Local author and Winnacunnet High School graduate Jacquelyn Benson’s debut novel, The Smoke Hunter, turns a much-loved genre on its head, putting a woman at the heart of a tale straight out of the tradition of Indiana Jones or H. Rider Haggard. The book was released on September 13th, 2016, and readers can get a chance to meet the author at the Lane Memorial Library on Tuesday, October 18th at 6:30 PM in the downstairs Lane Room.
Seacoast audiences may already be familiar with Benson’s theatrical works, which include Interference, Crush Depth, and the Evening Broadcasts short play series. The shows received critical acclaim and have packed houses at the Players’ Ring theater.
With The Smoke Hunter, Benson takes the same sense of suspense and excitement that characterize her plays, channeling it into a rip-roaring adventure story—with a twist. “I loved stories like this when I was growing up, but I realized that none of them ever featured a strong woman at their core. I decided it was time to change that,” Benson said.
Benson’s heroine is Ellie Mallory, a frustrated suffragette with a dream of working as an archaeologist – a field essentially closed to women during the late 19th century. When Ellie stumbles across a map that purports to show the location of a mysterious ancient city, she recognizes her chance to prove herself to the world and seizes it, even though the pursuit means breaking a few rules. “I actually set out at the start to write a historical romance novel, one with a really empowered, independent woman as the protagonist,” Benson said. “But I also wanted my book to have a lot of excitement. In the end, the adventure really took over, though the love story is still an important part of the plot.”
The blend proved appealing to publishers, with The Smoke Hunter being picked up by Grand Central Publishing in the United States and Headline Publishing in the United Kingdom. “I feel really fortunate,” Benson noted. “A lot of authors are shopping manuscripts around for years before they get picked up. I was lucky enough to get an offer my first time around.”
The talk is open to all ages, with time afterwards for audience questions about the book, the craft of writing, and Benson's successful search for a publisher.