Guest Post — Lori Benton Author of The King’s Mercy

13 Jun

I am so excited to welcome today author Lori Benton, author of The King’s Mercy. I was first introduced to Lori’s writing in her debut novel, Burning Sky. Wow! I was blown away! There is no doubt about why that book was a multi-award winner. All of her books I have read since are of the same calibre — excellent writing, original plotting, richly detailed historical settings, and characters that steal a reader’s heart. Lori shares with us today the work of bringing story to history in her latest offering. Thanks so much, Lori, for visiting today!


Fact vs Fiction

By Lori Benton 

In his book The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction, James Alexander Thom (author of Follow The River) writes, “The past is where we get the raw material we use to make the stories by which we earn our bread. The raw material is already there, inexhaustible. We pick bygone time up by the handfuls and, like clay, see if it feels right and then form it into stories about the past.” It’s an apt description of what it’s like to sift through history, pluck out facts and dates from the historical record, then mix them with the elements of Story to create a historical novel. 

I found the raw clay for my latest release, The King’s Mercy, in the 1740s. The story opens with Scottish Jacobite prisoner Alex MacKinnon’s flashbacks to the Battle of Culloden, and what happened to the Jacobite Scots captured by the Duke of Cumberland’s forces during that battle — exile and indenture. Next I introduce a plantation setting along the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, complete with master, overseer, and dozens of slaves. Later, the story visits a Cherokee town deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west. 

Aside from that very real battlefield on a moor near Inverness, Scotland, these settings sprang from my imagination, but they’re based on research gleaned from the work of dozens of historians, with every detail of culture (food, speech patterns, clothing, possessions, work, play, education, beliefs, prejudices, and attitudes) included in The King’s Mercy lifted from those pages. But such details of time and place are merely dry bones until they are enlivened by the beating heart and filtered through the mind and senses of a character living in that moment.  

James Alexander Thom again: “Those who read the prose of a historian understand that they’re looking back. But we novelists, and our readers, aren’t looking back to that time. We are in that time, looking forward. We are living in the historical moment, through the vividness of our stories, and looking to the future to find our outcomes.” Presenting the facts seamlessly embedded in historical fiction as accurately as possible is important. So also is presenting a story-world so vivid to the senses, and characters who are a product of the times in which we’ve placed them, that the reader forgets what the outcome of that particular moment in history is, and can live in the suspenseful and uncertain now along with the characters. 

What was it like to smell, hear, taste, touch, and see day-to-day life on a plantation in colonial North Carolina, or a sleety, chaotic battlefield, or a prison ship anchored on the Thames, or a thatched council house in a Cherokee town? Those details are every bit as vital in creating the authenticity of historical fiction as is conveying to the reader a knowledge of the laws that governed the institutions of colonial slavery and indenture, or prisoners of the British Crown, or how many chiefs there were in each Cherokee town. Sensory details are what immerses a reader in the factual world the fictional characters inhabit, and helps them see that world through their eyes. 

Better yet, they feel it. 


For readers of Sara Donati and Diana Gabaldon, this epic historical romance tells of fateful love between an indentured Scotsman and a daughter of the 18th century colonial south.

When captured rebel Scotsman Alex MacKinnon is granted the king’s mercy–exile to the Colony of North Carolina–he’s indentured to Englishman Edmund Carey as a blacksmith. Against his will Alex is drawn into the struggles of Carey’s slaves–and those of his stepdaughter, Joanna Carey. A mistress with a servant’s heart, Joanna is expected to wed her father’s overseer, Phineas Reeves, but finds herself drawn instead to the new blacksmith. As their unlikely relationship deepens, successive tragedies strike the Careys. When blame falls unfairly upon Alex he flees to the distant mountains where he encounters Reverend Pauling, itinerate preacher and friend of the Careys, now a prisoner of the Cherokees. Haunted by his abandoning of Joanna, Alex tries to settle into life with the Cherokees, until circumstances thwart yet another attempt to forge his freedom and he’s faced with the choice that’s long hounded him: continue down his rebellious path or embrace the faith of a man like Pauling, whose freedom in Christ no man can steal. But the price of such mercy is total surrender, and perhaps Alex’s very life.

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 and photographing the Oregon wilderness with her husband. She is the author of Burning Sky, recipient of three Christy Awards, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn; Christy nominee The Wood’s Edge; A Flight of Arrows; and Many Sparrows.

2 Responses to “Guest Post — Lori Benton Author of The King’s Mercy”

  1. susiesellnergmailcom June 13, 2019 at 10:37 am #

    I am looking forward to reading The King’s Mercy!

  2. Mary Steinbrenner June 15, 2019 at 6:55 pm #

    I was first reader of the local public library copy of the book! It is always wonderful to be that first reader by reserving before it is officially available. I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you.

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