Let's welcome back Author Lori Benton for Day 2 of her inspiring interview:
Tell us about your writing journey: When did you begin and how did you know you were called to be a writer?
I wrote my first story when I nine years old, and continued writing stories off and on until my early twenties, when I decided to “get serious” about writing (write a full length novel and see if, when it was finished, I might figure out how to get it published.). I started that novel in 1991. I’d never read a writing craft book. I knew no published writers, or that things like writing conferences existed. The internet wasn’t part of my world. I didn’t even own a typewriter. I wrote because I was already a writer. I wrote because I loved to write. Writing has never been far from my mind since that day in 1978 when I realized (epiphany moment—perhaps the moment of my calling as well) that a shy, bookish, nine-year-old girl living in suburban Maryland could write a story, about anything she pleased, no permission required.
Writing still is what I love to do. It’s how my soul communicates (I’m still terribly shy when it comes to speaking). And it only took me twenty-two years to finally see a novel published. Not the one I started back in 1991 (and finished). I wrote many more after that. There was a lot of patience involved, a lot of waiting, a lot of rejection letters! There was also a season of cancer and recovery, of chemo fog and more recovery, in which I had to learn to put my desire to write in God’s hands and let Him give it back if, and when, He chose. That season lasted about five years, but it was during that time I discovered my interest in 18th century history, and found the genre and time period that I’m passionate about like no other.
Are you a full-time writer or do you hold a day job? What is the biggest challenge/obstacle you face in protecting your writing time?
I write full time. Here’s a confession: I don’t comprehend how anyone with a day job, or small children at home (or big children with their busy lives) can also keep up with the demands of a published writer’s life. Yet I know many do. If you are one who does, you have my profound admiration and respect. I believe God grants us strength in different measure, and the grace we need when we need it—still I stand in awe of you.
My biggest challenge post publication? Finding time and energy to research, plot, and write, with the added demands of editing, production, and promotion. It’s a real juggling act, and I’m still learning (and dropping the balls left and right). And leaning on God’s grace and strength to help me continue being productive as a writer and adjusting my expectations of myself, one day at a time.
Who are some of the authors that you like to read?
Laura Frantz. Susanna Kearsley. Sharyn McCrumb. Diana Gabaldon. Ellis Peters. Liz Curtis Higgs. James Alexander Thom. Charles Martin. Joanne Bischof. Tracy Groot. Susan Meissner. Francine Rivers. Siri Mitchell. Deeanne Gist. Kaye Dacus. This list could go on and on and I always miss so many I should have included! Not all of those are CBA writers. Some write rather gritty mainstream historical fiction. (Nice list!)
What are one or two of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching a novel?
That the Iroquois Confederacy was torn in two by the Revolutionary War. And that many of them were Christians by the decade of the 1770s. I plan to explore both these discoveries further in my writing.
What writing projects are you working on now? Dare we hope for a sequel to Burning Sky? J
I would like to revisit the characters of Burning Sky, and have plans to do so. I’m very happy that many readers have asked about this. God willing, I’ll have a chance to fulfill that mutual desire! Meanwhile, my next novel from WaterBrook releases in 2014. The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is set in western North Carolina (present day eastern Tennessee), 1787-88, during a time of upheaval in that region following the Revolutionary War:
To escape her threatening stepfather and an unwanted marriage, Tamsen Littlejohn enlists the aid of Jesse Bird, a backwoodsman she barely knows, to spirit her away from Morganton, North Carolina, west beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Trouble pursues, as the two men intent on seeing her recovered prove relentless in their hunt. Trouble awaits in the form of a divided frontier community. The State of Franklin has been declared, yet many settlers remain loyal to North Carolina. Chaos reigns, thwarting Tamsen and Jesse’s hastily cobbled plan to keep her safe.
With her pursuers ever nearing, the region in turmoil, neighbors grown suspicious of her presence, Tamsen’s safety is soon put in greater jeopardy. Gaining the freedom she longs for will mean running yet again, to the most unlikely refuge imaginable—the Cherokees, a people balanced on the knife edge of war.
But the biggest complication may prove to be Tamsen’s growing bond with her knight in greasy buckskins, Jesse Bird. Falling in love was never part of the plan.
That sounds awesome! What would you like readers to gain from reading your books?
I’m a storyteller first and foremost. As such I hope readers are entertained by Willa’s story and transported to her 18th century world to experience situations and challenges most of us don’t encounter in our daily lives, but that hold an echo of familiarity nevertheless.
I’ve heard it said that no two people who read the same book, read the same book. Each reader brings to the story a lifetime of experience (opinions, wisdom, burdens, questions, preferences, and dislikes). It’s a wonderful, unpredictable chemistry that can happen between the reader and the story world. But I would be so pleased if a reader should turn the last page of Burning Sky and find herself reminded that through the inevitable trials and tears of this life we have a heavenly source beyond ourselves from which we can draw comfort, courage, and strength to help in time of need.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read. Read all the time. Read all kinds of books, but especially the kinds of books you want to write. And write. Write as much as you can. Write the kind of books you want to read. I was once told by a successful writer that if you do those two things, and don’t stop, you will improve. But be patient and don’t rush the process. It takes time.
Any final words?
One more thing for writers, something I’ve learned by experience: love the writing first, best, and always. If you pursue publication, while you’re pursuing it do whatever it takes to get to the place where the writing is joy enough. You’ll need that joy to sustain you after you’re contracted, especially if you’re an introvert like most of us writers tend to be. You’ll find more pulling at your time, energy, and attention than you could have imagined. Having that question, Why Do I Write? answered well ahead of such a season will help keep you centered.
Thanks so much for joining us at Novel PASTimes!
Lori Benton is offering a free copy of Burning Sky to one lucky winner! To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment with your e-mail address and answer the author question of the week:
What time period would you like to see written about more in the Christian fiction market? And if you’d like to expound, what interests you most about that time period?
Drawing is open to US addresses only