Jody Hedlund knows how to have double the fun. Upon returning to her writing after a long absence, she wrote two inspirational historical romances, which she entered in the 2009 Genesis contest sponsored by American Christian Fiction Writers. Both finaled! Awesome agent Rachelle Gardner read partials of the two books and offered Jody representation in May.
Jody’s father, a twin, served in many congregations throughout the mid West, and she grew up as a pastor’s kid or PK. She married her college sweetheart, a Christian counselor, whose mother is also a twin. Jody and her personal hero have five children: a twelve-year-old son, nine-year-old twin daughters, a five-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. In addition to the seven family members, the Hedlund house is also home to a dog, two cats and two hamsters.
When Jody isn’t busy loving and serving her large family or crafting her award-winning stories, she likes to READ, READ, READ!
Join me as we learn more about Jody and her writing journey.
Jody Embarks on Her Journey
•You fell in love with writing in elementary school. Early in your married life, you began writing novel-length romances after you heard a radio interview with Lori Wick in which she shared the steps on her path to publication. What was it about Lori’s journey that inspired you to write five books in five years?
Writing has always been my first love. I’ve written since the day I could spell and compose sentences, filling notebook after notebook with stories. I started college with every intention of getting a degree in writing. However, when I looked at other majors, I broke up with writing for a while in order to “date” around.
For a time I tried another career, but it didn’t take too many years for discontentment to settle in. Hearing Lori’s interview rekindled my interest in writing. She talked about how and where she wrote and made it seem possible and fun. Ideas for stories began to blossom and the longing for my first love returned with full force. I ran back to my writing, embracing it with all the passion in my heart. It was during this time, before having children, when I wrote my first five novels.
•A nine-year writing drought followed, after which you resumed writing. What led you to return to your earlier dream of being published and start a new story?
I hadn’t planned on veering off the writing path. In fact, I was fairly adamant that I wouldn’t ever give up my writing. It had become very important to me—perhaps too important. I was just beginning to garner interest from the world of editors. I was honing the craft. I loved what I was doing.
Then I gave birth to twins. I continued to try to carve out writing time, but since I already had a two year old and now preemie twins, my writing time grew less as I grew busier caring for my growing family. Gradually God began to steer my heart away from my writing and I was able to willingly give it up for a time.
In hindsight, I can see that God orchestrated the move off the writing path in order to mature me, educate me, and deepen my reservoir of life experiences. And I truly believe it was his nudge that pushed me back onto the path again.
The nudge to start writing again came after I’d finished reading a number of historical research books (which I read partly because I love history and because I teach my children at home and read a LOT of history to them.) As I read the history books, my writer’s mind began to fill with story ideas. Finally about two years ago, my overloaded brain demanded expression and I began jotting down a new novel idea. When I did, I sensed God’s smile and nod of approval. It was time. I could write again.
On your excellent blog with its 100+ followers, On the Path, you shared some of the steps in your process: research, plotting and characterization. It’s clear you’re a plotter. Those of us who are pantsers would, I’m sure, like to know what goes into your preparation, while those of us who are plotters will ooh and aah and see if we can pick up new ideas. So, I’ve got a question on each aspect of your process.
•Do you perform most of your research before you begin a story, or do you ferret the needed facts as you go? How do you determine when you’ve done enough research? Or is there such thing as enough? 🙂
Since I write historicals, I spend an enormous amount of time (sometimes weeks) researching before I start my actual writing. I read just about everything I can get my hands on that relates to my story. The historical research helps me find plot ideas and define setting and characters. Once I have the basics for the plot and know my characters, then I feel the freedom to start writing. However, the research continues throughout the entire book on all of the little details that need fleshing out.
And you’re right! There’s never such thing as enough research! I’ve learned sometimes I have to just stop and write already!
•I was impressed by the description of your plotting notebook. How long does it take to create this helpful tool? What do you see as the major benefits of doing so?
I am indeed a planner! My plot notebook is nothing too fancy—just the blank pages of a 5-cent, college-ruled, spiral notebook. Before I start writing, I fill up the first third with plot points. My hero and heroine each have a page devoted to three main plot strands: external plot, internal/spiritual plot, relationship plot. I devote a page or two to both subplot ideas and set pieces (major scenes/conflict). I also develop a story timeline with a very brief outline of the chapters and where they fit into the timeline. And finally, I devote a few pages to the story premise, book hook ideas, and back cover blurb.
The last two-thirds of my plot notebook is for my chapter-by-chapter outlines. Before I start a chapter, I outline each scene in the chapter (usually between one and three scenes). This outline consists of the basics: time, setting, POV, hook, ROP, sensory and historical details to include, and then all of the scene goals/conflict.
•Impressive! I’m sure your plot notebook is a great help to you. One question, though. What does ROP stand for? That’s a term I’m unfamiliar with.
It stand for Read-On-Prompt, in other words ending a scene with something that makes the reader want to turn the page and keep reading.
•Regarding characterization, you said, “I developed a four page worksheet for my major characters and it has about 50 questions that I answer and analyze. Then I fill out a one page worksheet for each of my minor characters.” What are some of the major areas you cover in your questions? How does having these worksheets assist you?
My character worksheets contain EVERYTHING you could possibly want to know (and not know!) about my characters. The major areas include: the GMC’s—goals, motivations, and conflicts; personality types, character tags, family history, and much more.
If I know my characters inside and out, then when I start to write, I’m able to BE that character when I’m writing in his or her POV. Of course I always learn more about my characters as I get into the story, but if I fill out my worksheets thoroughly first, then I have less editing to do later.
You’ve had two major highs recently, and I couldn’t be happier for you. First, you finaled in a prestigious contest. Next, you received representation from none other than your dream agent.
•What were you doing when you received the news that both your entries in the ACFW Genesis contest had finaled? Was your reaction subdued, or did you squeal so loudly your kids came running?
The day I received the call from the contest coordinator, I was out running errands. When I stepped inside, the first place I looked was my answering machine. Low and behold it was blinking with a new message. I couldn’t keep from thinking what if it was THE call. . . I prayed really hard it wasn’t another of the hundred-a-day ad calls that I get. Then I closed my eyes, hit the button, and held my breath.
The voice on the message said: “Congratulations, Jody. I’m calling to tell you that both of your contest entries finaled in the Genesis contest.” Immediately my heart zoomed into full speed and I started screaming. I freaked out my kids and traumatized my cats. It was a good thing our doors and windows were closed or the neighbors might have decided to call 911.
•The double final gave you a good reason to contact Rachelle Gardner, who already had one of your manuscripts. What took place after you sent that email? Are you still happy dancing?
A full of one of my books had been sitting in Rachelle’s slush pile for months. When I finaled in the contest, I emailed her to update her on the status of my MS. Not too long after that, she emailed back and asked to see the first 50 pages of both of my books (one she already had, and the one I was finishing writing). We emailed back and forth a few times, then finally she sent me an email that made my heart stop: I’d love to have a phone conversation with you sometime soon. Could you send me your number and some possible good times to talk?
I’m honored Rachelle offered me representation. Since there are SO many other awesome writers vying for agents, I still have to pinch myself to remind myself that I’m not dreaming, that I really have made it over the agent hurdle!
•Rachelle sent one of your stories out on submission, and you garnered serious interest from one house shortly thereafter? How does it feel to be sooo close?
Rachelle is an incredibly hard worker! She’s strategic and knowledgeable, and SO good at what she does. I’m incredibly blessed. But getting an agent is only one hurdle. I’m realizing there are many more to jump!
I have had some interest from one publishing house and it’s been exciting to go through the process of having an editor and editorial team evaluate my story ideas and my writing skill. I’m learning so much about the industry, but there’s also been a LOT of waiting! You’d think I’d be a pro at waiting by now, but I’m not sure that it ever gets any easier!
Partners on Jody’s Journey
•I understand you worked with Tiffany Colter of Writing Career Coach. What led you to hire her as “your coach for the journey,” and how have you benefited from her counsel?
Earlier in the year I joined a critique group through ACFW. I quickly realized that I would not be able to keep up with editing for my critique partners and still have enough writing time in my already limited schedule. After only a week, I backed out of my group. About that time, Tiffany Colter ran a critique special on her blog. I talked with my husband about the possibility of hiring her. I knew I needed objective feedback and hiring an editor seemed like the perfect solution.
I began sending Tiffany a few chapters at a time. We immediately clicked. She was brutal with my writing and I loved it. I didn’t want someone tiptoeing around trying not to hurt my feelings. I wanted honest, critical feedback and that’s what she gave me. In the process she was also incredibly encouraging and positive about my writing skills. Her feedback was just what I needed to polish my manuscripts.
•Your agent, Rachelle Gardner, is your newest advocate. What’s been the most surprising aspect of being her client? The most humbling?
Rachelle is a very popular agent in the blogging world. If you haven’t read her blog, it’s full of excellent advice for writers: Rants & Ramblings. I’m humbled that she agreed to represent me. Her attitude and encouragement make me want to become an even better writer!
Jody’s Journey Continues
•You have a house seriously considering one of your stories, having survived the Editorial Committee and moved on to the Publishing Board? What are you doing while you await the outcome? Do you have a new story underway? Another inspirational historical, perhaps, or something different?
I’m really anxious to start another book, but at the present time I’m in limbo. I have several story ideas/research that are in the works, but the direction for my next book depends on what happens with the Publishing Board of this particular house. When I do get the green light to go ahead with my next, it will definitely be another historical!
Five Facts About Jody the Writer
~ Most Words Written in a Month?
I’m a slow-and-steady kind of writer. I write about 5000 words a week. Not much more and not much less!
~ Most POVs in a Book?
So far, I’ve never had more than two POVs in a book—one for the hero and one for the heroine. I think it keeps the romantic tension higher to focus on just the two MC’s.
~ Most Handsome Hero?
I have to admit, I think all of my heroes are handsome! But that’s because I believe true beauty comes from within, and my heroes, despite their flaws, are always noble and honorable.
~ Most Obstinate Heroine?
One of my heroines is a noblewoman and very proud of her status. I enjoyed pairing her with a man of humble origins and letting the sparks fly!
~ Most Fun Writing a Scene?
I love writing the climax scene, where the danger and problems are as bad as they can get. It’s so fulfilling to find a workable, but unique way to bring about a resolution.
Five Fun Facts About Jody the Person
~ I have at least 30 house plants. No, I don’t live in a greenhouse.
~ I can’t wait for the day when my daughters can do all the cooking!
~ My favorite food is Dark Chocolate Lindor Truffles.
~ Of my five children, my shortest hard labor was twenty minutes, longest two hours.
~ I confess: I like cold Michigan winters.
Jody’s Question for You
•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Jody. Thanks for your great answers to my questions. And now it’s your turn to ask a question of your visitors. What would you like to know?
Since I’m getting a new view of the editorial side of publishing and their ideas of what they think will sell, I’m curious to know what time periods and settings of historical romance you think are the most popular right now and why?
Learn More About Jody
Friend her on Facebook: Jody Hedlund
Follow her on Twitter: JodyHedlund
Leave a Comment for Two Chances to Win
My Regular Drawing
My next drawing will take place July 31st. The winner will receive a $10 Borders gift card.
To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by July 31st and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On August 1st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.
You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!
If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and July 31st. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.
On August 1st, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your debut novel in your hands.
(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)