OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
Historical romance writer Jody Hedlund joins me on the podcast today and we discuss writing, integrating faith into books as well as online marketing and branding for authors.
In the introduction, I talk about some of the cultural experiences I have been having in London and how it's impacting my writing, as well as some preview information about Prophecy, my next novel. I also recommend John Locke's book on selling 1 million books on the Kindle. This is also the 99th podcast I have done – you can listen to all the back episodes here. Also, if you fancy trying your own podcasting, I am teaching a webinar with BookBuzzr on Fri 22 July – if you register you can also get the recording regardless of what timezone you are in.
Jody Hedlund is the author of historical romance novels The Preacher's Bride and The Doctor's Lady as well as a blogger, speaker and mother to 5 children. Video version of the interview is at the bottom of the page.
In this podcast, you will learn:
- How Jody started with her writing, at first while working as a social worker and then as she became a mother. She took some time off writing for the early years of her children. She was particularly interested in women of history who had been overshadowed by their husbands.
- Researching historical novels. Jody spends weeks reading biographies and material related to the time period. There was quite a lot of source material about John Bunyan. She learns a lot about the culture, lets it all soak in and absorbs the facts but aims to dramatize to bring the story to life. She does character worksheets and plots the novel. Then she doesn't stop in first draft, and then goes back to research the little details later.
- Jody uses an extensive character worksheet – it's available on her blog here.
- On writing romance. The love relationship takes a primary place in the plot. There are often 3 strands – external, internal/character development and then the relationship. The relationship is imperative in the romance, and the other two are secondary, although it depends on the type of book. You need to have strong, likeable heroes and heroines. The reader must fall in love with them. They don't have to be perfect but they want to love them. Romances also need a happy ever after. It's a reader expectation – and that is critical for any genre. Originally, The Preacher's Bride had John Bunyan still in prison at the end of the book, as true to real life. But the publisher asked to change that because there is no happy ending. So the ending was changed so he made it out of prison for a short time to be reunited with his wife.
- On writing within the Christian market. Jody is with a Christian publisher so there is the expectation of a Christian market. There is a wide spectrum within Christian / inspirational fiction. It's a matter of debate as to how much spiritual/faith element is included. The varying level is a good thing because there are readers who don't want to be preached at. Personally, Jody includes religious elements because of John Bunyan himself and her own faith. But at that point in history, religion was vitally important to everyone. So the religious tone is important to the story itself. But Jody likes to weave in themes anyway so as not to take the reader out of the story. Using universal themes that anyone can relate to is also important e.g. being discriminated against because of faith.
- Writing outside the Christian brand. What does Jody want to do with her author brand. She has written another book that could be in another market. There is room in her career for moving into other areas. She does want to do more on writing about historical people but it might not be so Christian focused. It wouldn't require a change in brand. We all want to write different things and it's great that now we can build author brands where people may follow whatever we do. The key is being flexible and open to opportunity.
- Why Jody loves her agent and her publisher. Check out her post on this topic here. Jody has Rachelle Gardner as an agent and only got the attention after she got into a contest final. Jody thinks that having an agent has helped her enormously in her career, in terms of career direction. They have the connections and the knowledge and they constantly talk to industry professionals. A good agent is well worth having.
- On blogging. Why Jody started her blog and how it has helped her as a writer with her platform. Everyone in the industry did tell her that she needed to have a platform and she's found it to be true. It has helped to sell the books and she has been on the CBA bestseller list several times. An online presence is critical in today's market. An author needs to be able to stand out. It's also great for establishing deep relationships with other writers. Consistent blogging has helped Jody meet new people and stay on top of the industry. It's not an overnight thing, it takes persistence and self-discipline. There is a kind of currency in blogging – you do need to have something to offer other people in order to be part of the community. Once you are inside the community, you will find a mutually supportive group of people.