Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of twenty-five historical, time- slip, and romantic suspense novels. Five of her novels have won Carol Awards. Catching the Wind and Memories of Glass were nominated for a Christy Award in the historical fiction category. Catching the Wind won an Audie Award in the inspirational fiction category. And The Black Cloister, her novel about a religious cult, won the Foreword magazine Religious Fiction Book of the Year.
She is the previous corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family, owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media Group, and an adjunct writing professor. When she isn’t working on her next novel, she enjoys teaching a variety of workshops.
Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters and live near Portland, Oregon.
If someone asked you to describe yourself with one word, what word would that be?
Storyphile. It’s not in the dictionary, but I think it should be! I love everything about a great story.
Your new book, The Wings of Poppy Pendleton (Tyndale House, September 2023) deals with human trafficking. How did you go about determining the best times for the settings of your story, i.e., 1907 and 1992?
Determining the best years to set my time-slip novels is always a challenge. I pick the dates based on historical events and what has to happen in the lives of my contemporary characters as they resolve a past mystery. In this case, I needed the historical story to take place during the booming Gilded Age in New York’s Thousand Islands, a few years before the Empress of Ireland sank (1914). Poppy Pendleton goes missing from one of the island castles in 1907, and then eighty-five years after her disappearance, something extraordinary happens. I’d like to tell you what, but . . .
Now I want to know more! What inspired the story?
The main plotline in Poppy’s story was inspired by a recently discovered photograph of my grandpa and great-uncle as children. In this picture, my great-grandmother is holding a baby girl, and while my family is close, no one had ever told me about a great-aunt. I discovered that my great-grandparents adopted a girl in 1923, but sadly, they both died when she was young and none of my relatives knew what happened to her. As I began to unravel Marjory’s complicated journey, I decided to write a novel about another girl who went missing in the same era. A mystery that I could ultimately resolve through fiction.
What are the best and/or worst parts of the writing process for you? Do you have advice for writers just starting out?
I love researching a new story and dreaming up the characters and plot, but the writing portion of the writing process is, oddly enough, the most difficult part for me. Even though it’s hard, I love the challenge, and writing fiction is tremendously life-giving for me as it brings some order to all the messy ideas in my mind.
Anne Lamott once said, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a [bad] first draft.” My advice for new writers is to learn from the experts, analyze the structure of your genre, seek wise advice about how to improve your skills, and then write that first draft. It won’t be perfect but pour your story onto paper and then come back later to polish your words.
Those are wise words from Anne Lamott. Are there other writing heroes or mentors who have influenced your craft?
Beautifully crafted stories by authors like Catherine Marshall, Angela Hunt, Randy Alcorn, Grace Livingston Hill, Jan Karon, Robin Lee Hatcher, and Davis Bunn originally inspired me to pursue my dream to write fiction. I’ve enjoyed learning from countless novelists since I began my journey, but in the past sixteen years, I’ve learned the most from my local critique group. They see right through my blind spots and help shape every story that I write.
Thanks, Melanie! It’s always nice to have you as a guest at Divine Detour.
~ ~ ~
To order The Wings of Poppy Pendleton, go to —