Today’s post is special, as I am so excited to share my interview with Lori Benton, author of Burning Sky and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. I am honored to be on her influencer team for The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, which releases TODAY. I have had a great time interacting with Lori and getting to know her better through our emails. She is a wonderful woman of God, and I am thrilled to share with you more about the person behind the book. Without further ado, please welcome Lori Benton!
Thank you, Lori, for agreeing to this interview. I am so happy to have you on the blog today!
I would love to hear a little bit about your personal life. Tell me about your family and what you enjoy doing when you aren’t working on your latest book.
I’m not sure I’m ever not working on my latest book, but I do get away from the computer now and then, and not just to make sure we have food in the house. I’ve been married to my husband, Brian, for 26 years. We enjoy getting out into our Oregon mountains at least once a week, weather permitting. I love the outdoors, and hiking around one of our lakes, or high in the hills, clears my head and revives me for the coming week of writing. But as often as not, I’m working on story issues while I hike.
Do you think your vocation is more a result of God’s prompting in your life, or from your own passion to write, or both?
Writing is what God has gifted me to do. It requires all I have to give, and it brings me joy. For many years I prayed that if writing full time wasn’t His will for me, that He would kindly remove that desire from my heart. Instead He strengthened and fulfilled it.
What inspires you to write?
What keeps me coming back day after day, novel after novel, are the characters living in my head. They have far more compelling stories to tell than the one I’m actually living! Or perhaps their wills are stronger than mine. However this mysterious business of inspiration works, I cannot ignore them and the stories they have to tell. So I sit down each day and try to find the best words to do the telling.
What about the 18th century intrigues you? Why the Frontier?
Back in 2004, when I decided to write my first historical novel, I chose the 18th century more or less on a whim. I’d seen the movie The Patriot (Mel Gibson, 2000) and thought it would be nice for my male characters to wear knee breeches instead of trousers. Looking back, I believe God’s hand was in this choice, for as I began researching the 18th century, almost at once I was drawn away from the populated seaboard settings to the periphery—the mountain and Overmountain frontier—where cultures inevitably collided along the advancing line of settlement, in friendship, trade, and war. What captured my imagination were those individuals who were drawn across those cultural barriers and not only survived the encounter, but thrived, in some cases learning to straddle that line between two worlds—whether they were wearing knee breeches, a breechclout, or petticoats. It’s that “caught between two worlds” aspect and its poignant challenges and tensions that continues to fascinate and inspire me. The 18th century abounds with such stories.
How has being a published author impacted your relationship with Christ? In what ways have you seen God make himself present in your career?
There’s a lot more to pray about! I’ve never struggled with maintaining a devotional prayer life. It’s been a sweet blessing and a highlight of my walk with Christ since I began the practice nearly 20 years ago. Now that my writing is reaching readers, I’m far more aware of the need of constant prayer, of bringing every facet of my writing life to Him, for correction, inspiration, guidance, and blessing. These days I’m far more aware of His hand in every aspect of my writing life, and my life in general. This long road has taught me not to fret the small things, not to fear the big things, but to take all things straight to Him and make my requests known. And He has done exceeding, abundantly, above all that I could have asked or imagined.
How important is it to you to incorporate your faith and Christian themes in you novels? How do you do this effectively, balancing the extremes of being too subtle or too preachy?
It’s very important. We are beings with a body, soul, and spirit. I can’t tell a story about human beings without including a spiritual arc, as I would an emotional arc and a plot full of actions the characters must take to reach their goals. But I don’t force it. I let it emerge as the story develops. I wait until I’m certain I know what it is (this might not happen until halfway through the first draft). Then I go back and strengthen the seeds of that spiritual arc that I unconsciously planted along the way. Because “too subtle” and “too preachy” are subjective reactions for each reader, I doubt there’s a foolproof way to create the perfect balance. I write the spiritual arc that’s true for each character and leave it at that.
If you could tell readers one thing about The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, what would it be?
I’m excited to share with readers this stirring romance set against an epic period of history often neglected in the classroom: the formation of the State of Franklin on the heels of the Revolutionary War, the turmoil it caused on the North Carolina frontier, and how nearly it came to being our fourteenth state.
This interview was originally conducted for the article I wrote for Family Fiction. To read that article, click here.