Jo Huddleston is a multi-published author of books, articles, and short stories. Her debut novels in the Caney Creek Series and her latest book, Wait for Me are sweet Southern romances. She is a member of ACFW, the Literary Hall of Fame at Lincoln Memorial University (TN), and holds a M.Ed. degree from Mississippi State University. Jo lives in the U.S. Southeast with her husband, near their two grown children and four grandchildren. Find Jo on her website, her blog, Facebook, and Goodreads.
What sparked the story for this novel?
When I wrote my latest novel, Wait for Me, I had been to a real coal mining community one time. One memorable time. I went home from college with a friend for a weekend. Her home was in the coal mining region in southern West Virginia.
We had arrived at my friend’s home after dark and I did not see any part of the coal community until the next day. My friend took me to the company store. When we left the store and stood on the wide porch, I saw the tipple. An imposing structure towering above all else around it.
The memory of that tipple burrowed deep within my mind. When I began writing for publication, I wanted to write a book about a coal camp and its tipple. I write sweet Southern romances with settings I know. My first published fiction series, the Caney Creek Series, was set in the southern Appalachians of East Tennessee. I decided to release that memory of a coal tipple and set my second fiction series in the coal-mining region of West Virginia.
Share a bit of your journey to publication. Was it short or long?
My journey to publication was interrupted. I had traditionally published three nonfiction titles and over 200 articles and short stories in more than fifty well-known periodicals. I had begun to mull over a novel idea but then I experienced a health issue that prevented me from writing with pen and paper or on a keyboard.
For seven years my body wouldn’t do what my brain told it to do. But I recovered somewhat and could get back to the keyboard. During those seven years I had a lot of time to meditate. A relative marvels that I’ve never questioned “God, why me?” I have not become bitter because of the health issue. I think God just gave me time to understand a lot of things when I was inactive.
I’m a more peaceful, patient, and faithful me. The writing journey is never-ending. How could I not write? What writing ability I have comes from God and I must be the best steward of that gift that I can be.
What would you do if you didn't write?
I’d have more time to read!
What makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?
Marketing causes me to struggle a bit. Writing is not a struggle. As for the marketing, I just buckle down and do it. I don’t stress over it and I know how much I can do and what I cannot comfortably do.
In a corner of a bedroom I have a desk that’s anchored by a laptop, printer, lamp, and ordered stacks of paper. I used this desk while in high school.
Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? Why?
I prefer the creating aspect of writing. I’m a pantster writer—I plot only in my head. When I write, my story is a stream of creativity that I want nothing to slow or stop. I see my characters say and do things that surprise me and I smile. Writing is a joy. The editing aspect of writing is more like work.
Do you consider yourself a visual writer? If so, what visuals do you use?
Visuals in my mind, from my personal experience or research, not physical visuals I need to see.
What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer?
1. Ask God to help you write before your fingers touch the keyboard each day.
2. Be teachable.
3. If writing for publication, be patient.
Then what 3 things would recommend not doing?
1. You can benefit from reading other authors in your genre, but don’t try to copy them. Use your own unique voice to write your story.
2. Heed the rules of the writing craft. But don’t get so hamstrung by the rules that your creativity suffers.
3. Don’t try to write for the trends that may appear to be popular. By the time you would finish your manuscript, that trend may have vanished.
What's next for you?
Book 2 in the West Virginia Mountains Series. I don’t have a title yet—I usually get my titles from a scene or chapter in the book as I write.
Can Julie, an only child raised with privilege and groomed for high society, and Robby, a coal miner’s son, escape the binds of their socioeconomic backgrounds? Set in a coal mining community in West Virginia in the 1950s, can their love survive their cultural boundaries?
This is a tragically beautiful love story of a simple yet deep love between two soul mates, Robby and Julie. The American South’s rigid caste system and her mother demand that Julie chooses to marry an ambitious young man from a prominent and suitable family. Julie counters her mother’s stringent social rules with deception and secrets in order to keep Robby in her life. Can the couple break the shackles of polite society and spend their lives together? Will Julie’s mother ever accept Robby?