Character Interview with Cassie Kendrick from Where Dandelions Bloom by Tara Johnson

I appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today. I’m not sure what to call you. Your situation is so unique . . . a woman dressed as a man to serve in the Union Army. Would you like me to call you Cassie?

Cassie is fine. I enlisted as Thomas Turner, but we’re alone at the moment. You’re the only one who knows my secret. If another soldier walks in on us, just refer to me as Thomas.

All right, Cassie, who is your role model, and why?

My granny Ardie. She always believed in me when no one else did. It was like she saw me, the realme, for exactly who I was and loved me all the more for it.

Tell me about your family. Do you have siblings?

I have four sisters. All of them are married except me.

It must have been hard on your parents when you chose to enlist, especially since it entailed playing the part of a young man.

They didn’t know. I left in the middle of the night. I’m sure they assumed I ran away.

Why didn’t you tell them?

My father was attempting to arrange my marriage to a horrible man. He was well-known in the community for his philandering, as well as his foul temper and abusive ways. Much like my own father. When I couldn’t convince him to change his mind, I fled.

What is your earliest memory?

I don’t know if it is my earliest memory, but one of the first was the Christmas Granny Ardie gave me a doll. I named her Elizabeth. She had a beautiful pink dress with lace trim and a porcelain face. She went with me everywhere. One day I was playing in the kitchen and my father arrived home in a drunken rage. He picked up Elizabeth and threw her into the wall. Her face was shattered. I was inconsolable.

What a horrible memory!

There were many others similar to that one but something about that moment replays over and over in my mind. And I was so upset because my mother watched it happen and said nothing. Did nothing.

Let’s talk about your work in the Michigan Second. It must be so taxing. Have you found any friends that make the strain easier to bear?

I try to keep to myself. You know, the less investment in relationships, the less likely my identity will be discovered. But there are two fellows I consider my chums. One is a young errand boy named Jonah. Talk about precocious! I’ve never seen a child who can talk so much. Half of the soldiers shoo him away like a pesky fly and the rest find him an endless source of amusement. 

And the other soldier you’ve befriended?

He’s not a soldier. He’s a photographer, sent by Mathew Brady to capture war images. His name is Gabriel. At first, I found his chatter vexing, but he’s proven himself to be a loyal friend. Easy to converse with, intelligent and kind.

Does Gabriel know your true identity?

No! I’m afraid if he knew, it would ruin everything.

What is it you fear the most?

Captivity. And perhaps a life wasted. I only have one life to live. I need to make each day count. I can’t think of anything more terrifying than a life of insignificance.

What is your dream?

To be free, truly free. Able to go where I want, do what I want without looking over my shoulder. Prisons are everywhere. I left one when I ran away from home, but I’m finding emotional prisons follow wherever I go.

That’s what I’m doing. Fighting for freedom . . . for the nation’s as well as my own.

What a thrilling adventure. Thank you for chatting today, Cassie!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tara Johnsonis an author, speaker, and passionate lover of stories. She loves to travel to churches, ladies’ retreats, and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.

From the time she was young and watched Gone with the Wind with her mother for the first time, the Civil War has intrigued her. That fascination grew into all aspects of American history and the brave people and stories who make up its vibrant past. 

She says, “History is crammed full of larger-than-life characters. Doc Holliday, Annie Oakley, Helen Keller, Daniel Boone, George Washington, Amelia Earhart, and Frederick Douglass are just a few examples of flawed, wounded humans who battled their demons with determination and left an indelible mark on the pages of history. I suppose that’s why people are so fascinating. No matter the era, we all battle the same wounds. Abandonment, abusive fathers, overprotective mothers, loss, grief, rejection, addiction, crippling anxiety, loneliness, or the yearning for unconditional love, to name a few. We all battle the same junk and have to decide whether to fight or cave. Run or stand. Cry or smile. That’s what great characters do. They are a reflection of our struggles, our own wounds. Our own need. And, when written well, they remind us whom we need to turn to for healing.”

Tara has written articles for Plain Truth magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth Radio and Enduring Word Radio. Tara is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband, Todd, live in Arkansas, and the Lord has blessed them with five children: Bethany, Callie, and Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane, who are with Jesus. 

Visit her website at www.TaraJohnsonStories.com and connect with her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/TaraLynnJohnsonAuthor) and Twitter (@TaraMinistry).

Interview with Keziah Montgomery from Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson

Today we’re meeting Keziah Montgomery from Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson.

engraved on the heart cover photoNovel PASTimes: Thank you for visiting with us today. I love your name! It’s quite unusual.

 

Keziah: It is definitely that. Keziah is a family name, but not many people know it’s also from the Bible.

 

Novel PASTimes: Really? I had no idea!

 

Keziah: Yes. Keziah is one of the three daughters born to Job after he’d endured his time of suffering. It’s a derivative of Cassia and means “a sweet-scented spice”.

 

Novel PASTimes: Interesting. So would you consider yourself sweet? Tell me about yourself.

 

Keziah: Some would call me sweet. Others shy.  I think most people, especially my family, would consider me compliant. My brother Nathaniel and my father have the big personalities in the family. I’ve always been bashful, especially considering my medical condition.

 

Novel PASTimes: If it’s not too intrusive, may I ask what condition you struggle with?

 

Keziah: Epilepsy. Please don’t tell anyone else though. It shames my father and mother terribly. I’m so thankful they’ve not cast me into an asylum like so many others with the same malady. They’ve sternly instructed me not to tell a soul within Savannah’s social elite. Mother fears it will compromise my chances for a good match, though I have little desire for such a thing.

 

Novel PASTimes: Why not?

 

Keziah: There are far greater concerns than finding an eligible suitor. Men—friends, cousins, even my own brother—are fighting on bloody fields to decide the future of the Union. And there are others…men, women and children who are trapped in slavery. Some of them are abused and whipped to ribbons for no reason.

 

Novel PASTimes: Pardon my forwardness, but you sound like an abolitionist.

 

Keziah: (whispers) That’s because I am. I beg you, don’t tell my family. It was my friend Micah who helped me understand the horrors of slavery.

 

Novel PASTimes: I take it your family doesn’t share your beliefs.

 

Keziah: Not in the slightest. They are a staunch Confederate family. If they knew of my involvement, they would disown me.

 

Novel PASTimes: Your involvement with abolitionists, or something more?

 

Keziah: I’ve already said too much. I cannot speak on it further.

 

Novel PASTimes: I’m intrigued.

 

Keziah: You and most of Savannah. My cousin Jennie is rabid to sniff out as many abolitionists as possible and turn them over to the authorities. So you see why discretion is vital.

 

Novel PASTimes: Clearly, you disagree with your family on the issue of slavery. What people have had the most influence on you?

 

Keziah: I’ve always been close to our family’s house servant Hiriam. He’s like a grandfather to me. I so admire his kindness and wisdom. My childhood friend Micah has played a critical role in my life. He’s a physician now and has taught me much about fighting for others’ freedom. He’s the bravest man I know.

 

Novel PASTimes: You sound very fond of him. What is the best advice he’s given you?

 

Keziah: Upon seeing the scarred back of a former slave, I was horrified. I’ll never forget Micah’s words to me. He said, “Let his suffering teach you. Remembering will give you a greater compassion. A deeper love for those trapped in darkness.”

 

Novel PASTtimes: What is one thing you would change about yourself if you could?

 

Keziah: I used to be ashamed of my illness. I thought being ill, broken, if you will,  meant I had no worth. I suppose in many people’s eyes, I don’t. But God has shown me how valuable I am to Him. He gives me my worth. His strength moves in when my failures loom large. That’s a good place to be, because whether I’m muddling through daily thrum of life or fighting for fugitives’ freedom, I cannot boast in my own strength. Any praise goes to God alone.

 

Novel PASTimes: It sounds as if you’ve learned much from your struggles. On a different note, who do you think will win the war? The Yankees or Confederates?

 

Keziah: I have no idea. Both the Union and the Confederacy feel God is on their side. Strange, isn’t it? And I have loved ones fighting for both. For the sake of those trapped in darkness, I pray the Union will prevail. Either way, as long as the Almighty gives me breath, I’ll fight to make my life mean something. I’ll not sit idly by. If you’d seen the fear etched into the thin faces of the runaways, you’d know why I can never go back to the way things used to be. How could I when so many are desperate for one taste of freedom?

Thanks for speaking with us today, Keziah. You seem like a very brave young lady.

tara 2017Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR. A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people pleaser.

Her first historical romance with Tyndale House Publishers will be released in the summer of 2018 and is the first of a three part series set during the Civil War. Follow her at www.TaraJohnsonStories.com.

Twitter: @TaraMinistry

https://www.facebook.com/TaraLynnJohnsonAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tarajohnsonministry/