Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Guest Post & Giveaway ~ BABE IN THE WOODS by Jude Hopkins

Babe in the Woods
by: Jude Hopkins
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: June 7, 2023
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

It’s September 1995, the first year of the rest of Hadley Todd's life. After living in Los Angeles, Hadley returns to her hometown in rural New York to write and be near her father. In addition to looking after him and teaching high school malcontents, Hadley hopes to channel her recent L.A. heartbreak into a play about the last moment of a woman’s innocence. But she seeks inspiration.

Enter Trey Harding, a young, handsome reporter who covers sports at the high school. Trey reminds Hadley of her L.A. ex and is the perfect spark to fire up her imagination. The fact that Trey is an aspiring rock star and she has L.A. record biz connections makes the alliance perfect. She dangles promises of music biz glory while watching his moves. But the surprising twist that transpires when the two of them go to Hollywood is not something Hadley prepared for.

Finding inspiration to write Babe in the Woods
By Jude Hopkins

One of my favorite authors, Henry James, created characters who were richly endowed with imagination. Through them, he illustrated the advice he gave to would-be writers in The Art of Fiction: “Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.”

James described the imaginative mind as a spider web “suspended in the chamber of consciousness…catching every air-borne particle in its tissue.”

I based much of wrote in my book, Babe in the Woods, on my own experiences and people I knew, drawing from the “spider web” of my consciousness that had caught and held so many details.

My book is set in a small upstate New York town, one surrounded by mountains that kept both the big-city trouble—and fun—at arm’s length. The protagonist, Hadley Todd, is a high school English teacher. She is also a caretaker to her father. She compares herself to Scarlett O’Hara in the sense that she remains only friends with a man who loves her but is captivated by the unavailable men she’s met and fallen for. She moved to L.A. to work at a record company, but returned to her hometown to be with her family and teach again.

All of the above is based to some extent on my experiences. I was raised in a small town in western Pennsylvania, fell in love with a few unavailable but captivating men, went to L.A. and worked at a famous record company, and returned to my hometown to teach and care for my elderly parents. So the parallels are there, inspiration-wise.

“Everything is copy,” Nora Ephron wrote. Everything you’ve experienced or seen or heard can be used in your writing.

I pictured one of my characters, Winnie Maxwell, on a fourth-grade substitute teacher I once had. Winnie’s house was based on a relative’s place, old-fashioned and dusty, that my mother would take me to occasionally. I will always remember meeting guys who were so good looking and charismatic, I felt like I’d drunk a magnum of Champagne. I remembered that feeling when I needed to describe how my protagonist Hadley felt upon first meeting Trey, the sports reporter who wants to be a rock star. And I used other reminiscences: like the only time I saw the stars in the L.A. skies was after the Northridge Earthquake when all the city lights had been knocked out by the shaking. But starry skies are a given in the small town where I grew up—just another remembrance I could use to compare and contrast the small town with the big city settings in my book.

Personal remembrances aren’t fiction, though. You can’t just drop them in a text. If I wanted to write a book about my reminiscences, I would have chosen to write a memoir. Instead I wrote about a young woman who had gone from a small town to a big city, unlucky in the type of love she thinks she wants, reflecting on her experiences as she goes along. She makes mistakes, but as a thoughtful person, she realizes she’s hurt people and tries to make amends. I wanted her to be relatable to other young people who think they have it all figured out until life shows them otherwise.

So, yes, some (not all) of the characters in my book, I drew upon people I’ve known. But they diverged from the prototypes the more I wrote them into my story. So they do not have an exact counterpart in real life; they are imaginary characters with their own quirks and characteristics that fit the narrative.

So, I would say, if you have an idea that’s stuck like a bug in the spider web of your consciousness, mull it over for its potential. Can you build a fictionalized world around that idea, filled with characters sprung from your imagination? Don’t overlook what might develop from a memory of the last conversation you had with a high school sweetheart at your class reunion or a passing glance at an intriguing stranger at a party that often replays in your mind. From such little things, books can blossom.

“Have you ever fallen in love?”

He winked at her. “All the time.”

She’d have the last word, something she realized was important to her. “I think it’s wrong, all these women you lead on. Don’t you? I mean, they may get attached, fall for you. But you seem to use them, to see what you can get out of them for your own purposes. I think that’s wrong, They’re human beings, after all. With feelings.”

He turned around, his eyes drained of any light. “They use me, too. It’s not like they’re not getting anything out of it.”

“What am I getting out of this?” she asked him, if not rhetorically.

He stood on one hip, a move that made him appear more rakish than usual. “I really don’t know, Miss Todd. I wondered that myself. I thought perhaps you were bored or intrigued. Or maybe you’re a control freak.” He took a step toward her so he was within half an inch of her face. “Or maybe you’re just like the rest and can’t resist me.”

Hadley stood her ground. “How do you know when it’s over? The moment when love, or lust, turns into something else. Something not as passionate?”

“I don’t think about it,” he said, returning her gaze. “It’s something that happens. Maybe it’s not one moment. It just is.”

He turned around and walked out of the room.

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Jude Hopkins has published essays in The Los Angeles Times, Medium, the belladonna—and poetry in various journals including Gyroscope Review, Timber Creek Review and California Quarterly. She is currently working on her first novel, Babe in the Woods.

It has always been her desire to write. She was featured in Dickinson College’s literary magazine when she was an undergraduate. One poem in particular, “Mixed Metaphors,” contrasted two viewpoints in a lakeside scene: one of a romantic young woman who thought the wind was blowing through her hair like an Aeolian harp; the other, that of her suitor who believed the water looked as cold as hell. Ah, love’s different sensibilities! What she lost in that relationship, she gained from her sojourn at Dickinson, earning her Phi Beta Kappa key while there, as well as a desire to continue her education.

Then it was on to graduate school at Arizona State University where studying for her master’s degree in English and grading essays as a teaching assistant took most of her time (and partying — it was ASU, for Pete’s sake). However, she did have a germ of an idea for a self-help book that she began outlining, fueled by many a Thermos bottle of Dunkin’ coffee.

It wasn’t until she moved to L.A. that she thought about writing a proposal for that self-help book. She got some bites from agents. Top agents. But working three jobs took precedence. (One of those jobs was at a Hollywood record company where she met a Beatle, among other artists.)

When she finally moved back to Pennsylvania, she began seriously writing again, squeezing in time to pen some poems between endless essay grading at one of the University of Pittsburgh’s branch campuses. As an adjunct English instructor, Jude was uncompromising on what she expected from her students, knowing they were capable of achieving great things when challenged, but she tried to balance the hard work with humor. Nevertheless, she knew that discipline and knowledge could turn even the most reluctant student into a pretty good writer. To achieve that end, the cellphones had to be put away, and attention had to be paid. The result?

Some model research papers and essays from memorable students (she taught English in Pennsylvania, New York state, California and Arizona).

The need to write something besides comments on student essays gnawed at her. One day, she took out her old self-help book manuscript from a cobwebby drawer and began the process of turning it into a novel. That novel became “Babe in the Woods” and will be traditionally published by Wild Rose Press sometime in 2023. She blogs about that novel, so, readers, please follow her blogs as she updates everyone on the book's progress. Please also check out her essays and poems, also featured herein.

Places to find Jude Hopkins:

You can follow the Babe in the Woods Name Before the Masses Tour here.

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  1. The cover art is cute. Enjoyed the post with the excerpt and guest post.

  2. I so enjoyed reading this well done excerpt!
    Thank you for sharing this with us.

  3. What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

  4. I love the cover. It sets the stage for the book.

  5. I think I would have a hard time putting this book down after starting to read it.

  6. Do you ever write in more than one genre?

  7. What part of the book did you have the hardest time writing?

  8. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

  9. When did you discover you have the gift of writing?

  10. Where do you get your ideas for writing?

  11. Do you reward yourself with something special when finishing a book?


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