Interview With Author Tara Johnson

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

My name is Tara Johnson and I’m a Southern girl who loves to help people break free from the lies they have believed about themselves. I write historical romance for Tyndale House Publishers and am a huge Civil War nerd. My debut novel Engraved on the Heart was inspired by the brave women who worked as spies during the Civil War. The heroine Keziah battles epilepsy, just as I did as a child, and fears her illness will be a huge detriment to her work in the Underground Railroad, but she learns broken doesn’t mean worthless. 

What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

My most recent release Where Dandelions Bloom is based on real life Civil War soldier Sarah “Emma” Edmonds. Emma, in order to escape her abusive father, ran away and enlisted in the Union army. Posing under the alias Frank Thomas, Emma became invaluable to the Union, working as an ambulance runner, regimental mail carrier, and eventually as a spy for Allan Pinkerton.

How do you deal with creative block?

I have found most creativity flows best when I’m well-rested and eating right. Even then, the process can get sticky. Usually the problem is that I’m in my own head too much overthinking the problem and becoming overwhelmed. It’s like putting together a puzzle with a piece that won’t fit. The best thing I’ve found is to step away for a little while…do something a bit mindless. Vacuum, wash dishes, go for a walk, pull weeds. There’s something about engaging in simple tasks that frees up the mind. I also pray often and look for ways to nurture my inner artist. Spending time playing is so healthy for creativity and too many us, myself included, place it as a low priority. It shouldn’t be. 

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

I think one of the biggest mistakes is not developing the main characters’ wounds before starting to write. Every character, every human being for that matter, comes with a set of wounds, fears and misbeliefs that shapes their view of life. A character’s deepest fear, and the lies they’ve believed about themselves or about society, are foundational towards developing deep conflict, creating emotionally rich characters and developing both an engaging internal and external plot. I think many writers focus on developing the external, surface kind of conflicts and plot points, but often consider character wounds as an afterthought. 

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

I’m a recovering people pleaser and so I don’t read the reviews. I’ve had to learn to protect my heart in that aspect. My perception of my worth shouldn’t oscillate based on someone else’s opinion. I think that’s the danger many authors make in calling their book their ‘baby’. The stories we write are products. When we think of them that way, it takes the sting out of criticism and reminds us that what we produce has very little to do with our value. It helps keep the lines separated.

What role do emotions play in creativity?

Natalie Goldberg once said that writers live life twice. I believe it to be true. Writers who connect to readers are those who have gone through the tough stuff life deals out, then digs back down into the shadowed mess and wallows in it a bit longer. They expose the muck to light. They point to the mess and say, “See this? This is real. You’re not alone.” 

What are your plans for future books?

My third book with Tyndale, entitled All Through the Night, is set to release the spring of 2020. 

My bio link:

Engraved on the Heart link:

Where Dandelions Bloom link:


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