Hello! Today I am thrilled to have as a guest on my blog, author Lori Benton. Lori has graciously offered to give away a signed copy of her upcoming novel, The King’s Mercy, to one commenter today. More later on how you can get your name in the hat for that. For now, let’s settle in and talk to Lori.
- I know you grew up near the Appalachian Mountains. How was it growing up so near to all this wonderful history?
To be honest I wasn’t very interested in history as a kid. I grew up with my maternal grandparents as well as my parents living in our home and knew our family had lived and farmed in southern Virginia for many generations; I’d visited those farms. Now and then we took relatives to see historic places like George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. We had friends who participated in Civil War reenactments and sometimes we attended those (there was a lot to do about Mary Surratt, hung for involvement in President Lincoln’s assassination, in my hometown where her old tavern stood), but by and large my focus, creative and otherwise, was elsewhere—outdoors in the woods and hills with the critters (I studied art in school and briefly worked as a wildlife artist). I had to move 3000 miles away to Oregon before I became keenly interested in Colonial American history. How inconvenient of me! At least the landscape had captured my attention as a child. I took away the bone-deep memories of how the eastern landscape—mountains, piedmont, and coast—feels, smells, and looks in every season.
- How did you get into writing?
I blame it on my best friend in the third grade. Without any warning at all she wrote a story and showed it to me. It was a lightbulb moment. Though already an avid reader, I guess it hadn’t occurred to me that I could write my own story—about anything I wanted. I promptly did so. I still have that story; it’s called Yellow Flower and the Wild Mustang, about a Native American girl who finds a wounded horse, heals it, and rides it in a race and beats the boys!
While I wrote in fits and starts after that, it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties, married and anticipating moving west, that I got serious enough about writing to start thinking about publication. This was 1991, before I had a computer or there was email and the internet. I went about it the old fashioned way: I started writing a novel like those I enjoyed reading at the time, realizing I’d figure out how to do it as I went along. Eventually I discovered there were things like writing craft books and writing conferences. I met other writers. I joined a critique group. The internet came along. I frequented writers’ forums, other writer’s blogs, and those of editors and agents.
Now everything a fledgling writer needs to know about the craft of writing and the business of publication is at her fingertips. It couldn’t be an easier time to learn.
- How do you get your ideas for books?
Ideas are everywhere. I get them watching films and TV, on long road trips behind the wheel, while hiking, listening to music, during Bible study, and reading other novels. But most often these days I get ideas while I’m researching a subject for a book I’m already writing. If it’s a really good book on the subject, rich with detail and historical accounts of interesting individuals, I probably won’t escape its pages without three or four more ideas for characters or situations that might one day, with enough simmering, become the kernel of a novel, making themselves known. As James Alexander Thom (author of Follow the River) states in his book The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction, “The past is where we get the raw material we use to make the stories by which we earn our bread. The raw material is already there, inexhaustible. We pick bygone time up by the handfuls and, like clay, see if it feels right and then form it into stories about the past.”
- I have seen some of your photography and it is gorgeous! Tell us how you came to be interested in photography.
Thank you! A few years ago I met a landscape photographer and learned several things right quick. One, I can edit a digital photo after I’ve taken it (the art college major in me rejoiced). And two, there’s this online platform called Instagram, where I can post my photos and other people can see, like, and comment on them. Who knew? J I was instantly hooked.
- You are an explorer and you and your husband love to explore the Oregon wilderness. What is the most favorite place you have visited?
The Pacific Northwest is awesome and majestic and beautifully breathtaking in so many different ways, coast, mountains, and high desert. But my favorite places tend to be National Parks. There are many I’ve yet to visit, but Mount Rainier in Washington, Crater Lake in Oregon, Glacier in Montana, and Yosemite in California are at the top of my favorites list.
- My favorite book of yours is Many Sparrows, just loved it. How much research, if any, do you do for your books?
Oh, so very much. I never stop researching. It’s a lifestyle. I read dozens of books for each novel I write, watch YouTube videos, explore the setting via Google Earth, talk to people who know more about the subjects I’m writing about than I do, and every now and then I travel to the places my novels are set—as was the case for Many Sparrows. I’m so glad you loved that one.
- Do you have a favorite of all your books and why?
That’s harder to answer than my favorite place to photograph or explore! No sooner can I choose one than I think of a reason another one should be my favorite. Most often the book I’ve most recently finished feels like my favorite because the characters, themes, setting, and the emotional arc of the novel are all very fresh in my mind. Right now that’s The King’s Mercy.
- Tell us a little about your new book, The King’s Mercy.
Set in the Colony of North Carolina in the 1740s, The King’s Mercy explores the meaning of freedom from multiple perspectives: an imprisoned and exiled Scottish rebel; a blacksmith crippled by a devastating injury; a Cherokee youth who breaks with tradition; a plantation mistress caught in a dehumanizing system; the men and women her stepfather enslaves; a master with his hope set on earthly gain; a young man bound by hate and bitterness; and an itinerant preacher willing to become a slave to see the kingdom of God expand. Each one’s path to freedom is unique, but each must make make a choice. Obedience or willfulness. Trust or despair. Mercy or malice.
- What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
Something I’ve discovered about celebrating the grace and redemptive power of Jesus Christ in the form of story is that while I’ve had my conversation with the Lord about these characters and themes, after the book is published it becomes the reader’s turn. God will speak to each heart something unique. I love that! Whatever that is for each reader, my hope is that they’re drawn closer to the Lord through Joanna and Alex’s story, and that they turn that last page of The King’s Mercy more in love with our merciful Jesus than when they began.
Lori Benton 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 and photographing the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn; Christy nominee The Wood’s Edge; A Flight of Arrows; and Many Sparrows.
My Rating: 5 Stars!
‘There isna mercy to be
granted, by king or God. He was all but certain no God cared enough to grant
Alastair MacKinnon left God on the battlefield of Culloden and hasn’t had need of Him since. Alex is taken captive and granted the king’s mercy, but it’s no mercy to him. Sold as an indentured servant for seven years in NC’s colony near Cape Fear, Alex knows no mercy as far as he is concerned. Alex is to be the new blacksmith at Severn, a vast property with a multitude of slaves, a practice he finds deplorable. Owner Edmund Carey, and his stepdaughter Joanna are kind to Alex but the overseer, Phineas Reeves, rubs him the wrong way and Alex can’t help but feel something is amiss with the man. An old preacher, Reverend Pauling, known to the Careys, speaks a word over Alex that he has no desire to hear and it is one of the most powerful statements in the book: ‘Almighty God has allowed you, by whatever series of events and decisions brought you to be in this place…if you will allow it, there will be good come of it.’ Turns out to be a most prophetic utterance.
Events happen which cause Alex great pain and he must forge another path for himself, both physically and spiritually. But will others suffer because Alex doesn’t take the reverend’s words seriously?
Reading a novel by Lori Benton is somewhat akin to sitting down at a most anticipated meal with all your favorite dishes. You begin to eat and each bite is more delectable than the last. That’s the way it was with the book: the more I read, the more I loved the book. Benton’s evocative prose swells beautifully with each description, adding many layers to the story, increasing its value to this reader. Her descriptions of everything are vivid and fully exquisite beyond imagining. My heart swelled just reading them. I finished this book with tears of joy washing my face. I thank God for the blessing of these words. Books like this surely cause me to thank God for authors who are obedient to the call of God on their lives to write these words. A true blessing. Bravo! I very highly recommend this book.
*My thanks to the publisher for a preview copy of this book. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
Publication Date: June 4, 2019
So who is ready for a giveaway? Here’s how to get your name in the hat to win this wonderful book.
You must leave a comment on this blog post. You must also leave your email in a non-spammy format like (susan at yahoo dot com) The contest runs from May 31st to June 7th. Sorry, but due to mailing costs, the contest is only open to US residents in the 48 contiguous states. A winner will be chosen and I will contact you for your mailing address. Good luck to you all!