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.
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…)
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
How about you? Why do you write?