Andy native publishes 2nd book

Published 12:20 am Saturday, December 31, 2011

Andalusia native Melanie Lee Dickerson is seeing success with her second novel, “The Merchant’s Daughter,” published by Zondervan in November and just released for e-readers.

And the mother of two believes she’s found her genre.

Never heard of “a Christian, young adult historical romance based on a fairy tale?” Well, neither had anyone else. But Dickerson said fairy tales are big in teen literature right now, and her publisher believed there was room for fairy tales in Christian literature, as well.

The plot takes a twist on “Beauty and the Beast.” Annabel, the daughter of a once-wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf’s bailiff—a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past.

Her first book, “The Healer’s Apprentice” incorporated the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tale, and was a Christy Award finalist; Carol Award finalist; Golden Quill finalist; National Readers Choice Award winner for Best First Book; HOLT Medallion Award of Merit, and Maggie Award finalist.

“I got the idea from my first book which came out in 2010 when I was watching Sleeping Beauty with my daughters,” Dickerson said. “When I first started writing it, I was trying to write a young adult book. But I didn’t know that I wanted to write romance. I quickly discovered that was my genre. I wanted to write Christian books. I had already written one novel, and had given up on getting that one published. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as fairy tale retailings. But it’s a genre popular in secular young adult books.”

When she finished that one, she launched a series based on fairy tales. She plans a third one for August of 2012.

“It was the first one of its kind, a fairy tale retailing for a Christian audience,” she said. “I took the fairy tale and kind of said, ‘What would this story be like if it really happened?’ ”

Reviewers say her books are inspirational and include references to scripture, but aren’t “preachy.”

Dickerson began her writing career with children’s short stories for magazines. The experience of getting those published helped her get her first book published, she said.

“If you want to get a book published today, you have to get an agent first,” she said. “Publishers don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. It took two years after I wrote ‘Healer’s Apprentice’ to find an agent brave enough to try to sell a Christian young adult romance based on a fairy tale.”

It happened that Zondervan was expanding its young adult line.

“My editor was absolutely wonderful,” Dickerson said. “She said, ‘It’s a popular genre in secular publishing, it might work in Christian.’ ”

While the books are targeted at “young adult” audiences, which typically are categorized as ages 12 to 25, Dickerson said she’s had adults read her books and say they didn’t feel like they were reading “teen” novels.

“People who like historical romance will probably like my books,” she said.

Dickerson said she works at her writing life after sending her daughters, ages 13 and 10, off to school.

“I try to write from 8 to 3,” she said. “If I’m on a deadline, I write at night, too.”

She spends a good deal of that time answering interviews and promoting her books in other ways.

During the development of a book, she said, story ideas pop into her head almost any time.

“The more mundane the task, like if I’m driving down the road, I’m usually plotting,” she said.

Dickerson, the daughter of Covington County’s Voneice Lee, said she always wanted to be a writer.

“When I started college, I had the fatalistic mindset that it would be really hard to get published, and I should go to college and get a real job,” she said. “I quit writing for about 15 years. If I had it to do over again, I would not quit.”

Locally, her work is available at Tabby D’s Christian Bookstore. More information is available at