Monday, April 14, 2014

The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn


Today I’m celebrating the newest novel of my good friend Lori Benton with a day-before-the-release-date party, and one lucky winner is going to receive a copy of The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn! Below Lori shares how she developed the story. Please leave a comment on this post before midnight Friday, April 18, to be entered in the drawing!
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Lori
Where do you get your story ideas? That’s a question fiction writers are often asked. It’s often difficult to answer.

Ideas are everywhere. In the movies we watch, the books we read, the conversations we have, the news we’re exposed to. Life abounds with story ideas. Like scattered seeds, they are constantly being planted in a writer’s mind. They can lie dormant for the longest time, forgotten by the writer herself, until suddenly they sprout, and a story idea springs from seemingly nowhere, its roots untraceable except by more digging than most writers have time to do. Rather, we delight in the unexpected tender shoot and do what we can to nourish it, hoping it will sink those mysterious roots deep, and grow.

And then sometimes we do remember exactly where a story idea came from. That’s the case for my new release, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn (WaterBrook Press, April 15, 2014). The first spark of inspiration for that story came straight out of the pages of history.

While researching an earlier novel set in 18th century North Carolina, I came across the mention of the State of Franklin—an attempt of the citizens living west of the Blue Ridge Mountains to form a separate state, just after the Revolutionary War’s ending. Had they succeeded (and they nearly did), Franklin would have been the fourteenth state admitted into the Union, instead of Vermont.

Why did they get the notion to do such a thing in the first place?

I think it’s accurate to say that the State of Franklin movement came about in large part due to geography. Several of the river valleys west of the Blue Ridge, known as the Tennessee country, had been settled well before the Revolutionary War. But those frontier settlements were a long way removed from the political centers of eastern North Carolina. With hundreds of miles between them, many of them sometimes impassable mountain miles, the settlers on the frontier became frustrated with the government’s lack of response to their needs.

In 1784, one group of these frontier citizens declared their region independent of North Carolina. They formed the State of Franklin and elected a governor—war hero John Sevier—but they never drew enough support from outside the region for their efforts to succeed. In fact, the region itself was divided, with the folk who clung to their identity as North Carolinians at odds with their neighbors who called themselves Franklinites.

This first post-Revolutionary War attempt at independent statehood spanned a brief but tumultuous period (1784—1789), and was marked by courthouse raids, fisticuffs, siege, and battle. For a little over four years the people of the Tennessee Valley region lived under the jurisdiction of two opposing governments, each vying for the same territory, taxes, and allegiance of the people.

How, I wondered, could such a situation result in anything but chaos for those folk simply trying to wrest a living from their farms or places of trade? Hadn’t they just lived through a devastating war between two rival governments? What was an Overmountain man and his family to do to get a little peace? And then there were the Chickamauga Indians seeking to sweep the whole lot of them back east across the mountains—and honestly, who could blame them?

It was a setting that begged for a story to be woven through it.

I began a file to keep track of those tantalizing hints of conflict surrounding the failed statehood attempt. Over time, as I read more about North Carolina, the sparse contents of this file would nudge me, suggesting story possibilities. Gradually a cast of characters clustered around it, they began to speak to me, and The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn took shape.

The story opens late in the summer of 1787, well into this unsettled situation in the Overmountain region. I thought it a fitting setting for a story about a privileged but subjugated young woman, Tamsen Littlejohn, and a rootless, enigmatic Overmountain man called Jesse Bird, who find themselves thrown together in a moment of crisis with a bewildering set of paths to choose toward security and safety—much as confronted the people of the frontier valleys. Tamsen and Jesse are faced with a choice of what sort of person each wants to become, what sort of life they want to live, and must decide what they are willing to risk to pursue that choice. And might the real question be—are they meant risk their hearts and make these choices together?

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 near it came to being our fourteenth state.
~~~
Thank you for sharing these fascinating insights into your creative process, Lori!

Readers, if you haven’t yet read Lori’s debut novel, Burning Sky, you need to purchase a copy asap! Her writing is lovely, evocative, and gripping, and Burning Sky will stay in your heart long after you turn the last page.

And I’m confident that The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn is going to be every bit as captivating. Leave a comment on this post to enter the drawing, which will close at midnight on Friday, April 18. Please include your name and email addy in your response so I can contact you if you win. I'll announce the winner here on Saturday.



27 comments:

  1. Wow that looks cool. I love learning history by reading fiction, much to my history teacher husband's dismay. ;) Okay he doesn't really mind as long as I'm learning it right!

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    1. Jessie, I personally think well researched, accurate, entertaining historical fiction is one of the best ways to learn history. As long as it's right, of course. lol! I totally agree with your husband in that. Thank you for stopping by and entering the drawing!

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    2. Jessie, it was through historical fiction that history finally came alive to me, back in my high school days. I've often wondered how it would turn out if English and History teachers got together and one taught the history, another a novel set during that time period, to help bring it to life. History teachers are some of my favorite people!

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  2. I am so fascinated with the almost state of Franklin. I find this post fascinating. I can't wait to get my hands on Loris new book.
    Thank you!
    Campbellamyd at gmail dot com

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    1. It's a curious and intriguing time and place, Amy, that's for sure! I'm with you--can't wait to read this book!

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    2. Amy, so glad you've found this overlooked corner of history interesting. I simply couldn't resist writing about it.

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  3. What a fascinating bit of early American history! I'm sure this book will be great, I would love to win a copy. I think Burning Sky was one of my favorite reads last year.

    pattymh2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Patty, so glad you enjoyed Burning Sky, Hope you enjoy Tamsen's story as well. :)

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  4. I agree with you, Patty! Thank you for stopping by and good luck in the contest!

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  5. This book looks great and covers a part of American history I am not familiar with. I would love to win a copy.
    susanmsj at msn dot com

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    1. It's a pretty obscure event, but fascinating, and I'm glad Lori decided to incorporate it in her story. Thank you for stopping by and entering, Susan!

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  6. British commander Patrick Ferguson referred to the Overmountain Men as "barbarians" and "the dregs of mankind". Not surprising considering their role in the Battle of Kings Mountain. I'm really looking forward to reading Lori's story and the part played by one of these men.

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    1. Ah, thank you for that info, Sallie! I can understand his bad attitude, considering the results of that battle. lol! Thank you for joining us!

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  7. I had no idea about the State of Franklin--the history and the fiction both sound fascinating. Thanks for the giveaway and the introduction to a new author! danandlyndaedwards [at] msn [dot] com.

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    1. Lynda, I doubt many people know anything about Franklin. I just happened to run across it some time back and could hardly believe it really happened. Sounds like fiction. lol! Good luck in the drawing!

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  8. I love history and I know I would enjoy reading this book. Thanks for the giveaway.
    Connie Saunders
    cps1950@gmail.com

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  9. Hi, Connie! Thanks for stopping by. I think you will enjoy the story. I can't wait to get my hands on it. :-)

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  10. I had no idea about the state of Franklin until I started reading reviews for this book! I'm excited to learn more about this unique piece of our history. Thanks so much for the giveaway!

    colorvibrant at gmail dot com

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    1. Heidi, you're so welcome, and I'm delighted you stopped by! Good luck in the drawing!

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  11. Ladies, in case you haven't heard, Burning Sky has been nominated for a Cristy Award. Congratulations, Lori! So well deserved.

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  12. I was a history major and I have never heard of the State of Franklin before! How interesting!! Thanks for the chance to win the novel. kosterbind (at) gmail (dot) com

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  13. Hi, Kelly! I know most people have never heard of it, but Lori's novel is going to educate us. :-) Glad you stopped by and entered the drawing!

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  14. What a fascinating piece of American history. I had no idea about the state of Franklin! I would love a chance to read Lori's second book; I just purchased Burning Sky and am about to dive in (after hearing such amazing things about it!). Thank you for the opportunity, and for the great interview.
    ~ Kerry
    candidkerry [at] gmail [dot] com

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    1. Hi, Kerry! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Good luck in the drawing!

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  15. The contest ends at midnight tonight, everyone. Be sure to stop by tomorrow morning to find out who the lucky winner is!

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  16. Love Lori and would love to read this story! Thanks for the interview and giveaway. :)

    ozarkwriter(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Adding you to the list, Savanna! Thanks for entering!

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