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Interview with Tara Johnson

Author Tara Johnson’s latest book All Through the Night, released January 5, 2021, weaves together real events from the Civil War—including an evil secret society—with fictional characters who are grappling with the need to be accepted and loved. The book is a delightful tapestry of history, suspense, and romance.

Are any events in All Through the Night based on historical facts?
The premise itself, along with the history sprinkled throughout—like the horrors of Lumpkin’s Slave Market, the Seven Days War, and the atrocities of the Knights of the Golden Circle—were all completely taken from historical records.

I had read about the Knights of the Golden Circle when I did previous research on the Civil War. There was a conspiracy theory that the Knights left a secret stash of gold behind after the war. History records their awful deeds, and some say they were a forerunner to the Ku Klux Klan. The group funded the Confederacy war effort. They even had a few leaders in Congress and the Union Army.

Their goal was to start their own country and eventually take over Mexico and the Caribbean Islands. Some believe John Wilkes Booth was a member. A man named Edmund Wright who escaped from the group wrote his memoirs years later, describing how the group killed his wife and children. I took some aspects of All Through the Night from his memoirs. I gave him a cameo in my book as Edmund Warwick.

We still deal with secret societies, corrupt governments, and spy networks today. We don’t often think of the Civil War in those of terms, but it was as real then as it is now.

How did you go about your research?
Research consumed my time both before and during the writing of this story. My library is filled with books on these subjects, and when I couldn’t find the answers there, I spent hours combing the internet for more. Before I start a story, I find a topic that intrigues me, often while I'm doing research for another book. I have a secret Pinterest board of interesting people in history.

Was your character Joshua Ivy a product of your imagination?
Joshua was created completely from my imagination but was inspired by the heroic abolitionists of the time. Many sacrificed everything for the cause, but even the bravest were not always completely pure in their motivations. While Joshua knows he is doing the right thing, however dangerous, he also uses the cause as a mask to hide his own wounds and insecurities.

What about Cadence Piper? She has such a musical name. Was that intentional?
Cadence was inspired by real-life Civil War nurse Elida B. Rumsey. There was not a lot of information available on Elida, so researching her life didn’t take long.

Elida desperately wanted to serve as a nurse in the war but was denied by Dorothea Dix, a nurse recruiter, because of her young age and beauty. But Elida wanted to do more to support the war effort than making socks. One day she was walking down the road in Washington, D.C. with a congressman, and saw some emaciated and dispirited Union soldiers who were waiting for a prisoner exchange. The congressman urged her to use her voice to lift their spirits. Elida sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.” The men threw their knapsacks down so she could stand on them and they could hear her better. Her beautiful voice gave the soldiers courage to keep going.

She was soon singing to the wounded soldiers in the hospitals. They loved her golden voice and sweet spirit. After fainting at the first sight of blood, she was mortified and vowed never to let herself fall apart that way again. Some say she was the first person to sing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in a public setting.

Like the real-life Elida, Cadence used her beautiful voice to sing to soldiers in the hospitals. That opened the door for her to pursue her dream of nursing and working on the battlefield.

Why do you think modern-day readers enjoy clean, inspirational fiction?
Readers have told me they love delving into a story that both entertains and teaches them, without fear of being bombarded by negativity or things that will pull them from a close walk with God. Others use inspirational fiction to encourage friends who are seeking answers and hope. It’s a joy to know these stories are a ministry to help the hurting.

Do you plot out your stories ahead of time?
I usually have a loose framework of what will happen before I write. I know the main plot, some major obstacles and a crisis that will occur in the middle of the story. More than anything else, I have to know my characters’ wounds and greatest fears before I can pen a word.

What do you hope your readers take away from All Through the Night?
Cadence yearns for her father's approval and does anything to seek unconditional love in conditionally minded people. Joshua fights the demons of his past, particularly his battered existence growing up as a street rat in the slums. He seeks to find his worth in saving others. Cadence seeks her worth in being seen. Themes found in this story are true worth, identity, unconditional love in Christ, how the hurtful things said in our past affect our future, and finally, how to overcome the lie you believed about yourself.

I want the readers to know that whatever lie they have believed, such as, “I am worthless,” or “I need to be seen,” or “If only [blank] would love me, then I'd be happy,” that there is hope and freedom in Jesus. There is nothing we can do to earn His love and nothing we can do to lose His love.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
For years, I was a singer and songwriter signed with a Christian record label. When I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, and I began to lose my ability to sing for long stretches of time, I was confused. I thought God had told me He would use my voice to tell others about Him.

As I began singing less and writing more in my personal blog, I gained more and more followers. Stories soon began to flood my mind. A friend suggested I attend the national American Christian Fiction Writers meeting, and after some encouragement from my husband, I went with a good amount of trepidation. In my very first class, my instructor taught us about each author’s unique voice, the way writers string words and phrases together to tell a story. And that’s when God spoke to my heart.

"Tara, you can have a voice and still not have a voice." I’ve been writing ever since. I still sing when I can and speak often, but God has brought me into a beautiful season of creativity with Him. Weaving stories that touch hearts and share His truth with others is such a delightful calling.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
Faith paints every aspect of my life. You can see particular pieces of my own story in All Through the Night. Cadence has to learn that approval and love are not the same thing. She must ultimately find acceptance in the eyes of God instead of the fickle applause of man. Joshua believes he must keep striving to do more, be more to erase the stigma of his past, but finally sees his worth rests in being loved by his family and his Creator. These are both beautiful truths that God has tenderly walked me through in the past few years. The wonderful thing about writing is that God always teaches me something new about Him.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
When this life is over and I stand before God, He will not ask me how many books I sold, or if I was on a best-sellers list, or if I won any awards. My focus must be on loving Him and loving people. Sometimes, when creatives get excited about our projects, we tip out of balance, but our families are a ministry too. My biggest challenge is just remembering it’s okay to say no. I can’t do the work He has given me to do, which includes loving my family well, if I’m busy trying to do everyone else’s job too.

To whom much is given, much is required. You are a writer, musician, and artist. How do you manage to be a good steward of your talents?
What God wants me to do comes in seasons. I find a lot of fulfillment pouring out into my church and my church family. I love teaching and I love children. I love speaking and teaching in prisons. One of my favorite places to be is jail! The people there are so hungry.

We should use the gifts God has given us to serve others or we could become narcissists. That’s part of Cadence's struggle in the book. She's trying to earn her father's approval. She has to learn how to work with God and not for God.

What is your writing routine? Any quirky habits or must-have snacks?
I have kids in the house, so it’s all about grabbing time whenever I can. My goal is to write at least one scene every day. A running faucet can’t warm up if it’s not turned on. I don’t really believe in keeping up with word counts or things like that though. It’s about writing with God. Learning and working with Him. My job is to be faithful to turn up. As far as snacks, I love cold tea in the summer and hot flavored tea in the winter. Ever since visiting Great Britain, I’ve become a tea snob! (I have Julie Klassen to thank for that. Lol)

If you could have coffee with an author, dead or alive, whose work you admire, who would that be? What would you ask him or her?
I think it would be a toss-up between Corrie Ten Boom or Lucy Maude Montgomery. I think I would ask them, “What is the most profound and painful lesson God taught you while writing?”

Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote the Ann of Green Gables series. She had keen insight into human behavior and what made people tick. I have a feeling she was an avid people watcher.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you as an author?
I got asked to autograph a book by Tamera Alexander. I couldn’t convince the reader I wasn’t Tamera, so I finally just signed Tamera’s name. It happened to me again as a singer. I couldn’t convince someone I wasn’t Nicole Nordeman.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Singing, playing basketball, and playing piano. Something I would love to do is paint more but I rarely have the time.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
Chaos Can’t by Allen Arnold
Colors of Truth by Tamera Alexander

Any sage advice for new or aspiring ACFW authors?
Write what is true. Don’t be afraid to go deep inside yourself to those shadowed places you’re terrified to face. Let God shine His healing light on those wounds and confront them. Then write what God has taught you.


Teresa Haugh lives with her husband in sunny Prescott, Arizona. When she is not writing, she enjoys music, hiking, reading, and visiting the gym (with audiobooks, of course). She loves meeting and talking with other authors about their writing journeys.

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