Guest Post (and a Giveaway!): Tara Johnson shares an inside look at Engraved on the Heart

Posted June 21, 2018 by meezcarrie in Author Interview, Christian, giveaway, historical, romance, Tara Johnson / 52 Comments

Happy Thursday, my friends! Today I am excited to welcome debut author Tara Johnson to the blog to share an insider’s look at her upcoming novel 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.

The spark of the idea for Engraved on the Heart began when our family visited Savannah, Georgia. I was entranced with the history and charm of the town. Secrets seemed to ooze out of every corner.

The first spark was ignited by a still-unknown soul. My family had opted to take a historic riding tour of the city. I was especially intrigued by a fact rattled off by our tour guide: “Many of the older homes and buildings in and around the outskirts of Savannah were built by slaves. In fact, if you look closely, you can find some of their fingerprints in the bricks.”

I walked down the cobblestone streets, admiring the weeping willows and moss hanging from the towering trees. As I passed a home, a darkened impression molded into the crumbling brick snagged my attention. I sucked in a surprised breath over the precious detail. There it was, staring back at me. The fingerprint of a slave.

I ran my finger over the scarred impression, marveling that such a small mark could tell such a story. I wondered whose hands had formed the old brick. What was his name? What were his dreams? Running my fingers over that precious print linked me inextricably to the past, binding an invisible cord between the unknown slave and me.

The next day, we visited the Georgia State Railroad Museum, where I found several books in the gift shop about famous women of the Civil War. Courageous heroes like Elizabeth Van Lew, who fought against the norms of her culture to bring freedom and hope to those trapped in darkness.

God slowly unfurled a story in my heart . . . the tale of a girl who battled epilepsy as a child, just as I did, but grew to understand her worth in the eyes of a loving God.

Elizabeth Van Lew

The inspiration for Keziah Montgomery is a combination of three or four of these remarkable women who worked as spies and/or conductors in the Underground Railroad. To consider such a pivotal role as conductor while carrying a burden as unpredictable as epilepsy was a fascinating prospect. Growing up with a seizure disorder, I often thanked God I was born in the era I was. In the 1800s and earlier, such conditions often relegated the bearer to asylums and institutions. Ignorance was rampant.

And what would a good romance be without a handsome, heroic leading man? Enter Micah Greyson, childhood friend of Keziah who has returned to Savannah after attending medical school in Philadelphia. What better way to ramp up the conflict than to have her old childhood chum return to Savannah no longer a good Confederate boy but a devout abolitionist? Although Micah has secretly loved Kizzie for years, when she becomes involved with the Underground Railroad, Micah’s fervor for the cause is suddenly eclipsed by a greater concern . . . fear for the woman he loves.

A variety of other characters fill the pages of this story. The flamboyant antics of Cousin Jennie were inspired by real-life Confederate spy and siren Belle Boyd. (Boyd really was rumored to have ridden a horse into her family’s house when her mother refused to let her attend a party, a historical tidbit that found its way into this story.) Characters like Hiriam, Polly, Mrs. Ward, Benjamin Montgomery, Nathaniel, and Lyman Hill were completely spun from my imagination.

The amount of research it took to craft this story was staggering, but the payoff was well worth it, especially considering the wild—and sometimes humorous—tidbits I gleaned as a result. Some of the most bizarre discoveries I encountered were oddities like “Secesh goods.” Those were bowls and goblets made from Yankee skulls. Confederate tradesmen actually sold them on the streets of Southern towns.

If there is one thing I want you to take away from Kizzie and Micah’s story, it’s this: you have tremendous worth in the eyes of God.

Keziah struggles with the lie “I am worthless.” This lie seems to be an arrow flung with far too much frequency by the enemy and one believed by far too many of God’s children.

Just like Keziah, all of us face hardships of some kind or another, whether physical or emotional. But if we aren’t on guard, the enemy will tell us we have no worth.

The truth is Jesus thought we were so valuable, he died to keep us. You are precious to God. You are loved and wanted, cherished by the Creator of the universe. The scars in His hands prove it.

His fingerprints are engraved on your life.

A passionate lover of stories, Tara Johnson uses fiction, nonfiction, song, and laughter to share her testimony of how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled to the expectations of others. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and makes her home in Arkansas with her husband and three children.

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Tyndale House is offering a print copy of Engraved on the Heart to one of my readers! (US only) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

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What about you? What is most meaningful to you about Tara’s post?

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52 responses to “Guest Post (and a Giveaway!): Tara Johnson shares an inside look at Engraved on the Heart

  1. Faith Creech

    I was interested in how the author battled epilepsy. That must have been so hard for her. I love how she knows she is valued by God because she is! Would love to read this book!

    • Thank you so much, Faith! God taught me a lot growing up with epilepsy. And I’m happy to report He healed me from it too! I love how He grows us so we can help others in the future. I pray you enjoy “Engraved on the Heart” as much as I loved writing it!

  2. Carrie Turansky

    This sounds like a wonderful story! I read the biography of Elizabeth Van Lew for a Civil War story I wanted to write. She was an amazing woman. I’m looking forward to reading Engraved on the Heart!

  3. I absolutely loved reading this wonderful story, I just can’t say enough good things about how well written this story is, and how much I enjoyed the dynamic characters! I look forward to reading more books from Tara Johnson in the future!!

  4. “We have tremendous worth in the eyes of God.” Too many people don’t know this. I’m looking forward to reading this book!

  5. Merry

    I was most impressed that Tara didn’t let her physical issues get in the way of knowing how loved and cherished she was in God’s eyes

  6. Lori Smanski

    oh wow this cover is lovely. i would love to read this book. I have had epilepsy since i was 13. I have not read a fiction book where one of the main characters has this. this is also a new to me author. I have not heard of Elizabeth Van Lew. I do love to read about the civil war. thank you for the great post and generous give a way.

  7. Marilyn

    Ms. Johnson showed strength and determination with the help of God to overcome her personal trials. God Bless Tara Johnson.

  8. Danielle Hammelef

    I love that the author relies on God for her strength and I know this faith will shine through her book.

  9. Pam K.

    I’d heard of Elizabeth Van Lew in some other books about the Civil War. I like that Tara Johnson used her own experiences with epilepsy to show her character could overcome her difficulties. It sounds like faith plays a large part in the story. I think the book will be very interesting to read.

    • There were some amazing women who played a huge part in the Civil War. It’s so fun to get to tell even a small part of their stories.

  10. Jocelyn

    I have been wondering about this book. So glad to read the review. Thanks for sharing such a difficult subject.

  11. Kay Garrett

    I loved ‘s statement that she wanted folks to take away from Kizzie and Micah’s story that everyone has tremendous worth in the eyes of God.

    To imagine someone that is told she’s much less than perfect and then accomplishing so much makes for an amazing story that I’d love the opportunity to read. Throw in facts of history and romance and I’ve just had to put this book on my TBR list.

  12. Debbie Clatterbuck

    I liked that the inspiration for Keziah Montgomery was a combination of three or four spies and conductors on the Underground Railroad. Just imagine the strength and courage these women had to have to do this. Amazing. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity and good luck everyone.

  13. Dianne Casey

    I found it interesting that Tara incorpprated her experience with epilepsy into the book. It was probably thought if so differently in the Civil War era. Looking forward to reading the book, one of my favorite eras to read about.

    • You’re so right, Dianne. They thought most epileptics belonged in asylums. So different from today. I thank God I was born in the era I was.

  14. Patsy Curry

    This sounds like a great story. I look forward to reading it. I love American history, especially from the Civil War era. I am familiar with Elizabeth Van Lee but had never heard about the fingerprints in the bricks. Fascinating!

    • Savannah is one of the most amazing towns in America. History is everywhere! I pray you enjoy this story. HUGS!

  15. MS Barb

    Wow! Thank you for sharing about the fingerprints of the slaves–I had no idea! And you actually saw them! I want to read your book! 🙂

  16. Winnie Thomas

    What an interesting post! I loved reading about the history and how this story was born. It sounds so fascinating. It must go on my TBR list!

  17. Connie Scruggs

    I’m touched by Tara’s desire for people to know they are valued by God. So many people grow up not being told that they matter. They struggle to find their place in the world. It’s important to know we are loved by God with a greater love than we can fathom. He has a plan for us, we just have to seek Him and follow Him.

  18. Janet Estridge

    What intrigued me about Tara’s trip to Savannah were the slaves who built the houses in and around the outskirts of the city.
    If I were a writer, which I’m not, there is a book in the making with that story, for sure.
    I am a reader, and I cannot wait for that story-line to come out in a book.

  19. Pam Lunsford

    Tara’s post reminds me that I listen too much of what people think. Mostly how I feel about myself, I’m unworthy, I’m useless. I suffer from Chronic pain and it never lets up. My life has changed tremendously!!
    Thanks for the reminder:
    I have tremendous worth in the eyes of God.

    • Your comment made my day, Pam. You are a beautiful treasure…created and cherished by the God of the universe. HUGS!

  20. Hulah Gorby

    I absolutely loved this story; thanks for picking me to be on your launch team! Thank you for this lovely interview and sharing about how the story came to life and your research. God Bless you and Happy Upcoming Launch Day!

  21. Caryl Kane

    Tara, I’m impressed that you do not let epilepsy control your life! I’m looking forward to reading your novel.

    • Thank you, Caryl! God has been incredibly gracious. At the age of 22, He healed me from the seizure disorder that gave me such trouble as a child. Pretty amazing. I’ll never forget What He’s brought me through. ?♥️

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