Monday, December 21, 2009

Interview and books giveaway with Melanie Dobson

Lisa: Today, I’m thrilled to introduce Melanie Dobson! Welcome, Melanie. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Melanie: My husband and I have adopted two beautiful girls, and I love being both a writer and a mom. Because of my husband’s work, we’ve spent a lot of time moving the past decade including seasons in Colorado, Tennessee, North Carolina, California, and Germany. Now we are settled into a small town near Portland (Oregon), and we are grateful for a few years of calm after all our travels.

Lisa: My family has moved a lot as well in the past couple years, so I understand the gratefulness for a few years of calm. Tell us about your writing career. How long have you been writing, and how many books do you have published?

Melanie: I’ve been a bit obsessive (some would say a lot obsessive) about writing since I was a child. When I was nine, I plucked out my “autobiography” on my dad’s old typewriter, and when I was eleven, I handwrote fifty pages of a mystery novel before I lost interest in the story. Even though this story ended abruptly, I fell in love with the creative process and loved imagining what would happen to my characters.

When I graduated from college, I pursued public relations as a career and spent almost a decade writing press releases in lieu of creative writing. I dreamed about writing fiction but intended to start when I was “older.” Months before my thirtieth birthday it hit me that I was, in fact, “older,” and if I was going to pursue this dream, I had been better start soon. It took me seven years, and three completed manuscripts, to learn how to write fiction. I’ve now published four novels and have three more coming out next year.

Lisa: Congratulations! Tell me about the book you’re featuring today and especially its international setting.

Melanie: The Black Cloister is a fast-paced suspense novel about two young women—one who is traveling across Germany in search of answers about her past and another who is trapped in an abusive religious cult and doesn’t know how to break free. In the story, Elise Friedman travels to Germany to find answers about her deceased mother’s past, and she discovers her mother’s dark secret inside the medieval Marienthron abbey.

Lisa: What made you want to write this story and what is your connection to this setting?

Melanie: The idea for The Black Cloister was sparked by two similar stories from two very different time periods. My family and I lived for a season in the former East Berlin, and our flat was a block from the remains of the Berlin Wall. My life was changed as I roamed the back streets of the city, visited Martin Luther’s Wittenberg, and learned about both the triumph of the Reformation and the terrifying days of Communist rule. At an old monastery, I also learned the story of Martin Luther’s wife (Katharina von Bora) and her daring escape from a German abbey.

A story began to form in my mind for a novel about Katharina von Bora, but it was missing a thread until we came back to the States and I met a woman who had been raised overseas in an abusive cult. She shared her stories about growing up in a commune, and with her help, I wove together the history of Katharina’s escape from the abbey with the contemporary suspense story of a woman trapped in a religious cult.

Lisa: What research did you have to do for this book?

Melanie: I researched cults similar to the fictitious Chosen cult in The Black Cloister, and my friend who grew up in an abusive cult answered my many questions and helped me understand why someone would stay in such a terrible environment. Researching the cult was difficult and disturbing, but I thoroughly enjoyed my research about Katharina von Bora and learning about the various German towns featured in the book.

Lisa: What was your favorite part of writing this book, and the hardest?

Melanie: My husband and I backpacked across Europe in 2003, two years before we moved to Berlin. We toured the hilltop Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther translated the New Testament, stumbled through the ruins of a castle on the Rhine, and basked inside churches and abbeys that had been built in the 15th and 16th centuries. Exploring new places like these and wondering about the stories that happened within their walls was my favorite part of writing this book. The hardest part was delving into the dark mind of a corrupt cult leader. I felt like I needed to write from his point of view for several chapters so readers could understand why my other characters feared him, but I felt ill every time I ventured back into his mind. Friends and family definitely prayed me through the writing of this book!

Lisa: What are you working on now or going to write next?

Melanie: I’m editing two novels right now that will be published next year. A romantic suspense novel titled Refuge on Crescent Hill and a historical romance novel set in the Amana Colonies titled Love Finds You in Homestead, Iowa. In January I’ll start to write another romantic suspense titled The Silent Order that is set during the Prohibition years.

Lisa: Yeah! Another Summerside Press gal. ☺ Tell us what are you currently reading?

Melanie: My nightstand is piled high with books, but last night I enjoyed reading Mindy Starns Clark’s new book “Under the Cajun Moon.” I’ve been reading a number of books about the Mafia as I research my new novel though it’s not the best nighttime reading material. ☺

Lisa: Probably not. LOL Tell us something fun about yourself that readers may not know.

Melanie: I love to go line dancing and two-stepping when my husband and I are able to sneak away for a date night.

Lisa: When was The Black Cloister released?

Melanie: The Black Cloister released Spring 2008, and I was so honored when I found out ForeWord Magazine named it “Book of the Year” in their religious fiction category. It's also being released in Dutch.

Lisa: That’s fantastic! Thanks so much for stopping by our blog. We all wish you the best with your future books! To learn more about Melanie and her writing, please stop by her website.

Melanie has graciously offered to have a giveaway of her book and this book is open to anyone, WORLDWIDE! Leave a comment below with a way to contact you and I’ll draw a name just after the new year.


Lisa Harris


  1. What a great interview. The book sounds great. Thanks. Merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks Lisa and Melanie for an extremely interesting interview. The Black Cloister sound like a fascinating read.
    Have a blessed Christmas.

  3. Lisa, great interview! Melanie, your book set in Germany sounds fascinating :-) Merry Christmas!

    narelle [at] narelleatkins [dot] com

  4. Wow - sounds like a great book! I'll definitely throw my hat in the ring for the chance to get to read it this summer :)

  5. Great interview! I would love to be entered in your wonderful draw. Thanks.

  6. Congrats to April, for winning a copy of Melanie's book. Please come back soon for lots of chances to win great fiction!