Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Melanie Dickerson is here with a giveaway!


I am beyond thrilled to have Melanie Dickerson with us today! Melanie Dickerson 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.

Melanie is giving away a copy of The Merchant's Daughter to one lucky Go Teen Writers' reader. Details for getting entered will be at the bottom of the post. Kinda like how supermarkets put milk all the way in the back...

Melanie, as a historical writer, what is it that draws you to the medieval time period?

I love the medieval time period, and I always have. I grew up reading about King Arthur and Ivanhoe and Robin Hood. Those stories are so thrilling and romantic to me. And that period is so colorful and fun and has such potential for plot twists and intrigues. That time period has always fired my imagination.

I cannot resist asking this. When you write romantic scenes between your characters, is it ever in the back of your mind that these people have never brushed their teeth?

Oh my gosh, Stephanie! That is a hilarious question! LOL Well, I do think about that sometimes, but not when I’m writing the romantic scenes! Actually, there were etiquette books that have been found from medieval times that explain how people should clean their teeth. They actually did have toothbrushes of sorts, tooth powder to use with the brushes, and certain types of wood were whittled down to use for teeth cleaning that were supposed to give you sweet breath if you chewed on them. I have found that a lot of what people think they know about medieval times is actually not true at all. It makes for fascinating study. For instance, bathing was a social activity, and medieval people probably bathed fairly often. They had Roman bath houses to bathe in, and even had more than one type of bath tub for use at home. So yeah, they weren’t as stinky and dirty as you think!

That's good to know! I'll read my next medieval book through a new (and cleaner!) lens. I loved The Merchant's Daughter. It was so fun, and I really love how the fairy tale aspect (Beauty and the Beast) is there ... but it doesn't take over the story. The story still feels original. I know you have a couple other fairytale-inspired stories in the works; what comes first for you - the original fairytale, or your storyline?

Hm, that’s a hard one, Stephanie! I start out with a fairy tale, usually, and then start thinking, What if? The story takes off from there and deviates quite a bit from the original fairy tale. I usually have to make myself come back, as I’m plotting, to the fairy tale to keep the story from deviating completely. And the characters and the story just evolve together. I don’t know how else to explain it. The characters and the story have to fit and complement each other. Ranulf was himself, and yet his character came out of the fact that he was “beastly.” I’m probably not explaining this very well! Honestly, it’s always hard for me to remember which aspects of a story I thought of first, and how it all came together and came into being. And by the time I’m halfway into writing my story, my characters and their story are so real to me, it’s more like I’m dictating their story as they tell it to me. I’m sure you know what I mean!


So ... what happens when you run out of Disney movies?
Well, I’m thinking about branching out for my next book and using a lesser known fairy tale. I’m not stuck on Disney ones!


I know you received at least one angry review from someone who felt like the Christian message didn't appear in The Healer's Apprentice until the end, that you surprised readers with it. No one could ever say that about The Merchant's Daughter! The Christian message is so strong (yet organic) in this book ... was that just because of different story/different needs, or did the reader feedback impact you?

No, the reader feedback did not impact this story at all, because this story was already written before The Healer’s Apprentice was even published! I am not hiding the fact that my stories are published by a Christian publisher, and they are Christian because I’m a Christian. I set out to write the most entertaining and meaningful, thought-provoking stories I possibly can, and the Christian message is there because it’s there.


Well put! What is something you did that you feel made the difference in your journey from unpubbed to pubbed? Writers conference? A particular piece of writing advice? Sitting on the airport shuttle with me in Denver?


Hard work and prayer. And riding in the airport shuttle with you, Stephanie, of course!!! (I WAS happy to meet you!) God is good. And I worked hard. There was no one thing that I did that made it happen. I tried for three years to get The Healer’s Apprentice published, and in those three years I wrote two more books, the first being The Merchant’s Daughter. If I had to say one thing, I’d say it was because I didn’t give up, I tried to listen to God’s direction, and I chose to believe it was going to happen, some time, some way.

"God is good. And I worked hard." Amen to that! When did you start writing? And if you stumbled upon some kind of time transport system and could send your newbie-writer self an email with 3 tips, what would they be?

First of all, I would tell my 19-yr-old self not to quit writing and reading fiction! I wanted to be a writer in high school, but having the fatalistic mindset that I had at the time, I decided if I couldn’t be a successful, published writer right away, I would give it up entirely. I didn’t start writing again for almost 15 years. And as for the tips, I think I found those pretty much right away when I started writing again, by some blessed-by-God chance. The most important things are ... Don’t give up. Persevere. Pray hard. And listen to God’s direction. God is faithful.


Isn't Melanie great? I just love her.

And you want to get yourself signed up to win The Merchant's Daughter because it's a wonderful read. To get entered to win, leave a comment either asking Melanie a question or answering what is your favorite part of the writing process? The first draft? (Shudder.) World building? Brainstorming?


(Due to the realities of international shipping fees, this giveaway is for US residents only, though all are welcome to converse with Melanie. This contest ends Monday, January 23rd.)

72 comments:

  1. Question for Melanie: What do you do when you experience writer's block?

    Favorite part of writing: first draft. I love sitting down and seeing all my thoughts appear on the paper. I love thinking "if I were there what would I see, feel, hear?" and then letting it flow.

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    1. Hi, Jordanna! When I get writer's block, I try to figure out why. It's usually because I'm not sure what's supposed to happen next in the story. In that case, I just do some brainstorming, or just force myself to keep writing. It usually works out pretty quickly.
      Sometimes when I get writer's block it's because I've gotten to a part of the story that needs research in order to write it correctly. I will either stop writing and do the research, or skip that section or scene and come back to it later.
      It is fun to write, isn't it?

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  2. I would love to be entered to win a copy of the book, and I am so glad for this post, because I'd never heard of this book before. It sounds really great though. I don't delve into medieval lit a lot, but this looks like a nice way to change it up.

    My favorite part of the writing process is the question asking part. As Melanie sort of said, many times, the ideas for stories start when we ask ourselves questions. I find it super fun to elaborate on those questions and to keep asking more as I go along, getting to know the characters better and better throughout.

    Thanks again, Stephanie!

    <3 Gina Blechman

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    1. Hi, Gina! It is fun to ask questions, like, What if this happened? Or what if this person was afraid of this? Or what if instead of this happening, that happened? That's where stories are born, and it's where they change and come into focus!

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  3. Melanie,
    The Middle Ages are my favorite time period too! Why do you think we are drawn to that time?

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    1. Hi, Sarah! I think one reason I love the Middle Ages is because there was such a focus for the men to be noble and chivalrous and even romantic. Men were supposed to fall in love and woo women. And they were also supposed to be brave and believe in good overcoming evil. Also, God was an important part of their lives, and God wasn't relegated to a one-day-a-week entity, or a you-can-believe-in-him-if-you-want-to-but-I'm-too-intellectual-to-believe kind of thing. People didn't think they knew all the answers or that they were all-powerful. They kind of recognized their own humanity more than we do now.
      And besides that, there's just so many possibilities for fun stories with all the damsels in distress and gorgeous knights and such. It was a colorful time of endless scenarios for stories. :-)

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  4. Question: How do you come up with things like name of people and places. I have a friend who is writing a fantasy with a medieval feel to it she will stop and not write another word until she comes up with the perfect name that also fits the setting.

    Alyson

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    1. Alyson, I look at census lists from the time period and place where my story is set. But sometimes it's hard to pick just the right name, so often I will start writing a story with a name I'm not sure about, and the right name will usually come to me later when I'm looking a list of appropriate names. Or if I'm trying to get the rough draft written, I will stick in Xxx for a name, and then later when I'm revising, I'll work on finding names for the secondary characters.

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  5. I would love to be entered into this contest! :D

    Question: Do you listen to any music while you work on your books?

    My Fav. Part of Writing: I like when I have the idea and then spend forever writing it down and being swept away with the idea! :D It's like reading a book.

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    1. Actually, RandomThinker, I do listen to music sometimes when I write, but it has to be a certain kind of music. I like listening to Andrea Bocelli, because I am not distracted by the words, since they're mostly in Italian and I don't understand Italian! And the sound of his voice and his romantic songs seem to inspire me.:-) I have also been known to listen to Harry Connick, Jr. when writing a first draft. Again, the voice ... :-)
      But when I'm brainstorming and plotting, I like to listen to Taylor Swift's Love Story and Enchanted. Very inspiring!

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    2. I must admit, I love Taylor Swift's music and often find that many of her songs are very story-inspiring. I find that with some of Rascal Flatts songs too, although not as much.

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    3. I listen to a variety of music :) Anything really xD I go by mood and not by genre. Right now I'm writing a sad book so I went and found a bunch of songs ranging from country to heavy metal rock to soul to pop and just all over the place. A big inspiration to me right now is Kenny Chesney's "Who You'd Be Today".

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  6. I would LOVE to win one of your books!

    As for my favorite part of the writing process...well, I actually do like the first draft :) I think it's because the story still has so much potential! But I also like polishing - making sure every single word counts and is meaningful.

    And now a question. How do you decide which ideas are worth writing? And even which are worth writing now? I mean, a novel takes so much time, how do you know which ideas to file away for later and which to write now?

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    1. Great questions, heavenlyprincess! :-) You know, I think I just write the story idea that excites me the most. If I'm not excited about a story, and if it doesn't stick in my brain, then I let it go. In fact, I don't write down any of my story ideas. I figure if it's a good enough idea, it will stick in my brain. I'm not really sure about the wisdom of this, but so far, it seems to be working for me! I like for a story to come to me naturally, over time. But I am also discovering the benefits of brainstorming with friends!

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  7. Thanks for these encouraging words, Melanie. God is good!
    My favorite part of the writing process: realizing that the minor character I threw in at the beginning actually has a major part to play in the story.

    barrelrider96@gmail.com

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    1. Yes, Rachel! God is good!
      It does happen sometimes that a minor character will become a much more integral part of the story than one thought at first. That's happened to me several times!

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  8. And I want to thank Stephanie for having me on her blog today! I love meeting all you young genius writers! And it's always good to talk with Stephanie. Isn't SHE awesome???

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    1. Hahaa . . . yes, Stephanie is awesome. :D

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    2. *sputtering laugh* I'm sure all of us introverts have trouble being enchanting when we don't have our keyboards handy, Stephanie. :) But there is a certain something that exudes from certain "online presences." ;)

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  9. Thank you so much! Both to Mrs. Dickerson and to you Stephanie! Thanks!

    I think my favorite part of any writing activity has to be the editing and revising. I don't really enjoy the first draft that much and by the time I'm done revising the story line has changed so much anyway that major parts are completely different.

    Thanks again for the interview and giveaway!

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    1. I really like the editing and revising part too, 4readin. To me the hardest part is just getting that first draft down. But there's nothing to edit if you don't have a first draft! :-)

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  10. I am SO ENCOURAGED that you've gotten a book set in the MEDIEVAL time period published. I've written a Viking novel, and much of the feedback I've gotten is "it's not Tudor, it won't sell." I love Ivanhoe and Arthur and think it's a fascinating time period. And you're right, people weren't so uncouth and stupid as they're made out to be. Humans have always been humans, given intelligence by God himself.

    I think I'd love to read your book!

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    1. Hi, Heather! How awesome to meet a fellow Medieval writer! Have you read Michelle Griep's books? She has two really great Viking stories!
      I used to get so discouraged by all the people who said my Medievals wouldn't sell. But never say never! God always has a plan.
      And I wrote an article once, ranting about all the medieval myths out there, perpetuated by stupid movies! Where all the people have streaks of dirt and a dumb look on their faces!
      I hope you will friend me on facebook! (I hope everyone on here will!) http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000220838349 and my author page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Melanie-Dickerson/173975372695240
      and check out the trailers for my books on my website, www.melaniedickerson.com
      My publisher had them done, so they're pretty good. :-)

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    2. Great! I'll check it out! I have read a little of one of Michelle's books, but she handled her Vikings a little differently than I did!

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  11. I have two favorite parts of writing. The first comes near the beginning when I have an idea and start chasing it down, anything is possible then. The second comes about three-quarters of the way through when curve-balls are thrown and you kind of know how you want the story to end.

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    1. Rebekah, you sound like a pretty experienced author! :-) Writing is its own reward sometimes.

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    2. Rebekah, I copied your comment down. EXACTLY. :)

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  12. This book looks great and I normally don't like things like this. My favorite part of the writing process is the brainstorming part, I think. When Inspiration hits, I just go wild with one idea after another. It's the writing part and editing that I find more of a challenge. (a good kind of challenge though)

    - Jessica P.

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    1. Hi, Jessica! Yes, brainstorming can be really fun, when the ideas are fresh and new and you're imagining all the possibilities!

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  13. I'd love to win your book! I've seen it in various places and it looks very interesting.

    Here's a question: Have you ever tried writing a different genre, and if so, how was it? Much harder for you to write?

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    1. Hi, Ellyn! The book I wrote right before I wrote The Healer's Apprentice was kind of a YA, but not a romance, and it was a contemporary instead of a historical. It was very hard to write. But when I started writing The Healer's Apprentice, I realized that historical romance was definitely my genre. Nothing else was that much fun to write! And it was also (and still is) my favorite genre to read. But it took me a while to realize that.

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  14. Hey Melanie! I'm so glad you can be here today! Unfortunately, I've tried to find your book, but haven't been able to. :(
    Oh my gosh, Quest for Camelot was my favorite childhood movie, and I used to rope my sisters into pretending we were Robin Hood and Will Scarlets' children. It was so much fun!
    And Stephanie, where do you come up with these questions? I mean, brushing teeth? :D
    My favorite part of writing is probably typing 'THE END.' It may not actually be the end, since I always have editing to do, but it certainly makes me feel like I've accomplished something. Speaking of which, do you actually put 'THE END' at the end of your books? I do that for the first draft, but I don't really like doing it when it's completely finished, because it always makes me feel like there's no way the story could continue. And of course the story continues, unless your characters are dead, you just don't see it. Sorry, I'm rambling. :)

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    1. Oh my garsh! I LOVE Quest for Camelot!!!!!

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    2. Hi, Becki! So where were you looking for the book? You can always request it from your local library. Sometimes they will buy a book if a library patron requests it. You can get it from Amazon, or from most book stores. If they don't have it, they'll order it for you if you ask.
      I do put The End at the end, just because it feels good to say It's finished!!! But then my publisher takes it out when she formats it. :-)

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    3. Will have to look up Quest for Camelot, because I don't remember that!

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    4. Oh, thank goodness I'm not the only one who thinks "THE END" looks tacky to a reader. :D Quest for Camelot has Cary Elwes as Garrett, and that's not even the best part! :D
      I looked at the library mostly, but I live in a small town, so we don't have big bookstores, and the bookstores we do have don't carry that type of book. :(

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  15. Melanie, I love how on fire you are for God! My question is, how did you come to Christ?

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    1. How much time do you have, Lydia? LOL! I grew up reading the Bible and God gave me a heart for him early on, but there have been lots of hills and valleys in the journey. I am still just trying to follow hard after Him!

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    2. Lolz same here - it's hard to trust He has a plan when things fall apart, at least that's what I struggle the most with....

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    3. Lydia, it's hard to know what his plan is. Sometimes it take many years to figure out what good thing came out of a bad situation. Sometimes you might not see it this side of heaven.

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    4. Thanks for the encouragement - my Dad has an upcoming surgery, and I certainly needed a boost, so thanks again, you've blessed me more than you know :)

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  16. Question for Melanie: Do you have any great books that you suggest for medieval research?

    My favorite part of the writing process? When I first get an idea and can run with it! Typing as fast as my fingers can go! :)

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    1. Gillian, I mentioned them in my acknowledgements, but Frances and Joseph Gies have written some really great Medieval history books. When I was writing The Merchant's Daughter, I kept Life in a Medieval Village right by my side.

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    2. Now I know I really need to find that book. Like you I adore this time period (in fact, historicals are my favorite, hands down) and want to write in it with as few errors as possible. When this book was mentioned in the back of your book, as well as the back of Lisa T. Bergren's River series, I put it on my to-read list! :)

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  17. I've never actually read any Historian writing, I don't think -- and I've heard so much about Melanie's books in the past year that I know I'm just going to have to read them!:D

    I've just finished my first draft, and though I haven't edited yet, I loooovee writing the first draft. :D:D

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    1. Hi, Emii! Thanks for dropping by! Writing is fun. I think I like everything about it!

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  18. Because I can't think of questions until about another month I'll say that my favorite part of the writing process is getting to know your characters.

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    1. Hi, Alana! Creating characters is another cool part of writing. Sometimes they walk right up and introduce themselves! :-)

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  19. My favorite part of the writing process is syntax. I love choosing just the right words! (the thesaurus is my best friend!) :)

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    1. Megan! Another word person! :-) I love words. They never disappoint. :-)

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  20. My favorite parts of writing are brainstorming and watching my characters become real people. I love putting my pen to paper and watching twists and unexpected turns pop up. I also adore watching my characters expose their faults and their strengths.

    I also have a question - When did you realize you liked writing, and how did it start?

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    1. Hi, Wrider1004! You know, I don't honestly remember when I first realized I liked to write. It must have been around 6th grade. But it may have been earlier than that. I do remember writing stories in a notebook in middle school and passing it around to my friends and they would read what I wrote as soon as I wrote it--instant feedback! :-)

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    2. Wrider1004, you're our winner! Please email me with your mailing address and we'll get your copy of The Merchant's Daughter on its way to you! Stephanie(at)GoTeenWriters.com

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  21. My favorite part of the writing process is getting the idea and creating the plot. The outlining so many writers seem to dislike. ;) Editing is a very close second, though: I love to make my work shine.

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    1. Hi, Kathrine! Everybody writes a little differently, and there is no wrong way to write. Some are outliners and others are seat-of-the-pants writers. It's all good!

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  22. I LOVED this interview! :D I think my favorite part of writing is writing the very beginning and polishing it. For some reason, I just LOVE tweaking and re-tweaking the beginning to have a full impact on the reader. :)
    That said, some of the most wonderful moments in writing for me are when I suddenly put something together in my head and add in huge plot twists. Like, "Yes! I finally know why the antagonist hates the protagonist!!"

    Question for Melanie: Since you like writing historical ficiton, do you also prefer to read historical fiction, or do you have other genres you like to read as well? :)

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    1. Savannah, I do prefer to read historical romance, but I also like to branch out occasionally and read something completely different. I really liked The Help, although that was really a historical, but kind of a more recent historical. But yeah, now that I think about it, I almost exclusively read historicals!

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  23. I think my favorite part of the writing process is brainstorming. I've found that I tend to brainstorm ideas for a few different stories, then I somehow merge them into one idea. For me, brainstorming is a magical time that has so many possibilities, and because it's at such an early stage, none of those ideas are bad!

    Thanks for doing this interview. I'm adding your books to my (incredibly long) "to read" list.

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    1. Ha! Thanks, T.E.!
      I agree, the brainstorming phase is pretty magical.

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    2. Alright, I've tried a couple times to reach the original winner and had no luck. T.E. Brynnan you're the "new" winner - please email me at Stephanie(at)GoTeenWriters.com and we'll get the book in the mail to you.

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  24. I guess I'll have to say that I love getting to know my characters in the writing process, I can do anything I want with them and in the end I think they're real. Even if they are just in my head for now.

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  25. Thanks for the great interview:)
    My favorite part of the writing process is brainstorming. Most of the time it seems like I can't get past this stage!

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  26. Melanie, it was so fun reading your interview. You are awesome. :) When you said "God is faithful." that really touched me. Thank you for sharing some of your thoughts with us! :)

    My favorite part about the writing process is when it becomes so alive that it breathes. You know that stage, where your characters are so real and the plot so tangible you get lost in it. When it starts to write itself. When I'm giggling along with my characters over something funny they've done, and or crying because they're going through a really rough time. I feel so blessed by God when I have those moments. That's when I FEEL like a writer. ;)

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  27. How fun!! I think my favorite part of the process is building the characters... Watching them grow is just pure magic. Seeing the beginning of their stories and seeing the end result of who they were and what they've become is the best feeling.

    Thanks for the amazing giveaway! :D

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  28. Hello Mrs. Dickerson! :)

    I had a question about your writing... what happens when you get writers block? What do you do to re-inspire yourself, or get those creative juices flowing again?

    Thanks for offering up one of your books!

    jazzdivagirl(at)suddenlink(dot)net

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  29. My favorite part of the writing process is weaving the story together - which usually involves both the initial brainstorming and the parts of the first draft where that idea that was just barely eluding you or that character that just wasn't working suddenly figures itself out or the fix just hits you smack between the eyes and you spend the rest of the day walking around in a daze, amazed at the greatness and awesome plot twist said idea will add to your story. :) (Wow, that's one long sentence. :P Sorry?)

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  30. Hello, Ms. Dickerson. I am a huge fan of your books, and I wondered, what drew you to fairy tales? I think it is helpful for writers to find inspiration, so I wondered how you found yours.

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  31. I have read reviews on Melanie's books and I am so very excited to read her work! Sign me up for the giveaway!

    My favorite part of writing is the moment when I know the characters are telling ME their story. It's like watching the scenes unfold and just writing what is happening. It gives me confidence and encouragment to push through!

    Have a God-filled day!
    Lana
    lanapacker(at)me(dot)come

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  32. (Please don't enter me in this giveaway. I have an ARC of this awesome book.)

    This interview was such fun to read. Truly. I love the way you interview, Stephanie! And that teeth question! *rolling laughter* Gets me every time I think about it.

    Melanie, I so admire your stories, because I am a die-hard fairy tale fan. And the way you are passionate about God shines through your work so clearly...I just love it...

    My favorite part of the writing process is probably the first draft when I hit a wall and don't know what's going to happen next...Okay, actually, my favorite part is directly After that when the story takes over and writes itself! :)

    Melanie, you don't have to answer this, but are you writing more fairy-tale-ish stories? :)

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  33. I love both of Melanie's books (and I have both of them) and the way they are written, what time period they are set in and the fact that Beauty & The Beast is my favorite fairy tale makes The Merchants daughter a favorite as well. I cannot wait for your next book and to hear which fairy tale it will be on :) Sierra
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

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  34. Hey, everybody! Sorry I didn't answer these last few comments! I do have a Snow White story coming out later this year, in August. Congrats to T.E. for winning a copy of my book!
    By the way, my publisher is doing a Valentine promotion, so until Feb. 20th, both my ebooks are $2.99, http://www.amazon.com/The-Merchants-Daughter-ebook/dp/B004PYDM4I/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1328730215&sr=8-3

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