Showing posts with label Historical fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Historical fiction. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Newton & Polly--A Novel of Amazing Grace


Author Jody Hedlund plunged into the Historical genre with the wonderful Luther and Katharina. (Reviewed here.) I wondered if this book could ever live up to her previous story. I don’t know why I ever doubted.

In Newton & Polly, Hedlund tells the story of John Newton—the writer of the infamous hymn Amazing Grace—and the love of his life, Polly Catlett.

When the old hymn speaks of “a wretch like me”, it was spot on in describing John Newton. He was not the kind of man a father desires for his daughter—and Polly’s father was no exception. Not only was Newton a lover of the pubs, but he was lazy scamp, with very little chance of being able to adequately provide a good future for a wife of Polly’s stature. Even John’s own father had grown frustrated with his rapscallion ways. And to top it off, Newton mocked God!

Though Polly was a God-fearing woman, John did not share her desire to please the Lord. He had been raised for only a few years by his mother, a woman of devout faith. After her death, Newton grew to not only doubt the existence of God, but to ridicule those who clung to their trust in the Lord.


I must admit, much like the fathers in this story, I had also grown tired of Newton’s ways. Well into the book, I wondered how much more I wanted to read about his silly antics and irresponsibility. Perhaps it was due to having little time to read and having to grab a few moments here and there. Or perhaps Hedlund expertly described how very much a wretch was John Newton! It isn’t typical to dislike one of Hedlund’s main characters—but I did in fact dislike him. At the same time, I could identify with him.

Newton’s story is much like the prodigal son of the Bible. I was once lost, and like John, I lived as I pleased—and it left me every bit as empty. I will forever remember the moment I first experienced God’s amazing grace. If not for Polly Catlett, John Newton would have had no ambition to leave his reprehensible life and return home, and thus would not have experienced his own life-changing event that inspired him to write the beloved hymn.

Newton’s undying love for Polly was the driving force that made him want to be more than he was—his feelings for her never wavering. And just when Polly was ready to move on, God moved in a gargantuan way.

This book belongs on your shelf. It is a love story as great as any.

As far as the writing, the pace, descriptions, character depth, etc…
It’s Jody Hedlund, so of course it’s wonderful.



Come back next week for my interview with Jody Hedlund about her writing process!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review of Forever Safe by Jody Hedlund


After an introductory novella and three novels, author Jody Hedlund has gone the Indie route for this next (and likely final) installment of the Beacons of Hope series. 

This book brings full circle the story of a wooden cross and a letter penned by Isabelle Thornton that began with the novella Out of the Storm, and are passed along in each book of the series. You can read this book as a stand-alone, yet still enjoy the legacy of the cross by reading Isabelle’s letter on Hedlund’s website. 

This installment is a little more focused on the romance and a bit less on the historical aspect.
The plot is not as intricate as Hedlund’s past books, but she crafts the story well, building tension between the main characters. 

Spoiled heiress Victoria Cole is quite distinct from the other women in this series set in the 1800s. Though blushingly chaste, she is much more forward—to the point of being the pursuer in many of the romantic situations. Bodyguard Tom Cushman is tricked into having young Victoria as a client—a fact that sets the tension between the two from the beginning.

Lighthouses make awesome settings for romantic stories, and with Hedlund’s descriptive writing, it’s easy to visualize gazing out from the tower across the crashing waves of the sea. A huge difference in this fourth book is that the setting has been moved from the Great Lakes lighthouses of Michigan to Cape Cod’s Race Point Lighthouse in Massachusetts. I think the more-refined east coast setting is a great fit for the story. 

It’s not every day that secondary characters come close to being your favorites. Tom’s parents, James and Zelma, were wonderfully in love, with bold displays of affection and much advice for the young. They added a delightful element to the story.

I'm sorry to see the Beacons of Hope series come to an end. Wouldn't it wonderful if Hedlund had a story for every lighthouse in the U.S.?

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and highly recommend it to fans of historical romance. It is available for pre-order and will release June 1.

Friday, March 11, 2016

An Interview with Jody Hedlund about Writing and A Daring Sacrifice



My main purpose for this blog is to share the journey of a beginner, from first picking up the pen to become a published author. With that in mind, I’m sharing this Q&A with one of my favorite authors, Jody Hedlund.


Jody, as a beginner, I’m always looking for tips from successful writers. What three tips do you have for beginning writers? 

1. Write the first book for yourself without worrying about rules or publication. There’s something about that first book (or first few) that helps unleash the creative side of story-telling. 

2. Finish a book. There’s nothing like the experience of completing a book from first page to the last to help a writer move out of the wannabe category. 

3. Study basic fiction-writing techniques. Check out fiction “how-to” books from a local library. Take lots of notes. Then put it all into practice by writing another book or two.

I think I struggle most with number one. Maybe that’s why I haven’t arrived at number two! The third is enjoyable for me. When other writers suggest a particular craft book, I purchase the eBook and highlight like crazy.

My biggest hurdle is staying focused on my WIP with all the interruptions of daily life pulling me away. You have five children, so you must have plenty of interruptions when you’re writing. How do you handle the interruptions?

Yes, I DO have MANY interruptions each time I sit down to write. If I waited for perfect conditions, however, I’d never write. I’ve simply made up my mind to work under the circumstances I’ve been given, even if they’re less than ideal at times. 

One thing that helps is that I give myself daily word count goals. I block in work time as best I can every day, and then I stick to it. I also let my family know my schedule. And while I try to minimize the interruptions, I’ve learned that I just need to attend to whatever the need is (whether it’s a child needing a snack or the dog getting into the garbage, etc.) and then get back to my writing as soon as possible. In other words, I don’t let the interruptions paralyze me.

That’s great advice. Perhaps my mistake is closing the file and shutting my laptop. (Note to self…) 

Now let's talk about your latest YA release, A Daring Sacrifice.

My current WIP is my first attempt at first person, so I paid particular attention to the fact that A Daring Sacrifice is written in first person. How do you determine what voice to use, and why did you want Juliana and Collin to tell their story? 

I write all of my adult novels in third person. But in the young adult genre, first person is very popular. I think first person appeals to teens because it allows them to relate a little more intimately with the main character. They feel as if they're one step closer and on the adventure right along with the characters, getting inside their heads and bodies and emotions. And let’s face it, teens are in an especially emotional time of life. Being able to connect emotionally to a character is important. 

For all those reasons and more, I decided to write my YA series in first person as well. It's a little tricky when switching between the hero and heroine's POV. So my publisher decided to do different fonts to designate between the hero and the heroine's POV. So when you see that in the book, it's not a mistake. It's intentional!

I loved how you used the different fonts! It made it so much easier to distinguish the POV. I’ve not read a lot in first person, so now I’m curious as to how other authors might handle that switch.

As a Christian, I want my faith to show through my writing, but not so much it takes center stage over the story. How do you keep a faith focus in A Daring Sacrifice without becoming “preachy”? 

It’s definitely tricky to keep a faith focus without becoming preachy. 

One of things I try to do is intertwine the characters’ emotional and spiritual arcs, so that they are closely related. I start off by giving my characters flaws or weaknesses that they must work through as the story progresses. As they wrestle through issues, they don’t end up perfect. But by the end I try to bring about some emotional and spiritual growth with their story flaw.

For example, in A Daring Sacrifice, Juliana harbors a great deal of bitterness toward those who’ve hurt her family and her people. She’s resorted to stealing from wealthy nobles and justifies what she’s doing. Obviously, this is her flaw. As the story unfolds, she must learn some lessons about acting with integrity, even if it requires great sacrifice. 

Another way that I add in the faith aspect to my stories without being preachy is by having the characters pray, go to chapel, and or draw comfort from God in a historical context. People during the Middle Ages were extremely religious and so it’s only natural to add this aspect into the story to remain true to the times.

Having a culture of religious activity would certainly make it easier to sprinkle in the prayers.
I write for a mature audience. How is writing for a YA audience different than writing for an adult audience? What are the similarities? 

The Differences: 

While many of my adult readers have enjoyed my YA books just as much if not more than my adult novels, I do get adult readers now and then who are surprised, maybe even disgruntled, with the fact that my YA books are slightly different than my adult novels. And I try to gently remind them, that they’re supposed to be different. 

First, my YA books are shorter, crisper, and less historically detailed. In fact, I’d almost go as far as saying that my YA are more fairy-tale world than true historicals. They contain enough detail to give a “flavor” of another place, but not too much to bog down younger readers. 

Secondly, my YA books are more plot driven than character driven. I’ve included battle scenes as well as some of the seat-of-your pants danger that appeals to the modern teen reader. I plunge my characters into desperate, life-threatening situations which, in the era of books like The Hunger Games, is appealing to modern readers. 

A third difference is in how I'm approaching the heroine and the romance. My YA heroines are a bit younger and so they are more of a coming of age story where the heroine must grapple with some “growing up” issues. I’ve also tried to keep the romance very sweet and tender (as opposed to my adult novels that while clean, are more passionate in nature). 

The Similarities: 

Whether my adult novels or YA, I simply want to tell a compelling story. I hope that I’ve been able to entertain and perhaps even inspire in both of my markets.

I expected your foray into YA to be quite different from your usual genre, but I’ve heard other authors say the same thing when they write a book for a different audience. Faithful readers have an expectation…

Speaking of different writing styles, in the past, I’ve shared bits from writing I did in my childhood—mostly poems. I know that you have been writing all your life as well. What was the very first story you ever wrote? Was it ever published? 

The first story I wrote was probably in first grade in a spiral notebook. And of course, it’s long gone in the trash! But as far as my adulthood writing career, I wrote five novels that are collecting dust in a closet. They were my practice books, the books that helped me grow and become the writer I am today. 

I think you said that Luther and Katharina was a book that you pulled off a dusty shelf. Maybe someday you will dust off one of those books and tweak it for publication as well.

As we wrap up this interview, let me ask the BIG question: Why do you 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 that's one of the main ones.

That’s a great quote. Thank you, Jody, for sharing with us. I’m sure I speak for all your fans when I say we’re glad you write.

How about you? Why do you write?