Guest Author: Vali Benson

Today the Book's Delight is thrilled to have a guest post by author Vali Benson. Benson talks about how she came to be a published author, her writing process and offers research and writing tips to authors new and old. 

Here are a few details about her book:
Blood and Silver by Vali Benson
Published: April 2020
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Genre: YA historical fiction, YA action and adventure
Available: hardback, paperback, ebook

Author Details:

Vali grew up in the Midwest. She now lives in Tucson with her husband, two sons and grandchildren.
After graduating from the University of Illinois, Vali started and sold two successful businesses before she decided to pursue her real passion of writing. She published several articles in a variety of periodicals, including History Magazine before she decided to try her hand at fiction.
In April of 2020, Vali published her first novel, “Blood and Silver”. That same month, she was also made a member of the Western Writers of America.


My First Novel: A Process


Vali Benson

          I always felt that I was meant to be a writer but I never had the time or focus to earnestly pursue it. Then, ten years ago, I sold my business and “retired”. My passion for writing hadn’t gone anywhere so I finally sat down at my computer. I had a lifetime of ideas and since I finally had some time on my hands, I decided to bring some of them to life. My name is Vali Benson and I just had my first novel published.      

          For my first novel, I decided to explore an idea that I had nurtured for years. My goal was to craft a narrative that took place in the past but where the characters deal with modern day issues. However, I was having trouble finding a setting for my story. Then I remembered a piece of advice I was handed many years ago. As a young schoolgirl growing up in the Midwest, a great teacher told me, “Write about what’s in your own backyard.” I took her advice and turned in an award winning essay. That advice was the inspiration in writing my book; a young adult historical fiction novel called Blood and Silver. The story takes place in Tombstone, Arizona. For thirty years, I have lived in Tucson, Arizona. Tombstone is only forty five minutes down the road, practically backyard distance. 

          I have been to Tombstone many times. People are fascinated with Tombstone (not so much after they visit!). Tombstone is not like other “Wild West” tourist towns, like Deadwood or Dodge City. Tombstone has only two blocks of “downtown”. People walk on the original boardwalk (with some repairs) along the main thoroughfare, Allen Street, which was, until recently, a dirt road.  

     However, Tombstone does have one enduring claim to fame - the shoot out at the O.K. Corral.  It is called “the most famous thirty seconds in the history of the American West”. The legendary incident is a gunfight that occurred in 1881. The shoot out involved Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp and two Earp brothers against a gang of outlaws called the Cowboys. Three men were killed, all of them Cowboys. The Earps and Doc Holiday were already famous in the old west.  The gunfight made them infamous.

          The real reason people remember Tombstone is because of its enduring place in pop culture due to the twenty or so movies made about the fight. People show up from far and wide and pay a $10 admission fee to look at a dusty, dirty lot behind a run-down barn. At the actual site, people look at mannequins standing where their real life versions stood during that fateful afternoon 139 years ago.   

          Putting compelling sentences together was not my problem. The difficulty arose when I needed to create a vibrant world for my characters that was not only interesting but also historically accurate. This began my off-and-on ten year process to complete my book. This is when I made the transition from a creative person who writes to a writer.

          It is all about the research. One needs to look in unusual places, not just the top three Google hits. I love sourcing museums, libraries, newspaper archives, and even historical homes. Don’t rely on your computer only. Everyone can get that information. Not only is it not original, it is not interesting. One tip that I would like to emphasize to a burgeoning writer of historical fiction is to seek out the primary sources whenever possible. This allows you to not have to depend on someone else’s version of the truth.       

          I immersed myself in research until I felt I had enough of a foundation to build my historically accurate yet fictitious setting. After building my world, I applied my plot and inserted my characters. Because I had taken the time to ensure that every aspect of my world would be historically accurate, the attitudes and tones of my characters occurred organically. I simply placed my fictional characters into historically correct settings and let them take me where they wanted to go. 

          Many writers believe in outlines as a method of organizing and categorizing their research. Outlines don’t work for me. I tend to be too specific and end up writing the whole story in my outline.  What works best for me is to simply write.  Just start, and see where it takes you.  I flesh out the characters first.  I often go back and change them, but that’s the beauty of writing.  You can do whatever you want with your people, just be sure you wind it up so that it makes sense.

       This is why research is so important, because if I can understand the times in which my characters live, I will shape their circumstances and attitudes into the narrative.

          People have asked me, “when is your story finished”? It is finished when you think it is.  Before you begin, you will know where you will end up.  If you don’t, don’t start.  You need to have an idea where you are going and create your character’s journey. If your story is crafted with an interesting premise and told in an entertaining mode, people will care about your characters. If people care about your characters, they will care if they complete their journey.

          My novel, “Blood and Silver”, tells the tale of a young girl who finds herself in trouble and alone in 1880 in Tombstone. The heroine uses her wits and charm to carve out a new life for herself and her sick mother. I knew where I wanted my characters to end up before I started; all I had to do was get them there.

 Readers, I hope you enjoyed this article by Vali. I have links to her new book below in the Amazon button. Please check out her new book. It sounds like a winner. Be sure to subscribe to The Book's Delight and never miss a review, interview, or other article. 






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