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Interview with Melanie Dobson

Melanie Dobson injects her novels with tidbits of sensory details derived from location trips for research as well as family experiences. Her new release, Hidden Among the Stars, joins her list of time-slip novels that take the reader on a journey through time and back in a seamless effort of understanding.


Melanie, the time-slip genre is new to many readers. Is there a difference to the time-travel genre?
Instead of having characters travel back in time, those of us who write time-slip fiction take readers on a journey through multiple time periods. Then we connect the past and present stories with a creative bridge, usually a book or a character’s memories or a symbol like a piece of furniture or jewelry.

Because so many readers seem to be enjoying this emerging genre, I’ve compiled a list of inspirational time-slip novels so readers can find new stories at timeslipfiction.com.

What is your most often used historical time period and why?
Four of my time-slip novels (including the one that comes out next year) are set partially during World War II. I’ve enjoyed writing about this era because so many seemingly ordinary people in Europe did extraordinary things to help their neighbors. And, because I write plots that weave together the past and present, it’s plausible that someone from the 1940s can still tell their story today.

From your website, it appears that your research trips capture the essence of a location via all of your senses. Care to share a memory of an unusual smell or taste that stands out more than others?
It’s important for me to immerse myself into the unique sensory experiences of a location with the hope that readers will feel as if they’ve journeyed to the setting as well. The tastes and smells are some of my favorite senses to capture. I’ve tasted everything from blood pudding (nasty!) to the best European pastries in the name of research. I did refuse the traditional Dutch raw herring and onions combo when I visited Holland this year, but I fully embraced their local mustard and cheese and yummy stroopwafel.

According to your website, you discovered the castle that fired your imagination for Hidden Among the Stars, quite by accident, with no way to tour inside. If Hallstatt’s castle is ever opened for tours, would you jump at the chance to visit it again?
Schloss Grub is the name of the medieval lakeside castle that inspired Schloss Schwansee in Hidden Among the Stars. It was used as a Hitler Youth camp during the war, but someone purchased it recently and renovated it back into a private residence. If they ever opened it up to the public, I would LOVE to explore both the castle and its wooded grounds.

Although Hidden Among the Stars came about after an incidental adventure, is that normal for your writing? Or is more usual for you to imagine a setting and then schedule a research trip?
My ideas come from many different places. When I wrote Chateau of Secrets, for example, I traveled to France specifically to visit the chateau that inspired this story. With Catching the Wind and Enchanted Isle, I had vague ideas for these plots before visiting England in hopes of finding exactly what I needed to grow the roots of these stories.

Hidden Among the Stars is unique and very special to me because the idea for this novel first sparked during a backpacking trip that my husband and I took to the ancient town of Hallstatt, Austria more than fifteen years ago. Over the years, the idea turned into a full blaze, and it became one of those burning-inside-me stories that I had to put on paper.

In Hidden Among the Stars, why did you choose to have the cryptic list inside an old edition of Bambi? Was it a favorite story when you were young?
I have a deep appreciation for the wisdom and creativity in children’s literature and so does Callie, my bookstore owner in the contemporary sections of Hidden Among the Stars. When I began developing a link between Callie and Annika, my Austrian heroine from 1938, I wanted this bridge to be something they both appreciated so I chose to have Annika keep a list of what she was hiding for the Jewish people in a place her father would never look—a children’s book. The selection of Bambi, a Life in the Woods was intentional as the author, Felix Salten, was a Jewish man who fled Austria in 1938. The Nazis banned all of his books.

With the cryptic list being the catalyst for the time-slip between the present world and 1938, how do you ensure that the reader follows without confusion?
My goal as a time-slip novelist is to make the transitions between past and present as smoothly as possible for readers. I try and weave together similar themes and events between time periods and give readers literary cues that we are about to move into a different era. The book designer did a phenomenal job with the chapter headings so readers know right away where they are in time before they immerse themselves into a new scene.


What tricks do you use to keep yourself on track while writing in the time-slip genre?
I have a very messy mind so organization is one of my greatest struggles. I’m not very good—okay, I’m no good at all—at preplanning a story like some of my novelist friends. I do a ton of research and my character sketches before I begin writing and I usually have a vague idea of where a story is headed, but I experience most of the story for the first time as I write it. It’s great fun for me to do it this way, but it also requires a lot of editing so the scenes all play nicely together. I have a tremendous appreciation for editors and the incredible team at Tyndale who help me weave together all my past and present threads.

Are your novels stand-alones, or do you leave a door open for a serialization?
All my novels are stand-alone stories. I haven’t planned on writing a sequel to any of them, but it’s always a possibility…

Any parting words?
Thank you for these wonderful questions! It was an absolute joy for me to write this story. I hope readers will enjoy the journey to this alpine Austrian lake and castle as they step into the lives of characters who fought against Hitler in their own unique way.

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Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yields fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience. Discover more at www.anitamaedraper.com and www.pinterest.com/anitamaedraper/







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