Historical Fiction – Interview with Jody Hedlund

Marcy and Lisa of Girls With Pens are thrilled to welcome Jody Hedlund for an interview today.

Interview with Jody HedlundJody Hedlund is an award-winning historical romance novelist and author of the best-selling book The Preacher’s Bride. She received a bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin, both in Social Work. Currently she makes her home in Michigan with her husband and five busy children.

At the end of this interview, we’ll give you a chance to win a copy of Jody’s newest book, The Doctor’s Lady.

GWP: As a historical fiction writer, what tricks have you found to help keep anachronisms, modern day ideas, and modern day dialogue from sneaking into your work?

Jody: I’m definitely not perfect at keeping modern day thoughts and verbiage out of my historicals. Actually, I don’t think historical writers can stay completely true to the past. There are too many things about bygone eras that modern readers wouldn’t be able to relate to or understand. So, while historical writers must do the best they can to represent past time periods, we can’t strive for perfection.

However, with that said, here are several “tricks” I use to help me stay as true to history as possible:

  • I immerse myself in time period books—fiction written from the era, diaries, first-hand accounts, autobiographies, etc. Through reading the actual words of people who lived during my story’s setting, I’m able to pick up language, beliefs, nuances, etc.
  • I try to learn as much as possible about the setting, culture, customs, and history before starting my book. I need to feel that I’ve traveled back in time and have a good grasp of what it was like to live “back then.”
  • When in doubt, I look up words and usage on Phrases.org.
  • I have a critique partner who writes historical fiction. She often catches things I miss.
  • My in-house editors check and double-check word-usage. Since they edit for many different historical writers, they’ve become experts at historical trivia.

GWP: How do you manage to keep your dialogue true to the time period without allowing it to sound stilted?

Jody: I don’t try to imitate the time period speech exactly. I usually pick out distinct words and assign them to particular characters to use throughout the book. For example, in The Preacher’s Bride, I gave John Costin the word “Methinks.” And I gave Elizabeth the words “’Tis and ’Twas.” I sprinkled their specific tag words into their speech.

Of course, the characters use other time period words too. But I try to keep them minimal so that I don’t take readers out of the story as they try to read the dialog.

GWP: When you reached the point that you were ready to begin querying agents, how did you decide which agents to contact?

Since I write inspirational historical fiction, I used Michael Hyatt’s list of Literary Agents who represent Christian authors. I researched the agents further by visiting their websites/blogs, looking at their guidelines, authors they already represent, and books they’ve sold. I also checked ACFW’s website for the list of agents that attend their annual conference. The list specifies what kinds of projects agents are actively seeking.

GWP: What’s the biggest myth about being a published novelist that you think it’s important for new writers to realize is a myth?

Jody: Many writers look at publication as the destination, the end goal. They believe that when they get a book contract they will have finally arrived. After all the hours, months, even years slaving over a book, writers often expect that after publication, the road will be smooth and easy.

What I’ve realized is that publication of our debut book is only another stop in the journey. When we reach the summit of publishing our first book, the range of taller and steeper mountains looms ahead. If we hope to build a readership and have a successful writing career, then we will need to keep persevering, working hard, and climbing mountains. Being a career author in today’s crowded market is rewarding but not easy.

GWP: What would you say is the secret to your social media success?

Jody: There are a lot of factors that have helped me to grow my web presence. If I had to pick the top ingredient—the one thing that has helped me the most—I’d have to say hard work. There’s no easy way to gain a following. It takes dogged determination day after day.

Yes, hard work is key. But other ingredients are important too. Here’s my top ten list of how to grow your web presence:

1. Provide quality content. Make each post relevant and interesting.

2. Meet reader needs. Put readers’ needs above our own.

3. Be real and open. Share personally. Be vulnerable.

4. Value followers. Interact. Answer questions. Be available.

5. Reach out. Don’t be shy. Make new friends. Follow & support others generously.

6. Be consistent. Post regularly. Be reliable.

7. Interweave all social media sites. Link to posts on Twitter and Facebook. But support others generously (and yes I mention this particular point again because it’s SO important!).

8. Give it time. Don’t expect overnight success. It takes months, even years to grow followings.

9. Persevere. Keep at it regularly. Work even through dry spells.

10. Work hard. Realize it’s not easy. It won’t ever be. It’ll always be hard work.

You can connect with Jody on Facebook at Author Jody Hedlund, on Twitter as @JodyHedlund, or on her website.

The Doctor's LadyYour turn: What do you like/dislike about historical fiction?

For a chance to win The Doctor’s Lady, simply leave a comment below and also post of link to this interview on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ (be sure to tag either Marcy on Twitter or Lisa on Facebook so that we see it–all our social media information is listed on our About Us page).

You can also enter Jody’s Be A Trailblazer Contest. Click below to find out more . . .
Enter the Be A Trailblazer Contest!


22 comments on “Historical Fiction – Interview with Jody Hedlund

  1. Thanks for sharing your wisdom about social media, Jody! You’re absolutely right. There’s no way around the hard work, but it’s also a great joy. We have the privilege of interacting with authors around the county (and beyond) that we’ve yet to meet. But when we actually get to meet them, we can start in the middle of a conversation instead of the beginning. Great post!

  2. loved the Q and A and the phrases link provided. I will be following your blog now. As a new un published writer any personal information is helpful. Chrissy

  3. Jody, I love that your secret to social media success is HARD work. Isn’t that the truth? There really aren’t any shortcuts for meaningful networking. Congratulations on another wonderful book!

    Marcy, thanks for the great interview! I already have a copy of The Doctor’s Lady (Awesome book!!), so please don’t enter me into the contest.

  4. Good morning, everyone! Glad you’re all finding some helpful things in my interview here with Marcy today! Great interview questions, Marcy, and thanks for inviting me to Girls With Pens! You have a fabulous resource for writers here!

  5. Great Interview! I would love to win this book! The Preacher’s Bride is AMAZING! Love this author! Cant wait to read many more of her books to come throughout the years. God has truly blessed her with the gift of storytelling!
    God Bless!

  6. I liked Jody’s tips about the bits of dialogue. As an avid reader of historical fiction, I can say that it’s pieces like that which help bring the time period alive. It only adds a bit of spice, as she says, but it helps put the reader in that far-away time. I also liked Jody’s advice about the hard work required to be a career author. 🙂 Thanks for a great interview! (PS – I shared this on my FB, but couldn’t figure out how to tag you in doing so.)

    • I’ve put you on the list of people to be entered 🙂 For future reference, to tag a person or page you’ve liked on Facebook, enter the @ symbol and then start to type the name. A list should drop down that you can select from.


  7. Jody, I see that you went to college in our beautiful state of Wisconsin. I currently have a son who is in his first year at University Wisconsin Superior he is going to be a doctor!! I would so love to read this book, if not will download it for my nook color either way. I loved this interview so very much and enjoy reading them.

    have a blessed day

  8. I really loved The Preacher’s Wife & would like to win this one very much.
    I haven’t been reading Historial Fiction long but have fallen in love with it and
    can’t believe all the hard work that goes on before the writing even starts.
    I wish history class had been this good.
    Wilma M.


  9. I really enjoyed the interview. Great pointers! I love hearing from authors on FB and about their newest releases.

    I would love to win a copy of, The Doctor’s Lady.

    Thanks for this giveaway.


  10. Thank you for the sweet words, everyone! You’re all making me blush! 😉

    And Julie, I practically grew up in Wisconsin! Loved it there. Loved Madison where I went to school. But I do have to say (and I never thought I would), I come to love Michigan even more!

  11. I’m enjoying the opportunity to follow you around the blogosphere, Jody, and read the wonderful variety of questions and answers. Just as on your own blog, you share so many helpful research and writing tips. 🙂 Thanks, Marcy and Lisa, for hosting another great interview.

  12. This is one of the best interviews I’ve read, as it not only let’s us learn more about how nice a person Jody is but contains incredible query tips while dispelling publishing myths and revealing the real secret to social media success. Thank you, Girls with Pens, for hosting Jody and asking such great questions; I’ll be tweeting this post ASAP.

  13. I loved The Preacher’s Wife and am so looking forward to reading The Doctor’s Lady. I’ve always been drawn to historical fiction and really find it enjoyable as well as a chance to learn a bit of history without it being boring. Great interview!

  14. Marcy, Lisa and Jody,

    Thank you for sharing this interview with me and all of your fans. Looks like some sound professional suggestions. I am a ‘Doctor’s Lady’ and have just started ‘Preacher’s Bride’. I like what I have read, so far. So, I am intrigued by your new release titled-‘Doctor’s Lady.’

  15. Thanks for all those wonderful tips and the great interview. . I am in the process of self-publishing my 17th century historical novel entitled “The Silk Weaver’s Daughter.” The only reason I have gone the “short cut” route is because I am in my 70s and don’t have enough time for the regular channels. But I believe everything you have said here. Hard work definitely pays off.

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