Please join me in welcoming Jody to the blog today! She recently released the first book in her new series, The Orphan Train series, titled With You Always. It is a fantastic book! Being a homeschool mom, Jody probably doesn’t have a whole lot of time to write, at least the way I picture life! But let me just say that I am so thankful for the time Jody’s husband and kids give her to write, because I could read her books all year long. 🙂
About the Book
Click here to purchaseWhen a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.
The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.
Now, I’m not sure how often there were contests to take over the family business like there was in this book, but Jody has made me a believer. The way she wrote it and spelled it all out was like she had been around a scenario herself. Thornton was my favorite character by far. What upper class man is willing to get his hands dirty and go through what the “workers” go through, especially in this time period? I wouldn’t think it would happen often. But Thornton has a way of defying the norm, which makes him special. At least in my eyes. He’s the character that at first you don’t think you want to like. At all. But over time he kind of grows on you, and the more onion layers he peels away, the more attractive and interesting he becomes.
I cannot wait to see what future installments of the Orphan Train series have in store for us. I hope there is more about Elise’s younger siblings. I can’t say more than that, because I don’t want to give away anything. But they were great characters, especially Marianne. She had spunk, and while she didn’t always make the best decisions, she certainly had a good heart and was just trying to do what she thought was right. Oh why do good things have to come to an end! Make sure you take your time reading – you don’t want to miss anything, and more importantly you’ll have a book hangover when you’re done.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Interview with Jody!
What is the inspiration behind your new Orphan Train series?
I have long been fascinated by the era of the Orphan Trains and the heart-wrenching stories of the homeless and helpless young orphans that were taken from the streets of New York City and other eastern cities and shipped West by the dozens. I was familiar with stories of those scared orphans who were placed out in what was thought to be a more wholesome, healthy environment of the newly settled Mid-Western states. Some of the orphans found happy endings and were adopted into loving families. Others experienced great abuse and heartache in their new homes.
While stories of the orphans who rode the trains have been told—and rightly so—the stories of the women who were involved in the movement are not as well known. One of the things I particularly like to do when telling my stories, is focus on women who have been overlooked by the pages of history. I consider it a great privilege to be able to bring forgotten women to life for our modern generation. Thus, throughout this series, I’ll be focusing each book on a different aspect of the Orphan Train movement, particularly from the perspective of women who experienced riding the trains in one form or another.
An e-novella, An Awakened Heart, kicks off the series. What is the novella about, and is it a must-read in order to understand the series?
An Awakened Heart is not a must-read in order to understand the series. But I do highly recommend reading it. (Plus it’s FREE, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a try!) The e-novella introduces a couple, Guy and Christine, who are both passionate about helping the poor immigrants crowded into the overflowing and dirty tenements of New York City. The novella shows their efforts to bring about change in the city, but also brings them together in a satisfying love story.
The novella also introduces the three orphan sisters who will each become main characters for the three full-length novels in the series. It gives some of the background information on their situation, particularly how they become orphans, which I think readers will find helpful as well as informative.
What special research did you do in writing With You Always?
In the beginning phases of writing this series, I did a great deal of reading about the orphan train movement. In particular, I really loved Stephen O’Conor’s book, Orphan Trains, because he includes so many personal stories and details about real orphans, which are heart wrenching.
I also read, A History of New York City to 1898, by Burrows and Wallace, which gave me great insights into the lives of immigrants, particularly immigrant women. Masses of foreigners were arriving into New York City on a daily basis, and the book gave a detailed look into their pathetic housing situation, the difficult working conditions, as well as gang problems and the underworld.
Finally, another important aspect of the story that required a concentrated amount of research was the development of railroads. The mid-1800’s was an incredible period of growth for the railroad industry in the Mid-West. The new railroads aided the orphan train movement but also brought about the settlement of the Midwestern states, including Illinois, which is one of the settings of the book.
What do you hope readers take away from With You Always?
One of my hopes in telling this story is to leave readers with the reminder that God is walking with us in whatever dark valley we’re going through. Often, like Elise, we tend to pull away from God and let the bitterness of our circumstances drive us into a cave of isolation and self-blame and heartache. But God wants us to realize that even if we pull away from Him, He’s still there walking by our side, waiting for us to reach out our hand and grab ahold of Him. He never leaves us or forsakes us. He’s there waiting.
Is there something you tell yourself before writing?
Usually I tell myself to sit down, put my hands to the keyboard, and get to work. I don’t wait for inspiration or magical fairy dust to hit me before writing. I just do it.
But I also always ask myself, what could make this story better? How can I increase the tension? How can add more excitement? What can I do to make my characters more likeable? I’m constantly challenging myself to make my story more vibrant and alive.
What role does faith play in your novels?
While I try not to preach at my readers, I do weave faith themes through my books. My faith also motivates me to keep my stories “clean.” I believe Christian fiction is a much needed alternative, especially Christian romance.
I just recently got an email from a reader telling me she that she’d picked up several books and been really turned off by the explicitness within them, but that she didn’t realize the books contained such content until she started reading them. She wanted to know if there was a rating system or some way that she could tell if the book would be “clean” before she started reading. I was glad that I could point her to inspirational Christian fiction, that she would be guaranteed the sweet romance she desired.
With You Always is the third book you’ve released in 2017. How do you find time to write so many books?
I keep a very rigorous writing schedule, usually writing six days a week. I give myself a challenging word count goal—a certain number of words to write every day. Then, in the morning, I sit down and write until I meet my goals. It’s as simple . . . and as hard as that!
I like to compare being an author to a marathon runner. The person training to run a marathon doesn’t start off running twenty-six miles the first time she runs. Instead she begins with just a few miles, strengthens her muscles, builds her endurance, and slowly adds more miles.
Writing is the same way. Over the years, I’ve strengthened my writing muscles and built up my endurance so that now I can write faster and for longer stretches.
What are you working on next?
The second book in the orphan train series releases next summer in 2018. The story continues with Marianne Neumann. She gets involved in the orphan train movement as one of the placing agents and accompanies the orphans as they ride the trains west. I hope readers will enjoy Marianne’s story and also appreciate learning more about the orphan train movement from the eyes of the compassionate workers who tried to place the orphans into new homes.
Do you have any parting words?
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/
Thank you so much for stopping by!
About the Author
Winner of 2016 Christian Book Award for fiction and Christy Award for historical romance, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.
Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).
When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.
What is your favorite Jody Hedlund novel?