by Jeff Reynolds
I'm in a small critique group. We had a point when we had lost a member and Donna Benson contacted us. She's the author of the Sanctuary Series.
Jeff Reynolds: Welcome, Donna. Let's start with how you came to Christ.
Donna Benson: Hello. I can’t remember a time Jesus wasn’t there. He’s always been in my life from my earliest memories. I went forward at Easter when I was ten and was baptized. I have been learning and growing in faith and understanding since.
JR: Am I correct that you're a truck driver? What's that like? How does it influence your writing? And any truck-driving stories you'd like to share?
Everything we do influences our life. Traveling has given me a love for home, the people of this country, and knowledge we are more alike than different. I recently posted a story on my blog about an experience while on the road. Here's the link to it: http://fleetothemountains.com/just-enough-just-in-time
JR: What led you to get interested in writing in general and your Sanctuary Ranch Series in particular?
DB: I have enjoyed writing for years. I started with articles for my church blog. Six or seven years ago I had a dream. It was about a ranch in the mountains where Christians fled when violence against them began to spiral out of control. Our country was in turmoil everywhere. It was interesting…my husband also had a similar vision around the same time. We wanted a way to warm people of difficult times ahead. From there the fictional story was born. I finished the book five years ago and simply put it away because we felt it wasn’t time to do anything with it yet. Then last year we just knew it was time to publish.
JR: Could you tell us about Flee To The Mountain, and your thoughts as far as follow-up books in the series?
DB: The story is about the Hamilton family, led by God to establish a small mountain community they call the sanctuary. They set out to prepare their hearts for hard times. Large numbers of supplies, food, and other necessary items are purchased knowing they will have to help others. When the world falls into chaos and persecution runs rampant, the Hamiltons open their community to displaced believers.
I have three other books in mind to follow Flee to the Mountain. The second is nearly completed. Rescue God’s Children deals with those who come under fierce persecution, detainment, or fall into the hands of evil people. God puts together a group of ex-military men to rescue some young people from places like a brothel and a school where the kids are forced to work in a community garden as slave labor. The entire series will deal with those people called by God to help others, traveling toward a refuge, or dealing with the evil around them.
My entire focus in this series is to get Christians to prepare for hard times ahead. It is my belief God is warning His people to prepare and band together in order to survive. That's not to say He won't help us, but we need to do our part. We must prepare spiritually to deal with the escalation of evil around the world and begin to stockpile supplies of all kinds.
JR: Your book is published by a self-publishing company which is linked with a major Christian publisher, one I had considered using. Could you tell us about how you selected them and the pluses and minuses of being self-published?
DB: Since Flee to the Mountains is a Christian book, I felt a Christian publisher would best fit my needs. To be honest, I don’t think I would use them again. They are very nice people, but I feel it’s all about money for them. They don’t really care about the books or the authors…at least that is my impression. I have found if you plan to self-publish, it’s best to find the least expensive with the best quality. I’m not sure there are any pluses to self-publishing. The minuses are promotion and marketing, though it’s my understanding regular publishers don’t do as much as they used to. Many bookstores will not carry self-published books. That’s a huge minus. You may have the best written book on the planet, but chances are slim most people will see it. In my case, my book is a ministry. So it’s never been about making money. I give them to people who I believe will benefit from them. But people can buy them online at Amazon or Barnes and Nobles.
JR: You're a member of the ACFW, and also a member of my small critique group. How has your involvement with the ACFW and the group helped you as a writer?
DB: Any time we open ourselves up to others we can grow...at least when those people have a heart for God and try to help you. It was hard for me at first to receive from them. My books are my babies and I tend to hover over them. But I believe the groups are helping me. My only hesitation is changing my writing to the point it is just like everyone else’s. God made us individuals and unique. The same is true for our writing styles. I want to incorporate some of the techniques I am learning from my critique partners, but I want to maintain my uniqueness as well.
JR: What influences have you had both as an author and otherwise which have shown up in your writing?
DB: I used to read in all my spare time...now I write. I enjoy a great many authors. Dee Henderson, JD Robb come to mind first, but I have a huge library of both Christian and secular books. (I like to actually hold the book I read.) Funny thing is before I started writing I never paid much attention to how it was written. Now I notice things I never saw before.
To be honest, I'm not sure how much any one of them has influenced me though. I am a believer in Jesus to the foundation of my soul and I incorporate that into my writing. If my work does not challenge others to live a Godly life and share the message of the cross, I am a failure. On the flip side, if even one person reads my work and it helps them in their personal walk with the Lord…I am a success.
JR: What advice would you give a young Christian interested in writing?
DB: Start writing from your heart. Join a writing group, take some classes on writing and read, read, read different kinds of books. It will help you establish your own style and find your area of interest. And don’t give up. God give each of us gifts. If one of yours is writing, you must use it.
JR: Thank you for your time. Is there a webpage people can keep up with you on?
DB: Thank you http://fleetothemountains.com/