Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Jody Hadlock Interview - The Lives of Diamond Bessie

Photo Credit: © Nabor Godoy

Jody Hadlock’s love of history goes all the way back to junior high, when she was a member of the Junior Historians of Texas—so it’s no surprise her first novel is historical. She studied journalism at Texas A&M University and worked as a broadcast journalist and then in nonprofit public relations before turning her focus to fiction. She also writes screenplays and won the 2020 Dallas International Film Festival’s screenplay contest.


Greatest thing you learned in school?
What I didn’t want to do with my life. When I went to college, at first I majored in business because that’s what my father urged me to do. He was an entrepreneur. While I knew I eventually wanted to write novels, I also knew I needed to make a living at something. But I absolutely hated the business classes. So I switched to journalism and that’s what I did for a decade after college.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Definitely the feedback from readers. It’s so great when someone “gets” your book. It makes me so happy when a reader enjoys Bessie’s story.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’ve been researching my second novel, which will be set in the U.S. and Russia from 1858 to the 1880s. I’ve had the idea for several years and had wanted to visit Russia as part of my research. I was planning to do that next year, but probably not now with what’s happening in Ukraine. So I may have to do everything remotely. I have other ideas for novels but they’re all very much in the embryonic stage.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Storytelling connects us; it makes us feel we’re not alone in what we’re feeling and experiencing.

Can you tell us when you started THE LIVES OF DIAMOND BESSIE, how that came about?
I first learned of Diamond Bessie when I visited Jefferson, Texas in the 1990s. At the time I was working as a television news reporter and anchor in Charleston, SC and made a vow that I would look into the story when I moved back to Texas and determine if it would make a good novel. When I landed a job anchoring the news in San Antonio, I immediately started my research and what I uncovered was fascinating. I spent two years doing research in my spare time and started to write my novel, but I didn’t have the right point of view and really struggled. Life got in the way and I set aside my writing for a long time. I finally came back to it in 2014 and then things fell into place.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
How far women have come since the 1800s as far as women’s rights.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?
I especially loved writing about the friendship between Bessie and Edla Vines. It was very emotional for me when I wrote those parts.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
The research. I absolutely love doing research. I find every detail fascinating and sometimes I’ll go down that rabbit hole, trying to find every bit of minutiae possible. Most of which doesn’t make it into the story of course, but it certainly informs it.

Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
My husband. He’s my rock.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Travel somewhere. Don’t just stay in your little corner of the world. Go explore.

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
When a character “showed up.” It really is a thing, and really freaky. I was sitting at my desk in my office and thinking about what role Edla Vines would play in the novel when I felt a presence in the room. I literally turned around in my chair to see who was there. I realized Edla had shown up and I said aloud, “Okay Edla, you’re going to have a prominent part in the story.” And she does.

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
I was a baby so I don’t remember it. I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and when I was six months old, my mother took me to visit my grandparents in Houston.

It's pretty much impossible to decide on my ten absolute most favorite books ever. I could list 100! These are some of my favorites (in no particular order).
  • 1) Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  • 2) The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
  • 3) The Alienist by Caleb Carr
  • 4) Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • 5) The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • 6) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • 7) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
  • 8) The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  • 9) Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • 10) The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Your journey to publication
I started too early trying to find an agent. Looking back, I realize the manuscript I sent to agents needed a lot more work. I kept improving my novel and would have kept trying to land an agent, but my book is based on a true story and I knew of at least one other writer who was researching to write her own novel about Diamond Bessie. Fortunately, I was much further along in the process. It got to the point where I decided to try the hybrid route for publishing. The books that SparkPress publishes are vetted and have to be of publishable quality to be accepted for publication. The publisher and author share the costs, but I also receive a much higher royalty rate.

It’s a good thing I decided to publish with SparkPress. Literally just a few days after I signed my contract, another writer contacted me. She was about to start writing a novel about Diamond Bessie and needed to look up one more thing online. For some reason, my website was one of the results. She contacted me, wanting to know how far along I was with my book.

Overall, the publishing process has been great. I’ve really enjoyed it, especially because with being a hybrid author I have much more control than with a traditional publisher. The support from SparkPress and my family and friends has been wonderful. I’m so excited for Bessie’s story to finally make it out into the world!

“This affecting tale of a 19th-century American woman struggling to prove her worth other than as a marriage prospect leaves a lasting impression.” Publishers Weekly

The Lovely Bones meets the Wild, Wild West in this haunting tale inspired by a true story.

Pregnant out of wedlock, sixteen-year-old Annie Moore is sent to live at a convent for fallen women. When the nuns take her baby, Annie escapes, determined to find a way to be reunited with her daughter. But few rights or opportunities are available to a woman in the 1860s, and after failing to find a respectable job, she resorts to prostitution in order to survive.

As a highly sought-after demi-mondaine, Annie—now Bessie—garners many expensive gifts from her admirers and eventually meets and marries the son of a wealthy jeweler, a traveling salesman with a gambling problem. With her marriage, she believes her dream of returning to proper society has finally come true. She’s proven wrong when she suffers the ultimate betrayal at the hands of the man she thought would be her salvation. But Bessie doesn’t let her story end there.

Set against the backdrop of the burgeoning women’s rights movement, The Lives of Diamond Bessie is a captivating tale of betrayal and redemption that explores whether seeking revenge is worth the price you might pay.

You can purchase The Lives of Diamond Bessie at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JODY HADLOCK for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Lives of Diamond Bessie by Jody Hadlock.


  1. We'll be fully retired by then so hopefully relaxing and traveling more.

  2. "What do you think you will be doing five years from now?" Wonderful and amazing things!