I found out about Jody Hedlund via her agent's website which I urge you to visit immediately, then get back here quick. [Digression: Rachelle's site always makes for awesome reading, not simply because of the incredibly sound advice that she hands on to aspiring writers, but also for the comments she gets. Why the comments? Because I like a good laugh. Despite Rachelle's experience and understanding of the industry, despite her patience and good nature, despite her taking time writing her posts and engaging with her readers, she always, always, always gets amateurs telling her that, no actually, she is wrong and that they know better. Compelling, if only a touch depressing, reading.]
So I investigated who this Jody was and navigated to her online home. I was impressed. No, I was IMPRESSED. And do you know why? Because this is a writer with a family (no, not just any family, but one including five little kids and various pets) who successfully landed an agent, a multiple-book publishing contract and finds time to write articles about the writing process on her site, three times a week, while always engaging with her readers. Does that make you feel just a tad small dear reader? Perhaps you complain that you don't have time to write because Twitter takes up all of your waking hours? Yeah, well, exactly.
Jody was the writer who therefore inspired one of my favourite posts, the one about not having time to write, where I suggested we all do a time audit and act accordingly (once we've picked ourselves up from the floor, obviously). Next time you feel overwhelmed by your schedule or swamped by your nagging family (they never leave you alone, do they?!), have a look at this and this, then this and this and this.
Her site isn't all about time management; there you will find plentiful suggestions to improve your writing, your characterisation and your professional presentation. I particularly love the Character Worksheet, because I believe that it can be used in partnership with Roald Dahl's suggestion we discussed last week (here and then here). Do not discount minute details when creating your characters. They are precisely what you need in order to create a picture that will seduce and enthrall your reader. I'm sure that's what we have to look forward to in Jody's debut novel, The Preacher's Bride, coming October 2010. And now let's see what this super-lady made of my questions... Oh and one last thing... for a while last year I even thought that my own productivity would increase if I got myself five kids, like she has. I don't know what I was taking...
What is your idea of perfect writing?
I really don’t believe there’s such a thing as perfect writing simply because none of us are perfect people. I recently finished the galleys for my debut book, and I realized very quickly how imperfect the book still is, even after many edits both from myself and my editors. I’m sure I could edit it a thousand more times and still find things to fix. We can strive for perfection and drive ourselves crazy in the process. Or instead we can realize our writing will be fallible and let that challenge us always to be learning and growing in our writing skill.
What is your greatest writing fear?
Currently, with the release of my first book only months away, my greatest fear is that I’ll disappoint followers and friends, that they’ll read my book, find my amateur mistakes, and go, “Sheesh! She’s definitely no super star.”
On the other hand, when friends see that I’m just an ordinary writer, I hope they’ll be encouraged to think, “If she could land an agent and book contract, then I can too.”
[Steph interjects: dear reader, I think this is an incredibly powerful message. Ours is an age that has trained us to aim for perfection while perfection is an ever-moving target. If we continue to move the goalposts farther and farther away from us as we approach them, are we ever going to be satisfied with our abilities? I am not suggesting that we settle for mediocre and sloppy, but I do think that to tell ourselves 'well done' every so often is going to be immensely more productive than repeating 'not good enough' no matter what we do.]
What do you consider your greatest writing achievement?
Every completed novel is an incredible feat. To spend month after month dreaming, planning, and weaving together an imaginary tale, and to be able to wrap up all the threads and bring the story to a satisfying conclusion is one of the most difficult but fulfilling accomplishments I’ve ever experienced. A lot of people say, “I have an idea for a book” or “I’d like to write a book” but the process of actually finishing a full length novel is what separates the men from the boys, the wannabes from the real writers.
What is the writing tendency you most deplore in yourself?
I have a tendency to make my characters “gaze” at everything. It’s been my pet repetition for the past two books. And now that I’m aware of this rather annoying pet, I’m ready to cut it loose and see if I can get along without it.
Which living writer do you most admire?
I’m rubbing shoulders with so many other writers throughout cyberland, I have to say the writers I admire the most are the ones who make an effort to connect in a real way with others. Yes, Twitter, Facebook, and blogging have revolutionalized the way we view authors.
Of course, we still want quality writing, but the social in social media is also important in building admiration. Those with warm personalities and kind attitudes can influence us to buy their books. And likewise, we can easily be deterred by authors who come across as cold and haughty on social media sites.
What is your greatest writing extravagance?
I like buying new laptops. There, I admit it. I’m on my second laptop in two years—and my “N” key is almost worn off. I like my laptops new and shiny, without all the cookie crumbs in the keyboard, and fingerprints on the screen. So... I’ll figure out a way to reward myself with another one at some point in the not so distant future!
What is the quality you most admire in somebody else's writing?
Depth and passion. They’re the qualities I most like in my stories and it’s definitely what I gravitate to in the books I read.
What or who is your greatest writing love?
I adore great, but little-known women from history and bringing their stories to life.
When and where were you happiest with your writing?
The circumstances of my writing life are rarely perfect. Getting in my word count some days requires a major miracle. Sentences don’t always come easy. I get tired, sick; I battle distractions. And yet, the process of writing is like a mini-oasis, a place that I can go to refresh myself, to get a break from the demands of real life.
If you could change one thing about your writing, what would it be?
I’m usually happy when my characters and story are in complete chaos and conflict! If I get bored or dissatisfied, then I know I need to stop and switch things up, add more tension, make it more exciting, take a new plot turn, or something.
What is the most marked characteristic of your writing?
My publishing house has described my writing this way: “Jody Hedlund delivers an emotionally powerful historical romance that will tug at hearts.”
But I consider myself a young writer, still in the process of discovering my writer’s voice. I like how agent, Chip MacGregor recently described voice: 'It's your personality on the page. As the writer, you have a unique voice – something that sounds exactly like you, that is completely different from everyone else'.
The best writers develop a strong sense of voice, so that you can actually tell the author wrote it. With each book I write, I’m developing a stronger voice. I hope over time I’ll have characteristics or personality that readers can see. But for now, I’m still a WIP (work in progress).
Who are your writing heroes?
Those who struggle just like I do, day after day, to create the stories of our imaginations, but who don’t give up when the going gets tough and who persevere against incredible hardship.
How do you hope your writing will be referred to as long after you've gone?
Compelling.What is your writing motto?
Learn, learn, learn. Write, write, write. Repeat ad infinitum.