With a new weekend here, today the Advisory Board welcomes Lori Benton. Lori was shortlisted in the 2014 awards for her debut novel, Burning Sky. This year, her novel The Wood’s Edge is honored on the 2016 shortlist in the Historical Romance category.
We chat with Lori about the inspiration behind The Wood’s Edge, the challenges of writing in the historical fiction genre, and learn what TV addiction she’s anxiously awaiting. (Editor’s note: I feel the delay of this particular British show most ardently!)
At the wood’s edge cultures collide. Can two families survive the impact?
The 1757 New York frontier is home to the Oneida tribe and to British colonists, yet their feet rarely walk the same paths.
On the day Fort William Henry falls, Major Reginald Aubrey is beside himself with grief. His son, born that day, has died in the arms of his sleeping wife. When Reginald comes across an Oneida mother with newborn twins, one white, one brown, he makes a choice that will haunt the lives of all involved. He steals the white baby and leaves his own child behind. Reginald’s wife and foundling daughter, Anna, never suspect the truth about the boy they call William, but Reginald is wracked by regret that only intensifies with time, as his secret spreads its devastating ripples.
When the long buried truth comes to light, can an unlikely friendship forged at the wood’s edge provide a way forward? For a father tormented by fear of judgment, another by lust for vengeance. For a mother still grieving her lost child. For a brother who feels his twin’s absence, another unaware of his twin’s existence. And for Anna, who loves them both–Two Hawks, the mysterious Oneida boy she meets in secret, and William, her brother. As paths long divided collide, how will God direct the feet of those who follow Him? – Goodreads | Amazon
What inspired you to write The Wood’s Edge?
I’m always looking for intriguing historical events to set a story against, and the 18th century overflows with them. While researching my debut novel, Burning Sky, set in western New York after the Revolutionary War, I went back further and read about the war, thinking I ought to know what my characters from various cultures and sides in that war might have experienced. It was then I learned about the Six Nations, or Iroquois League, and the devastating impact this war had on them, tearing their ancient confederation apart when the Oneida nation chose to side with the Americans, while most of the other nations (Mohawks, Onondagas, Cayugas, Tuscaroras, and Senecas) sided with the British.
I’m also always on the look-out for historically accurate situations in which a character might find him or herself torn between two ways of life, across cultures, race, or ideologies. Because that’s what intrigues me as a writer.
During this time I read an article about a couple who had twins, one born brown-skinned, one born white-skinned. Instantly intrigued, I began to wonder what would happen if such twins were born on the New York frontier in the 18th century and somehow were separated so that one grew to manhood never knowing he had any other blood but what his skin proclaimed and just how might that happen…? Somewhere down that trail of questions The Wood’s Edge and its sequel A Flight of Arrows took shape.
What are the challenges/benefits of writing historical fiction?
Challenges for me would include the research and capturing of setting. I live 3000 miles away from the places I write about and don’t often find the time to take away from the actual writing (it takes me slightly longer than a year to write my books, about all the time I have between deadlines, and unfortunately I’ve never been able to write while traveling) to make long research trips. But I did spend half my life living on the east coast and was a bit of a tomboy as a child, with similar interests then as I have now, including a love of exploring the out-of-doors, so I have a lot of memories to draw from for the types of “close to the earth” settings I like to create.
As for benefits, I find it immensely satisfying writing historical fiction. I’m always learning. I feel like I give myself a new degree in history with every novel I write. I’ve heard it said it’s good for the brain to keep learning!
JUST FOR FUN QUESTIONS
+ What are you listening to? I don’t listen to music often, but I just finished listening to The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.
+ What are you watching? I’m waiting for the new seasons of The Last Ship and Poldark to commence. Meanwhile I catch episodes of Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D, The Flash, and Blue Bloods.
+ What are you reading or what’s on your nightstand? I read a lot via audio books because reading print is liable to put me to sleep in ten minutes these days, no matter what time of day or night, and there’s a good chance I’ll never get to a book I really want to read if it’s only in print, because of the daunting amount of research that’s always waiting.
I’m reading A Country Between, The Upper Ohio Valley and Its People by Michael N. McConnell and The Scratch of a Pen, 1763 and the Transformation of North America by Colin G. Calloway, among other research material.
I’m listening to What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty and my annual re-listen of To Say Nothing of the Dog, or How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis (read by Steven Crossley).
I’m reading a lovely book for endorsement by Joanne Bischof called The Lady and the Lionheart (be on the lookout for that one later this year, readers!)
And here is a stack of some of books I would like to get to soon (I’ve just started the one on top!).
Thanks so much for joining us today, Lori. Reading about one particular novel on your nightstand TBR is one I anticipate, and I appreciated the insight you gave us into the inspiration of The Wood’s Edge.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, and The Wood’s Edge.