Lori Benton

 

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Posted April 21, 2015 by

I am beyond thrilled to welcome Lori Benton today! I’ve yet to meet Lori in person, but as fellow writes we’ve become Facebook friends, and I always love reading her posts. I also love reading her books! (As you can probably tell by my review of her new book that releases today, The Wood’s Edge!)

Lori was raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American history going back three hundred years. Her novels transport readers to the eighteenth century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history. When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching, Lori enjoys exploring the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, and The Wood’s Edge.

AMY: Welcome to BookTalk, Lori—and happy release day for The Wood’s Edge! This is your third published novel. If you could go back in time and visit that unpublished writer working on your debut novel, Burning Sky, what advice would you give her? Is there anything you might do differently with these stories?

LORI: The first thing I would say is get used to not knowing what’s coming next, or the timing of it. Get used to waiting (and use that time wisely writing new stuff!), then to seasons of intense and challenging editing and marketing work. Get used to changing direction on the fly. At heart I’m a planner, but I’ve learned that no matter how much I plan there are so many elements involved in getting a manuscript from first draft to published book, so many people and their shifting schedules, that flexibility is key. Learning to juggle multiple projects and all the marketing demands of each has been the greatest challenge. But there’s nothing I’d do differently. It just takes time for a new writer to adapt.

As for the stories themselves, I don’t look back and wish I’d written them differently. I wrote the best story I could at the time—then my editor got hold of it and helped me make it so much better—and with that I’m content and ready to push along with something new.

Patience and juggling . . . ack! But I love your perspective on writing the best you can at the time, then moving forward with something new. Great advice!

Let’s take a little peek behind the wizard’s curtain, ’cause I know we have some aspiring writers reading this. From concept to submission, how long does it take you to write a novel? What’s your process? What’s your favorite method for brainstorming/busting out of writer’s block? 

Every book has been unique in regards to time and process, so I’ll pick one. Let’s go with The Wood’s Edge since that’s the freshest in my mind. I probably began thinking about the ideas that would come together to form the spine of the story sometime in 2011, although the historical background of it forms the back story of Burning Sky (my debut novel), so I was already researching relevant material in 2009 when I wrote Burning Sky. Sometime in 2011 I read an article about twins born to a multi-racial couple. One twin was white-skinned, the other brown-skinned. I began asking the “what if” questions that authors do and at some point this idea of twins collided with the research about the Iroquois and the New York frontier and the Revolutionary War and… a story was born. I wrote The Wood’s Edge in 2012. The first draft took 8-9 months. It wasn’t contracted until 2014.

It’s hard to pin down a time line, because thus far my books have had time to stew before I began writing. I have stories on the back burner now. Just notes in files. Every once in a while I open those files and add to them. But it generally takes me 9 months to a year to write a first draft once I focus on the task. For instance, I began writing A Flight of Arrows, the sequel to The Wood’s Edge, in January of 2014. Aside from breaks for editing The Wood’s Edge, I worked on it steadily until my deadline of January 2015.

If I’m stuck on a story issue I pray. And I wait. If God isn’t in this business of creation with me then I don’t have a hope of pulling off the stories that seem to choose me. They overwhelm me every time. There have been some seriously stuck moments, but God has always been faithful to inspire me through them. Writing is like any other area of life. I wouldn’t want to navigate it (I couldn’t) without the Holy Spirit’s constant guidance.

Yes, I just bolded part of your answer there because you’re so right—that’s the key to everything! Writers are always encouraged to be prolific readers. How have your reading tastes/habits changed since becoming a published writer?

There’s a tension in reading now. I want to read more critically, especially when I get hold of a book I feel is leaps beyond what I can produce. At the same time I long to set all that aside and just get absorbed in the reading experience.

No getting around it that being a published writer puts a crimp in my reading time. I’ve turned to audio books more and more to keep filling that creative well and satisfying the passion for reading. I listen while I’m doing other things, so there’s far less chance of falling asleep!

I love audio books! I’m a big fan of road trips, and audio books have become my very favorite way to pass the long hours on the road.

Some people say that Christian fiction, with its general lack of questionable content (profanity, sex, graphic violence, etc.) is irrelevant or unrealistic compared to life in the 21st Century. What would you say to them? What does Christian fiction mean to you?

As a general market writer I know succinctly puts it, “Not all books are for all readers.” If a certain genre doesn’t resonate with some readers that’s perfectly fine. It will for many others. If Christian fiction—once a reader gives it a chance—doesn’t satisfy, they have every right to move on to something that does. I read widely in both the Christian and general markets, but what I appreciate about Christian fiction is that I can be confident it’s written from a world view I share—one that places God’s word and His heart for His children in a place of prime importance.

I love that! Okay, let’s talk The Wood’s Edge and The Pathfinders series. This story does not shy away from the hard, brutal reality of life on the early American frontier, nor the consequences of one’s sins. What was the hardest part of this story for you to write? Which character did you connect with the most? The least?

So much of this book was a challenge to write. Reginald Aubrey’s spiritual and emotional journey took painstaking thought and prayer. I took from the Psalms for his journey—those written by King David in the months following his affair with Bathsheba. I took note of what he was experiencing emotionally, spiritually, and physically by holding onto that sin and not confessing it, not coming clean before God. But I could have as easily looked into my own soul. Hiding our sin is a thing we’ve all experienced. We know what that estrangement with God and with loved ones or friends feels like, even if they have no idea what we’re struggling with privately. That gulf of separation, loneliness, and guilt Reginald experiences wasn’t easy to write about.

I don’t think there is a character I can connect with least. I have to connect deeply with all my characters, even those that seem unimportant at first glance. I try to see them as the heroes of their own stories. They have lives going on and pursuits and goals, although I might only give a glimpse of them on the page. I think that helps give the whole story world I’m creating a deeper verisimilitude.

It certainly does! You’ve shared elsewhere how The Wood’s Edge is based on a story you read about “black-and-white twins,” which I found really fascinating! Apart from that inspiration, what was the most unusual thing you found in your research for this story?

I was profoundly touched by my research into the Oneida Nation (one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy) during the time period of the 1760-70s. In the pages of one book in particular, Forgotten Allies by Joseph Glatthaar and James Kirby Martin, I read example after example of Oneida men and women who contributed, at great sacrifice personally to the American cause during the Revolutionary War. And I discovered that so many of this nation at this time were our brothers and sisters in Christ. There are many I can’t wait to meet in heaven.

Oooh . . . you just gave me goose bumps! How cool is that great reunion going to be!

I loved that The Wood’s Edge covered two decades in these multiple families’ lives—it’s been far too long since I’ve read a great family saga! Yet even covering all that historical ground, I’m sure there were many things you researched that didn’t make it into the book. Can you give us a “deleted” scene?

Oh my yes. For narrative simplicity I had to pick and choose the historical characters to include in this book. Especially those among the Oneidas, both missionaries and native persons, whom I found fascinating. However, there were no deleted scenes taken from this manuscript, which is rather unusual with me. I’m a chronic over-writer of the first draft, but this book came together without much fluff.

Yay for overwiters! :-) (Seriously, members of my critique group have talked about needing to increase their word counts, and that dilemma just does not compute with me. Not. At. All.)

There are so many wonderful characters in this book—some of whom we’ve met before in your debut novel, Burning Sky! If you could trade lives with one character from The Wood’s Edge for one day, who would you want to be and why?

I find them all quite fascinating and each of their lives appeals to me for one reason or another. Take Lydia McClaren—I admire her healthy balance of the passions in her life that could easily become all-consuming to the exclusion of the other. Her dedication to her calling as a midwife and her deep love for and commitment to those she is connected to, family and friends. If I could be Lydia (not just me trying live her role) then retain those memories of being her, I think she would have a lot to teach me about maintaining that balance in my own life.

Lydia’s the one I would’ve picked, too! But I won’t say more because I don’t want to possibly spoil anything for those who haven’t yet read The Wood’s Edge (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?)

I know The Wood’s Edge is just releasing today, but what’s up next for you?

The second Pathfinder’s novel, A Flight of Arrows, releases in spring of 2016. The story picks up where The Wood’s Edge leaves off. The Revolutionary War is about to sweep across the New York frontier and no one in the Mohawk Valley is safe. The Aubreys and the Oneidas, plus a few new characters, have further challenges to conquer and conflicts to overcome before the consequences of Reginald Aubrey’s fateful choice made in the opening pages of The Wood’s Edge play themselves out.

As to what comes after that… we’ll both have to wait and see.

It’s going to be a very tough wait! :-) Thanks for visiting with us today, Lori! But we can’t let you go without everyone’s favorite . . . the speed round!

Lori’s Top 10 Speed Round

1. Name 3 of your favorite authors of all time.

James Alexander Thom, Ellis Peters, and Catherine Marshall.

 2. Name 3 books in your TBR list/pile right now.

  • From the Start by Melissa Tagg
  • Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke
  • A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley (another favorite author)

 3. Name 1 famous book people might be surprised to learn you’ve never read.

Most of the classics. Even some Jane Austen (gasp!)

 4. One novel you could read for the rest of your life and never get bored is…

To Say Nothing of the Dog, or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last, by Connie Willis (audio read by Steven Crossley)

 5. Print or e-books?

Print. I don’t own an e-reader.

 6. What is the oldest book you own?

Not very old. I have a 1938 Webster’s dictionary.

 7. Favorite snack/beverage while reading or writing?

I don’t snack while doing either and I’m down to one cup of coffee a day. But I really really like that one cup. For the rest of the day it’s mint tea now.

 8. Craziest place you’ve ever been caught reading or writing?

I must be pretty boring. Can’t think of a single place anyone would consider crazy.

 9. You’re having a dinner party. Which 5 fictional characters (none of your own!) would you invite?

Bilbo Baggins, Aslan, Mr. Tumnus, Bree the talking horse, and Queen Lucy… because that’s the mood I’m in today.

 10. Favorite activity that has absolutely nothing to do with reading or writing or research:

Since my brain comes along wherever I go it’s kind of hard to shut off the writer. Writing or plotting or research seems to creep in everywhere, all the time.


Amy Drown

 


54 Comments


  1.  
    Rebecca

    This sounds really interesting. Thanks for the giveaway.




  2.  
    Grace Olson

    I have read some of Burning Sky, but didn’t get the chance to finish it. I’m looking forward to reading The Wood’s Edge. It’s definitely on my TBR list. :-)




  3.  
    Sharon Timmer

    Yes – I have read both of Lori’s books – The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is my favorite so far!!




  4.  
    Mia B

    i have read burning sky and loved it




  5.  

    I have yet to read any books by Lori Benton, but I would love to.




  6.  
    Connie Price

    I am sad to say, I have not read her books, but I would love to read them!




  7.  
    Amanda

    I’ve read Burning Sky and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is definitely a favorite. Looking forward to reading this newest novel.




  8.  
    Lisa Redecop

    I haven’t read any of Lori Benton’s books, but I would love to.




  9.  
    Amanda

    Looks like a great book! Looking forward to getting to read it someday!




  10.  
    Jeanne

    hope toread this soon!




  11.  
    Jennifer Bretsch

    I am currently reading “The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn” and am really enjoying it. I love books set during early America around the time of the Revolutionary War. It is such a fascinating time in our history. Ican’t wait to read Lori’s latest.

    Thanks for the great giveaway!




  12.  
    Lindsay Harrel

    Looking forward to this book! I loved Lori’s first book!




  13.  
    Jackie McNutt

    I have read Burning Sky and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn loved both but The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is favorite. Can’t wait to read The Wood’s Edge.
    Thank You




  14.  
    Emilee Douglas

    I’ve read both her books and I loved them! I can’t wait to read The Wood’s Edge!




  15.  
    Mary Tullila

    Awesome giveaway!




  16.  
    Pat Anderson

    Thanks for the fun!




  17.  
    Pat Anderson

    I have not read any of Lori Benton’s books. Looks like my kind of story to curl up to.




  18.  
    Pam Graber

    I have not read a Lori Benton book – YET – although Burning Sky is on my TBR list! This one sounds fantastic. Would love to win!




  19.  
    Britney Adams

    I adore Lori’s books and can’t wait to read The Wood’s Edge! Thank you for this great giveaway; I would love to be a winner!!




  20.  
    Sarah Snider

    I have not yet read any of Lori’s books, but I would love to win this one! Thanks for the giveaway!




  21.  
    Deanne Patterson

    I have not read any of Lori Benton’s books yet but I am super excited to start doing so. They are all on my tbr list. These are just the types of books I love, so rich in historical detail. Thank you for offering the generous giveaway. Would love to read soon!




  22.  
    Michelle faile

    I love Lori Benton! I couldn’t put her book Burning Sky down! So excited to read this one, I hope I win! Thanks for the chance!




  23.  

    I haven’t had the opportunity to read any of Lori Benton’s books but I have several on my wish list to be read when I can purchase or borrow from a library. I would love to win a copy of “The Wood’s Edge”.




  24.  
    Mary Kay Moody

    Lori Benton is a superb story teller and I am anxious to read THE WOOD’S EDGE. Even the title soudns intriguing. :-)




  25.  
    Sherrie

    LOVE reading great novels! I’m sure this one is a good one! Thank you for the contest.




  26.  
    Joyce Johnson

    Woods edge sounds like a great book to read.




  27.  
    Cyndi Wilson

    I’ve loved both of Lori’s books and am greatly anticipating Wood’s Edge!




  28.  
    Trish

    I’ve read both Burning Sky and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. Would love to win a copy of The Wood’s Edge. Can’t wait to read it!




  29.  
    Kathryn Voss

    I love Lori’s books. And I can’t say which one is my favorite. She has a way of writing that really resonates. So hoping for a win on this one!




  30.  
    Sarah

    I’ve yet to read any of Lori’s books, though I’ve heard many wonderful things about them – I’m excited to find out if they meet my expectations. :-)




  31.  
    Amanda

    I am definitely looking forward to reading Lori’s newest novel. I’ve loved both The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn and Burning Sky. Very well written and mesmerizing stories.




  32.  
    Pam K.

    I haven’t read any of Lori’s books but I’ve read great reviews of all of them so they are going on my extensive want-to-read list. I enjoy reading historical fiction.




  33.  
    Sheri

    I love Lori’s books and I have read both Burning sky and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn!! I can’t wait to read The Wood’s Edge. I love historical christian fiction and Lori is one of the best. Thanks for the chance!!




  34.  
    Debbie

    While I have not read anything by Lori Benton, I am always up for anything from any true Christian author. There is so much immoral writings out there. True writing is hard to find. I do have The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn on my library to read list on my library account. I know in my heart I was supposed to be born 2 centuries ago. So historical christian fiction is my absolute favorite type of reading material, next to my scriptures of course. Thanks for the opportunity to win, hopefully, this new novel by Ms. Benton.




  35.  
    Brenda

    I haven’t ever read any of Lori Benton’s books but I have them all! They are in my TBR stack!




  36.  
    Mary m.

    I have not read any books by Lori Benton. However, I think I would enjoy reading these books.




  37.  
    Lientjie Human

    I would love to win a copy! Thanks for the chance.




  38.  
    Manuela

    Good Christian fiction is hard to find out there, but from what I have read by Lori Benton (which are only excerpts on her site), she totally nail sit! :-) The fabulous mix between thorough historical research and biblical values pulls at your heartstrings! I want to read The Wood’s Edge badly!




  39.  
    Dawn

    No, I haven’t read her books but they sound good so will have to try them and I love the cover of this new book and the Burning Sky book!




  40.  
    Cathy

    Can’t wait to read this book!




  41.  
    Trixi O.

    I’ve not had the pleasure of reading any of Lori’s books, but I have seen this one around & it’s one I’d like to read! Thanks for the chance to win a copy!




  42.  
    Michelle faile

    Loved the interview, can’t wait to read it




  43.  
    Manuela

    Great interview! :-) I always love to hear Lori speak of her work.




  44.  
    Mary Kay Moody

    So appreciated the interview with you, Lori. Love the insights into a writer’s world and learned some new authors! Thanks.




  45.  
    Britney Adams

    I am fascinated by the writing process and love learning more about the authors I love to read! Thank you for sharing this lovely interview and great giveaway!!




  46.  
    Lientjie Human

    All your books sound great, thanks for the chane to win one.




  47.  
    Manuela

    This is really exciting, I hope to win. :-)




  48.  
    Manuela

    Happy reading everyone! :-) I wonder when and if it is going to be released in my country too.




  49.  
    Sheri

    In my opinion, Lori’s books are a unique addition to historical Christian fiction. It is always good to see the next one coming out.




  50.  
    Manuela

    Just a few more days until the drawing. :-)




  51.  
    Danielle Diez

    I’m excited to read The Wood’s Edge! I’m also thankful that Lori took the time to “talk” about herself and her writing. It’s always fun to hear authors more personally. :-)




  52.  
    Kathy W

    I haven’t read any of her books but The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn really sounds like something I would enjoy.




  53.  
    Michelle Jinnette

    My daughter and I LOVE her books!! I would love to read this one, too!! They introduce me to different ideas and plot lines I’ve not read before.




  54.  
    Gwen Gage

    I’ve read “Burning Sky” and “The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn” an dloved them both! Can’t wait to read “The Wood’s Edge”!





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