Popular author of Christian historical fiction, Jody Hedlund, says she was born with a pen in her hand. Having written seven top books in the space of five years, the lover of stories was keen to share her writing secrets.
After giving birth to a son and twin daughters, you took a seven year break from writing. Was it difficult to get back into writing again?
"No not really. I liken it to riding a bicycle. Once you’ve learned to ride a bicycle you pretty much never forget. You may be a little wobbly when you first get started but once I started writing again after I came back, it seemed to flow. All of the life experience I had during those 7 years enriched me and deepened by faith so I felt when I came back I could add more passion and experience to my writing that I didn’t necessarily have before. I just reviewed all of the techniques I had learned over the years, refreshed myself and picked it back up pretty easily."
Your novel, 'The Preacher’s Bride', is based on the life of John Bunyan. How closely did you want your book to match up with the history?
"I want to take the framework that history has given us and use it, but fill in the things we don’t know. As much as possible I try to stay true to everything that we know but of course there’s so many gaps - that’s the fun part of fiction writing, playing the 'what if' game; what if this had happened, or I think this could have happened. As for what’s true and what’s not, it’s probably 50-50. I took actual quotes from what John Bunyan spoke and the trial - at the end of the book he had written down in his autobiography. Some of that had taken place almost word for word, so I was able to pull in some of that information. It’s not 100% true, and people need to know it’s just something that’s inspired by his life."
Was 'Doctor’s Lady' based on the same principle?
Yes, it’s inspired by the Whitmans – the first couple to travel overland [across America]. This was the first time a woman had made that trip to go all the way west. I wanted to highlight their life, that trip, what it was like and why they went. Same principles - finding out what really happened and adding in the rest."
What is your writing and research process like?
"Any historical research book I do I spend hours and hours of time before I start the writing process. It varies. It really depends on the topic. For example, 'The Preacher’s Bride' took me several months because of the unfamiliarity of the era and obviously being set in a different country."
What kind of reader comments do you love to hear?
"I really love hearing from readers in general, so any comments are great. I have a comment box on my website and I will always respond. Even though it takes time to me it’s worth it. The comments that I really enjoy hearing are the ones where people’s lives are touched and I know the book has touched them in their pain. For example, the main character in 'The Doctor’s Lady' has experienced infertility, and I’ve got a couple of different letters from women who have also experienced infertility and how the book really spoke to them and touched them. Those kind of comments are really neat to read. It’s not just a page turner, but there’s a deeper connection with the story."
What’s your message to aspiring authors?
"I love talking with aspiring writers and I have a writers blog where I share advice and information. I post them twice a week with tips, industry happenings and various things that are going on. One of the things I say to aspiring writers is to be consistent with a writing schedule, but also to be gracious to yourself. Not beat yourself over the head if you miss a day or miss some time, but to keep persevering. Have that schedule but to show yourself grace."
"Another thing I say is: keep learning. I’m continually learning. I still consider myself a student of the craft of writing. I take time while I’m writing to put into practice techniques and slow down a little bit. On the other hand, I think it’s also important to write with abandon and not let your internal editor come out all the time and scare away the stories. Also, the idea of being realistic about the market today. It’s more competitive than ever before. There are more books available than ever in the history of the world; so to have that realism, but also not to give up on your dream. Your dream fuels your motivation and your desire to keep writing. I always have several dreams that I hold tightly in my hands. I set a new goal and dream a new dream."
Which dreams of yours have yet to be fulfilled?
"Lots! I’m still fairly new in the Christian market and would love to build and expand my readership. I’ve made some bestsellers lists and I’d love to continue climbing higher in those and being more consistent. I want to keep on writing and seeing more and more books on the shelf. It’s a life long process and I’ve realised, becoming an author, that success is slow and steady, and you continually keep working toward being better and providing books that readers love."
What does the future hold for you?
"Right now I’m currently working on some edits on my book that’s releasing next fall called 'Rebellious Heart'. It’s inspired by the courtship of John and Abigail Adams. This is long before he became president of the United States, so I’m really excited about this story and I’m having a lot of fun."
"I have another one also being edited and that’s releasing 2014. After that I’m not sure! I hope I can continue to write historical fiction, that’s my passion. I’d love to try some eras that are not as popular. We have to be writing what readers like to buy, so there’s always that balance of writing between some settings and time periods and staying in the eras that are most popular. I hope I can do a little bit of both."
What’s the best Christian book you’ve ever read?
"I’m going to have to go with a classic. CS Lewis the Narnia series I can read those every year and still love and enjoy them. They are probably my all time favourites."
What has God been teaching you recently?
"I have teenagers [laughs]. So God has been teaching me a lot about humility. Part of that is learning, just a couple of months ago, I felt like God was telling me: cast your cares on me, and he kept bringing that verse to mind. It’s a process of casting our cares on him that helps us. Not that he changes our cares and our worries, but it’s the process of turning to him and doing that and throwing our burdens on him that changes us and gives us fresh perspective on our worries.
February 10th, 2013 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes