Wednesday, June 7, 2017

An Interview with Author Jody Hedlund

(I'm republishing this interview with Jody Hedlund, as her newest YA is on the cusp of publication.)




Today, I am interviewing author Jody Hedlund 
about the release of Book #1 of her new Orphan Train Series.
(You can read my review of the book here.)

 
Congratulations on the release of With You Always! This first book of your new series is the third book you’ve released in 2017.  Most of my writer friends (myself included) say they have trouble making time to write. How do you find time to write so many books?

I keep a very rigorous writing schedule, usually writing six days a week. I give myself a challenging word count goal—a certain number of words to write every day. Then, in the morning, I sit down and write until I meet my goals. It’s as simple . . . and as hard as that!

I like to compare being an author to a marathon runner. The person training to run a marathon doesn’t start off running twenty-six miles the first time she runs. Instead she begins with just a few miles, strengthens her muscles, builds her endurance, and slowly adds more miles.

Writing is the same way. Over the years, I’ve strengthened my writing muscles and built up my endurance so that now I can write faster and for longer stretches.

You make it sound easy, but I know it takes commitment. What is your inspiration to write?

I write because I love telling stories. I love the quote by Toni Morrison because it sums up part of why I write: "If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." Essentially, I write the stories that I LOVE to read! Of course there are other, deeper reasons I write too. But mostly I just really enjoy the process of creating imaginary people and places.

I’ve heard you use that Morrison quote before. 
I’m moving into a new home right now—perhaps that
quote should go on the wall above my computer desk.  

Is there something you tell yourself before writing?

Usually I tell myself to sit down, put my hands to the keyboard, and get to work. I don't wait for inspiration or magical fairy dust to hit me before writing. I just do it.

 But I also always ask myself, what could make this story better? How can I increase the tension? How can add more excitement? What can I do to make my characters more likeable? I'm constantly challenging myself to make my story more vibrant and alive.

I think too many of us wait for the inspiration to come before setting down to the keyboard.

It’s quite obvious that you put a lot of research in all your books. What special research did you do in writing With You Always?

In the beginning phases of writing this series, I did a great deal of reading about the orphan train movement. In particular, I really loved Stephen O’Conor’s book, Orphan Trains, because he includes so many personal stories and details about real orphans, which are heart wrenching.

I also read, A History of New York City to 1898, by Burrows and Wallace, which gave me great insights into the lives of immigrants, particularly immigrant women. Masses of foreigners were arriving into New York City on a daily basis, and the book gave a detailed look into their pathetic housing situation, the difficult working conditions, as well as gang problems and the underworld.

Finally, another important aspect of the story that required a concentrated amount of research was the development of railroads. The mid-1800’s was an incredible period of growth for the railroad industry in the Mid-West. The new railroads aided the orphan train movement but also brought about the settlement of the Midwestern states, including Illinois, which is one of the settings of the book.

You certainly painted a picture of horrid living conditions for these New York City women. I feel quite blessed to be born into a better situation. Speaking of blessings, what role does faith play in your novels?

While I try not to preach at my readers, I do weave faith themes through my books. My faith also motivates me to keep my stories "clean." I believe Christian fiction is a much needed alternative, especially Christian romance.

I just recently got an email from a reader telling me she that she'd picked up several books and been really turned off by the explicitness within them, but that she didn't realize the books contained such content until she started reading them. She wanted to know if there was a rating system or some way that she could tell if the book would be "clean" before she started reading. I was glad that I could point her to inspirational Christian fiction, that she would be guaranteed the sweet romance she desired.

I can certainly relate to her experience. It’s another reason I want to write suspense. I would love a rating system like that. It would surely make book shopping an easier experience.


Is there anything particular that you hope readers take away from With You Always?

One of my hopes in telling this story is to leave readers with the reminder that God is walking with us in whatever dark valley we’re going through. Often, like Elise, we tend to pull away from God and let the bitterness of our circumstances drive us into a cave of isolation and self-blame and heartache. But God wants us to realize that even if we pull away from Him, He’s still there walking by our side, waiting for us to reach out our hand and grab hold of Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s there waiting.

Amen! Well, I think you have achieved that with this story.

I want to thank you for answering some questions for my readers. Do you have any parting words for them?
I love hearing from readers! Make sure you stop by one of these places and say hello!
I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund
I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund
My home base is at my website: jodyhedlund.com
Find me on Instagram: instagram.com/jodyhedlund/
Come pin with me on Pinterest: pinterest.com/jodyhedlund/pins/

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Review of With You Always by Jody Hedlund



With You Always is book #1
in the new Orphan Train series
by Jody Hedlund,
kicked off with the e-novella
An Awakened Heart.

 New York 1850s: A financial crisis has left widows and children begging in the streets. Some women have even turned to prostitution as a last resort to feed their starving children. Luckily, for the Neumann sisters, a mission has provided the eldest with a seamstress job to provide for her famil.

In the throes of a gang war on the streets, Elise depends on the wealthy Thornton Quincy to help her rescue a blind beggar. The young Quincy abandons his urgent business to assist in securing the safety of the women sheltering at the mission. He is given a quick view of life on the other side of the tracks, vowing financial support for the mission. Unfortunately, he goes on with life and forgets about his vow.

Eventually, the financial crisis hits home again for Elise—the sewing work that had provided an income for so many at the mission came to an end. She is forced to look for another means to support her family.

Elise Neumann only sees one way to save her family—leave the others in the care of the mission’s founder and board an “orphan train” to the Midwest, hoping to land a good job as a seamstress and send money home for her sisters. Her goal is to someday reunite her family.

Thornton Quincy, son to one of New York’s wealthiest businessmen, crosses paths with Elise a second time when he finds her aboard a train taking him to a new town he is developing in Illinois.
Elise and Thornton are from two very different worlds. Can they work together to make things better for the workers in Quincy, Illinois? Will Elise find a way to reunite her family before it’s too late?

~



Introduced in the free novella An Awakened Heart, Elise Neumann is a strong young woman of high character who faces life’s hardest challenges with courage and determination. Although, her faith in a God who cares is waning, and she’s running quite short on hope.

Set in the 1850s, With You Always highlights women involved with the effort to resettle orphaned children from the harsh conditions in the city—where many learn to turn to crime as a means of survival—to a Christian home in the Midwest. Unfortunately, the reality wasn’t always as it was supposed to be.

This storyline follows a few young women escaping the hardships of New York for a better life in Illinois. The New York Children’s Aid Society has offered jobs to some of the young women with marketable skills, in the growing towns along the railways of the Midwest, particularly one being developed by Thornton Quincy.

Jody Hedlund never disappoints, and this series promises to be as intriguing as any of her others. Hedlund breathes life into her characters, painting a clear picture of their day to day struggles. You will fall in love with Elise and cheer for Thornton in this wonderfully written novel.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Brown Shoes VS Black Shoes

Aspiring writer friends, I know we want people to love our writing, and subsequently buy our books—hopefully more than a few people—but what about those who don’t? How much does that matter to you?

If you’re writing a psychological thriller, and a friend only reads western romance novels with hunky cowboys, chances are, she won’t like your book. Understandable, right?  I won’t bother purchasing your cowboy romance, nor will I buy your newly published book about aliens invading San Francisco. Okay, if we know each other well, I will buy them. I’ve read many books out of my normal interests because I know the author, but I will never buy a book like “Fifty Shades of Grey”—even if my daughter writes it!  I will wish you the best of luck, but don’t expect me to read it. And that should be okay. It doesn’t reflect on your ability to write a good book. It only says my interests are different.

 I recently pinned some photos of plants that I hope to add to the landscape of our soon-to-be home. A friend commented that a couple of the plants I liked would "grow ugly". I knew what she meant, but that feature was one of the things that I liked about the plant. She conceded that people have different tastes with a comment something like, "That's why we have brown shoes and black shoes." 

No matter where your talent lies, there will be someone who doesn’t appreciate it. I don’t think many would say Barbra Streisand can’t sing, but there are many who would not pay to own her albums.

I say all this to encourage you. And as writers, we all need encouragement. There are enough stumbling blocks in this process without raising our expectations beyond realistic heights—that everyone in the world would fall in love with our book and give it raving five-star reviews. Not. Gonna. Happen.

This afternoon, I finished reading TheNight Bird by Brian Freeman.I LOVED this book! Psychological thriller is one of my favorite genres. However, I find many authors can’t tell a tale without excessive foul language and sex. I’d rather not read it. This author had enough talent that he could fill a book without the need for graphic sex and bad talk. I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end. 

I went on Amazon to post a review, and as always, there were numerous one-star reviews. I read through them to see what it was that people disliked about this book. One reviewer wrote that it would desensitize people to violence. Well, that is debatable for sure. But wouldn’t that hold true for all psychological thrillers? Is it fair to rate a book so low because you don’t like the genre? More than one said the plot wasn’t believable. I often read reviews criticizing an author for writing exactly the way the genre should be written!

Okay, it wasn’t the best book I’ve ever read. The author had a habit of using the “grocery list” method of describing characters. In a couple of places, it harshly interrupted the flow of the story. (If I were his editor, this is an area I would have asked him to chop.) And although the storyline was crazy, it’s supposed to be! It’s a psychological thriller. That means it’s also fiction. I don’t think the events in this book could really happen. I don’t care. It was entertaining and had me turning pages on the edge of my seat!

I’m glad Mr. Freeman isn’t going to stop writing because a few people don’t like his books. I plan on reading many more from this author. I’m sure that the bestselling authors have had more than their share of bad reviews. So when you finish that manuscript and throw it out there to the world, don’t dwell on that reader who says your book bored him, or she didn’t care for your style, or your story isn’t feasible. Dwell on the fact that you did it! Dwell on all the times people told you it was good. Dwell on the enjoyment you got when you typed The End. Dwell on being called a published author.

By the way, I prefer brown shoes...but I often wear black.