This week we are celebrating Lori Benton's fabulous debut with an interview today, a review Wednesday, and a giveaway on Friday! Be sure to leave a comment with your email to enter both today and Wednesday.
Welcome Lori! We are so happy to have you here this week, and thrilled that you have agreed to share a bit about yourself.
Q: First of all—biscotti and coffee, tea and crumpets, or scones and latte? J
A: Coffee in the mornings, tea in the afternoons. But, alas, I am eating gluten free these days. Before that it would have been scones and tea. Thankfully there are gluten free alternatives, and some of them aren't half bad. J
Q: When did you first know you were a writer?
A: I remember it well. I was nine years old when my best friend announced (already an avid reader) that she had written a story. She showed it to me, and that was a moment of revelation. Anyone, whenever they felt like it, could write their own story, about whatever they wanted. Of course I had to give it a go. I wrote Yellow Feather and the Wild Mustang (and thanks to a grandmother who saved that story, dated 1978, I still have it). I never lost interest in storytelling from that day on, although writing took a back seat to painting for a few years during high school and art college. But in 1991 I began writing again with an eye toward one day being published.
Q: How does New York State history play into your writing?
A: My debut novel, Burning Sky: A Novel of the American Frontier, is set in upstate New York in 1784, months after the Revolutionary War ceased raging in the back country so close to British Canada, and the inhabitants of the Mohawk Valley and along West Canada Creek were finally able to straggle back to their homesteads (if they still existed) and pick up the pieces of their lives. Burning Sky presents a portrait of one such (fictional) settlement at this time, and the scars that both the land and people were left to bear and overcome. European settlers and their neighbors the Iroquois, who experienced their own struggles, defeats, and triumphs during the War.
Q: If you could sit down and interview any person, fictitious or real from any time, who would that be and what is the first question you would ask?
A: The answer to this question evolves, since I’m always researching the 18th century, learning about the people of that time, sometimes scratching my head over their choices and actions—or marveling at their bravery and dedication. Just now a certain man comes to mind. I’ll introduce him, as I don’t believe he’s well known. His name was Peter Agwelentongwas, also known as Good Peter. He was an Oneida Indian who helped lead his people during the Revolutionary War era. Unlike most members of the other Iroquois Six Nations, the Oneidas fought for the patriots. And they suffered for it. Many Oneidas were by this time Christians. Good Peter, born in the 1720s, accepted Christ as his Savior in the 1750s. He was a warrior known for his fervent faith—he taught himself to read the Bible, translated into Mohawk—and for his loving nature. In spite of the terrible poverty and suffering the Oneidas experienced after the war, he maintained a hopeful optimism about his nation. He would travel from village to village, offering kind words and prayers, singing hymns, and preaching sermons to encourage his brothers and sisters, until his death in 1794.
This is what I’d like to ask Good Peter. Tell me what is the reason for the hope that is in you? Not because I don’t already know the Answer for myself. Because I would very much like to sit beside this beloved man and hear him tell me about his Savior.
Q: Beautiful portrait. I looked up Oquaga, where Good Peter regularly preached--near what is now Deposit, NY--and it's less than 2 hours from where I live. In that vein, who have been your mentors, and how did they help you most?
A: So many writers have mentored me during my 20+ year writing journey, most of them unknowingly. Some of the best mentoring I’ve received has come from simply reading novels of the sort I long to write myself, paying attention to what it is that’s ringing that bell for me, and attempting to recreate it in my own words.
There is one place where I’ve learned a great deal about writing fiction over the past 15 years, and that’s the Compuserve Books & Writers Community. It’s the oldest books and writers forum on the internet. It’s gone by different names over the years, and there are writers who’ve been members there since its inception. One of them is bestselling author Diana Gabaldon, and it’s down to her books that I became interested in the 18th century in the first place. I’ve learned much about writing from Diana, and others on the forum, many of them multi-published authors and journalists. But there was one woman, Lauri Klobas, who had never published any fiction of her own, who helped me tremendously. Lauri had a gift for editing, especially for wading through a tangle of overwritten prose like I once produced (and still often do in my first drafts), and cutting away the excess to find the core of a story. It’s largely because of Lauri that my writing finally captured the eye of an agent, and I’ve dedicated Burning Sky in her memory.
Q: What do you hope your readers will take away from Burning Sky and your other books in general?
A: Aside from the obvious—being entertained and feeling like they've gained a new circle of friends in the characters—I would like the reader who finishes Burning Sky to be encouraged and reaffirmed that God is working all things together for good in their lives. That they can trust Him without fear, through pain and disappointment, through hardship and hard work, no matter what the situation looks like on the ground. He has good plans for us, blessings now, and on into eternity.
Q: Do you have a question you would like our blog readers to answer?
A: I’ll put to them the same question you asked me (it’s a good one!). If you could sit down and interview any person, from any time, who would that be, and what is the first question you would ask?
Thank you for being with us this week. I wish you every blessing as you write for His glory!
Visit the Burning Sky page on Lori's website where you can read the first two chapters now: http://loribenton.blogspot.com/p/burning-sky.html
Lori's Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLoriBenton#
Abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, Willa Obenchain is driven to return to her family’s New York frontier homestead after many years building a life with the People. At the boundary of her father’s property, Willa discovers a wounded Scotsman lying in her path and feels obliged to nurse his injuries. The two quickly find much has changed during Willa’s twelve-year absence—her childhood home is in disrepair, her missing parents are rumored to be Tories, and the young Richard Waring she once admired has grown into a man twisted by the horrors of war and claiming ownership of the Obenchain land.
When her Mohawk brother arrives and questions her place in the white world, the cultural divide blurs Willa’s vision. Can she follow Tames-His-Horse back to the People now that she is no longer Burning Sky? And what about Neil MacGregor, the kind and loyal botanist who does not fit into her plan for a solitary life, yet is now helping her revive her farm? In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, strong feelings against “savages” abound in the nearby village of Shiloh, leaving Willa’s safety unsure.
Willa is a woman caught between two worlds. As tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart, the woman called Burning Sky must find a new courage—the courage to again risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?
I am giving away a copy of this beautiful book to one lucky commenter. Answer Lori's question about who in history you would love to interview, and you might win this beautiful story of the NY frontier. To increase your chances of winning, tell me if you follow this blog, Lori's blog or FB author page, or share on Twitter, FB, or Google+ That gives you 8 chances. Good luck!