Friday, November 15, 2013

Melanie Dickerson on Debut Novels

Stephanie here. In honor of The Unlikely Debut of Ellie Sweet releasing this month, I've asked a couple writer friends to share about what their book debut was like.

We're also giving away a copy of Melanie's latest fairy tale retelling, The Captive Maiden. You can find details at the end of Melanie's story.

Melanie Dickerson is the author of fairy tale retellings, two of which have finaled in the Christy Awards. She loves writing romance and lives with her husband and two daughters in Alabama. Visit her on her website, www.MelanieDickerson.com, which includes her blog, and you can watch her trailers there as well. Keep up with any breaking news about her books on her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/MelanieDickersonBooks and on Twitter @melanieauthor. She loves hearing from her readers, so don’t hesitate to say hello!

A debut novel is a dream come true. In my case, as is usually the case, it was the culmination of many years’ work, of studying the craft of writing, of researching and learning about marketing and the publishing industry and the different genres, and especially, writing. Writing, writing, writing. Hours, days, weeks and years. And when that first novel was finally published, it was a glorious thing.

At least, that’s how I presumed it would feel. In fact, I’d heard authors say that whenever they got their box of author copies, they cried tears of joy. They stared lovingly at the cover. They danced and celebrated ecstatically. So that was how I expected to react too. But the truth is, it wasn’t quite like that for me.

When the UPS man came and brought my box of books, I was excited. I tore open the box and stared at the identical copies of MY BOOK with MY NAME right on the cover. But rather than joy, I felt an excitement that was maybe more akin to terror than anything else. People were actually going to be reading this book that I had written, this piece of myself. Strangers—who knew how many, but hundreds, at least—would read these words, MY words and MY story. It was an unsettling feeling. No, not just unsettling. It was nauseatingly terrifying.

I had laid a copy of The Healer’s Apprentice on an end table in our living room, thinking I would enjoy having it in a prominent place where I could see it, since the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach would surely go away soon. For the next several days, every time I walked by that end table and saw that book lying there, I felt queasy. Nauseated. Terrified. What if everybody hated it? What if my friends read it and decided I was a freak? What if it got scathing reviews on Amazon for the whole world to see? Even the thought of one scathing review was horrifying.

But the first several reviews I got were not scathing. In fact, most people seemed to really like it. Whew. What a relief!

I did have to face my first 1-star review. And then another one, and then another. That was a process of learning to focus on why I was writing and who I was writing for, which took at least a year or two to work through, but I won’t go into that. I suspect all writers deal with it in different ways, and most decide NOT to read their 1-star reviews.

View Melanie's books on Amazon.com

And I did eventually get over that feeling sick when I thought about other people reading my book. But I did have a very amusing thing happen with my debut novel.

In my book, Peter Brunckhorst is the name of the villain. He is ugly and evil, and at first, the reader thinks he is only a wool merchant who wants to marry the heroine. Later on, you find that Peter Brunckhorst wasn’t his real name at all and that he is not at all what he seemed. He turns out to be a real nasty piece of work, a conjurer of demons, no less. So, you can imagine my surprise one day when I happened to check my email, and in my inbox was a message from PETER BRUNCKHORST!

I was in shock. Was someone playing a joke on me? Or was there really a person named Peter Brunckhorst who had read my book and been extremely offended that I could use HIS NAME for such a horrible character!?

With great trepidation, I opened the email.

It was not an angry message demanding I make a public apology for maligning his good name in my pretentious little novel. (Thank goodness!) Rather, it was a very polite message from a man named Peter Brunckhorst who lived in one of the New England states. (I forget which one. I think Massachusetts.) He explained that he had been researching the genealogy of his family name, Brunckhorst, and he has been unable to trace it farther than the 1500’s. He had noticed my book was set in Germany in the 1300’s, and since his family was originally from Germany, he wanted to know whether I had found the name in my research as far back as the 1300’s.

Whew! Is that all? But I did have to admit to him that, although I usually get my characters’ names from a census list from the time period and the place where my story is set, I had not found the name Brunckhorst that way. (In fact, I had found it on a package of ham, but I didn’t tell him that.) I thought the name sounded delightfully interesting and kind of hard-edged, and once I confirmed that it was German, I decided to use it for my villain, who had actually invented his name. So I had to tell the poor man that I had been unable to find it that far back either.

But it was really weird to get an email from my villain a few weeks after the book came out. Really, really weird.

So when you end up with a debut novel of your very own, I hope you enjoy it AT LEAST as much as I did. ;-)





Because we love Melanie and we want her to be able to keep writing books, Go Teen Writers is buying a copy of The Captive Maiden to give away to one lucky person. You can enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About The Captive Maiden:

Happily Ever After ...Or Happily Nevermore? 

Gisela's childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father's death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela learns the duke's son, Valten---the boy she has daydreamed about for years---is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it's only for a taste of a life she'll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten's eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

View The Captive Maiden on Amazon.com

54 comments:

  1. Wow Melanie! I've thought about people not liking my book for maybe a split second, but now I'm curious as to how I'll feel when I see my book in my hands...Time will tell, I guess. :D
    And, I must say, I find that incident with Peter quite amusing. It's really cool! I've always wondered if someone with the name of one of my characters would read my book and what that would be like... :) Anyway. thank you for this post!

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  2. That would be freaky having your villain email you. Thanks for the post, I know I have been nervous about other people reading my stuff, especially a critique group.

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  3. I always google the names of my characters. I found my Mc is a ugly middle-aged lawyer in Australia, hardly the handsome young musician he is in the books.

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  4. I examined Melanie's book at the library, but I'm not allowed to read romances.

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  5. I can't ever do any of the raffles because I don't have facebook or twitter

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    1. That's why we always make the "Leave a blog post comment" option available :)

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  6. Thanks Melanie!! I've always thought I would be ecstatic it I ever got published, but it's probably more likely that I would be like you. I get nervous even letting my parents read my writing! Great post!

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  7. I can't believe this post showed up two days after I published my debut novel! Talk about timing. That email story sounds crazy, but it was fun to read!

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    1. Congratulations, Zara! :)

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  8. I love Melanie Dickerson! I have loved her unique twist on fairy tales, and can't wait until The Captive Maiden comes out!

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  9. That's definitely something I've thought about when other people read my work (happened just this week in a writing workshop for my fiction writing class--it went better than I thought it would!). I can't wait to read Captive Maiden! I love the other books. :)

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  10. I laughed so hard! When my first poem was accepted, I read the e-mail, told my family, and fell asleep. Getting over the irony that I am a poet that hates reading poetry was a holding back my excitement, haha

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    1. Oh, and there is a little girl at my work that has "almost" the same name as a little girl in my book. The worst part is that I keep saying the character's name instead of her. Oops : )

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  11. Thanks for all the wonderful comments! Truly, it is great to have your first book published! And I'm not nervous at all seeing my newest book, The Captive Maiden. I just got my author copies two days ago, and I love looking at them! :-) So the nauseous feeling does go away after the second or third book. ;-)

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  12. That is a great story about Brunckhorst!

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  13. I have a feeling that I am going to feel the same way if my novel ever gets published! I am more nervous because people keep telling me I am basing the main characters off of my friends. I am totally not doing it on purpose and I can't just stop. Plus all of my friends really want to read it but I am not sure how they will react if then realize certain people are in it or that they themselves are in it. *shrug* at least none of them are the bad guys ;)

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  14. I would be so freaked out if I got an email with my villain's name in the subject. And all your covers are GORGEOUS, by the way :)

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  15. Oh wow. If someone ever told me that I'd accidentally used their name in my novel, I think I'd freak.

    I get nervous about people reading my work, but it helps if I know I have friends reading it too.

    Thanks for the giveaway and the post, Mrs. Dickerson!

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  16. Cool post!
    Your book is on my Christmas list, so I'll be sitting this drawing out in order to be fair to my family. But it looks awesome and I can't wait to read it.
    The idea of strangers reading my book isn't so scary to me. Its my friends and family. I'm pretty sure that when they read my stuff they'll come away certain that I'm absolutely insane, and maybe even think they see similarities between themselves and a character...my luck it will be the bad guy. XP
    My current novel for instance, I'm getting ready to start querying for. It's a gangster story, so the antagonists are addicts and gangsters etc. As fate would have it my cousins started acting like my antagonists as I was writing. I told my mom that I didn't want them reading it and thinking I was using them in my story. So I said I was going to choose a pen name and never tell any of my family that I was responsible for the book.
    True to mother form, she said no.

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    1. One time I wrote a story and used two names of my friends little sisters (it was accidental). Anna was an original, then I met his sisters and liked the name Andeline so I used her name too. Then after the story was finished I found out I made Anna evil, and killed Andeline....

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    2. I can relate, Maddie. My last novel's MC was a girl who had lost her father. She pretended to be okay with it, but in reality, she was seriously emotionally messed up, and didn't tell anyone out of a combination of not wanting to be judge and not wanting to depress others, above all her mother. This is a ghost story, by the way. So, as I was planning and the initial ideas were all coming together in my mind, the father of one of my best friends -- who loves ghost stories -- is killed in an accident. But by now it's too much an integral part of the story to change it. MC would not act the way she does or be the person she has become without this death. It causes her to make a decision which basically opens the door to all the action -- twice, as a matter of fact. So there was no way I could remove it from the story. MC wasn't in any way based on my friend, but I was still worried she'd see herself in it. I thought she might read the story and think it was my way of telling her that I didn't think she was dealing with her father's death (in hindsight, who would go to the trouble of writing a whole novel to do this? But that's how I felt at the time and I was freaking out) and I'd offend her or something. So I didn't want to let her read it. Even if she didn't think MC was her, I was still worried it would remind her of the event and upset her.

      Eventually, I just explained this to her (she'd been repeatedly begging me to let her read it and I was running out of excuses like "you can read it when I've edited it"). She took it really well and everything turned out fine! So don't worry about accidentally putting people you know in your books -- let's face it, it's bound to happen. Your friends and family will know you don't mean any offence. Just explain to them that it's subconscious and you can't help it, but no one in your book is supposed to be them, so any similarities they find are a coincidence :)

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  17. Wow, awesome post! That was absolutely hilarious about your villain ... thanks for sharing!! :)

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  18. Awesome post, Melanie!! :) I plan to read The Fairest Maiden soon, but the last time I was at my library someone had checked it out, so I was unable to grab it. :P I love the cover for alll of your books, their beautiful! :D

    Thanks for sharing here, Melanie!!

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  19. Sounds like an interesting experience... I always wonder what it would be like to have a physical copy of my own story in my hands!

    Thank you for sharing! :)

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  20. Yes! I love Melanie's books :) And I love your story about your villain :)

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  21. Thanks for the giveaway! The book looks amazing!

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  22. That's funny, getting a letter from your villain. Though that would be a bit freaky to....

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    1. btw, thanks for sharing Melanie. :-)

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    2. From Amo Libros:
      Really freaky...that story was funny though ;)

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  23. Loved your post, Mel! That is so funny that your villain emailed you. Wowzers. LOL

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  24. Melanie, I love your books! I've read every single one--except for the Captive Maiden.
    Please never stop writing!
    --Elise

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  25. My debut novella comes out in January.

    I am already terrified.

    I am so relieved to find this is normal.

    Thank you, Melanie. *sighs* Thank you.

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  26. I haven't read any of Melanie's books, but they all sound really interesting. I'd love to own one!(And, of course, that'd be another books for my already overflowing shelf...) :D
    The Captive Maiden sounds really intriguing. Thank you for the giveaway!

    -Ryebrynn

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  27. Oh gosh...I never want to get emails from anyone with my book characters' names! That's kinda scary...
    Thanks so much for the post, Melanie!

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  28. Eeek! Melanie's books are next on my TBR list! This is awesome!

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  29. Okay, that story made me laugh. Getting an email from your villain...something only a writer would freak out over. ;)

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    1. From Amo Libros:
      Seriously, though, that sounds like it has the makings of a good storyline...a writer gets emailed by their villain...we've got to be able to do SOMETHING with that...

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    2. That would make a good story prompt. An author gets an email from their villain ... who is it really? A serial killer? A disturbed ex-boyfriend? A jealous fellow author? LOL!

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  30. Love this story! It was fantastic, thank you for sharing! I've been waiting forever for this book and I can't wait to read it! Yay!

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  31. Hi, when I tweeted about the giveaway, it posted @menlanieauthors instead of @melanieauthor. Just wanted you to know! =)

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  32. Thanks so much for coming by! I enjoyed reading your about your experience! Especially about the villain and the other man's name!

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  33. Thanks so much for posting, Mrs. Dickerson I know how terrifying it is to have my book read by a few carefully selected critique partners. Having it out there for anyone to read will be hard, but also so cool!

    Thanks!

    ~Sarah Faulkner

    www.inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

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  34. I loved this post! Thank you so much. :)

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  35. I hope no-one who shares a name with one of my character reads my book. Hopefully, it will be less likely with my sci-fi books.
    I think I will read my one star reviews. I know I'm going to get some because there is some controversial stuff in my books I'm not removing. I'm used to people opposing some of those views so if that's why they don't like my book, it won't bother me too much.

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  36. Oh my goodness!!!!!!!!!!! That's amazing and freaky at the same time! (that your villain would email you) :):):)

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  37. I love this post, Melanie! And I'm super excited for The Captive Maiden. :)

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  38. Wow. that's an awesome story! At least he wasn't mad. lol

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  39. Great post! :D I need to read your books now . . .

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  40. Wow! I love all these comments! You guys are amazing over here at Go Teen Writers! But then, Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson are amazing, so I'm not surprised! Thanks for the love! I'm glad you all enjoyed my funny real-life Peter Brunckhorst story. :-)

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  41. If I got a letter from my villian ... *shudders, hides under table* (Considering my villian is a dragon at one point and a demon possessed boy at another, getting a letter from my villian would NOT be good.)

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  42. Haha! That is hilarious that your villain emailed you! Apparently JRR Tolkien got a letter from a Sam Gamgee once (although not a villain). He said it would have been a totally different matter if he got a letter signed S. Gollum. Interesting post!

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