Melanie Dickerson is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). Melanie earned a bachelor’s degree in special education of the hearing impaired from The University of Alabama and has worked as a teacher and a missionary. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Huntsville, Alabama. Visit her on the web at www.melaniedickerson.com.
Melanie, I’m so tickled to have you as a guest on my blog today. How exciting that your debut novel comes out in four days. First, can you start by telling us what your book, The Healer’s Apprentice, is about?
The Healer’s Apprentice is a “fairy tale retelling.” I didn’t even know that genre existed until after I started writing my book! I just thought it would be extremely fun to take the Sleeping Beauty story and flesh it out and make it more realistic. Now Zondervan is publishing it as a Young Adult historical romance, and it’s pretty much the only book of its kind on the Christian market today. Here’s a teaser:
When Destiny Sleeps, It Can Only Be Awakened By True Love’s Kiss.
In this medieval romance, a woodcutter’s daughter becomes the town healer’s apprentice. Rose’s job is to care for the sick and injured in Hagenheim Castle. But she gets sick at the sight of blood and is more suited to making up stories than sewing up wounds. She 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.
We met each other at the ACFW conference in Denver last year, but it feels like I’ve known you much longer. Just curious, what has your experience been with writing conferences in general?
I feel the same way, Sharon! You were so much fun to talk to, and I instantly felt a connection between us. That was a really great conference for me, but very emotional, and I find they’re always like that! When you’re working hard all year to get published, you find yourself pinning a lot of hope on the conference. You know you have the chance to get your manuscript, or at least a partial manuscript, in front of the very editors and publishing houses that you are targeting. It’s an exciting few days, but it’s also filled with ups and downs. But the best thing, and the most memorable thing, about conferences, for me, is meeting with the friends I’ve made through emails and blogs and forums, fellow writers who understand me a lot better than most people! And meeting new friends in the lunch line, like you, Sharon! It’s a wonderful time of camaraderie with fellow believers who also have characters and stories in their heads!
Learning the craft of writing is a long and arduous trek that most authors make on the road to becoming good at what they do. Tell us about your experiences with growing as a writer.
You ask great questions, Sharon! It is an arduous trek for most authors, and I’m no exception. I started writing again by taking a correspondence course 7 ½ years ago. I decided right away that this was what I was meant to do. I got a few short stories and articles published and decided I wanted to write books. But writing books is hard! Much harder than the short stories and articles for children’s magazines that I was writing. It took me a year or two to write and revise my first book. I devoted myself to learning everything I could about writing, treating it like it was a part-time job, or a field of study, like going to college. I read books on writing, articles, everything I could find, and I joined ACFW, American Christian Fiction Writers. I went to the annual conference every year that I could afford to go. I entered contests, which helped me learn a lot, I joined critique groups, and I took all the online courses I could. And I kept writing books. I had written and revised four novels before I finally sold.
I had to pray a lot during this process. I asked God many times if this was what I was supposed to be spending my time doing. God was faithful and he kept me going, giving me the encouragement I needed when I felt like quitting. He just wouldn’t let me quit! But that’s a whole other blog post! LOL
So many things shape a writer’s voice and the stories we tell. What have been the biggest contributors in the development of your voice and writing style?
Hmmm. To tell you the truth, I have no idea! I think the author’s personality, and also the main character’s personality, has a lot to do with it. The Healer’s Apprentice, the story itself, came from my love of fairy tales and romance, and also my interest in the middle ages. The voice of the story was influenced somewhat by medieval culture and language.
Before you take off, Melanie, could you put a smile on our faces and tell us about one of the goofiest things you’ve done in your writing career?
Oh, my. Goofy as in dumb? I’ve done some dumb things, for sure. I guess a goofy thing I did was at the last ACFW conference. I was SO thankful to be there, because I’d gotten a scholarship to go at the last minute, as it were. I had almost lost hope that The Healer’s Apprentice was going to get published any time soon. It had just about been rejected by every CBA publisher in the business. (This is what I was talking to you about that day, Sharon!) I had let myself start thinking about how I didn’t know when or if I’d ever be published. I started crying in my room the first day of the conference, and I told myself to cut it out. I didn’t want anyone to see me crying, and it was time to go down to dinner, for heaven’s sake! So I forced myself to stop crying—a couple of times, actually—and fixed my face and went downstairs to the huge room where we were having dinner with all the other authors and agents and editors, etc. I was still feeling a bit weepy but was ordering myself not to think about it.
I have to stop here and tell you that Julie Lessman is one of my favorite people in the whole world and I was really looking forward to seeing her. She’s been a mentor to me for the last 2 ½ years or so. Well, who did I see when I walked in? Julie Lessman. I was thrilled to see her, of course. She stood up to hug me. I threw my arms around her and immediately burst into tears! It’s so funny to me now, but at the time it was embarrassing. She of course wanted to know what was wrong and I was crying too hard to tell her! It took me a good five or ten minutes to get myself under control. Julie was so nice about it and understanding, and she even prayed with me. She is the sweetest woman in the world! And she made me feel so much better. I really was happy to see her!
Is that goofy enough for you? 🙂 Sorry it’s so long! I guess I’m long-winded today!