Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Benjamin’s Field Trilogy by J. J. Knights - Guest Post & Tour

Today, I'm featuring author J. J. Knights, his Benjamin’s Field Trilogy and a guest post on researching for the books.


Book One: Rescue

Forward by retired NASA astronaut Jay Apt, PhD, veteran of four space shuttle missions.

Benjamin’s Field: Rescue’ has been awarded a five-star review by the literary site ‘Reader’s Favorite’ (www.readersfavorite.com).

Benjamin’s Field follows a rural farm family over the course of sixty years from the viewpoint of the youngest member, Jeremy Kyner. Beginning with America’s entry into World War I, Jeremy and his family are followed through war, peace, triumph, tragedy, heartbreak, and final happiness as the reader examines the role of family loyalty versus individual need, personal liberty and how it relates to society’s demands, religious prejudice, racism, intolerance, the role of charity, and the overwhelming need for humans to forgive one another.

While still in manuscript form, Benjamin’s Field, Book One, Rescue, was advanced to the “Best Sellers Chart” of the peer review website www.YouWriteOn.com. In Book One, Rescue, a widowed farmer suffers an unspeakable loss during World War I. Burdened with grief, he learns from his nemesis, a dogmatic Catholic priest, that his son’s fiancée has given birth to their crippled child.

Unable to cope with the child’s deformity and confounded by his illegitimate birth, the farmer is battered by those closest to him with accusations of cruelty and intolerance until he finally reveals his true feelings and the reasons underlying his apparent bigotry. Set in a historical context, Benjamin’s Field is a compelling story about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving tale will take the reader on an emotional and sometimes humorous journey.”

Book Two: Ascent

In Book Two, Ascent, Jeremy Kyner, now a teenaged boy, becomes the focus of his teacher’s animosity because of his infirmity. With the help of two dedicated school friends and an unconventional Jewish blacksmith, he takes to the sky, defeating his teacher’s plans to institutionalize him and forcing her to divulge her own, dark, secret.

Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving story will take the reader on a journey of inner exploration.

Book Three: Emancipation

Emancipation opens as America is on the cusp of World War II. Jeremy Kyner, now a man, is barred from military service at a time when America is almost defenseless against marauding German submarines. Finally joining a group of volunteer civilian pilots that represents the country’s best hope to counter the Germans, Jeremy confronts a deadly enemy from an unexpected quarter and is offered a chance of achieving final emancipation.

Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel about human dignity overcoming adversity, prejudice, and hatred. Interwoven with lighter moments, this dramatic and moving novel will take the reader on a journey of inner exploration.

Find the series on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/series/166271

About the Author
J. J. Knights is a retired FBI Special Agent. His assignments included violent crimes and fugitives, property crimes, civil rights investigations, and foreign counterintelligence. He was a surveillance pilot, SWAT sniper, media representative, and worked in the FBI's technical investigations program. Knights also volunteered as a Civil Air Patrol pilot, squadron commander and public information officer. He is an emeritus member of the Imperial Public Relations Committee of Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children. A native of New England, Knights resides in southwestern Pennsylvania with his wife and honeybees. He has authored several published articles on law enforcement recruiting. Benjamin's Field is his first novel.

Researching for Benjamin’s Field – Guest Post by J. J. Knights

          Since Benjamin’s Field is a historical novel, I did a great deal of research.  The Internet has made this chore much easier and economical (no need to travel to distant libraries, etc.), so I did much of the research online.  However, I also used real books.  Some I borrowed.  Some I purchased.  Actually, I enjoyed the research and found it very educational even if much of what I found didn’t make it into the story.
          I also spoke with subject matter experts, among them priests, a Catholic sister, an expert on canon law, a Freemason, a retired orthopaedic surgeon, a rabbi, a representative of Shriners Hospitals for Children, and an expert on the history of rail travel in western Pennsylvania.  I even took advantage of my own family genealogist and put my great, great grandfather, a Canadian sea captain, in the story, though I changed his role and place in the historical timeline.  I thanked all of them in the Acknowledgements.
          I was very careful to make the story as historically accurate as possible, but sometimes I had to tweak history for the sake of the story.  For example, In Book Two, Ascent, I have Jeremy Kyner, the protagonist, attending the 1932 Cleveland Air Show.  The airshow took place in August of that year.  I moved it to September for reasons explained in the Afterward.
          How important is historical accuracy to credibility?  I suppose this is subjective, but I’d say it’s very important.  Why should someone take what I’m saying seriously if I can’t get the facts right?  For instance, I wanted to refer to actual newspaper headlines and stories in Book One, Rescue.  I have Benjamin Kyner, the protagonist, reading that America had declared war against Germany in the April 6, 1917 edition of the old Pittsburgh Press.  I was able to quote the paper exactly thanks to the assistance I received from the Hillman Library at the University of Pittsburgh. The staff put me on to an online source for digitized newspapers going back to the 19th century.
          Depicting historical events accurately was very instrumental in amplifying the plot and themes.  A main theme in Benjamin’s Field is overcoming prejudice and intolerance.  In the previous paragraph, I spoke about using actual headlines from real newspapers from the period.  So, in the same issue of The Pittsburgh Press, we see Benjamin’s son, Francis, reading glorified front-page reports of courageous aviators.  A bit later, Hiram Bolt, Benjamin’s African American hired hand, picks up the paper and notices that stories about Black military units are buried in the back pages.
          So, accurately depicted relevant historical events are very important to the themes in the story.
          To instruct seriously and well, one must be a bit of an entertainer.  If not, you will lose your audience, be they university students, student pilots, or readers who can easily put your book down and pick up someone else’s.
          Imagine sitting in church or some other place of worship, a university classroom or some similar place.  If the priest, minister, rabbi, professor  or whomever simply stands there and drones on, you’ll fall asleep.  On the other hand, if he or she moves about in front of you and injects drama and humor into the sermon, they’ve got you.  We’ve all had boring teachers.
          In the case of writing a story like Benjamin’s Field, I used intensely emotional scenes and drama tempered with comic relief to keep the reader engaged, but not overwhelmed.  Humor is necessary to relieve the pressure created by the drama and emotion.  You don’t want the reader to feel bludgeoned.
          In Book One, Rescue, Benjamin, the protagonist, and the priest Templeman, have issues to resolve, so I put them in a very emotional, soul-baring encounter.  The pressure builds until Benjamin’s hired hand, Hiram, appears unexpectedly with a one-liner that will cause the reader to smile or laugh.
          The reader must also be able to relate to what the character is experiencing.  That’s why I put the characters in highly charged situations that we’ve all experienced or at lease can understand.
          For instance, throughout history, there have always been young men who terrified their parents by saying, “The country is at war. I’m joining the army.” It’s been said in different languages and accents, but it’s been said since humans have walked the earth. My brother and I did it to my parents and my son did it to my wife and I.  Even if it hasn’t happened to you, you can still relate to it.
          This, and much more, happens in the story.

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