Going where no woman has gone before

I’m no Star Trek fan, but I’m familiar enough with the series to know that in it, space is the final frontier. In 21st century America, it’s hard to imagine what the exploration of land was like, though I sometimes find myself thinking of pioneers as my family crosses the mountains in our van.

Author Jody Hedlund captures the story of a pioneer missionary couple in her new book The Doctor’s Lady. The story is based on the life of the first white woman to cross the continental divide and travel to the far West. Devotion to God links Priscilla White to her husband Eli Ernest, both of whom are following a call to mission work. Love is secondary. Theirs is a marriage of convenience and sometimes inconvenience. As they experience the trials of a 7-month journey from New York to Oregon Country, they discover parts of themselves they didn’t know existed, and their relationship is the better for it.

This story pulled nearly every emotional string I have. Hedlund’s characters resonated with me and the story’s message beats a drum on my heart that God has been beating for weeks now: courage in the face of new and terrifying experiences.

Priscilla has no idea what it’s like for a woman to travel across country or what it will take to survive. She has pledged her life to a man so she can fulfill God’s call on her life. She doubts. She fears. She presses on.

With a husband nearing the end of seminary, I felt akin to Priscilla. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the right woman for this job of supporting my husband in ministry. And if I have the strength to do it.

Commitment and courage — those are my take-aways from The Doctor’s Lady. Hedlund is also the author of The Preacher’s Bride (which may still be available for FREE on Kindle) and she has a new book coming next year.

Read on for an interview with Hedlund, a homeschooling mom of five from Michigan. And check in on the blog today to see if Jody stops by. Keep reading for a chance to win a copy of the book, too!

What was the inspiration behind The Doctor’s Lady?

This book is inspired by the true life story of Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to brave the dangers of overland trail and travel west. In 1836, she married Dr. Whitman, and then the next day left her childhood home and would never return for the purpose of starting a mission among the Nez Perce natives.

It was my hope in this story to bring Narcissa Whitman to life. This heroic woman has often been ignored and at times even disparaged. In reality, she exuded incredible courage to attempt a trip many proclaimed foolishly dangerous. It was called an “unheard-of-journey for females.” Because of her willingness to brave the unknown, she led the way for the many women who would follow in her footsteps in what would later become known as the Oregon Trail.

What percentage of The Doctor’s Lady is true? And how much did you add?

As with any story of historical fiction, the large majority of what I’ve written was truly from the depths of my imagination, all of my creative meanderings of “what could have happened.”

However, in my research of the Whitmans, I drew from numerous biographies. While I wasn’t able to stick to every historical detail in complete accuracy, most of the story outline is taken directly from Narcissa’s diary.

I tried to follow the trail they took west as closely as possible. While I was unable to include every stop and incident of their travel for the sake of brevity, I did try to capture the essence of their journey. I included their travel first by sleigh, then steamboat, and lastly by wagon and horse.

Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of the book where I explain in more detail which specific incidents came from the pages of her diary and what I made up for the sake of the story.

What’s coming next?

In 2012, my next historical romance releases. I’m really excited about this story because it’s set in my home state of Michigan. It takes place during the 1880’s at a time in history when the lumber era was at its height. Although the story isn’t inspired by a true person the way my first two books have been, I do include several real people, particularly a real villain by the name of James Carr who was notorious in central Michigan for his violence and for introducing white slavery into the state.

The heroine of the story is a young woman, Lily Young, who is looking for her sister who’s caught up into the degradation of lumber camp life. While Lily searches for her missing sister, she fights against the evil that runs rampant around her, and she fights not to lose her heart to the lumber baron who turns a blind eye to the lawlessness of the lumber business.

How did you decide to write historical romance?

I’ve always loved reading historical romances and losing myself in the past. And I’m also a big history buff. So I was naturally drawn to writing about the things I love most.

As a homeschooling mom of five children, how do you manage to find time to write?

It’s definitely not easy. I feel like I have two very full time jobs! But like any other writer trying to balance dual careers or multiple responsibilities, I’ve had to look for ways to make it work. I’ve scaled-back on outside commitments and simplified home life as much as possible. I also stick to a very strict writing schedule when I’m in first draft mode. I block out writing time and don’t let myself go to bed at night unless I get in my daily word count.

What’s your must-have road trip item?

My pillows! I always take my pillows with me on a road-trip (except of course when I fly). I’m really picky about sleeping on “used” pillows. I can’t help wondering who slept on the fluffy mound before me, whether they had clean hair or bad breath or whatever! And besides, no pillow can ever be quite as comfortable as my own. (Now you can see why I wouldn’t have made the trip west in a covered wagon–at least not without a great deal of complaining and whining!)

Where can readers find you?

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


WANT TO WIN YOUR OWN COPY? Leave a comment on my blog site (not Facebook) revealing your must-have road trip item. I’ll pick a random winner via Random.org on Sept. 30. The winner will receive a signed copy of The Doctor’s Lady! Open to U.S. mailing addresses only.

WANT A BONUS ENTRY? Share this post on Facebook or Twitter and come back to the blog to let me know you’ve done it.

But, wait! There’s more! Click the banner below for another contest on Jody’s blog.

Enter the Be A Trailblazer Contest!

In exchange for posting a review and interview, I received a free copy of the book from the author and Bethany House Publishers.


18 thoughts on “Going where no woman has gone before

  1. I just finished your book “The preacher’s bride” I am so glad that Kindle offered this book for free because I had never heard of you before. Isn’t that sad seeing we both live in the same state? You are an inspiration fellow Michigander. I loved your book and look forward to reading many more to come!! I would love to take a road trip on highway 1 on the west coast. A friend of mine lives in the state of Washington and I would love to see her!!


  2. THis is a book I would love to win. It sounds great and I love Judy’s determination to write in spite of a busy life. When I am travelling I have to take a good book or two (sometimes three) and my journal.

  3. Always thankful to find about a new to me Christian author- sounds like Jody Hedlund will be a new favorite of mine.
    I always must have the following shoes with me on vacation: my Merrill slip ons, my flip flops and my hiking boots.
    I am currently on vacation in the Oregon Country and other parts of the PNW. Have hiked in
    to some beautiful waterfalls, seen some ghost towns and traveled to Oregon Trail – MT Hood where the Barlow Trail spur comes through.

    thanks for the chance,

  4. I would love to win a copy of this book! I have yet to read any book by Jody. But I am hoping to read one of her books soon, either the Preacher’s Bride or The Doctor’s Lady, whichever comes first! 🙂 The story sounds excellent!!! One of my favorite road trip items is a good book by one of my favorite authors, or one by a newly discovered author. Thank you for this opportunity!
    God bless!

  5. Roadtrip? I have to have a good book with me. Fortunately, I don’t get carsick and am usually able to read in the car. If the others in the car are talking all the time it’s difficult to concentrate. Alot of times we will listen to audio books.


  6. Lisa! How fun! I met Jody this past weekend at the conference…I would love to win her book, but even if I don’t, I’m going to buy it! 🙂

    Roadtrip…hmmm… I think in a perfect world, I’d want a GREAT mix of songs…in the real world, we’re probably listening to Max and Ruby on the DVD player! A close second would have to be candy!

  7. Foe me, I need a good book and maybe some Tori Amos on the radio. However, I have to admit, if it is 4 + hours, now we require a dvd player and Mickey Mouse. I have succumbed to the evil world of tv in the car…

    • That’s not evil. That’s survival. 🙂 I swore I’d never be like that before I had kids, too, but I don’t know how we’d make the 13+ hour drive back to Illinois without the DVD player!

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