Q&A With Lori Benton

Lori BentonThank you so much for joining us today to talk about A Flight of Arrows. I absolutely loved this book. The storyline is fantastic, the spiritual themes relevant, and the characters—well I probably became a bit too attached to them. This is an all around fantastic book and I can’t wait for readers to have a chance to see how The Pathfinders series ends.

Melissa: A Flight of Arrows is very much a spiritual journey for most of the major characters involved. I love how you portrayed each character’s faith, especially for the Native Americans. Whether it was waiting, recognizing God’s providence, their steadfast faith, forgiveness, or choosing to make the hard choice rather than the easy one, this book is full of wonderful themes and examples for Christian’s today. Yet it is not preachy nor is it idealistic. My favorite theme was probably watching how God took poor choices and worked them for good or perhaps just the overall encouragement and hope that is so wonderfully portrayed. What did you like best about the way the spiritual themes worked into this book and which is your favorite?

Lori: The spiritual themes grew deeper and more personal than I expected them to be, even though I started writing these books understanding that I was exploring themes of regret, guilt and forgiveness that I was still working through. So in that sense the writing of this series was more about me asking questions as attempting to provide answers—and those answers that do emerge for these particular characters are never easy ones.

As to which was my favorite theme, I had to pray through and give my heart over to each character’s journey as thoroughly as the next one in order to render it believable. My treasure of thought and study and prayer went into each and my heart obediently followed, which makes it hard to choose a favorite. That said, learning to trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty, even when things don’t go as we would have ordered them had we been the one writing our story, even when we can’t see the why or the good God is working for us in it, resonates strongly with me right now, in my personal walk with the Lord.

Melissa:  You make a lot of hard choices and write some very emotionally challenging scenes in this book. The end result is an excellent story that is full of hope, yet more reflective of reality than happily ever after. First off, why not take the happily ever after route and secondly, what do you do after writing extremely emotional scenes?

Lori:  I’m going to answer this one (without spoiling the ending of A Flight of Arrows) by saying that ending the book as I did was the hardest writing choice I’ve ever made. Mainly it boiled down to this: had I insisted on a totally “happily ever after” ending to this series it would have undermined my reader’s emotional investment in the characters’ journeys, as well as the choices some of the characters make, stripping them of their power and meaning. And it would have been unrealistic for this large of a cast of characters to come through such a devastating conflict as that portrayed (the Battle of Oriskany) without bearing a few scars, without sustaining a few losses. My hope is that the ending still resonates with hope, because that’s my world view as a Christian.

As for what I do after writing an extremely emotional scene. I probably stagger from the computer, wipe my tears, and go make dinner.

Melissa:  There are so many wonderful characters in The Pathfinders series, but Stone Thrower really surprised me. I did not expect to become as nearly attached to him as I did. Overall, Two Hawks remains my favorite, but Stone Thrower came in a very close second. What characters surprised you and which ones ended up being your favorites?

Lori:  So very hard to choose favorites among my characters. I loved them all from the inside out, but I’ll talk about Stone Thrower because he is different in one specific way. I chose not to write from his point of view except for a brief bit in The Wood’s Edge, so the challenge in rendering him on the page was to make him as sympathetic as the rest of the main characters in whose heads we get to spend significant chunks of the story, even though early on he causes much of the heartbreak that the other characters are forced to endure. His journey is one of the most dramatic, but we see it almost exclusively through the eyes of other characters. Therefore I meant for him to be a surprise. I’m glad to know he was for you!

Melissa:  I’ve commented many times that I am not a romance reader. I tend to cringe at most romantic storylines. However, I adore the way you write romance. It comes across as so tender and genuine. Two Hawks and Anna’s story is no different. I personally love that Two Hawks insisted on taking a harder route which took more time and required honoring Reginald. What did you most like about the way their story developed and in what ways did they surprise you?

Lori:  I was intentional about writing Anna and Two Hawks relationship, which I see as the cornerstone of this series, so I can’t say that they surprised me overmuch. I knew the path they would take and the writing process didn’t deviate from that in any major way. There is one thing Two Hawks did that surprised me, however. When he did it, I had to stop and question it. Did I really want to let him do that? It’s dramatic, yes, but is it truly necessary? In the end I decided it was and I let him go ahead, to Anna’s dismay. But it triggered for her a moment of deep understanding of him as a man that I’m not sure she’d have come to had she not had the visual of what Two Hawks had done. Sorry to be mysterious, but I don’t want to lessen the impact of that scene by spoiling it. I hope readers will recognize it when they come to it.

Melissa: I commented in my review that this is an emotionally draining book. Just the nature of the story and the time in which it is set left me with many conflicting emotions as well as some sadness as alliances broke and friends turned against each other. One of the more difficult parts was reading about the breaking of the Iroquois Confederacy—a 500 year old alliance. Talk a little bit about this part of history and how the different tribes helped both the colonial army and the British. What do you think are some of the Native American’s forgotten contributions to the American Revolution?

Lori:  I took pains to explore this dramatically in the series, so I hope readers will come away with at least a basic understanding of what led to the breaking of the Iroquois Confederacy after reading the series. But to boil it down to basics, all the nations of the Haudenosaunee (aka the Six Nations or Iroquois Confederacy) sided with the British during the Revolutionary War except for the Oneidas and some of the Tuscaroras. Even among these nations individuals were free to make their own choices and some Oneidas backed the British. Many Haudenosaunee on both sides served as scouts, warriors, messengers, guides, marksmen, and translators. Some enlisted as soldiers in militias and the Continental or the British Army. Oneidas helped feed the starving soldiers at Valley Forge. For anyone interested in learning more about their contributions, particularly the Oneidas, I’d recommend starting with the book Forgotten Allies by Joseph T. Glatthaar and James Kirby Martin.

Melissa: You include several historical figures in A Flight of Arrows; one being Joseph Brant. At this particular time in history, he is more of an aggressive warrior fighting for the British than Native American defender. As a result, this is how he is portrayed in this book. From your research, what do you think of his contribution and overall place in history?

Lori:  Joseph Brant is a fascinating character. He translated parts of the Bible. He sailed to England and met with royalty. He was highly educated. He was a warrior. I believe he did the best he could for the Mohawk nation, of which he was a member, during a bewildering and unpredictable time of upheaval. I haven’t researched his life in extreme detail, mainly the portion of it lived within the bounds of the story I told, but I know that he was instrumental in obtaining land for many of the Mohawk Nation in Canada, after the war.

Melissa: Readers who have read your first novel, Burning Sky, will recognize the character, Joseph Tames-His-Horse. I would love to have a book totally dedicated to him. Any hope of that happening? Along the same lines, any chance we’ll get to catch up with the characters in The Pathfinders series again?

Lori: There’s always the chance. I know a little more about Joseph’s life after the end of Burning Sky and hope to have the opportunity to work that into a story one day. But there are no plans for that at the moment.

Attentive readers may have noticed that what I’m doing with my novels is world building. I’m telling stories lifted from the same fictional 18th century world, so there’s always a chance that a character or two from one book will wander into the pages of another. I actually do this more than my finished books might indicate; occasionally those cameo appearances are cut during the editing. As a matter of fact, I’d worked more characters readers of Burning Sky would have recognized into A Flight of Arrows. Alas, they did not play a significant enough role to warrant inclusion in the final version of the novel, which is already jam-packed with characters to keep track of. There’s one scene in particular that I was very fond of, which included some Burning Sky characters, that had to be cut. I plan to share that scene on my website in April, near the book’s release.

Melissa: What is next for you?

Lori: I’m currently writing a stand-alone novel set on the 18th century frontier during another little known event in history, Dunmore’s War. The story will include some familiar faces for those who have read The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn. After that I have another 18th century novel planned.

To find out more about Lori and her books, visit her website or connect with her of FaceBook.

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