About the Author
Jody Hedlund is a best-selling and award-winning author who loves history and happily-ever-afters. She makes her home in Midland, MI with her husband and five children. When she's not writing another of her page-turning stories, you can usually find her sipping coffee, eating chocolate, and reading.
On Newton and Polly...
1. You’ve written about many other true historical couples. What drew you to write about Newton and Polly?
Like most people, I’m familiar with the song Amazing Grace and knew it was written by John Newton who’d once been an atheist slave trader. I’d even heard a little bit about John Newton’s saving grace moment when he was aboard a ship during a life-threatening storm and cried out to God.
However, I’d never heard anything about the love of his life, Polly Catlett, until I began to dig a little deeper into his life. It didn’t take me long to realize that Newton had a passionate love for her, and his love for her affected just about every decision he made for good and bad. Theirs is a beautiful love story, one that God used in a powerful way. I decided it was a story the world needed to hear.
2. Polly Catlett is one of those forgotten women of history. Since most people have never heard of her, she can’t be all that important, can she? What role did she really play in Newton’s life?
Newton readily admits in his autobiography that he fell in love with Polly Catlett at first sight. He says this: “At the first sight of this girl, I felt an affection for her that never abated or lost its influence a single moment in my heart.”
He was completely taken with Polly so much so that every time he visited her, he overextended his stay. Such irresponsibility cost him at least two different jobs and in the end was one of the major reasons he was captured and impressed into the king’s navy.
When Newton’s naval ship sailed away from England, he was so depressed that he contemplated suicide. He said: “Nothing I either felt or feared distressed me so much as being thus forcibly torn away from the object of my affections.”
During his time away as he was involved in the slave trade, Newton’s love for Polly never diminished. If not for his passion for her, he probably wouldn’t have boarded the ship that took him away from Africa. He wouldn’t have experienced the life-threatening storm on the way home. And he might not have written Amazing Grace.
So, yes indeed Polly Catlett was incredibly important. If not for her, the world may never have known the most amazing hymn ever written.
3. Whenever fiction is based on true people or events, authors have the added challenge of maintaining integrity to the truth. How do you balance fact with fiction?
I always make it my goal to stay as true to the known facts as possible. I want to represent the people and events that I write about as accurately as possible. So for example, Newton and Polly really did meet at a young age. Newton really did claim to have fallen in love with her at first sight. He overspent his time at the Catletts on numerous occasions and lost his jobs in the process. Because of his lack of character, the Catlett's forbade further contact with Polly. He was impressed into the Royal Navy but later deserted, was whipped, and demoted. He was later transferred to a merchant vessel and from there spent time dealing in the slave trade in Africa.
4. The title of the book says, A Novel of Amazing Grace. In what ways does the theme of grace come out in the book?
The theme of grace is very prevalent throughout the book because inherently that’s the theme of Newton’s life. In other words, I wouldn’t have been able to accurately write this book or portray Newton’s life without showing the amazing hand of God at work in drawing him back to the truth of the gospel.
Not only did God spare Newton’s life during a life-threatening voyage back to England from Africa, but God spared Newton numerous other times, during his youth and also while he was in Africa working as a slave trader. Newton should have been a dead man. But God saved him time after time, and certainly not because Newton was righteous.
In fact, Newton was vile, blasphemous, and mocked and rejected God. But through it all, God never stopped loving Newton. When Newton finally dropped to his knees and wept over his sins, God was there waiting to draw him in with outstretched arms. That’s truly Amazing Grace.
5. What do you hope readers walk away with after having read Newton and Polly?
During the very last time I read the book while I was doing my last edit, Newton’s return to God brought me to tears. I hope readers, too, are overwhelmed by the sense of God’s presence and grace in Newton’s life.
More than that, I pray that readers will have a new sense of God’s grace extended toward them, that they’ll realize that no matter what they’ve done or where they’ve been, that God is waiting to draw them into his outstretched arms into his amazing grace.
1. What stands out in your mind about what has made you grow the most as a writer?
If I had to narrow down one specific thing that has helped the most in my quest for publication, I’d have to say this: My careful, ongoing, and thorough study and practice of writing techniques has been the single most beneficial aspect of my writing career.
In other words, I read writing craft books, studied fiction-writing basics, and then put what I learned into practice. All the studying and writing has been the number one thing to help me in my writing career.
2. About how long does it take you to write a book?
My writing pace varies from project to project. My historical fiction (like Luther and Katharina and Newton and Polly) generally are much more time-consuming to write than my other books. They require weeks and weeks of concentrated research simply because they are so much more complicated. Not only does the researching take longer, but the writing does too because I have to stop and do additional research.
On average, I’d say that my historicals take me about 5 months including the research, first draft, and then self-editing. Obviously, once I'm done and turn it into my publisher, there's still a lot more work that goes into getting the book ready for publication. But my first draft process usually encompasses about five months.
3. What's life really like as an author?
Many people have misconceptions about what it’s like to be an author. When people think of authors, they usually think of JK Rowling or Nicholas Sparks. In reality, most authors never reach that level of fame, never make millions, and never get movie deals.
In fact, most authors are hardly able to eke out a living. The market has become so flooded and competitive that very few authors can gain enough traction to break out and become a big name.
That means most authors have to work really hard to keep their careers going, working long hours with little glamour. In the end, most authors keep going, not because of the glory or money, but because of their love of telling stories.
4. What’s coming up next in your publication schedule? What can readers look forward to?
In January of 2017, readers can look forward to the 5th and final book in my Beacons of Hope lighthouse series! Be looking for a cover reveal soon!
Then in March of 2017, my third young adult book, For Love and Honor releases. This book spotlights the third knight in the series, Sir Bennet and tells how he finds his one true love.
In June of 2017, I’ll be unveiling a brand new series published by Bethany House. More information coming soon!
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