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Friday, 26 August 2016

ℚ Benjamin's Field Trilogy [1-3] - J. J. Knights

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Benjamin's Field Trilogy , a Young Adult Historical Fiction trilogy.

Benjamin's Field is an epic trilogy about the journey of life... three generations of success & failure, joy & pain, forgiveness & healing.

"emotional and highly-charged with values." - Barbara Schatt, Amazon reviewer.

"ambitious in scope, careful in detail, enormously entertaining and instructive. They don't write 'em like this anymore!" - Robert E. Burtt, Author, Wait Until Sunset


The Series | Author Q&A | About the Author | Tour Stops


A very warm welcome to retired FBI Special Agent and author, J.J. Knights; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter, Jim.

What was the inspiration for the Benjamin's Field Trilogy?

"The inspiration for the Benjamin’s Field Trilogy grew from my background as a pilot and my long association with Shriners Hospitals for Children. Over the course of my flying career, I’ve owned several small aircraft. I kept two of these - first a 1948 Taylorcraft BC12D and later a 1973 Beechcraft Sport - at Lakehill Airport, in Mars, Pennsylvania, about 25 miles north of Pittsburgh. Airfields don’t get much more basic than Lakehill; it’s simply a rough grass strip about 3000’ long and 75’ wide with two old Quonset hut-style hangars. There’s no fuel, no lights, and no instrument approaches. If you’re not home when the sun sets, you have to land somewhere else. I based Benjamin’s field in the trilogy on Lakehill Airport.


Especially in the case of the fabric-covered Taylorcraft, which had no electrical system, hence no starter - I had to ‘hand prop’ the airplane to start it - it was very easy to imagine myself flying a century earlier when all airplanes were like the Taylorcraft, This is why the trilogy opens on the day President Wilson declared war on Germany.

During this time I was very active helping to publicize the services of Shriners Hospitals for Children. As time passed and my association with Lakehill Airport/Benjamin’s field and Shriners Hospitals deepened, an idea was born. That idea became the premise for Benjamin’s Field: What if a child born with a physical disability used his love of aviation to persevere and ultimately save himself from being marginalized by prejudice and intolerance? The years following WWI, were, after all, the “Golden Age of Aviation.” The setting was perfect. I lived with the idea for a book for 15 years during my working career. I knew the beginning and the end. I had to sit down and write the trilogy to find out what happened in between! After I retired, I did just that."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"The characters in a work of fiction are born in the imagination of the author. Since we are the sum or our experiences, we have no choice but to draw on our experiences and the people we’ve known to create the personalities that populate our stories. For instance, there’s a bit of my father in Benjamin. Although he had no religion and often ridiculed it, as is the case with Benjamin, one of my father’s best friends was a Catholic priest. As for the priest, some part of him is alive in the Fr. James Templeman.

They say you should ‘write about what you know about.’ Being an FAA-rated Airline Transport Pilot and flight instructor with thirty years of experience, I know a lot about aviation, so I wrote about it in the trilogy. However, I should explain that while aviation plays a strong supporting role in the story, aviation is not what the trilogy is about. My goal was to use aviation and flying as sort of a philosophical metaphor. Jeremy Kyner is being held down by society, but uses aviation to lift himself up and eventually find final emancipation. I hope the reader sees this. Also, we use airplanes to take us places we’ve never been. That’s how I use them in the story; to take the reader on a journey. To underscore these concepts, I don’t use the words ‘airplane’ or ‘aircraft’ anywhere in the story. That was a challenging feat to accomplish.

All this being said, being said, the answer to the question is, the story is all ‘me.’"
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for Benjamin's Field Trilogy - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"I consider myself a keen amateur photographer. All three cover photos are mine.

The cover for Rescue depicts a farmer’s field in the background and a pond in the foreground. On the lake is an empty rowboat that is adrift. That scene is symbolic of what happens at the end of the book and is, in part, why I called Book One Rescue.

On the cover of Book Two, Ascent, is dominated by a snow-capped mountain. Throughout the book, the protagonist, Jeremy Kyner, is faced with a number of seemingly insurmountable and feels overwhelmed. He seeks counsel from the hired hand Hiram, whom he’s known all his young life. Hiram likens Jeremy’s troubles to a mountain that Jeremy must climb in order to prevail. As he does so, he’ll become stronger with every step in preparation for greater challenges ahead.

There is a bit of an oddity about the photo, which I didn’t notice until I considered using it for the cover. If you look just below the peak of the mountain, you’ll see what appears to be the partially obscured face of a boy. I didn’t Photoshop that in. It was there all the time. I just didn’t see it.

The cover of Book Three, Emancipation, shows the sun breaking through storm clouds. This symbolizes the end of Jeremy Kyner’s ‘heroes journey’ when he overcomes the dark forces that have plagued him and achieves his final emancipation."
Why should we read the Benjamin's Field Trilogy and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"Benjamin’s Field is, in the end, a story about overcoming intolerance, prejudice, preconceived notions and, yes, hatred. This is a recurring theme in the story, whether it’s about a farmer who misjudges a priest he doesn’t understand; a priest who condemns a group of men he knows nothing about; a society that punishes unwed mothers and their children; a teacher that berates a pupil with a disability; a grandson of slaves who stands tall despite the odds; a twisted militant racist bent on destroying all he deems inferior; a child who is punished by society’s institutions and those he was taught to trust because he was born unlike those around him.

This is a story about determination and strength of character. It’s about our need to help each other and our overwhelming need to forgive one another. It teaches that our greatest achievements are for others, not ourselves; overcoming difficulties makes us stronger; disappointments can be blessings in disguise; help can come from unexpected sources; sometimes one door must close so another can open; it's futile to blame the universe or a higher being for pain that's inflicted by our fellow human beings.

Ultimately, I chose as my champion a bullied child in danger of being marginalized because he was born different. He, like many, is victimized by those with small and ignorant minds whose only reaction when confronting someone unlike themselves is to inflict pain.

Aviation is prevalent throughout the story as a metaphor. In the beginning, a young man flies to meet his destiny while, later, the son he never knew uses wings to raise himself above those who would hold him down and tie him to the ground. Finally, as a man, he flied toward his own destiny, where he achieves his emancipation and no longer needs airplanes in order to be free.

While there are other books that speak of overcoming hardship and prejudice, I’ve seen none that invite the reader to climb into a fabric covered airplane and fly into the lives of a family that is struggling against the odds to achieve what we all want: respect and acceptance.

Anyone who has ever been on the outside looking in – for whatever reason – will thrill to a flight to freedom from Benjamin’s field. However, the best recommendations are to be found from those who read the book and took the time to submit reviews.

Here are a few from Amazon.com:
Must reads!
By barbara schatt on May 8, 2016
A series following a family/friends through 80 years. Very poignant, written with great insight and sensitivity. I felt the quality of wonderful, good grammar, good spelling (too often not true) and good organization. These books are emotional and highly charged with values. I recommend these books highly and put them in my library. I will read them again.
Wonderful, engaging, well told story 
By Boston Mom on July 5, 2016
Benjamin's Field Book One: Rescue is a well written book set in the early 1900's introducing the reader to Benjamin and a small group of family and friends who are always human, flawed, wrestling with life's painful detours, but consistently trying to do their best. I liked that as I read along and learned about each character I got to know them, how and why they thought and behaved as they did and what brought them to the place where they didn't feel they could carry on much longer without something in their world changing. The history of that time is rich and well presented. The people, their emotions and actions felt honest and timeless. I can't wait to read the other two books in this special trilogy!
Benjamin’s Field has earned 4 1/5 stars on both Amazon and Goodreads where you can read additional reviews."
Can you tell us something quirky about Benjamin's Field Trilogy, its story and characters?
"Good question! Actually, I had fun with some of the names. Especially in Books One and Two – Rescue and Ascent, I tried to use names based on Latin words that described the character in some way. In Rescue, there’s a foolish Member of Parliament named Morus, which means idiot. Similarly, in Ascent we have Jeremy Kyner’s teacher, Regina Vilis, the class bully, Bud Malus, and the sheriff, Ned Probus. I won’t tell you what their names mean.I’ll let you have the fun of discovering the meanings yourself.

In Ascent, the reader is introduced to Nate Grosser who is named for an old friend who really was an aeronautical engineer and associate of Howard Hughes. In Emancipation, I threw a hint in by naming a womanizing character Phil Anders. Get it? Philanders. Returning to Rescue, we have the priest Father Templeman. One might think I gave him that name because a church is a type of temple, but that isn’t it. In fact, the protagonist in Rescue, Benjamin Kyner, is a Freemason, which is a source of friction between the two men. The buildings where Freemasons hold their meetings are referred to symbolically as temples.

While we’re on this topic, I want to let you know that in Ascent I slipped in a slightly re-worked scene from the New Testament. No one has caught on to it, yet."
Damn!  Now I am going to have to read it!

Who would you recommend Benjamin's Field Trilogy to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?

"I consider Benjamin’s Field to be in the Young Adult genre, though I believe it would be both entertaining and valuable for older readers, as well. As to why, here’s an excerpt from the Forward by retired astronaut Jay Apt:
Especially useful to young readers, but valuable to us all, are the story’s lessons about this journey: our greatest achievements are for others, not ourselves; overcoming difficulties makes us stronger; disappointments can be blessings in disguise; help can come from unexpected sources; sometimes one door must close so another can open; it’s futile to blame the universe or a higher being for pain that’s inflicted by our fellow human beings.
I wrote the dialogue to reflect how people actually speak. There’s certainly no language I would consider ‘X-rated,’ but of all the people who have read it, two did have problem with some of the dialogue. However, you can’t please everyone. I’ve donated the book to local libraries and both high schools and middle schools. I haven’t heard any complaints from them."
If you could / wished to turn Benjamin's Field Trilogy and the Benjamin's Field series into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"When Angelina Jolie directed the movie Unbroken, she used unknown or little know actors so the movie would sink or float on it’s own. I feel the same way. Since this is my story, I need to know if it can do well without being attached to famous personalities. That said, Jolie did a great job with Unbroken, so she can direct (if she insists). While writing the novel, I imagined Tom Hanks as Benjamin and Morgan Freeman as Hiram, though I think Freeman might be too ‘senior’ to play someone I think should be in his 30’s or 40’s."

Time has no meaning on this blog ;-)  Actors are forever young! And I adore your choices.

What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?

"Benjamin’s Field is my first foray into historical fiction, which I tend to gravitate to. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to try another genre if I felt pulled in that direction for a good reason or cause."
What is your writing process?
"French author Jules Renard once said, “The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.” Well, it wasn’t quite like that, but at times it did almost feel as though Benjamin’s Field was writing itself. That’s not to say I wasn’t stumped from time to time; I certainly was. My point is, I was fortunate in that much of the time writing the story was like unrolling a beautiful tapestry. I didn’t outline the trilogy or compile detailed notes about the characters, or the myriad other writing techniques, such as Scrivener, employed by many authors. I just wrote it. I did record ideas from time to time on my phone so I wouldn’t forget them, but that was it.

I typically have a lot to accomplish during the early part of the day. Once it’s all done and I can forget it, I feel able to write for several hours in the late afternoon and sometimes in the evening."
What is in store next?
"I’m currently working on another historical novel based on actual events during the American Civil War. I was inspired by my many visits to the Gettysburg National Battlefield in eastern Pennsylvania as well as my frequent visits to where I have a rental cottage in Canada. How are the two connected? Stay tuned."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"Below is a photo of me standing next to a helicopter. I fly fixed wing aircraft, not helicopters, but I flew in this one."
Wow. I L O V E that. For me, this could only have been topped by an original Shelby Cobra or a McLaren F1...
Thank you so much for being with us today!

Benjamin's Field Trilogy
Available NOW!

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