Q&A with Jody Hedlund: Undaunted Hope
Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring Undaunted Hope
Running from the mistakes of her past, Tessa Taylor heads to the uppermost reaches of Michigan, planning to serve as the new teacher to the children of miners. She quickly learns the town had requested a male teacher, but Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since it's too late to replace her. Tessa can't help but thank him and say she is in his debt.
Determined to make herself irreplaceable once spring thaw arrives, Tessa throws herself into her work, and soon two students have decided Miss Taylor is the right match for their grieving father. At the same time, charming assistant lightkeeper Alex Bjorklund makes his interest known, surprising Tessa, who has never had men fight for her hand before. But not all is well as she feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.
“Hedlund again provides a satisfying, heartwarming story of adventure, adversity and love in the Michigan wilderness. Her characters leap from the pages with verve and wit, and readers can't help but cheer for them.” --RT Book Reviews
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for Undaunted Hope?
Jody: For this third book in my Michigan lighthouse series, I wanted to pick a location that was different than the other books. The first two books, Love Unexpected and Hearts Made Whole, are set in the "Mitten" of Michigan. So to add variety to the series, I decided to place Undaunted Hope in the Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior.
In doing my research of Michigan lighthouses, I learned that there are lighthouses dotted all over the coast of Lake Superior since it was such a treacherous lake to traverse and an important place for steamers due to the rich natural resources that were available. As I studied the various lighthouses, I finally landed upon Eagle Harbor Lighthouse in the Keweenau Peninsula because not only was the area rich in resources, but it was rich in history and the makings of a really great story!
Brock: Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
Jody: Tessa Taylor is the heroine of Undaunted Hope. She's the sister of the light keeper in Hearts Made Whole, the second book in the series. Tessa, unlike her sister, doesn't like lighthouses. Actually, she doesn't want to have anything to do with lighthouses.
So in keeping with Tessa's desires, she arrives in the Eagle Harbor, Michigan to become a school teacher. As I researched the area, I came across the diary of a real school teacher, Henry Hobart, who lived and taught in Clifton which was just a few miles down the road from Eagle Harbor. He wrote a detailed account of his life as a school teacher to the mining children.
I loved reading his diary and learning about all he experienced, especially those unique things that came with being in such a remote area of Michigan and living among the mining community.
I used many of Hobart's experiences in Undaunted Hope. For example, he boarded with a Cornish family, the Rawlings, and Mr. Rawlings was a prominent mine engineer and mechanic. So I had Tessa board with this particular family. Hobart faced many hardships like bedbugs, lice, scarlet fever, the harsh winter, and much more. So again, I had Tessa experience many of those same things.
Brock: In three words, what is this book about?
Jody: Face your fears.
Brock: What have you enjoyed most in writing this lighthouse series?
Jody: Over the past couple of years of writing this series, I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to visit numerous lighthouses throughout the state. Not only have I attempted to visit the lighthouses that are used as settings for the books, but I've also been inspired to visit many others. Every time I do, I learn a little bit more about how lighthouses were operated and have come to realize that they're all so unique.
During the past summer of 2015 I toured several lighthouses including: Tawas Point Lighthouse, St. Joseph Lighthouses, and Mackinac City Lighthouse.
Each time I climb a tower, reach the top, and gaze out at the spectacular view, I'm always amazed by the beauty. I never tire of the experience and can completely understand the fascination so many people have with lighthouses. I think I caught the "lighthouse bug" and will forever be visiting them!
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
Jody: I start out with a brainstormed list of plot ideas. I do my best to think of as many twists and turns as I can before I start writing the first draft. And I usually have a pretty good idea of how I want the plot to wrap up.
But inevitably the story develops even more as I get into the meat of writing. I think that’s what makes writing so fun and what gives me such a rush—to see what new aspects unfold and where the story actually leads as I get to know my characters more intimately.
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
Jody: I pray that this story will encourage readers with renewed hope. Just like Tessa, I hope that readers will find the strength to face their fears. We all have things that frighten us, and many times we find it easier to run away from those things that scare us. Sometimes, however, God calls us to walk directly into that thing we fear most. He wants us to know that during those times, he's there walking right beside us and that he'll help us come out on the other side stronger as a result.
Brock: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
Jody: Like many writers, I’ve been writing since my childhood days. I always loved telling stories. When I was in junior high, I entered my first writing contest for a Biblical fiction story. And when I won, I realized God had indeed gifted me. I think that was when I became more serious about wanting to be a writer when I grew up. The passion followed me into adulthood. And after many twists and turns along the path, I’ve finally been able to channel that passion into a full time writing career.
Brock: What are some of the strongest influences on your writing?
Jody: My mom was the most influential person in my writing career. When I was young, she helped facilitate my love of writing by reading aloud to me, giving me good books to read, and providing the kind of environment that fostered my creativity (in fact we didn’t have a TV for a number of years). She always believed in me, encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and rode alongside me cheering me on.
Brock: What is your favorite social media hangout?
Jody: Currently my favorite social media hangout is Instagram. I'm a very visual person and love pictures. I use Instagram to post personal pictures of my kids, family life, food, and cats.
A second favorite is Pinterest, also because of all the pictures! I have a variety of boards there for my stories, writing tips, reading humor, etc. And I also use it for secret boards for potential characters and settings of future books.
Brock: Coke or Pepsi?
Jody: Diet Pepsi
Brock: Soft shell or Hard Shell tacos?
Jody: Soft shell loaded with all the toppings
Brock: Favorite place to vacation?
Jody: Dream vacation: castles throughout Europe
Brock: Favorite season?
Jody: All of them in their own time
Brock: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
Jody: Coffee. Coffee. And more coffee. :-)
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
Jody: One of the many verses I treasure is "I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength." Phil. 4:13 That verse has held me in good stead through many trials.
Brock: What do kinds of activities do you do to keep yourself energized and refreshed?
Jody: One of the most important activities that I've taken up over the past couple of years is running. Not only is it a great way to stay healthy (yes, I've reduced my blood pressure and cholesterol since I started running), but I also use my running time to pray, praise, and listen to books.
Of course, I LOVE reading! I always have a couple of books going at once. And most nights I read in bed before going to sleep.
Brock: As a Christian writer, how do you keep yourself spiritually revived so that you have fresh messages to share in your stories?
Jody: At the same time I have a fiction book that I'm reading, I usually also have a non-fiction spiritual growth book going. For example, I recently read the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. It was an excellent book to jump-start my prayer life.
I also really love the preaching of the new pastor at our church. I try to take really good notes every Sunday so that I can mull over the messages at home. And I also enjoy a women's Bible study where I learn and grow a lot.
Brock: How do you find time to write so many books?! Are you a really fast writer or super woman?
Jody: Haha! I'm definitely not super woman! And I have no super powers! But I am very organized which helps me budget my limited time wisely. I also am very goal-oriented, which allows me to plan out my writing schedule into bite-sized, manageable chunks. And on a daily basis, I give myself word-count goals which pushes me to write my books in a specific time frame.
Am I a fast writer? Compared to a lot of other writers, I'm probably slow. But over the years of writing, I have honed my writing muscles so that the words and ideas do flow easier than when I first started writing.
Brock: Do you have any parting words?
Jody: I love hearing from readers! Make sure you stop by one of these places and say hello!
I hang out on Facebook here: Author Jody Hedlund
I also love to chat on Twitter: @JodyHedlund
My home base is at my website: jodyhedlund.com
Find me on Instagram: instagram.com/jodyhedlund/
Come pin with me on Pinterest: pinterest.com/jodyhedlund/pins/
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