Friday, May 9, 2014

Interview with Author Lori Benton and GIVEAWAY

Today I want to welcome Lori Benton to the blog. She is the author of two books Burning Sky and her most recent novel The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn

Lori BentonLori Benton was born and raised east of the Appalachian Mountains, surrounded by early American and family history going back to the 1600s. Her novels transport readers to the 18th century, where she brings to life the Colonial and early Federal periods of American history, creating a melting pot of characters drawn from both sides of a turbulent and shifting frontier, brought together in the bonds of God's transforming grace.
When she isn’t writing, reading, or researching 18th century history, Lori enjoys exploring the mountains with her husband – often scouring the brush for huckleberries, which overflow the freezer and find their way into her signature huckleberry lemon pound cake.


Now, let's see what Lori has to say:  (Lori's answers are in green)


Tell the readers a little about yourself and what inspired you to write:

I grew up on the east coast, now live in Oregon, and have been writing stories since I was nine years old, when my best friend Leah wrote a story and told me about it. That was a moment of epiphany for me. It had never occurred to me that a nine year old girl could write a story. It seemed like the coolest idea ever (being an avid reader), so I gave it a try. And I’ve been writing stories ever since.


How do you juggle family life with writing?

Writing is my full time job. Since my husband works full time away from the house, and we don’t have children, it’s not much of a juggle. The job still demands more than 40 hours a week from me, at certain times. My husband usually finds something to do on the weekend (like going backpacking, which he loves and I do not) when I have to work, and leaves me to it. 


I love to hear about the author’s spiritual journeys and how that plays into your books.

I can’t imagine writing characters and not giving them a spiritual journey. Just like every aspect of a novel comes from the well of experience a writer has had over the course of her life, so too, the spiritual. Sometimes my characters wrestle with issues I have wrestled with, or experience a struggle I've gone through, or gain an insight I've gained. They can’t experience something I haven’t (to some degree at least) experienced in my own walk with Christ, so that walk is something I diligently nurture and tend. Not just for the sake of my writing, of course, but the writing benefits from that in a huge way.


What makes you feel closest to God, Do you have a favorite time of day, a place, or something else that draws you closer to Him?

I get up at 4:40am most days so I have a chunk of time to spend in the Word and in prayer before my husband awakes and the day starts spinning away. I don’t like to start my day without that morning time with the Lord. That’s been important to me for going on twenty years. I’m usually reading and praying through the Epistles. Have you ever noticed how many prayers Paul, Peter, and the rest pray for the believers they were linked to? Praying those prayers for myself and others has enriched my life in immeasurable ways.


Now a little about your books:

What inspirations did you have for this book/series?

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is a stand-alone (not part of a series). It was inspired by a brief reference to the State of Franklin I ran across in my research for an earlier work set in 18th century North Carolina. I was so intrigued by this seemingly forgotten bit of history—a part of my nation’s history I had never heard of—that I filed it away until the day came I was ready to use it as the historical backdrop to a novel.


I am always curious to know how you come up with the characters names.

Names come from everywhere, it seems. Sometimes the characters show up with them. Sometimes they don’t, and I go hunting for them on ships manifests of the time period, or my family tree, or by watching the credits for movies, looking for that perfect name. I keep throwing names at them until one sticks.

Tamsen’s name came from a brief mention of a real Tamsen who lived during this time, though I couldn’t now tell you in which of a hundred research books I came across it, or who she was. Her surname, Littlejohn, was pulled out of the air. It dropped into my head one day and seemed the perfect fit.

Jesse arrived on the scene with his name already attached. It took a long while to decide on his surname, Bird.


What is one of the scenes in this book that stands out the most to you?

A scene that stands out to me… so many of them do, I could never pick one and call it “the most.” But one scene that was vivid in my mind long before I wrote it was of Tamsen and Jesse standing on a mountain ridge looking westward as the sun sets, and the conversation that happens there.


As a reader, I love to know fun personal stuff about my favorite authors, so here goes:

What is your favorite color? Russet brown (and most any autumn color)
Favorite ice cream flavor? Chocolate chip cookie dough
Favorite hobby other than writing? No hobbies really. There’s no time for them. I like to read, and hike.
Well loved book by another author? To Say Nothing of the Dog, or How We Found The Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last, by Connie Willis.
Are you a morning person or night owl? Morning. I’m ready for bed by 8pm.

Lori, Thank you so much for doing this interview.  It is such a pleasure to have you join me on the blog. I have enjoyed reading your books and the characters in them. I certainly look forward to reading your future novels. 

My pleasure!

If you have a question for our author feel free to post in the comment box. I apologize that the Facebook comment box has a glitch and is not working properly, but you can comment in the other comment box. 


Now for our giveaway!

Lori is providing an autographed copy of her latest novel The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn to the winner. Use the Rafflecopter below to enter the drawing. You can use your email or Facebook to enter. Winner will be chosen and notified by email on May 24, and has 48 hours to reply or another winner will be chosen. US entries only - Thank you.  

27 comments:

  1. My question for Lori is, "Where did you learn about the State of Franklin and do you have any resources that you would recommend using to learn more about it?".

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    1. Becky, I learned about the State of Franklin while researching an earlier novel set in North Carolina. I did a double take, and jotted down a note to myself that THIS would make one great setting for a novel, some day. Thankfully that some day came and now there's The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn to show for it. The best resource I found is the one I quote in the Author's Note in the back of the novel. The Lost State of Franklin, America's First Secession, by Kevin T. Barksdale. There's also a DVD out there called The Mysterious Lost State of Franklin that's well worth watching. You'll find both of these at Amazon.

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    2. Becky, What a great question! That is such an interesting subject I had never heard about before either.
      Lori, Thanks for filling us in. I will have to share this information with my kids as we studied American history this year in school

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    3. Fantastic. Those look like they will be great resources for our homeschool. Thank you!

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  2. My question is...Where did you find the name Tamsen?? That is my given name (nickname is Tami) and I have only ever met one other Tamsen....my mother read it in a McCalls Magazine story about a woman detective who had twins named Tamsen and Taylor...and I am 54 years old and she had read the story at least 10 years before I was born!!!

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    1. Hi Tami, great to meet another Tamsen, I love the name. I recall how I found the name Tamsen for my character, but not precisely where. I ran across it in my research into the general time period (late 18C) and place the story is set. It was a brief mention of a woman named Tamsen who lived during the time. I've since even forgotten who she was or what she did that made her noteworthy, at least in passing. It was her name that stood out to me as unusual and lovely, and I was thrilled to find a woman in the 18th century had had it. But I think it was unusual even then, since she's the only Tamsen I've ever come across. If I ever manage to find what book mentioned her, I'll post about it on my author page at FB. :) Thanks for asking!

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    2. Tami, that was a interesting question! Thanks for stopping by

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  3. Have you ever considered writing a series about siblings or good friends? I think that would be neat.

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    1. Sylvia, thanks for stopping by and entering.

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    2. As a matter of fact, Sylvia, that's exactly what I'm writing right now. My next two contracted books are a series, and siblings do figure into it, though maybe not in the way you are imagining. I don't know. We'll have to wait and see. :) As the year progresses and we get closer to the first book's release (probably early 2015), I'll be dropping more hints about the story. There's a bit more about it on my blog already. You'll find it here: http://loribenton.blogspot.com/2014/05/looking-ahead.html

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  4. Lori, I'd love to know a little bit about the research you did for this book. Thank you for offering a copy of The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. It is one book I'm really looking forward to reading.

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    1. Kay, Thanks for stopping by the blog and entering. Good luck with winning the book. I am sure you will enjoy it!

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    2. Kay, funny you should ask that... just this morning I posted the bibliography of resources I used in the writing of The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. Being a history geek myself, I hope readers who were intrigued by the State of Franklin and the Cherokee settings of the story will look a little deeper, and there's no better place to start than the titles I have listed for you here: http://loribenton.blogspot.com/2014/05/the-tamsen-littlejohn-bibliography.html

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  5. Thanks Lori for the great interview! I greatly enjoyed it. You brought back memories from when we lived in the panhandle of Idaho and we use to go and pick huckleberries. They were so good. Your huckleberry lemon pound cake sounds amazing! I would love to win this book as it is already on my list of books to buy and read. ~ Blessings to you ~ My question is " What piece of history do you have in mind for your next book? "

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    1. Huckleberry Lemon Pound cake sounds delish! Thanks for stopping by Lisa. Good luck winning the book.

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    2. Lisa, huckleberry picking in the Rockies is fraught with one danger that we in Oregon never face--Grizzly bears! I've picked berries in Montana, and can attest that it is more of an "extreme sport" there, knowing that one of those big angry bears could come crashing out of the brush at any moment, than it is for us with our usually shier black bears (which we have seen, but they have always run away, not toward us!).

      For my next two books I'm returning to the Mohawk Valley of New York (the setting for much of Burning Sky), but an earlier time period (1750s to the 1770s). You'll find more about that in my recent announcement on my website: http://loribenton.blogspot.com/2014/05/looking-ahead.html

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Jamie. Good luck in the drawing.

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    2. Thank you for stopping by, Jamie. I look forward to visiting with you on your blog soon. :)

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  7. Thanks for a great interview! Lori, I wish I were more of a morning dove like you, rather than a night owl. :) I'm so excited to get my hands on Lori's second book. I finished Burning Sky a couple of weeks ago and plan to bring two books along for our family vacation next week; one way or another, one of them will be Tamsen Littlejohn. :)
    God Bless you and your writing!
    Kerry

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    1. Kerry, Thanks for stopping by. I am a morning person too. Have fun on your vacation, and hope you have time to read!!

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    2. Kerry, what a blessing to imagine you reading Tamsen's story on your vacation. I hope she adds a little extra spark of adventure for you. :)

      As for being a morning dove... there are times I wish I could last a little longer at night instead. Come 8pm I'm about give out, which can make it hard to participate in evening activities. But we all have our internal clocks and mine seems set after all these years. :)

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  8. Lori, your writing combines two of my favorite elements: Appalachian settings and the Colonial period. I am amiss at not having read your first two books yet, but hope to correct that soon. Amy is a good friend and I appreciate you doing this interview/giveaway for her.

    Congratulations on Burning Sky's Christy nomination, which makes it a winner already in my mind. How has this kind of attention and success of your first book affected you?

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    1. Carole, thank you so much! You sound like my ideal reader. :)

      I'm thrilled of course that Burning Sky has been well received, but it often feels like the award nominations have little to do with me, or it's someone elses book we're talking about. It's a strange feeling. I would liken it to someone praising my child, but then I don't have children so I don't know if the feeling is truly the same. :) But while I feel gratified and happy, I don't feel I can take much credit either. One reason could be that a novel has a life of its own, shared with the reader, that the author has limited control over. Each reader brings a lifetime of experience and her unique soul to the pages, so there's a chemistry that happens not unlike what happens between people. I wrote the story and have my own relationship to it (my own chemistry), but one of the most intriguing and wonderful things I've discovered since the book was published last August is that readers often take from the story and the characters elements I didn't consciously set out to create. But once they mention them in a review, or a note to me, I see it. Most of the time, :)

      Another way it has affected me is to make me want to work that much harder to make my next book as good, or better. But that's probably not a good mindset to try and maintain. Each book will resonate with readers differently. I guess what I need to focus on is making each book the best version of itself it can be... which is edging me close to thinking about them as children again!

      I hope you get a chance to read them, and let me know what you think. Blessings to you!

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    2. Lori, I know how valuable your time is and appreciate you responding to my question. I guess when you contract with a publisher, your book is really out of your hands, so I understand how you feel. As far as readers' unexpected takeaways, maybe that's God working through your words. Most of the time, as you said! LOL!

      I also think you're right about simply focusing on the book your're working on and making it the best it can be. Just write the story that God puts on your heart and He'll take it from there, Lori. But what frustrates me is the pressure publishers put on popular authors to write fast, because we both know how that turns out. Someone in a reading group I'm in recently asked about Karen Kingsbury books, and my response was that her early books were great, but I stopped reading her later books a good while ago. Sounds like you've got a level head when it comes to all this, though. May God continue to bless your writing, Lori.

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  9. I think you've done pretty well with the questions....interesting that her favorite color is rustic brown.

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    1. Marsha, Thank you for stopping by! I love that color too, although I am not sure I have a favorite color ;-)

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