Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of over 30 historical novels for both adults and teens and is the winner of numerous awards, including the Christy Award, Carol Award, and Christian Book Award. With her new book, Never Leave Me, Jody plunges you into the swiftly flowing river of history in this second breathtaking Waters of Time story.
In this interview she share some of her thoughts behind the characters and storyline of Never Leave Me.
FF: Can you please provide a brief description of your latest novel, Never Leave Me?
In Never Leave Me, Harrison Burlington, a brilliant scientist, is left to pick up the pieces after his friends Marian and Arthur Creighton die while in comas after supposedly traveling into the past to the Middle Ages. With his power and wealth, Harrison continues the search for more holy water, with the hope of saving the woman he secretly loves, Ellen Creighton, who is dying of a genetic disease.
Ellen’s health deteriorates rapidly. As the one-year anniversary of the deaths of her dad and sister draw near, Ellen’s prognosis is grim, and the doctors agree she doesn’t have long to live. She resigns herself to her fate. But Harrison only grows more desperate to save her.
When Harrison finds two flasks of holy water, he sets into motion events that change both his and Ellen’s lives forever and sends them on an adventure of a lifetime.
FF: Never Leave Me is the second installment in your Waters of Time series. What ties the books in this series together?
The main tie with Never Leave Me is that the holy water related to the Tree of Life is still the primary vehicle for time traveling. The characters must still drink the water to go into the past. And they still need two doses if they hope to survive and return to the present.
Another tie is that the main characters continue to stay connected to the Middle Ages during the same time period from the previous installment (but a year later in 1382). Readers will get another trip to the past with Ellen and Harrison with some new characters making their debuts. But readers will also be excited to learn that they’ll get to spend more time with Marian and Will too and find out what’s going on with this amazing couple.
FF: Set in Canterbury in the Middle Ages, your book incorporates time travel as a central theme. What was it like to write about this mystical topic while balancing the portrayal of different periods in time?
Time travel involves a merging of fantasy and historical elements—blending wildly creative and imaginative ideas with very realistic and accurate details from the past. Such a dichotomy requires pulling out all the stops for the fantasy elements but then staying grounded for all the historical details.
In order to handle that balance, I set out to make my time travel elements sound as believable as possible. By the end of the books, I want readers (even if just to a small degree) asking whether there really is such a thing as holy water and whether holy water can heal or cause realistic (time-travel-like) visions. If I’m able to do that, then I consider myself to have accomplished the balance between fantasy and history successfully!
FF: Female protagonist Ellen Creighton suffers from the same genetic disease that robbed her of her mother at a young age. Can you tell us a little more about Ellen and her family’s history?
In Never Leave Me, Ellen is struggling with a resurgence of cancer as a result of VHL, Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome. After numerous treatments and attempts to stave off the disease, it’s finally caught up with her, and her doctors give her a grim prognosis.
While Harrison still holds out hope that holy water is the ultimate cure, Ellen is totally against it since she believes it killed her sister and her dad.
Being the eternal optimist and having learned to live with her short expiration date, Ellen is happy spending her final days at Chesterfield Park enjoying the beauty of the gardens, making the most of her time with Harrison, and pouring into the children who are a part of her new charity organization, Serenity House.
But when Harrison discovers more holy water, Ellen soon realizes it may offer more hope than she once thought.
FF: What type of research was required to accurately portray fourteenth-century Canterbury?
In the first book, I focused a great deal of my research on the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381. However, in the second book, the story doesn’t center around one specific event in the same way. Instead, there are a number of different historical things happening including the resurgence of the Black Plague and an earthquake that hits the British Isles in 1382.
In addition, the reader once again gets to experience a more intimate look at what life was like during the Middle Ages, including childbirth, marriage, customs, traditions, clothing, and much more. I appreciated using The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer as a resource.
FF: What do you hope readers take away from reading Never Leave Me?
The characters in this story truly struggle with the issue of how to live life to the fullest. With a terminal illness, Ellen uses the Serenity Prayer to keep her focused on what she can and cannot change. She wants to embrace each day by enjoying one moment at a time.
While never knowing when her end may come, Ellen has also never allowed herself to truly put down roots or to truly love. She learns that instead of living in fear, she has to hold on to the love she’s given while it lasts, because a person never knows when it will slip away. Ultimately in the end, I hope readers, like Ellen, will learn to grasp on to life, making the most of the time God gives them.
FF: You are a bestselling author of over 30 novels and have written books set in many different time periods and even different countries. What does your process look like when you prepare to dive into a new time period?
For my research, before starting my first draft, I usually spend weeks reading biographies and any other time-period books. I sift through plot ideas, wanting to stick as closely to the facts as possible, but also knowing I need to dramatize the story to bring it to life.
A large part of my planning involves the process of getting to know my characters. I use an extensive character worksheet for that process. Many times, I find real people from history or real situations and use those as inspiration for my characters, but then fill in the rest and make them larger than life.
Then after my characters are living and breathing in my mind, and after I have a basic plot outline, I start the actual writing. While I’m in first draft mode, I try not to stop the flow of my writing momentum by researching. I usually highlight something that needs more research and will wait until the editing phase before digging deeper. However, if it’s a larger issue that involves a new setting or something integral to the plot, then I do take some time off to pursue that particular research need. But I try to keep the interruptions brief whenever I’m in my first draft.
FF: What do you love the most about writing in the historical romance genre?
First and foremost I consider myself a romance writer. One of the primary reasons I’m drawn to the historical genre is because of the variety of ways to develop romance and love in bygone eras that don’t exist in modern times, especially marriages of convenience (a trope that happens to be one of my favorites). I also really love the morals, the chivalry, and the high standards of past times because they can also add to the romantic tension.
Another really fun part about writing historical romance is that I get to bring difficult and enlightening eras to life. I learn so much with each book that I write. It’s helped me appreciate the past and have more gratefulness for the present.
FF: What are you working on next?
I have ideas for two more time travel books utilizing holy water. I would love to write them! In the meantime, I’m working on a Colorado Cowboy series, a historical romance family saga set in the 1800s in the high country of the Rocky Mountains.
Never Leave Me
Waters of Time Series #2
Genres: Romance, Suspense, Time Travel Romance
Release Date: January 4, 2022
Facing death takes courage. Facing life takes even more.
In the last stages of a genetic disease, Ellen Creighton has decided to live out her remaining days at the estate of her longtime friend Harrison Burlington. Though he’s never allowed himself to get serious in a relationship due to his paralysis, Harrison cares deeply for Ellen and is desperately trying to save her life by finding the holy water that is believed to heal any disease–the same substance Ellen suspects is responsible for the deaths of her father and sister.
But Harrison is not the only one seeking the holy water. Dangerous criminals are mere steps behind, and Ellen soon learns they will go to any lengths to get the powerful drug–including sending her back into the past to locate it for them.
Buy Never Leave Me from the FF Store HERE!
Buy Never Leave Me from Amazon HERE!