Melanie Dickerson is a New York Times bestselling author and a Christy Award-winner known for spinning fairy tales into all-new adventures. Ahead of the anticipated 2019 release of Disney’s live-action adaptation of Aladdin, she re-imagines the classic fairy tale in her action-packed novel The Orphan’s Wish (Thomas Nelson). In this exclusive interview, Melanie outlines her process of rebuilding classic tales into her fiction, reveals what inspired her to do a new take on Aladdin, and explains the (slight) differences between writing for YA and older readers…
What is your process of choosing and then determining the best way to rebuild a fairy tale each time?
It’s a little different with each story. If it’s the first book in a series, I start out with the fairy tale, then build a story around it using the elements I like most about the fairy tale. Otherwise, I start out with a main character who was a minor character in a previous story. Then I pick out a fairy tale that seems to work with that character’s situation and personality. It’s fun to take elements from the familiar story and twist them, or bend them to fit my own setting. I try to use as many familiar aspects of the fairy tale as I can.
What inspired the story in The Orphan’s Wish?
I was inspired by the Aladdin fairy tale as well as by my character, Kirstyn, who was one of the Gerstenberg children. She had been very quiet and unassuming in the other stories, so I had to think about why she was quiet and how her childhood had shaped her personality.
I was also inspired by the character of Aladdin in the Disney movie as well as the traditional story, because he was so determined to win Jasmine’s heart. What would motivate my Aladdin to be so determined? What would that look like if there was no magic lamp or genie?
When you write YA romances, do you write any differently for that audience than you would for older readers?
There are slight differences. Mostly, main characters are a bit younger in my YA romances. And when I write them, I am more aware of my readers’ younger age and aware of how much screen time involves close proximity and kissing—even though I’m not sure anyone even realizes which of my books are YA and which are for adults! Honestly, there’s not much difference.
When you retell a classic story, are there any surprises for you as you write it? How often do characters go in a direction you didn’t plan?
There are usually a few surprises for me, but if I feel the characters going in a direction I didn’t plan, I stop and think it through, asking myself how the new direction will affect the rest of the story, seeing the story unfolding in my mind with both the old plan and the new direction. Sometimes I end up liking the new direction and go with it. Other times, I make my characters pull back and obey the original plan.
How does your faith impact how you tell stories?
My faith impacts everything I do, so it impacts what my characters do as well. I always want to know how my characters will grow in their faith, what spiritual truths they will discover on their journey through the story. That is the takeaway and the best thing about writing stories.
Visit Melanie Dickerson’s author page:
The Orphan’s Wish