Tara Johnson is a passionate lover of stories who 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.
Her latest novel is the Civil War-era romance All Through the Night (Tyndale House):
With her stammering tongue and quiet ways, Cadence Piper has always struggled to be accepted. After the death of her mother, Cadence sets her heart on becoming a nurse, both to erase the stain her brother has left on the family’s honor and to find long-sought approval in the eyes of her father.
When Dorothea Dix turns her away due to her young age and pretty face, Cadence finds another way to serve—singing to the soldiers in Judiciary Square Hospital. Only one stubborn doctor stands in her way.
Joshua Ivy is an intense man with a compassionate heart for the hurting and downtrodden. The one thing he can’t have is an idealistic woman destroying the plans he’s so carefully laid. When the chaos of war thrusts Cadence into the middle of his clandestine activities, he must decide if the lives at stake, and his own heart, are worth the risk of letting Cadence inside.
Everything changes when Joshua and Cadence unearth the workings of a secret society so vile, the course of their lives, and the war, could be altered forever. If they fight an enemy they cannot see, will the One who sees all show them the way in the darkest night?
What inspired the story and characters found in All Through the Night?
The character of Cadence Piper was inspired by real-life Civil War nurse Elida B. Rumsey. Elida desperately wanted to serve as a nurse in the war but was denied by Dorothea Dix because of her young age and beauty. Elida found another way in—by singing to the wounded soldiers. They loved her golden voice and sweet spirit when she visited the hospitals.
She quickly found herself being called upon to help boost their sagging spirits. In time, she was called to nurse at the battlefield. After fainting at the first sight of blood, she was mortified and vowed never to let herself fall apart that way again. She was the first person to ever sing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Joshua Ivy 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.
All Through the Night is a weaving of real events, including an evil secret society, with fictional characters, all of whom are grappling with spiritual struggles—the need to be accepted and loved.
What role does faith play in this story?
Faith is an integral part of 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.
Who did you write this book for?
This book is written for anyone who has wondered if God sees them. It was birthed for anyone who has wrestled with approval or people-pleasing and been left with a gnawing ache inside. This story is for anyone who longs for freedom.
Tell us about some of the core themes of All Through the Night. How do you hope these themes will resonate with and challenge your readers?
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—“I am worthless,” “I need to be seen,” “If only ______ would love me, then I’d be happy . . .”—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.
How is the perspective of All Through the Night unique compared to other novels in the Civil War genre?
One aspect that is particularly unique is the emergence of the Knights of the Golden Circle. This evil sect played a large role in funding the Confederacy and had big plans to form a new nation, a ring of power, that included the Southern states, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands.
They had powerful men in both the Confederacy and, ironically, the Union and carried out some of the most heinous acts ever committed on American soil.
Another unique aspect of All Through the Night are the cameo appearances by great historical figures like Fanny Crosby and John Wilkes Booth. I love to bring real men and women to life in a way my readers enjoy.
How did you get the idea for the relationship between your two main characters?
Since Cadence is desperate to become a nurse, I knew Joshua would need to directly oppose her goals, at least in the beginning. What better opposition could a nurse have than a stubborn doctor? As their relationship grows, I loved that Joshua becomes her biggest cheerleader but is blind to his own flaws. In many ways, Cadence and Joshua are both struggling with facets of the same issue . . . being accepted. They just have different ways of handling their wounds. This is true for many relationships. The way we see the world is filtered through our past, and that filter affects how we deal with fear. I loved exploring Cadence’s and Joshua’s emotions and the way they see the world.
Which was your favorite character to write? Do you identify with this character in any way?
My favorite character to write is the humorous secondary character. They lend so much charm, charisma, and wisdom to a story. They usually bring an opportunity for the reader to take a breath but also give the main character a chance to reflect on some sage advice . . . even if it’s delivered in a comical manner. I relate to this character because I’m a bit this way myself! Laughter is great medicine but it also speaks truth.
How did you become a writer?
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 conference, 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.
What made you want to write Civil War–era fiction? What about that genre do you enjoy?
When I was growing up, my mom and I enjoyed a yearly tradition of watching Gone with the Wind together. I have loved learning about the Civil War ever since. When I was young, the drama and potential romance of the period drew me in, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve fallen in love with the stories of heroism from brave men and women on both sides of the conflict. The Civil War was a turning point for our nation on so many levels . . . politically, socially, emotionally, not to mention the amazing inventions and reformations that occurred as a result. It completely changed the landscape of our society.
Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?
I just finished a middle grade story about a precocious preacher’s kid named Sarah Grace who gets into all kinds of mischief and learns some interesting lessons along the way. I’m also in the middle of writing two new historical romances. One is based on the life of Dr. Mary Walker, the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor, and the other is about a young girl who is mute and sold to Barbados as part of the Irish slave trade.
Visit Tara Johnson’s author page:
All Through the Night
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