than yourself or your immediate family?
Melanie: I was a missionary to Ukraine, and I know first hand how blessed we are in America. Just buying shoes for orphans or making sure hospitals have the medicines they need are the kinds of things I would do with the $10,000. Haiti is in desperate need, and there are many other countries that would also benefit from that amount of money spent on necessities.
Prism: Now the final question- what are your plans for your future books?
Melanie: I have another medieval YA romance, this one based on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale. I have been working on revisions for it, and I'm hoping my publisher is going to decide to publish it as well, maybe within the next year. I may write more medieval YA fairy tale retellings in the future. I also have a series that is set in 1880's Alabama that I hope my agent will find a publisher for in the very near future! The first book is titled Magnolia Summer.
Prism: Thank you so much for the honor of interviewing you! It has been a pleasure, and I'm sure many readers are eager to read the The Healer's Apprentice.
Melanie: Thanks so much for having me on your blog! It's been a pleasure. And I have a few questions that I'd love you and your readers to weigh in on. Have you ever read a fairy tale retelling, and if so, what did you think about it? What about historicals? Do you like books set in the medieval period? Let's hear your favorite type of book!
Prism: Well, you've heard her, folks. What are your opinions?