Jody is giving away a copy of The Doctor’s Lady! Comment below on this interview within the week to enter. Happy Valentine’s Day!
With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer and blogger Katie Flanagan present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
Interview with Author Jody Hedlund
Jody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling book, The Preacher’s Bride. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children. Her second book, The Doctor’s Lady released in September 2011. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her personal website:
1. You give a lot of information on the craft of writing on your blog and website. How did you first start learning to write? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?
I’m pretty sure I was born with a pen in one hand and a notebook in the other. Since my earliest days, I loved making up stories and writing them down. The passion followed me into adulthood. During my college and post-graduate years, I began to devour every book on writing that I could get my hands on. I filled note cards with all of the things I was learning and I wrote numerous practice books. After many twists and turns along the path, I’ve finally been able to channel my passion into a full time writing career.
2. You live a self-proclaimed chaotic life, with a house full of children and pets. How do you juggle the demands of your life as a wife and mother and still find time to prioritize writing?
It’s definitely not easy. I feel like I have two very full time jobs! But like any other writer trying to balance dual careers or multiple responsibilities, I’ve had to look for ways to make it work. I’ve scaled-back on outside commitments and simplified home life as much as possible. I also stick to a very strict writing schedule when I’m in first draft mode. I block out writing time and don’t let myself go to bed at night unless I get in my daily word count.
3. Your work is very popular in the Christian marketplace. What tips do you have for writers trying to break into this genre?
Start reading inspirational fiction books especially in your genre. Study them to see what works and what doesn’t. Analyze how your stories and style can offer something unique and fresh from what’s already out there. Also begin to immerse yourself into the Christian publishing industry. A great place to start is by reading Christian agent blogs (including my agent, Rachelle Gardner). I have a short list of agent blogs in the sidebar on my blog.
4. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let’s talk about romance. How do you find fresh romantic storylines for each book?
I find inspiration from real couples from history. When I read their diary entries or letters, I often glean ideas. Once an idea is sparked, my imagination takes over. My inquisitive mind starts asking, “Why did they do that?” or “What really happened?”
5. Your books feature strong, independent heroines. What makes these characters so compelling for you to write?
History hasn’t always given proper recognition or prominence to many women of the past. We often hear about great men and the heroic things that they did. History (mostly recorded by men) often neglected to tell the stories about the wives that stood beside some of these great men, the women who faced danger and deprivation and were just as heroic in their own way.
So, my hope through The Preacher’s Bride and The Doctor’s Lady is to bring to life heroic women for our modern generation. I think we have a lot to learn about courage and facing hardships from their lives.
6. Both of your novels are historical romances, but in different periods. What drew you to those time periods?
I was first drawn to the characters, to the strong women that I wanted to bring to life. The characters just happened to be in a couple of time periods that I find fascinating. The Preacher’s Bride is set in England in the 1600’s during a time of religious persecution. And The Doctor’s Lady is set in America in the 1830’s on the trail to the West. The settings for both are primitive and dangerous which I really thrive on as I write.
7. As a historical fiction writer, how important is research to your writing process and how do you coordinate the two?
I spend many, many weeks researching before I start a first draft. Of course, that’s part of the nature of writing historicals. When I lay a foundation with all my research, then I’m able to build the story more solidly and naturally. The words flow with more confidence and credibility. In fact, that initial research often sparks ideas for plot twists and turns.
Once I start the first draft, I try as much as possible to keep the flow of the story going without stopping to research. I like to give my creativity permission to proceed without hindrances.
After I finish the first draft and starting editing, I go through my document and spend time researching everything I’d previously put off. In fact, as I re-read my story, I keep a running list in a notebook of all the things I need to research further.
8. Can you talk about your journey to publication? How did you get an agent and how long was it between signing with the agency and signing with a publisher?
I’ve spent the past twenty years writing, taking a hiatus during the days when I was busy having babies. The Preacher’s Bride was the first book I wrote after I returned from my hiatus. After completing The Preacher’s Bride, I began querying it, but the book was rejected by all the agents on my list—except one. The one agent emailed me back and said she liked my query and sample writing and asked me to send her the full manuscript.
Of course I was excited. But little did I know at the time that my manuscript would languish in her slush pile for nine long months. During the wait, I wrote another book and decided to enter both books into a contest for unpublished writers.
Much to my surprise and delight, both of my entries made it to the finals. At that point, I followed up with the agent who still had my manuscript. I notified her of the contest finals. Within three days, she offered me representation.
My agent and I put together a proposal for my books. She sent it out to a publisher that she believed was perfect for my books. Within the span of a few months, I signed a contract for a three book deal with that publisher—Bethany House Publishers.
The Preacher’s Bride was the first book in that deal (released in 2010). The Doctor’s Lady is the second book (released in 2011). My third book, Unending Devotion will release in the fall of 2012.
9. On your website, you keep a blog, hold contests, and maintain an open discourse with your readers. How does your relationship with your readers affect your writing?
Interacting with readers is one of the most pleasurable aspects of being an author. I love being able to chat with readers on my blog, facebook, and twitter. I even Skype with book groups. Through all of the connections I’ve made, I’ve realized that my writing isn’t just for me. Sure, I want to enjoy the story and find pleasure in my writing. But I’m also writing for my readers, to continue to give them stories that they can love and enjoy.
10. Your website is largely devoted to assisting and inspiring other writers. What piece of advice do you have for writers trying to get published for the first time? What do you think of the opportunities that self-publishing provides for authors these days?
Write a couple of books first and unleash your creativity. Then start reading books that explain how to write. Study techniques, practice them, and keep writing. When you begin reaching a level in your writing where you think you’re ready to start querying, get a critique partner to read your work, vamp up your online presence, and immerse yourself in the writing industry.
Nowadays, writers should be carefully evaluating all the publishing options available, including self-publishing. I know plenty of writers who are doing very well at self-publishing. Some authors are doing both—traditional publication with some self-publishing on the side. Each of us has to determine what is going to be the best path for us and then give it all we’ve got.
11. You’re also active on social media. What tips do you have for building a successful presence on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites?
There are a lot of factors that have helped me to grow my web presence. If I had to pick the top ingredient—the one thing that has helped me the most—I’d have to say hard work. There’s no easy way to gain a following. It takes dogged determination day after day.
12. Do you have any projects coming up that we can look out for?
My next historical romance, Unending Devotion, releases Sept. 1, 2012.
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Katie Flanagan is a fiction major at Northwestern University. She is currently an editor with Booktrope Publishing and Pink Fish Press. In the past, she has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management and the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Her favorite genre is women’s fiction, but she reads any fiction put in front of her. Check out her blog about the writing life at katieflanagan.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @K_Flanagan.