Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interview With Author Jody Hedlund

This week I had the privilege of previewing Jody Hedlund’s new book, The Doctor’s Lady.

Jody is the author of two historic novels, The Preacher’s Bride and The Doctor’s Lady. Both are historical romances based upon real people. The focus of both books is unlauded women who played a big part in history.

In The Doctor’s Lady, Priscilla White bears the painful knowledge that she’ll never be able to be a mother. Having felt God’s call to missionary work, she determines to remain single, put her pain behind her, and answer God’s call.

Dr. Eli Ernest wants to start a medical clinic and mission in unsettled Oregon Country. He’s not interested in taking a wife because of the dangers of life in the West and the fact that no white woman has ever attempted the overland crossing.

But Priscilla and Eli both receive news from the mission board: No longer will they send unmarried men and women into the field. Left scrambling for options, Priscilla and Eli agree to a partnership; a marriage in name only that will allow them to follow God’s leading into the mission field. But as they journey west, this decision will be tested by the hardships of the trip and by the unexpected turnings of their hearts.

You can view the book trailer here:

Karina: Jody, what was the inspiration behind The Doctor’s Lady?

Jody: This book is inspired by the true life story of Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to brave the dangers of overland trail and travel west. In 1836, she married Dr. Whitman, and the next day left her childhood home and would never return, for the purpose of starting a mission among the Nez Perce natives.

It was my hope in this story to bring Narcissa Whitman to life. This heroic woman has often been ignored and at times even disparaged. In reality, she exuded incredible courage to attempt a trip many proclaimed foolishly dangerous. It was called an “unheard of journey for females.” Because of her willingness to brave the unknown, she led the way for the many women who would follow in her footsteps in what would later become known as the Oregon Trail.

Karina: What message do you hope readers take away?

Jody: I hope readers are inspired to try new things and brave dangerous prospects in the pursuit of their dreams. When we go after the things that matter, we’ll have to take risks and we’ll experience setbacks and obstacles. But if we persevere, we can reach our destination and do great things along the way.

Karina: What Hollywood movie stars would you cast for your characters?

Jody: Dr. Eli Ernest needs to be played by Kevin Costner whose rugged, scruffy look in Dances with Wolves is exactly the way I envisioned Dr. Ernest. Eli is a man full of passion and unafraid of danger, and yet willing to learn and grow through the challenges he faces.

Priscilla White needs to be played by Gwynneth Paltrow. Priscilla is a beautiful and elegant lady with Gwynneth’s looks in Emma. She’s not physically strong and she’s a bit na├»ve, and yet she’s determined and courageous.

Karina: Good choices! Now that I’ve read the book, I can see both of them in the roles of Eli and Priscilla.

Karina: How long did it take to write the book? What was most challenging?

Jody: The research took six to eight weeks. I wrote the first draft in approximately five months and fell in love with it.

However, the editing phase was the most challenging. Somehow in the first draft, I gave my main characters problems and character arcs that were too unlikable. My editors encouraged me to revamp my characters so that they would be more positive and appealing to readers. The editing phase took much longer than I’d anticipated and spanned several months, including two sets of major rewrites.

Karina: What’s next for you?

Jody: In 2012, my next historical romance releases. I’m really excited about this story because it’s set in my home state of Michigan. It takes place during the 1880’s at a time in history when the lumber era was at its height. Although the story isn’t inspired by a true person the way my first two books have been, I do include several real people, particularly a real villain by the name of James Carr who was notorious in central Michigan for his violence and for introducing white slavery into the state.

The heroine of the story is a young woman, Lily Young, who is looking for her sister who’s caught up into the degradation of lumber camp life. While Lily searches for her missing sister, she fights against the evil that runs rampant around her, and she fights not to lose her heart to the lumber baron who turns a blind eye to the lawlessness of the lumber business.

Karina: Jody, thank you for visiting with me and telling us about your book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I have to tell you that your extensive research and attention to detail has paid off. The Doctor’s Lady is a compelling read and gives us a clear picture of what the pioneers went through to settle the American West.

History books mention the men who accomplished great things, but rarely mention the women behind them.

Abraham Lincoln is credited with this statement: “I have never studied the art of paying compliments to women; but I must say that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war.” Throughout history women have been in the background doing great things.

Now I’m going to go get a copy of The Preacher’s Bride and read that one too. The Doctor’s Lady will be available on September 1.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tough Situation - Having to Critique a Not So Good Book

If you've ever had to critique a book that was riddled with flaws, you know how uncomfortable it makes you feel. You don't want to crush the author's dreams, but someone needs to tell them the truth. They have worked long and hard on this book and yet, they missed the mark for some reason or another.

Try to find something positive about it. Maybe the story has great potential, or they built up a great climax and surprise ending. You should be able to find something to encourage them. Then read this post by Brian McKenzie and gently tell them what they should work on.

As a writer, they will have to accept criticism, but you can deliver it as kindly as possible so you don't hurt their feelings too much and cause them to give up.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What I'm Reading:

I seem to always be reading several books at once. Usually they consist of some business related books, some technical books, and something for pure entertainment.

Right now I'm reading:

Zarella's Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas by Dan Zarella (free today and tomorrow on Kindle)

Warrior Writer by Bob Mayer

We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media by Kristin Lamb

And last, but only because I read this at the end of the day to relax: The Doctor's Lady by Jody Hedlund

What's on your bookshelf?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Outlining a Story

Over and over I read about plotting your story, having a detailed outline of each chapter, knowing exactly where the story will go and how fast. There are software programs to help you do this, window after window that you can open while you are writing to make sure you don't veer off track.

Talk about taking the joy out of it! I guess I fall into the category of fly by the seat of the pants writer. I have a general idea of how the story starts and where it will lead, but the middle is the fun part. Getting started is the hardest, and the ending usually falls neatly into place with lots of interwoven things leading up to it. For me, it's not like a recipe where you add a cup of tension, mixed with a cup of attraction, with 1/4 cup trouble, 1/8 cup side line stories and a pinch of salt mixed in; then pour into a pan and bake for 6 months and Voila! You have a scientifically calculated book. I don't think I'll ever be able to write that way.

I feel my way through the story and pour my heart and soul into it. I'm not slamming writers who write the calculated way - just saying, it's not for me.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Written Word

A while back, I was at home looking through a box of old photos and letters we found when a relative passed away. There were post cards and hand written letters that showed much of what life was like for our family 100 years ago. It was interesting to read and we learned more about them than we had known before. You can tell a lot about a person by their handwriting and they spoke of favorite dishes, who they had visited, the weather, what they had been doing, how the crops were faring, a big flood, and so on.

It bothers me that so much of our communication these days is electronic and will be lost for our families. Granted, there weren't stacks of letters in that box, so I am sure many of them were thrown out, but I love history and believe we can all learn something from our ancestors, how they lived, what they were like.

Many of us have some sort of family tree and can show you the names and dates, but that doesn't tell you anything about the person. I look at those names and wonder what their hobbies were, where did they live, did they have a sense of humor, did they like music? A list of names is just a boring list of names. It's the personal stories that interest me.

I can't imagine not being able to access the internet and answer the thousands of questions in my brain. How great it is to be able to e-mail friends and send photos in the blink of an eye, but how many of our letters are being saved for posterity? A hand written letter is a gift from the writer. I only have one friend who writes letters any more. Each week we fill each other in on what is going on in our lives. We look for pretty note cards and stationery to write on. It is actually therapeutic to sit down in a quiet place and write to my dear friend, but I'm afraid it is becoming a lost art.

Technology has allowed us to do things no one ever imagined 50-100 years ago, but in ways, it isn't progress at all. We are all so busy and racing to keep up we miss out on the beauty of a hand written letter. People's handwriting has, in most cases, gotten much worse. Children text with abbreviations, would rather watch tv than read, and spelling is atrocious. Progress? At what cost?

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Kathryn Stockett's manuscript for The Help, which has been on the Best Seller list forever, and is out in movie form this week, is the perfect reason to not give up. It was rejected 60 times before being accepted by a publishing company. Kathryn never gave up and kept revising and editing the book until it was snapped up and hit the Best Seller list.

Kudos to her for being so tenacious. It is one of my favorite books and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.

Rejection letters don't necessarily mean the book isn't a good one. It means the person reading it wasn't into that type of story, or had their desk full of other potential books, or they were hungry, or had a head cold, or any other numerous reasons. I love it when they send you a letter that says 'this isn't the type of book we publish', yet on their website, it clearly states it is. They are people too and are probably overwhelmed at the volume of query letters and submissions they receive. Sometimes it feels like finding a needle in a haystack to find someone who loves your book as much as you do. The lesson here is to keep trying.

You will find loads of articles that tell you the successful writers are the ones who never gave up. Eventually, you will find your place in the publishing world if you follow your dream and keep writing, submitting, and not let those rejection letters get to you. They are part of the process and each one brings you closer to getting published.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

At the Crossroads

The publishing industry has been impacted by self publishing and e-books. This impact seems to have everyone scratching their heads and wondering what should be the next step.

On on hand, self publishing and e-books has opened up a whole new world for writers everywhere. Suddenly, everyone is a writer. Everyone has a story to tell and many of them are worthwhile stories. Traditional publishing is not the only way to get a book out there. Publishers now recognize the currents are deep and swirling and are being very choosy about which books they publish, often opting for just the established authors.

This choice has caused a mushroom effect in electronic and self-published books. Many successful books are not the best written or the best stories. It's a volatile time for a writer, especially new writers. The measuring stick is broken and the gates are open wide. We watch with bated breath to see what will happen and where the pieces will fall. In the mean time, a writer must write; and there is no stopping it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Character Descriptions

Character descriptions can be tricky. It's easy to fall back on the obvious; tall, dark hair, green eyes. If you want to flesh out your characters and make them really come alive, describe something about this person that is unique to him or her.

Author Jody Hedlund has an excellent article on describing the characters in your writing.

I have the honor of previewing Jody's new book The Doctor's Lady which will be out on September 1, 2011, and interviewing her on this site. Watch for it soon.