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Interview with Jody Hedlund

Jody Hedlund is an author of Historical, Historical Romance and Young Adult novels. She’s married to her college sweetheart and does double duty as mom and homeschool teacher for their five children. Jody and her family live in Michigan. She credits her mother for fostering a love for writing by reading to her and providing an endless supply of good books to read. Jody also credits her husband for being so supportive of her following her writing career dreams as he helps her carve out writing time when he helps around the house and does the grocery shopping. Jody dreams of two things: taking a research trip to England or Germany and being able to have time to take a nap. Until then, she’s enjoying her life and savoring the dreams God has allowed to come true, such as when her 2010 debut novel, The Preacher’s Bride, became a CBA bestseller!

Congrats on the October release of your new novel! Why did you name it Luther & Katharina: A Novel of Love and Rebellion?
First and foremost, the novel is based on the heretic monk, Martin Luther and the runaway nun, Katharina von Bora, who would become his bride. Not only is the book based on their amazing, true love story, but it also contains a deeply moving plot of rebellion against spiritual and traditional customs of the Middle Ages.

Tell us about your hero Luther. What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses? How is his appearance? What does he love the most about Katharina?
Where to begin with Luther! He was such a complex man. While he was determined and passionate, he was also in some ways insecure, leading him to rely heavily upon his friends. He felt things deeply and passionately which is why he was moved, time after time, to act upon his beliefs. Overall, he was a man unafraid to speak his mind or to challenge others.

He suffered from melancholy (today known as depression) among a myriad of other physical ailments. His later portraits portray him as a somewhat large man. But at the time he married Katharina, he was still living in abject poverty. He would have been much thinner and likely a striking man.

There are many things he loves about Katharina when he allows himself to finally admit that he cares for her! She certainly would make his life lively and interesting, rising up to question him and challenge him to become a better man in many ways.

Tell us about your heroine Katharina. What is her heart’s deepest desire? What is her role in Luther’s life? What is her worst fear? What or who brings her the most joy?
Katharina is a noblewoman who has been groomed from her years in the convent to a life of gentility. Even if the convent ordered her time with a strict regime, she was comfortable financially and was safe from many of the dangers women faced in the Middle Ages.

As the teachings of Martin Luther seep secretly into the convent, his words about the goodness of marriage awaken dormant desires to have a family, something she's been denied since the age of five when she was placed involuntarily into the convent by her father.

Her worst fear after running away from the convent is that she may not be able to find the noble husband that she desires. During those days, most people married within their social class. People of noble birth wouldn't think of marrying someone lower than them. So as time begins to pass and Katharina's chance of finding a noble husband dwindles, she has to allow God to finally work in her heart.

Why did you write this new novel? Who or what was your inspiration?
As I homeschooled my children and gave them history lessons, I began learning a lot about some of the great heroes of the faith. I was particularly fascinated by the wives of these great heroes, especially those who were long forgotten by our modern world, women who had stood by their husband’s sides during dangerous times and had helped shape those men into the heroes they became. I wanted to bring these women to life for our modern generation. I wanted to tell their stories.

Katharina von Bora is one of those women who has been largely ignored by today's culture, but she's a strong woman whose story deserves to be told every much as her husband's. I'm excited about sharing her story, about her daring and dangerous escape from a convent, how she met Luther, and how the two of them overcame many obstacles to eventually fall in love and form a strong marriage.

As a woman of faith, how does your belief in God play into your storytelling style?
My goal is to give a voice to the forgotten women of the past. Since most of history has been written by men, unfortunately all too often the accounts neglect to include or even minimize the many women who played critically important roles in the shaping of history.

As a mother of five children and a wife to a husband in Christian ministry, I've had a firsthand learning experience of the incredible work load and responsibility that comes with raising a family, being a wife, managing a home, as well as helping do all of the things necessary to provide emotionally, physically, and financially for our family. As I go about this calling God's given me at this stage in my life, I have a greater appreciation for the women of the past who also struggled through the same issues (but without all of the modern conveniences that I have!).

I believe modern women will benefit from hearing their stories, will be incredibly encouraged to see these women who persevered through discrimination and found the strength to use their God-given abilities to make a difference. Not only did they make a difference in their era, but today (decades and even centuries later) we can see the fruits of their bravery and strength. These women of the past have encouraged me to persevere and to use my skills and talents to make a difference in my time. No matter how big or small that difference might be, I want to be faithful to leave an impact, just as those women did.

I found it interesting in light of this new book that you were drawn to the stories of Martin Luther that you learned every year in the catechism classes taught by your Lutheran school teachers. Would you consider that foreshadowing that you were destined to write this new novel, a fictional story, about Martin Luther’s life? Why or why not?

Yes, I was born and baptized a Lutheran. In fact my dad was a Lutheran pastor all his life until he passed away. I have an uncle who was a Lutheran pastor until he retired. I went to Lutheran grade school, and my high school alma mater is Lutheran High School in Rockford, IL. I took catechism classes and was confirmed in the Lutheran church. My German and Norwegian grandparents on both sides of my family were strong Lutherans as well.

I definitely have a very fond spot in my heart for all things related to Martin Luther since his name and teachings were such an integral part of my upbringing. So perhaps I was destined to write this novel!

When did you “know” you were a writer? Share the story.
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.

However, as I began my college years, I quickly realized that creative writing wasn’t a career track that would help pay the bills. For a time, God moved me into social work. I went on to get my master's and was thankful for the experiences and opportunities I had during those years of helping underprivileged people. I believe all of that experience helps me now to write more authentically about hurting people.

What was your journey to publication like as a first-time author? What is it like now as an experienced and award-winning writer?
While I was working all those years as a social worker, I was still writing and submitting manuscripts. I took a seven year break after my twins were born. Then when my youngest was a baby, I finally started writing again. The first book I wrote after my hiatus was The Preacher's Bride
During the time that I began querying The Preacher’s Bride, I sent it to a newer agent. When my query came in, she liked my story and sample chapter and subsequently requested to see the full of my manuscript.

But like most unknown writers, my manuscript went into the TBR slush pile where it languished. However, while waiting for this agent to read it, I didn’t sit around idly twirling my thumbs. I worked hard during those months and went on to write another book. I kept building my online presence. And I entered some contests.

After two manuscripts finaled in ACFW’s Genesis contest (one of them The Preacher’s Bride), I re-contacted the agent who had my manuscript to let her know. She pulled my manuscript to the top of her slush pile, read it, and offered me representation with a couple of days. She went on to land me a three-book contract within a few months' time.

I've continued to work very hard to build my writing career. It's not been an easy road, but 2015 has been a big year for me to branch out into YA and Historicals in addition to the Historical Romances that I have been writing.

What is your favorite Bible verse that brings you inspiration and comfort?
Among many, here’s one I aspire to live by: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. (Ecc. 9:10) I believe in working responsibly and hard with the gifts we’ve been given.

Share a glimpse into your personal life with details about your family. What do you love the most about your home life and living in Michigan?
I've been married to my college sweetheart for almost twenty-five years, and we have five children ranging in ages from 18 down to 10. Between homeschooling and running our kids to activities, we're crazily busy! We live in central Michigan and so take our summers very seriously, considering at least 6 months of the year are cold and overcast.

Complete this sentence: In my free time, I love to ____________________________.
In my free time, I love to READ!! I absolutely love reading! When I find a really good book, I have a hard time tearing myself away from it to get to sleep.

Thanks for the interview, Jody!

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