The writing community is a wonderful place where you get the chance to not only interact with other authors you know but also get introduced to amazing authors entering the published world. Tara Johnson is one of those amazing meets for me. She is an amazing, loving woman who faces the challenges set before her with grace, faith, and honesty. It is my privilege to introduce you her today. (And don’t forget to read all the way to the end for a chance to win either an e-copy or a physical copy of her debut novel, Engraved on the Heart.)
Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR. A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.
She and her husband Todd have been married for twenty years and the Lord has blessed them with five children: Bethany, Callie, Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane who are with Jesus.
Thank you so much, Tara, for joining me on The Write Call. Now it’s time for fun. *Rubs hands excitement.*
Sweet or Unsweet Tea?
Tara: Sweet tea. I’m a Southern girl.
Crystal: And you haven’t had true sweet tea until you’ve had it made from a southerner! 🙂
Beach Vacation or Mountain Getaway?
Tara: Both! I’m originally from Oregon so I was spoiled by having mountains and the ocean next to each other. If I’m at a beach, I want it to be a cold beach next to rocky cliffs. The coastline of northern Oregon or the North Devon coast in Great Britain is my idea of a perfect getaway.
Crystal: That does sound perfect.
Homebody or Love to Travel?
Tara: I love to travel, but my happy place is to be at home surrounded by my family and puttering around in my garden.
Crystal: I have a black thumb, but I certainly love seeing other people’s beautiful gardens.
Morning Person or Night Owl?
Tara: Morning person. By 9:00 pm, my brain is shutting down.
Crystal: Bless the morning people, for I don’t know how you do it!
Bookmark or Dog-ear Pages?
Tara: Dog-ear. I’m always losing bookmarks.
Crystal: It’s okay, we forgive you. 😉
Tara Johnson – the Person
What is your favorite Bible verse? Why?
Tara: I have too many to count. I love how God uses His Word to speak directly to me for whatever season and situation I’m in. I can tell you several I continually return to for comfort and guidance. The entirety of Psalm 139 has a very special place in my heart. God has used it to assure me of His love time and time again. Jeremiah 33:3 is another special verse. “Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you [and even show you] great and mighty things, [things which have been confined and hidden], which you do not know and understand.”
Crystal: A great verse to be sure! And very comforting.
You have a ministry outside of writing books. Would you tell us a little bit about that ministry and how you are involved?
Tara: I have a speaking ministry that focuses on helping those struggling with people-pleasing, fear and depression. I grew up as a preacher’s kid and became a ranting, raving people pleaser. I fell for the lie that approval equals love. It took me a long time, and a horrible battle with depression, to realize the two aren’t the same at all. Approval and love are actually polar opposites. These days, I travel to ladies’ groups, churches and prisons to share how God led me into freedom from those lies. I love to share through music, comedy and stories.
Crystal: That is definitely a struggle for many, especially myself. Even with the Truth, it is so easy to fall back into those old ways.
What was the best advice someone ever gave you about writing, life, or anything that strikes your fancy?
Tara: Years ago, I heard Tamera Alexander give some wonderful advice in a class at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. She said, “Your books are not your babies. They are products. They do not define your worth, nor are they crafted in perfection.” That was very wise advice. It takes the sting out of criticism when it’s time to edit and keeps me from holding those stories too close.
“Your books are not your babies. They are products. They do not define your worth, nor are they crafted in perfection.”
The other great piece of writing advice I received was this: the villain is always the hero in his own mind. Every person deals with wounds, fears and hurt. Remembering that helps me craft believable characters. It also gives me greater compassion when I’m dealing with cranky people. Ha!
Crystal: Very wise words from Tamera! And great advice for crafting a villain.
Engraved on the Heart
You once shared you had epilepsy, something your main character has. Do Keziah’s experiences reflect some of your own experiences?
Tara: Yes. It was very easy to put myself in Keziah’s place. I’ll never forget the shame that accompanied those moments in elementary school when I would find two dozen pairs of eyes staring at me in horror because I had a seizure. I remember how frustrating it was to find a chunk of time yawning like a black hole in my memory. And I remember the helplessness of having no control over my own body. Rather than avoid those old memories, I embraced them and placed them right into the story.
Crystal: It is hard when God makes us face those tough memories, but oh so beautiful when he changes them into ways that bless others.
Which character was the most fun to create? What makes them fun?
Tara: Ma Linnie. I based her off a real person, a woman who never had children of her own but embraced my brother and me and let us call her “Aunt Betty”. She was a hoot, with a bigger-than-life personality. Whenever I think of Aunt Betty, I smile.
Crystal: You did a great job with her. I think everyone wants a Ma Linnie in their life.
What was some of your favorite research you discovered while preparing for Engraved on the Heart?
Tara: All of it was intriguing. I love learning about the courageous women of the Civil War who served as spies and conductors. I found a treasure of a book called “Slave Narratives of Georgia”. It’s a documented record of interviews with former slaves at the end of the 19th century. The varying opinions among them about their former masters, their opinions of the war, the Union and Confederacy, as well as the people who helped them is fascinating. I was surprised by the vast difference of opinion among them. The research was fundamental in forming Hiriam’s character and backstory.
And no Write Call interview is complete without a fun question:
If you could travel anywhere without worry about cost, where would you travel?
Tara: I’m dying to visit Colonial Williamsburg, as well as explore Savannah again. I can never get enough of it. If money were no object, I would head to Italy in a heartbeat. I’ve always wanted to visit and absorb as much of the culture as possible.
Thank you so much, again, for giving up some time to visit with us. I am praying for you and this launch.
Friends, keep reading below to find out more about Engraved on the Heart, enter the giveaway, and answer your own travel question!
Connect with Tara Johnson:
Engraved on the Heart
Reluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines—until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.
Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.
Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.
Alright, beloved readers, it is the time you all have been waiting for! This time I am giving the winner a copy of Engraved on the Heart (e-book or physical – your choice). Just comment below AND use the Rafflecopter link below to enter. Entries are open Tuesday 12 AM (EST) 5/29/2018 and close on Monday, 6/4/2108, at 11:59 PM (EST). Winner will be announced on the Engraved on the Heart Review the next day.
*Legal Jargon: No Purchase is necessary. This contest is open to all readers in the world, 18 years and older who are legally allowed to participate in such a giveaway as allowed by their local laws. The Write Call does not exchange prizes for reviews. Reviews are appreciated, but not required.*