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 naïve, 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.