Welcome to my very first author interview and book giveaway! I have been so blessed to connect with historical novelist Lori Benton and her heart for Native American history these past few months, and I’m honored she agreed to not only be interviewed but to give away a copy of her beautiful book Burning Sky right here on Pioneer Diaries! I hope you enjoy this chance to visit with her yourself. Comment below for a chance to win!
1. Welcome, Lori! Thank you so much for being willing to share from your heart and story with us. What draws you to write about the kind of history that you do?
Initially it was characters wearing knee breeches in the movie, The Patriot, and a novel that introduced me to late 18th century American history, a little before that. I know. Not exactly profound! But as I plotted and wrote that first novel set in the 1700s, I found myself drawn much deeper than men’s fashion, to settings and characters who didn’t quite fit into acceptable European American society of the time, because they’d been on the frontier, had discovered other ways of living, and come away changed. Or they were slaves on a plantation, a culture within a culture. It’s that middle ground experience of identifying with more than one culture or worldview at a time that keeps drawing me back to write about 18th century American history.
2. That’s so neat. So what sparked this story?
A combination of things I couldn’t now untangle, but two factors were uppermost: 1. my research into 18th century history lead me to New York, where those conflicting cultures and worldviews played a huge part in the history of that colony; and 2. a couple of visions of a character (who turned out to be Willa Obenchain) that seemed to fall out of the blue into my head, but were no doubt a product of my subconscious stewing over the books and movies I’d been consuming during the preceding years, and the aforesaid research. What better point of view to tell a story of the middle ground and what that meant to an individual than a woman raised half her life by her white parents, and half by her Mohawk captors-turned-family, now forced to make a choice. Will she let one identity go in favor of another, or is there a way to be both? Where will such a life be allowed to flourish? Or will she settle into solitude, unable fully to embrace either life?
3. What inspires you to write about Native Americans? How did that heart develop for you?
I wish I could remember how and when that heart developed. It goes back farther than my memories, as evidenced by the first story I wrote in 1978, aged nine. Yellow Feather and the Wild Mustang was about a Plains Indian girl who rescued a wounded horse, nursed it back to health, and rode it against the boys of her village in a race. Which she won (of course!). I have no memory of why I chose to write about a Native American girl. I must already have been reading books along those lines by then. I’ve been an avid reader since I can remember. Libraries (school, public, and our neighborhood Bookmobile) were some of my favorite places. Still are, though I miss that Bookmobile!
4. Oh, I love Bookmobiles! A lot of my current favorite CBA authors I discovered through our Bookmobile when we lived in rural New Mexico. So…what’s one lesson or perspective about history that you hope people take away from your books?
I hope readers will take from my books this fact: no matter which side of the frontier a man or woman identified with, Native or American/European, they shared the same basic hopes and loves and fears; hopes for a future and for peace; love of family; fear of seeing those things destroyed. My goal is never to romanticize history or historic figures, whether real or fictional, or any one people group, but to show the diversity within each. The good and the bad. The courageous and the craven. And the vast majority who fell somewhere in between. Throughout the 18th century, individuals reached across the cultural divide to forge relationships—trade, friendships, marriages—and existed as such during an era of remarkable upheaval and change. I hope readers will catch the spark of my admiration for and fascination with these individuals (or characters who resemble them) and their ability to see beyond their worldview and upbringing to embrace the hearts and minds of those staring back at them across that divide.
5. I love that—your heart to help us see that however different we might look on the outside, we share so much on the inside. What about one theme or new insight about God that you hope readers will find?
A beautiful thing about fiction is how each reader brings his/herself to the pages, and each gleans something unique and personal from the reading experience. I tried hard to allow the spiritual arcs of the characters to grow as organically as the emotional arcs. Yet what I brought to the pages in this way felt so small—a snack, really—a tiny offering to a readership who (if they’re anything like this reader) craves a spiritual meal and will take it from a novel if they can get it. But as a writer I want to tell a good story, primarily, not preach a sermon. That’s where the Holy Spirit steps in. I don’t have to provide the meal to satisfy each reader (that would be impossible for one story written by me ever to do). God takes what I put have and multiplies it.
I’d be blessed to know what spiritual insights readers discovered for themselves.
6. Do you have a favorite character in Burning Sky? Where do your characters come from?
That’s a bit like choosing your favorite child. I love them all and it’s hard to name names. But I do have a soft spot in my heart for Neil MacGregor. Neil is a survivor. He’s suffered a debilitating injury that might easily have caused him to give up his life’s passion, his dreams. It’s an injury that renders everyday life more challenging, much less the professional commission he’s taken on as a botanist. Yet he’s pressed on, found ways to compensate, and discovered that with God’s strength and grace he’s capable of more than he’d have known had that injury not occurred. I find that inspiring, and hope readers do as well.
Characters (mine, anyway) come from so many different places. Everywhere, really. They’re a product of the books I’ve read, the movies I’ve seen, the history I’ve learned, the people I’ve known, the life I’ve lived, and my own human nature. It’s a mysterious process that I’ll never be able to unravel. Or fully articulate!
Click here to read Lori’s special post on Neil MacGregor today! The excerpts there from Burning Sky may make you want to enter even more. 🙂
I hope you enjoyed visiting with this lovely author as much as I did. Stay tuned for the rest of Lori’s interview on Friday. [ Read PART 2 here.] And now you have a chance to receive a SIGNED copy of her beautiful historical novel for yourself! Comment below with your name, email address, and why you’d like to win Burning Skyto be entered into the drawing. One more chance to enter on Friday—then the happy winner will be announced the following Tuesday!
I loved Burning Sky. I remember searching out books on Indian captives from our local library when I was young. I’ve always been fascinated by those stories. What I particularly enjoyed about Lori’s writing was how she didn’t romanticize the time period or the people groups. So many historical writers have a tendency to do that for the sake of appealing to modern readers.
Burning Sky was amazing! I can’t wait to read her next book. (Obviously, you don’t have to enter me in the contest. I’m fortunate to already own a copy!)
I agree, Karen–she does such a beautiful job of presenting people on both sides of the cultural divide with sympathy and realism. I’m looking forward to her next book too! Thanks so much for sharing.
I already own a copy, too, but I loved BURNING SKY and I’m anxiously awaiting Lori’s next book! I will tweet this opportunity for others!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Heather! Blessings!
I would love to win this book . I would enjoy reading this book . It sounds really good .
Thanks for entering, Lisa! I’ll add you to the list. 🙂
I own a copy of Burning Sky, too, but had to come over and say hello and enjoy your wonderful interview. I’m still so smitten by Lori’s debut and also the beautiful cover of her next novel as well as the story within. I can’t wait to see more of Lori’s books in print. It’s really heartening to see this kind of CBA fiction come into its own, especially with the native themes.
Kiersti, Huge congrats for your ACFW win! Love your title and what I know about your own book. Bless you both!
Aw, thank you, Laura! It means so much to have you stop by. And yes, I’m very encouraged by this type of CBA fiction appearing too. 🙂 Bless you back!
Thanks for this fun interview, Kiersti. You’re already a pro! It’s been great getting to know you and discovering we share so many writing and historical interests and “heart.”
Thanks for the comments everyone, and for any Tweeting or Sharing you might do. It’s all appreciated and so helpful.
I’m looking forward to signing a copy of BURNING SKY next week for the winner!
I think my laptop ate my post so I will try this again. If we end up with two posts from me, will you all kindly forgive me? 🙂
I so look forward to reading your book, Lori. I read an excerpt a week or two ago and haven’t been able to get it off my mind. knitrrr(at)gmail(dot)com
Looks like it worked this time, Melanie–yay! Thanks for entering!
I CANNOT wait to read this one. If I don’t win (which would be great!), it is on my list of to-buy books when my “book buying freeze” is over.
I checked out the excerpts – they definitely make me want to read Burning Sky even more!
And Kiersti, what a lovely job on your first author interview & book giveaway, congrats!
Thank you for the chance to win!
Thank you, Beth! And yes, those excerpts do whet your appetite, don’t they? 🙂
So happy to see the comments and entries this morning! Thanks everyone for checking out Burning Sky. Can’t wait to see who wins this copy. 🙂
I ADORED Burning Sky!!
I own a copy too, so if I win, just send Tames His Horse over, I could use, umm, some, uh, meat for umm, winter. Cough.
Haha–so do you want to be entered in the giveaway for the BOOK or not, Jennifer? 🙂
No thanks, I’ve got one. Well used and well read.
Okay, that’s what I thought. Just checking. 🙂 Hope you’re feeling better, friend!
Hahahaha. No. He’s busy. Okay, maybe he can bring you some chicken soup. Would that help? 🙂
YES! I mean…yes. Soup ? Sure? A bucket of rocks? That’d be fine too.
My very first memory of going to the library was through a bookmobile. We have one that stops near here twice a month.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to win your book.
Bookmobiles are wonderful, aren’t they? Thanks for stopping by and entering, Janet! Blessings. 🙂
I so enjoy Lori’s books, looking forward to this one!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Melody! You’re now entered for the giveaway. 🙂
I would love to read Lori’s book. My Mom’s grandmother was full-blood Choctaw. Thank you for the opportunity to enter your giveaway. Please enter my name.
Wow–that’s so neat, Barbara. Thanks for entering!
I will be honest and say that I want to read “Burning Sky” because of comments Lori has made on various blogs. Her love of American history and this time period shine through. Laura Frantz is one of my favorite authors and “Burning Sky” has been compared favorably to the writing of Laura Frantz. I expect to enjoy this novel also! 🙂
So glad you stopped by, Silvia! Yes, both Laura and Lori write beautifully and share a heart for early American history and the different cultures involved. Thanks for entering for the giveaway!
I have never read any of Lori’s books, but this one sounds very good and would love to win a copy, please throw my name into the drawing. Thank you for the opportunity.
Hi Lori! I’d love to enter you but I will need your email in order to contact you. Could you post it, please? Thanks! 🙂
thanks for the chance to read this fabulous novel…I am intrigued by this story.
kmkuka at yahoo dot com
I know I’m too late but love the story behind her book. I have always loved stories with Indians included. I’ve read some really good ones through the years. I had great-grandmothers on both of my parents sides. Would love to be able to get more Geneology about my family.I know one real, white girl )Parker., that was kidnapped by indians Can’t remember her first name right now, but think she was only about 8 or 9, so she just became a family with them.Then one of the army troops came through their village and spotted her. So tho she protested they took her away. She also had two older sons and a new baby with her Indian husband and was not well excepted by the white people anymore and just stayed at her folks looking for her family to come rescue her. She just pined away. Her husband was a Chief. So sad. But I think this was the white people always treated any white woman who had been with the Indians, like they were trash then. Hate I was too late to get my name in. You did a great job Kirstie. You’re a natural. Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com
You’re not too late, Maxie! I’ll be accepting entries till Monday. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story–that’s amazing!
I’d love to win a copy of “Burning Sky”, because I’ve heard so many good things about this story, and I love the Revolutionary War period. Blessings to you!
So glad you stopped by, Gwendolyn! I’ll enter you in the giveaway. Blessings to you too! 🙂
SO enjoyed your interview, Lori!
I love the storyline of this book – making it even more attractive is the fact that I have an ancestor who was captured by Indians. I also love Lori’s own story about overcoming her physical problems, in order to resume her writing career.
I have heard nothing but good things about this book, & would love to read it. Thanks for the opportunity, Lori & Kiersti, to win a copy!
So glad you stopped by, Bonnie! Blessings. 🙂
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