Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Merchant's Daughter GIVE-AWAY

Our guest today is Melanie Dickerson, author of The Merchant’s Daughter (Zondervan, 2011). 

Melanie tells a good story. Raised as the daughter of a wealthy merchant, beautiful Annabel is reduced by her family’s debts to a choice between marriage to a lecherous steward or indentured servanthood in the household of the “beastly” Lord Ranulf le Wyse.  She chooses servanthood, but her troubles are far from over. Lord Ranulf’s brooding manner, eye patch and physical and emotional scars make him as intriguing to the reader as he is to Annabel. Her hunger to read God’s Word in an era when Bibles are rare and even the priest doesn’t own one, makes her long for a cloistered life in a convent, but is that the future God has for her?

Melanie, I would ask where you get your ideas, but this is obviously a retelling of the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast. What made you choose this specific story?

Melanie Dickerson: LeAnne, I have always loved “Beauty and the Beast,” and it was probably my favorite fairy tale, especially as a teen, so it was a natural choice. And once I started thinking about it, I quickly started getting an idea for the story.

LH: Your previous book, The Healer’s Apprentice, (a retelling of Disney’s Sleeping Beautyset in medieval Germany) is also fourteenth century. What draws you to that time period?

MD: I just happen to like that particular century. A lot was going on. Europe had just gone through a devastating plague that had killed around one-third of the population, and the world was on the brink of great social and religious upheaval. But I wanted to sort of avoid these two great upheavals, so I set my stories well before the Reformation, when life was becoming a little more modern, and yet in many ways, life was still very much “medieval,” with all the colorful characters that are so uniquely medieval, like feudal lords, knights, and villeins, stewards, bailiffs, peasants and priests.

LH: The Merchant’s Daughter is set in the village of Glynval, England. Is Glynval a real place? Have you been there?

MD: Glynval is a fictional village. I was deliberately vague about its location. I did a lot of research, looked at many, many photos of rural England, even went to Google Earth and looked at the topography of England, especially within a few days’ journey of London. I wanted my village to be an idyllic place, with all the beauty of the English countryside.

LH: Your character, Annabel, longs to read the Bible for herself in a period when most people can’t read and copies of the Bible are transcribed by hand. She assumes that life in a convent is the only way that she can really be close to God. What would you like readers to take from your book spiritually?

MD: I would like them to feel, along with Annabel, what a great blessing it is to be able to read God’s own word, to know what God’s true thoughts are and what He wants us to understand about him and about the meaning of life. I want them to come to the conclusion, just as Annabel does, that God loves them and sent the Bible so that they could know this.

LH: How hard was it to get a publisher to consider the European setting and the medieval time period?

MD: It was very hard. It took me two years to get an agent and another year and a half to get a publisher. After being rejected by nearly every Christian publisher as an adult romance, the Young Adult editor at Zondervan made an offer on it. But things seem to be opening up more and more, slowly but surely, for European settings.

LH: Although your books have been published as YA, I'm sure adult romance lovers enjoy them, too. Dare I ask how sales have been in this market that seems stuck in nineteenth-century America?

MD: Sales have been good, and I can tentatively say that I do have more books coming out. 

LH: More fairy tales in the works?

MD: I have a Snow White story and a Cinderella story—coming soon!

LH: Thank you for being with us today, Melanie. May the Lord use your books to challenge young people.

Melanie has graciously agreed to give away a copy of The Merchant's Daughter to a reader of this blog. An electronic copy is available so we welcome entries from any place in the world! For a chance to win, leave a comment by Friday, February 3. We'd love for you to tell us your favorite fairy tale and why. Don't forget to leave your e-mail (writing out 'at' and 'dot' to avoid phishers) so I can contact you.  (As usual, the odds of winning depend on the number of entries. Void where prohibited by law.)


Interviewer LeAnne Hardy has lived in 6 countries on 4 continents, including the village of Thatcham in West Berkshire, England (which she pictured as she read about Melanie's Glynval). Her historical novel, Glastonbury Tor, is a story of the early Reformation and the Holy Gral. Find out more on her website.


  1. I'm not sure if this counts, but I think my favorite fairy tale is the King Arthur legends...because they might possibly be real. So fun. I also love beauty and the beast. Partly because I saw the play with my husband before we were even dating and it brings me back to those days of romance. If by some odd chance I win the book, I would love an electronic copy, I have a Nook. God Bless.

  2. Kristen, I love all things Arthurian as well. Did you know that Glastonbury is said to be the Avalon of the tales? It is incredible to walk the hills that would have been islands in the day and imagine.

  3. Hi, Kristen! Thanks for coming by and commenting! I absolutely loved the King Arthur stories when I was younger. And the Beauty and the Beast musical is fabulous (much better than the movie!) because it gives you a little bit more insight into the characters, and there's a few extra scenes, one especially that shows the beast and Belle warming up to each other. I love live theatre! :-)

  4. And thanks so much, LeAnne, for inviting me to be on the blog! It's great to be with other Internationally-minded writers. :-)

  5. Beauty and the Beast all the way!

    I've heard a lot of great things about this book & your writing, Melanie. And of course, I like your name. :)

  6. Oh what a brilliant idea, Melanie! I'd never thought of adapting fairy tales. And yet they have everything. A villain, a wounded hero, a naive young beauty. Wow, can't wait till you write Snow White. What a snarky villainess to work on.
    ritagalieh at gmail dot com

  7. Hi Melanie, what a wonderful looking book. I know I'd love it and want to look out for all your fairy tale adaptations. It's a stunning cover too. Please put me in the draw :D I'd love either format as I have a brand new kindle for ebooks.
    I think I'd choose "The Frog Prince". The princess begins with some attitudes that need to be ironed out and she actually grows to love and appreciate the frog for himself before she gets the wonderful surprise that he's a heart-throb prince after all. I think some good writing could be done from his POV too, to explain how he ended up in his predicament. Some great scope for character development.
    My email address is paulavince at internode dot on dot net

  8. LeAnne and Melanie, great interview! Melanie, your book sounds like a fascinating read :)
    narelle [at] narelleatkins [dot] com

  9. Hi, Melanie! Thanks for coming by! I've never met a Melanie I didn't like! :-)

  10. Hi, Rita!!! I'm finding that a lot of the fairy tales have similarities, so it's becoming a challenge to make the evil stepmothers unique and the damsels in distress with gumption and backbone! LOL But I'm having fun with it. I take the basic premise and then add my own characterization and plot twists, so it's great. I'm working on my fourth one now. And I just love writing within a medieval setting.

  11. Hi, Paula! Thanks for coming by! I like the Frog Prince story too. The challenge with some of the fairy tales is writing without magic. I want my stories to be historically authentic, and to be historicals, not fantasies, so I take the basic concept of the particular fairy tale and ask myself, what would this story be like if it really happened? If it were completely realistic? With the Frog Prince, I'd take a prince and, instead of turning him into a frog, someone powerful could come along and somehow strip away all his privilege and power and make him, say, a stable boy or give him some really menial job that for some reason he can't escape, like carting dung or something. But making it realistic might get complicated! Still, now that I'm thinking about it, it could work! :-)

  12. Hi, Narelle! Thanks for coming by! :-)

  13. I'd love a copy of your book Melanie!

    Sleeping Beauty has stuck with me for some reason since I was young. I have twin girls that love Disney Princesses. When they turned 7 we took them to Disneyworld and of course we had to stop and have their pictures taken with the princesses. One of the girls was so star struck she was speechless. In the pictures she stiff and looks like she's in shock. She's never going to live that one down. :)

  14. my favorite appears to be the animated telling of Anastasia (not Disney.....twentieth century fox). when my daughter puts it on, i stop what i'm doing to watch. love the banter back and forth between meg ryan (anastasia) and john cusack (dimitri) that you don't see in traditional fairy tales. but i LOVE them too! i'm so excited to be entered for this book, b/c melanie's first book was amazing!!

  15. Oooh! Thanks so much for a chance to win Melanie's book! My favorite fairy tale is (I don't suppose Taming of the Shrew counts.) Cinderella.


  16. Melanie, Always a pleasure to learn more about you and your writing process. The cover of TMD is gorgeous. Wishing you continued success.

  17. my favourite fairy tale has always been 'cinderella.' i have loved this story since childhood.

    thank you for the opportunity to read melanie's latest novel.

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  18. My favorite fairytale has always been Cinderella. I think I like it so much because I want to be the one who is swept off her feet by a handsome prince. Something inside me wants to go from peasant to princess in a matter of hours. Isn't that what love is supposed to be like?

  19. Karen and Megan, I used to live in South Africa where I did story hours with township kids from families affected by HIV. Cinderella was their favorite story hands down. Think of it--a poor, abused orphan grows up to marry someone rich and powerful.

  20. The first two names I drew failed to leave a contact e-mail, so the winner is Aly Logan! Congratulations, Aly