Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Interview with Lori Benton

Lori Benton's new book MANY SPARROWS is out and available to readers. 

When settler Clare Inglesby is widowed on a mountain crossing and her young son, Jacob, captured by Shawnees, she'll do everything in her power to get him back, including cross the Ohio River and march straight into the presence of her enemies deep in Indian country. Frontiersman and adopted Shawnee, Jeremiah Ring, promises to guide Clare through the wilderness and help her recover Jacob.

Once they reach the Shawnees and discover Jeremiah's own Shawnee sister, Rain Crow, has taken custody of Jacob--renaming him Many Sparrows--keeping his promise becomes far more complicated, the consequences more wrenching, than Jeremiah could have foreseen.

Once again Lori has managed to capture a beautiful story, one of love, patience and faith. I had the pleasure of interviewing Lori. 

I love the title of the book and its double meaning, from the scriptures, and how Jacob talks. Did the title come first, or did it follow naturally from the novel? 

I’m so glad you like it, because this title was late in coming. For a year or more this story lived as bits in pieces of ideas in a file, which I had to call something so I chose The Frontiersman, since I knew there would be one of those in it. But that was only a working title. Once I turned my focus to plotting and writing the story, the best title I came up with was Flames of Autumn. That title stuck for quite a while and it’s on the contract and in some of the early correspondence with my publisher. Somewhere past the halfway mark in the writing I began to realize that, although the story has its climax in the autumn, in a fiery-leafed wood, most of it takes place over the course of a summer. I also began to realize Many Sparrows was far more than a character’s name. It was also an underlying theme of the story. So I lobbied for a name change and, like the Jacob, the book was eventually renamed. 

During the first part of the book I found myself frustrated with Clare and her feelings towards the Indians, even though for the time period she was very tolerant. How do you reconcile being historically accurate, even with prejudices, while still keeping a character someone that today’s readers can like and connect to? 

It’s important to me to create historically accurate characters, men and women who have the mindset of the time in which they live—or as best as I can grasp it. It’s true that we find aspects of the 18th century world view distasteful today. One of the ways in which I deal with this is writing about characters who have a broader world view than many of their contemporaries. They’ve been exposed to contrasting lifeways or known someone intimately from another culture. It’s one of the reasons I love frontier settings. People of all sorts mingled there and (if they managed not to kill each other!) learned from each other. As far as presenting those characters who start out with a narrower mindset than they perhaps end up with, I make sure to give them believable reasons for thinking as they do, or else finesse my presentation of their viewpoint so that it is authentic without being unnecessarily offensive. It’s a delicate balance sometimes. 

Do you have a favorite quote you use to inspire yourself?  

I don’t recall it word for word, but writer Anne Lamott talks about focusing only on what you are writing today. Not tomorrow. Not the big picture. There’s a time and place for that, but not first thing in the morning when I’m sitting down to work. That’s overwhelming. I have to—daily—remind myself I only have to tackle today’s work. This one scene. Or half a scene. Or the plotting of a scene.  Or the edit of a scene. Whatever it happens to be on the day. “I can do that,” I respond, and I get cracking.

What gets you into the chair and the words flowing?  What is your process?

9am rolls around. That’s pretty much it. I’m fairly regimented when it comes to writing. Even so that first half hour can be rough. Usually it takes me that long to dig into whatever scene I’m working on and lose track of myself in the flow. Now and then I never do manage to dig in. I’m distracted, or not feeling well, or just not feeling it. Still I plug away in stops and starts with lots of groaning and grumbling and checking of Facebook and Instagram.
And let’s not forget coffee. I’m not sure I’d have written my first novel without it. Or any since. Two cups a day with milk and little vanilla powder.

What is your favorite time of the day? 

Morning! I’m often up by 4:30am. Now and then I write that early, but usually I have other things I do until 9am. 

You love, hiking, take amazing pictures, You are fabulous at decorating cookies and are very involved in your church group. The one question everyone here wants to know, how do you find time? 

Thank you for the kind words about the photos. I’m super passionate about that right now, as it has combined several loves (hiking, photography, art, wilderness) into one expression, and Instagram kindly offers a place to share it.
Being more involved at church, volunteering, is something that gets me away from the computer, out of the house, with people, and focused on something outside my head.
Finding the time to get out and hike, which often requires hours of driving to some of these locations, requires careful planning (taking into account things like weather, tides, sunrise, sunset, terrain), and when I do I pack in as many locations as I can. Same with baking and the cookie decorating thing, I have to carefully plan for it. Writing takes precedent most of the time. But there came a time, about two years ago, when I realized I wasn’t filling my creative well anymore, just pouring out. And I got kind of dry. Hiking, photography, photo editing, cookie-decorating, those kinds of hobbies that are done for art and nothing more, no pressure, fill the well now and it’s important that I make time for that, however much planning it takes. In the long run I believe I’ll write better books if I spend time doing other creative things too.

Thank you Lori! 

You can find her here:


  1. Great interview. Glad to learn more about Lori. I'm struggling with a title right now so was interested to read how Lori's evolved. And it would be hard to write about attitudes a character would have that we don't agree with.

    1. Titles are so hard. It's nice when they develop organically.

  2. Wonderful interview! I loved reading Many Sparrows. It was interesting to read how the title came to be. It fits the story so well.

    1. Titles are so hard to come up with, it's always fun to see how the author did it.

  3. Terrific interview, ladies! This sounds like my kinda book, so I'll definitely check it out. :)

    Even though I haven't read this book, I have a feeling the title is absolutely PERFECT for it. It's interesting how things like that morph over time, isn't it?

    1. You should check out all her books. This book has some tie ins (though they are completely separate books) with her book THE PURSUIT OF TAMSEN LITTLEJOHN.

  4. Nice interview! This bit really resonated with me: . . . focusing only on what you are writing today. Not tomorrow. Not the big picture. There’s a time and place for that, but not first thing in the morning when I’m sitting down to work.

  5. I love the story behind the title. I often struggle with titles. And I love your advice from Anne Lamott.

  6. Sara, thanks for interviewing Lori! Lori, MANNY SPARROWS may be my favorite of your books! I love it and Clare, warts and all. Here's to many more stories to share!

    1. Thank you, Zan Marie. I have been overwhelmed by the reception of this story. Simply overwhelmed. In all the best ways!

  7. It sounds like an amazing story. Best of luck!

  8. Great interview, and congratulations Lori!
    This reminds me that I still haven't read Lamott's book...

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