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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Historical Process of Writing with Melanie Dobson

My interview today is with an award-winning author of seventeen historical romance, time-slip, suspense, and contemporary novels including Catching the Wind, Beneath a Golden Veil, and The Silent Order. 

Three of her novels including Chateau of Secrets have won Carol Awards, and Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana won Best Novel of Indiana. So let’s see what she has to share.

What drew you to writing historical fiction?
I love to learn about the past so I’ve enjoyed reading historical fiction since I was young. When I was a child, we lived in the country, and every Saturday I rode my bike to the bookmobile and loaded up my basket with books. I enjoyed reading the Little House on the Prairie books quite a bit and Emily of New Moon and dozens of others. I would slip away into their worlds and stay for as long as possible.

What type of research do you do in writing a story with a historical base? Tell me about the process.
Before I write a historical novel, I spend about a month researching by reading books, asking lots of questions, and—my favorite part—exploring the main settings in my books. I do my absolute best to make sure my historical facts and the descriptions of my locations are accurate. When I wrote Catching the Wind, I had to change the cliffs on an English river to the east instead of west for the sake of the fictional story. I made a note in the back of the book just in case one of my readers lived near River Ouse.

How do you react when a reader complains that your descriptions of areas aren’t correct?
I love hearing from my readers! I can’t think of any complaints that I’ve received specifically about description, but I always respond to readers who email me if they have a question or comment about my writing. 

What are some of the more difficult aspects of writing historical novels?
Getting my facts straight is incredibly important to me as well as trying to capture the influences and world events that impacted my character’s thoughts and motivations during a specific time period. I really enjoy learning, and I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to publish novels spanning multiple decades of history from the 1700s to the present day.

I see you’ve been published by several different companies and this year have published with Amazon. Are you moving towards indie-publishing?
I’ve republished three of my books as an indie, and I’ve received the rights back to five more of my historical romance titles so I will be republishing those soon as well. My new novels are still traditionally published. I enjoy working with the editorial and marketing teams at my publishing houses (one of which is an imprint of Amazon) so I don’t anticipate moving toward indie-publishing for any of my new books in the next few years.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
A few months ago, I walked into the bedroom of my twelve-year-old daughter, and she was curled up on her bed, reading Beneath a Golden Veil (my novel about the California Underground Railroad). I’m grateful for every word of encouragement from readers and editors, but that was the pinnacle of encouragement to me!

What is some of the best writing advice that you could give?
Not to be afraid! I used to be so discouraged by the quality of my first drafts until I watched an interview with a well-known novelist who basically said that she threw up her first drafts and then cleaned them up on the second round. I’ve since learned to write and edit in layers, recognizing that my first, second, or even third draft isn’t ready to be read by anyone else except me. This allows me a lot of freedom to let go of my editing brain in those first rounds and just enjoy the process.

What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?
Hidden among the Stars comes out in 2018. This time-slip novel is about an Austrian man and woman who hide heirlooms for their Jewish friends near a castle called Schloss Schwansee (Castle of Swan Lake) before World War II. A bookstore owner named Callie discovers the young woman's cryptic list of treasure in an old children's book, and she determines to find out what happened to both the heirlooms and the woman who has carefully guarded her secrets for almost eighty years.

That’s all for today’s interview. I hope you found inspiration here for your writing. If you’d like to learn more about Melanie’s books, here are some options for you.

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