Jody Hedlund is a writer of Christian historical fiction, a blogger, a wife, and a mother of five. Her novel, The Preacher’s Bride, was just published this month, and is getting outstanding reviews. She was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule (did I mention she home-schools her five children and she’s writing a second novel???) to chat with me about writing, publishing, and finding balance.
1) The Preacher’s Bride is your first published novel, but is it the first you’ve ever written? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always loved writing, but during my undergraduate college years I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my writing. So I went into social work instead.
After I finished getting my Master Degree in Social Work, I had a difficult time finding a full time job. I lived in Madison Wisconsin at the time, and the market was saturated with social workers. So I ended up working part time for a while which freed me to begin seriously pursuing my love of writing. I worked hard at learning basic-fiction writing techniques as well as completing quite a few novels (which I now lovingly refer to as my practice novels).
The Preacher’s Bride is somewhere around the 6th book I’ve written. But it’s the first book I wrote after coming back from a long writing hiatus while I was busy having all my babies.
2) Where did you get your idea to write the book, and how long did it take?
This book is inspired by Elizabeth Bunyan, the second wife of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the most popular books of all times. As I was reading a biography about John Bunyan (Yes, I actually LIKE reading biographies!), I ran across a small excerpt about Elizabeth.
I loved the brave way Elizabeth defended John during one of his trials when he was under arrest for his “unlicensed” preaching. Her strength to face a court of persecutors and her determination to faithfully support her husband touched me so deeply, that I decided her little-known story needed to be told to the world.
With researching, writing, and editing, The Preacher’s Bride took me almost a full year to complete.
3) It can be very difficult for a first time novelist to get an agent, and your agent, Rachelle Gardner, is one of the most reputable, talented representatives in the business. What advice do you have for first timers looking for an agent?
The most essential qualification in the agent hunt is one that probably doesn’t need saying, but I’ll say it anyway! We have to have a completely compelling story. The story trumps everything else.
But sometimes even with a really great story, we have a hard time even getting our foot in the door (I did! The Preacher’s Bride sat in my agent’s slush pile for nine months before she finally pulled it out and offered me representation). When it’s tough to get in the door, I suggest getting to know the agent through blogging or twitter, developing a web presence, networking with other authors, entering writing contests, and perhaps even attending a writer’s conference. Through time and perseverance, a compelling story will get noticed.
4) Can you tell us anything about your second novel, The Doctor’s Lady? Has it been harder or easier to write than The Preacher’s Bride?
The Doctor’s Lady is scheduled to release in September of 2011 and is another “inspired-by” novel. It’s a fictionalized story based on the first white woman to travel overland West to Oregon as a missionary to the natives. It’s a marriage of convenience story, but also the tale of how a young woman overcame the odds, endured a dangerous journey, and found true love along the way. In the process, her strength and courage paved the way for all of the women who came after her.
With The Doctor’s Lady, the first draft was easier to write than previous books. I think our writing muscles grow stronger with each book we write (at least that’s what I hope!). However, the editing on The Doctor’s Lady has been unexpectedly harder and more painful for me than The Preacher’s Bride.
5) Do you have any writing rituals or routines?
I consume enormous amounts of coffee!
And I stick bananas in my ears to block out the noise of my children. Okay, so not really. But I do wear headphones and listen to Pandora a LOT during my writing time.
On a more serious note, I pencil writing time into my schedule every day. I set for myself daily word count goals and I don’t go to bed until I’ve met my goal.
6) What advice can you give to moms or dads, like yourself, who balance children, family, and career?
It’s tough but possible to have a writing career and juggle other life responsibilities. We’ll have to be willing to make personal sacrifices, work incredibly hard, and organize our time efficiently. Even just a little bit of writing a day can add up to a completed novel in a year’s time. It did for me. If any ordinary, busy writer like me can reach my dreams of publication, anyone can!
Thank you so much! I wish you all the best!
For more information on Jody, her book, or her wonderful writing blog, visit her on any of the following sites:
Facebook: Author Jody Hedlund