IT IS OUR HONOR TO WELCOME TODAY….
AUTHOR OF….”BURNING SKY”
So without further ado, welcome Lori!
MBA&M: Lori, welcome to My Book Addiction and More, please tell our readers a little about yourself?
LORI: Thank you for having me as your guest. Let’s see… I’ve lived half my life on the east coast of the US, half on the west. I’ve been married 25 years. I’m a cancer survivor (14 years). I attended art college in Maryland and was—briefly—a professional wildlife artist in my early twenties. I worked a summer in the graphic art department of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; my bus dropped me off an hour early each day, an hour in which I got to explore my favorite museum alone, just me and the morning cleaning crew. I won the position with an essay I wrote as a senior in high school. Back then art and writing were constantly elbowing each other in my heart.
Nowadays I spend a huge amount of my time at the computer, or with my nose buried in a book. When I’m not doing those things, I can be found hiking a trail or logging road in the mountains with my husband and our dog. I love the outdoors, and find it beneficial to get as far from the computer as I can one day a week. That’s become part of our Sabbath rest.
I also love to bake (though sadly I’m eating mostly gluten free these days). I have a signature cake—huckleberry lemon pound cake. The first step to making that cake is heading to the mountains in August to traipse through the huckleberry patches with a bucket strapped to my belt. Like a certain character in Burning Sky, we’ve encountered a bear or two.
MBA&M: What was your inspiration behind writing “Burning Sky”?
LORI: Inspiration for Burning Sky came in waves. I’d spent five years researching the 1780s-90s while writing another story, which is how my fascination with the era began. It’s also when I became intrigued with the men and women who lived on the 18th century frontier, especially those who—by choice or by force—crossed the cultural line between European (and African) and Native American and not only survived it, but learned to thrive in a strange new world. Sometimes managing to keep a foot in both worlds.
Through my research it became obvious the Mohawk Valley of New York was one such place where this meeting of cultures was particularly compelling. I filed many little sparks of inspiration away until, toward the end of writing that first novel, something caught flame and out shot two visions of a character. The first was an old woman who lived isolated in a ramshackle cabin in the foothills of the Adirondacks, and grew a garden. The second was a young woman, very tall, with a basket on her back, striding over those mountains on a journey home. They were the same woman, but I didn’t like that the older version of her was alone. It felt wrong, and terribly sad. I began to wonder how she got that way, what it would take to alter that lonely destiny. What if as a young woman she found someone in her path who, by all appearances, needed her help? What if it turned out she needed that someone just as desperately?
MBA&M: Inquiring minds, or me anyway, want to know…With Mohawk Indians, the American Frontier, a Scotsman, and two worlds colliding what where some of the challenges in writing this intriguing story of Burning Sky and her world?
LORI: I seem bent on writing characters who hail from different cultures, backgrounds and races than me. I’m not Mohawk, or Scottish, or a botanist, slave, warrior, soldier, captive, farmer, mother or man, yet somehow I had to get inside the hearts and minds of each of these sorts of people to tell this story—these sorts of people who lived over two hundred years ago, no less. But how boring would it be if writers could only write about characters exactly like themselves? I believe God gave us empathy, imagination, and the intelligence to educate ourselves about what we don’t know, or haven’t directly experienced. In my case, I relied on primary sources such as journals and letters of people of the time, as well as dozens and dozens of secondary sources by historians. And of course, the people I know who have experienced some of those things, or speak the languages my characters would have spoken, or had insights that I lacked.
Being tenacious in research is a challenge, but it’s also one of the joys of writing historical fiction. The history and the storytelling feed each other. The more I discover about the fascinating 18th century, the more I’m convinced there are stories enough left to tell to keep me busy for decades to come.
MBA&M: Where you fascinated with the American Frontier, and Indians, as a child?
LORI: I was. In fact, the very first story I wrote as a nine year old, in 1978, was about a Plains Indian girl and the wild mustang she rescues, trains, and rides in a race for a prize.
A few years on from that I have a vivid memory of being in the foothills of North Carolina, digging in the freshly turned garden of a friend of the family for the arrowheads he turned up with each spring plowing. I remember being overwhelmed with wonder that the man had such treasures lying in his yard.
Later on, at age 12 or 13, two books awakened my passion for historical fiction. One of those was Catherine Marshall’s classic Christy, set in the mountains of Tennessee. It’s 1912, but to “flatlander” Christy entering those misty hollows and coves is like walking back in time a century or more. The sheltered young teacher is exposed to a challenging, baffling, sometime frightening mountain world, but she comes to see the beauty of the place and the people. The other book was a Sunfire romance set on the Kansas prairie in the 1800s, called Jessica. Independent, capable Jessica faced the choice between her familiar sodbuster world and that of a Native warrior. No doubt there’s a little something of Jessica and Christy in every story I write.
MBA&M: If you could step into a story or book, which story or book would it be and why?
LORI: That’s a tough one to answer, but so fun! Can I be allowed more than one?
I’d love to visit Narnia and have tea with Mr. Tumnus—after the White Witch is vanquished, of course. I’d also love to visit Middle Earth and have tea with Bilbo Baggins. As much as I love adventure in my stories, I’m more of a Hobbit in real life—a Hobbit with Tookish corner of my heart.
MBA&M: “Burning Sky” would make a wonderful movie, sounds kinda like “The Last of the Mohicans”, what actors would you have playing which characters?
LORI: I definitely had Last of the Mohicans in mind while writing Burning Sky. And the soundtrack to that movie often played in the background.
My characters spring to life as individuals, apart from anyone living that I’ve seen or known, and rarely do I later find an actor who resembles them perfectly. But I do keep an eye out, and some have come close. Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs) could play Neil MacGregor, if he had blue eyes. But so could Ioan Gruffudd or Brendan Hines. I’d say Chris Gorham comes the closest.
As for Willa Obenchain, I never could find anyone who looks enough like her to say, “She is the one!” The model the WaterBrook design team found for the cover is the nearest to the Willa in my head I’ve ever seen. When I first saw the cover I nearly cried, then danced around my living room for joy.
For Joseph Tames-His-Horse, a young Eric Schweig (Last of the Mohicans) comes close, though there’s a little of Michael Greyeyes and a young Rick Mora in him too.
For Richard Waring, Chris Hemsworth (Thor) is a good match.
MBA&M: What was the toughest scene to write? Why?
LORI: The most difficult scenes to write technically turned out to be scenes that were cut during the editing process. There was a character given a lot of stage time who proved extraneous to the telling of Willa’s and Neil’s story, and we concluded he had to go. I have no doubt those scenes proved difficult to write because they really didn’t belong in the story. He was an interesting character and I’ve filed him away for the future.
The most difficult scenes for me to write emotionally are those of chapter twenty-four. Characters make some heartbreaking choices in that chapter.
MBA&M: If you could go back in time, what era would you visit and why?
LORI: Most definitely the late 18th century, in order to see, hear, smell, and taste this incredible (and probably incredibly pungent) time in history.
MBA&M: Now, Lori, please tell our readers where to connect with you and where they may purchase “Burning Sky”?
LORI: Readers can find me on my Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLoriBenton
My website: http://loribenton.blogspot.com/
Or Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/lorilbenton/
Burning Sky is available at brick-and-mortar bookstores, as well as on line booksellers such as CBD.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, in print or ebook.
Thank you, Lori, for taking a few moments of your time to share your story with us. What a fascinating and amazing story “Burning Sky” was to me!
A bit about the author:
Lori Benton spent her late teens and early twenties pursuing a career as a wildlife artist, attending the Maryland College of Art & Design before she began painting professionally. When not writing or researching, Lori can be found exploring the mountains of southern Oregon with her husband, Brian. Burning Sky is her first novel.
Torn Between Two Worlds…One Woman’s Journey to Her True Identity
Colorado Springs, Colo.— In Burning Sky (Waterbrook Press, August 6, 2013) by author Lori Benton, Willa Obenchain, abducted by Mohawk Indians at fourteen and renamed Burning Sky, 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. Feeling obliged to nurse his injuries, the two quickly find much has changed during her 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 is now 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 in 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 caught between two worlds as tensions rise, challenging her shielded heart to find a new courage, and risk embracing the blessings the Almighty wants to bestow. Is she brave enough to love again?
Available for pre-order at these online booksellers:
(Sponsored by the publisher)
Thanks to,Lynette, at Waterbrook, we are offering 1 lucky commenter a print copy of “Burning Sky” by Lori Benton. Open internationally! Giveaway will run from August 6 until August 13,2013.
GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!
“My Thoughts” coming soon at our sister site, www.mybookaddictionreviews.com
Thanks for stopping by today and spending time with our guest, Lori Benton. If you get time please spread the word.