Adult Christian historical romance novelist Jody Hedlund puts a new spin on Robin Hood in her Uncertain Choice young adult series. With the second book in the series A Daring Sacrifice (Zondervan) on sale in March, Hedlund discussed why she writes for a YA audience, and how she integrates faith elements into an adventure story.
What drew you from adult fiction to the YA category?
I really wanted to write this series because I was reading some of the other YA books available and realized that there is a population of young adults that needs and wants an alternative—and that some of the best-selling YA books have some values or sexual content that left them uncomfortable. I feel this series offers some of the same excitement teens want but as a sweet, clean kind of romance that can model things that are noble and good.
A Daring Sacrifice incorporates a faith angle without actually preaching from the Bible. How do you maintain that balance?
It’s naturally tricky to keep a faith focus and not become preachy. I have three teenagers and two tweens, so I understand there’s a need to convey spiritual truths that teens can really relate to, and I think fiction offers that opportunity in an immense way. One way I introduce faith elements is by giving the characters— the hero and the heroine—flaws they must work through as the story progresses. As they wrestle through those spiritual or character flaws, I want them to grow throughout the book, but I don’t want them to end up perfect either. I try to bring some emotional and spiritual resolution to that particular story so they can be in a different spot in the end of the book than where they started.
How does that method apply to the book’s heroine, Juliana?
Juliana harbors a great deal of bitterness toward wealthy nobles [including her uncle and cousin] who have hurt her and her family through high taxes and cruel laws, so she resorts to stealing from them. It’s that Robin Hood twist—she has become the “Cloaked Bandit” stealing from nobles in order to provide food and other necessities for her followers. Even though Juliana has tried to justify the stealing, deep inside she knows it’s wrong and [it] doesn’t please God. Juliana eventually realizes that she must fight the problems [with] her uncle with honor and sacrifice rather than by sinning and committing crimes.
Why did you decide to base A Daring Sacrifice on Robin Hood?
Fairy tales are timeless, and are classics, and everyone has grown up sharing them and loving them. I think there are just so many different qualities and truths in them that people can continue going back to and relating to. Retellings of fairy tales in different time periods and different settings, whatever it is, are so popular among readers—that happily ever after, what life can really be like, that longing we all have inside of us for something better, something happier than, perhaps, what we’re going through.