“We aren’t just fighting a battle for religious freedoms…[w]e’re struggling for human liberty as well.”
~ From The Preacher’s Bride, by Jody Hedlund
Writers are compelled to categorize novels into genres. We can’t help ourselves, since it’s one of the signs of a good query. But a skilled author will write a novel that stretches beyond the limits of genre.
A great story captures readers from outside one set audience, anchors them into the lives of the characters, and makes them forget they’re reading Historical or Women’s or Christian Fiction.
Based on details from the life of John Bunyan (the writer of Pilgrim’s Progress), The Preacher’s Bride is rooted in the Christian Faith. However, readers who might not normally be interested in Christian Fiction will still find Jody Hedlund’s novel compelling.
Hedlund weaves struggles with religion, class, and politics in and around an irresistible love story between John Costin and Elizabeth Whitebread — two kindred spirits who fight for their beliefs and convictions, no matter what the cost.
Once I dipped into chapter one of The Preacher’s Bride, I began to steal moments during my day to read more — to find out what might become of mean Mrs. Grew, to look for clues about the mysterious man in the black hat, to encounter the next moment when John and Elizabeth stood in the same room. Hedlund’s descriptions of those moments between John and Elizabeth, along with deeper conflicts that surround their daily existence, lends such power to the story that I simply didn’t want to put The Preacher’s Bride down.
Today, I am honored to host Jody Hedlund here, as she answers a few questions about her debut novel and her writing. For a chance to win an autographed copy of The Preacher’s Bride, just leave a comment at the end of the interview.
CC: In the Author’s Note in The Preacher’s Bride, you mention that history “fails to recognize the woman who stood by [John Bunyan's] side and helped shape him into the hero we all know and love.” How and when did you discover that Elizabeth Bunyan had her own story to tell?
JH: During the course of teaching my children world history, I began to learn more about some of the great heroes of all times—especially faith heroes. I was particularly fascinated with the little-known women who helped shape the great men. These wives were strong, courageous, and faithful. I decided their inspiring stories needed to have a voice.
As I was reading a biography about John Bunyan, I ran across a small excerpt about Elizabeth, his second wife. I loved the brave way she defended John during one of his trials when he was under arrest for his “unlicensed” preaching. Her strength to face a court of persecutors and her determination to faithfully support her husband touched me so deeply, that I decided her little-known story needed to be told to the world.
CC: The Preacher’s Bride takes place in England in 1659. Historical fiction presents several challenges, such as time-relevant details like setting, dialogue, and cultural norms — all of which you master with ease and grace in your novel. How did you conduct your research, especially in the midst of your busy days of mothering and home schooling, and did your research guide you in unexpected ways?
JH: I generally spend about eight weeks or more immersing myself in the research of my novel before I begin the actual writing. When I’m in research mode, I consider it part of my daily writing work, which I block into my schedule. While my writing time is hardly ever uninterrupted or perfect (when I’m at home surrounded by my kids!), I make a commitment to it every day, rain or shine.
For The Preacher’s Bride, I tracked down quite a number of biographies. I also drew extensively from the writings of John Bunyan himself—especially from his autobiography. After studying original church records, street maps of old Bedford, and learning as much as I could about the time period, I finally began the writing.
Having the upfront research helped me to be able to delve into the story and feel like I was already living in England in the 1650’s. Of course, I still needed to do plenty more research as I wrote, but I tried not to let it bog me down from telling the story.
CC: What impressions about John and Elizabeth’s story do you hope The Preacher’s Bride will leave with readers?
JH: Sometimes life can throw incredible challenges into our paths. It’s easy to want to give up or look for the easy way out of difficult situations. But real growth comes when we push ourselves to stay on the path, fight through the challenges, and persevere, no matter how hard.
CC: On your blog, you’ve published great posts on finding an agent, creating an online presence, and the roller coaster effect of writing, all in the midst of promoting one book and working on a second. What advice do you have for writers-on-the-rise who also juggle blog posts with novel or short story writing?
JH: A well-written, compelling story is THE most important thing to an author’s career. No matter where we’re at in the publication process, there will always be other responsibilities that clamor for our attention—social networking, querying, editing, answering emails, etc. We can and should budget time into our writing work days for those kinds of things. BUT, ultimately, the story itself is what counts the most and so we need to remember to give it our best time and energy.
CC: And finally, what are you reading these days?
JH: Currently, I’m in the middle of extensive in-house editing for my second book, The Doctor’s Lady (which is releasing in Sept. 2011), so my face is buried in papers lined with red ink. But when I squeeze in time for reading, I tend to gravitate toward the books of writer friends that I’ve come to know and appreciate.
Thanks again, Jody, for your interview! For all you readers, don’t forget to leave a quick comment to be entered into a drawing for an autographed copy of The Preacher’s Bride! I’ll draw the winner’s name on Tuesday, November 9th.
To find more information about Jody Hedlund visit her website. You can also follow her on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook. If you’d like to purchase a copy of The Preacher’s Bride click on over to www.christianbook.com or Amazon.