Author Liz Johnson talks about the novella “A Star in the Night,” her contribution to the historical romance anthology Log Cabin Christmas
(Barbour Books). The collection includes Christmas stories of the
American pioneers, written by such authors as Wanda E. Brunstetter,
Margaret Brownley, and Jane Kirkpatrick.
What was your inspiration driving the story in A Star in the Night?
I’ve always loved American Civil War history, and when I moved to Nashville,
Tennessee, several years ago, I was able to visit several Civil War era
landmarks in the area. Almost by accident I discovered a map that detailed
key sites in the Battle of Franklin, just a few miles south of Nashville. An
image of Carnton, a plantation that served as a field hospital during the
battle, just struck me, and I knew I wanted to visit the home and learn more
about the people who had lived there. Shortly after first hearing about
Carnton, my agent let me know that Barbour Publishing was looking for
Christmas-time novellas set in the 1800s, and suddenly I had a full story in
my mind about characters caught in the crossfire of one of the war’s
Over the course of writing it, what surprised you most during the
How much I enjoyed the research. I’d always told myself I couldn’t write
historicals because of the amount of research required. But as I dug into
the history of the battle and the life of the people of Franklin in the
1860s, I loved every minute of it. I visited Carnton twice and almost missed
the tour of the house the second time because I was so caught up in the
house’s grounds, picturing where the fictional log cabin from A Star in the
Night would sit.
What parts were inspired by real-life (either research or experience)?
The Battle of Franklin and Carnton are very real. So are the McGavocks, who
lived at Carnton and opened their home to be used as a hospital for wounded
soldiers. However, the hero, heroine, and her grandfather are all fictional.
As I wrote the story, I imagined how the events of the battle that happened
almost on her doorstep would have affected a young woman and how her
generosity would have affected a soldier just trying to get home.
Like all of my books, the things that I was going through personally as I
wrote it found their way into the story. The main character, Cora Sinclair,
has nightmares following the terrible things she’s seen, and she can’t let
them go. When I started this project, I had just moved across the country,
started a new job, and been through the worst natural disaster to hit
Nashville in years. My heart was heavy, and I carried a lot of burdens with
me that I was never meant to bear. But giving my cares to God wasn’t as easy
as I hoped. Even though I hadn’t planned it, Cora deals with the same
struggles, coming out on the other side with hope, and helping me learn to
leave my worries at the foot of the cross.
Why do you think story is such a powerful way to communicate truth?
Sometimes the truth stings. Even if we know the truth, when it convicts us,
it hurts. And if we know that pain is coming, we often avoid it. But fiction
has the ability to speak the same truth with a gentle voice. And when I read
about a character who faces the same struggle I’m dealing with and defeats
it, I find hope for myself. That prick of conviction in a tale of a life
changed has power to give hope for every stage of my own fight.
What projects are you working on now?
I just finished edits on A Promise to Protect, scheduled to release in
December from Love Inspired Suspense. My first three books from Love
Inspired Suspense were about FBI Agents, but this one is about a Navy SEAL,
and I’m playing around with an idea for a follow up as well. I’m also
working on my first contemporary romance, which has been a lot of fun. I
have about fifteen story ideas buzzing around my head, so right now I’m just
thankful for a great agent and editor, who both help keep me on track.