Hannah Johnson, a 21-year-old homeschool graduate, is the author of Rebel Hearts: Tale of a Young Knight. Hannah is the second oldest in a family of six children. Her father Laine, her mom Janet, and siblings Lydia, Samuel, Rebekah, Abigail, and Nathanael, have traveled through most of the United States serving with Life Action Ministries. After 17 years, they are now no longer traveling from church to church, but are based at the Life Action Ministry headquarters in Buchanan, Michigan. Hannah loves to sing, and she has been able to use her musical talent at various ministry events over the years. Soon she will be home-recording some songs with friends and family.
Besides singing and taking guitar lessons, Hannah likes making people laugh, and she enjoys baking. She is currently pursuing Natural Health education from home (“at my own pace—which is so nice”). She is also pursing a certification in Personal Training. Hannah has a few part-time jobs and a wedding business, where she decorates with tulle and lighting at a barn venue. Hannah says, “There are many things and people to keep me busy! Eventually, I would like to be married, have a family, and possibly my very own Alternative Medicine Practice.”
In the midst of all her other activities, Hannah plans to continue writing, since that has always been a favorite pastime of hers. As a girl, Hannah enjoyed writing assignments and competitions among her brothers and sisters. Researching, then using history as the basis for an original story, is something she especially loves to do.
Hannah’s first novel, Rebel Hearts, is a story of faith, love, and courage during the Dark Ages in Europe. According to the synopsis: “In the care of Lord Norington, the greatest military lord in all of the British Isles, Keegan adopts the life of the family but at first resists embracing their radical beliefs which are not in agreement with the Roman Catholic Church. However, after being trained and influenced by Lord Norington, one of the godliest men of the time, Keegan surrenders to the faith. Yet Keegan is still plagued with questions from his past, especially when he finds out that he has been mentioned in the ancient prophecies of the Essenes.”
One reviewer wrote: “Rebel Hearts is one of my favorite books I have ever read. The story is gripping and will have you wanting more. It is a two part book, the sequel not out yet to my knowledge. H.G.’s family has impacted my own through their ministry and service at Life Action Family Camp in ways that my gratitude could not fully express. Check her book out. You will fall in love with this young author H.G. Johnson and her intriguing characters. It is an absolutely brilliant plot, with a story that aligns with real history, places, and people. Thank you H.G. for your wonderful novel and I can’t WAIT for the sequel. I absolutely loved it!!!!!!” ~A.B. Jackson
Q & A with Hannah G. Johnson
Where were you born and where do you call home? Buchanan, Michigan.
Can you tell us a bit about your homeschooling experience? Since my family joined the Life Action road teams when I was just a small child, my schooling was more like being “tutored”. Of the college-aged students that would travel on our team, one would be chosen to be a schoolteacher for us. My mom, however, still did some subjects with us when we were younger.
Did you always want to become an author? I wanted to write stories! I wanted to create books! I am not sure if I grew up wanting to be an “author” or not.
How old were you when your first book was published? I was 17! This matched my goal of having it done by the time I turned 18!
What inspired you to write Rebel Hearts? There were a series of things. Movies were mainly my inspiration. Atlantis, Dragon Heart, National Treasure, I believe all had an influence upon my imagination. I found inspiration by the mysteries of the past. From the “Lost City”, to treasure that was hidden, to unique things in the Bible, I tried putting pieces together, and still have the daunting task of doing that in my sequel.
What is it about the Middle Ages that intrigues you so much? The Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon (or the Knights Templars, as we might know them) fit into my story well. I suppose I liked knights. I started out on much research about the kings of England. I was only 12 or so when I first sat down and got my dad to research some information and I printed it out. The instrumental music of Tim Janis, would play throughout my house as I would write and it fed my minds-eye and spurned me on to the emotions I wished to capture early on, in creating a book.
Do you have any favorite books or authors that you would say have influenced your writing? Since most of my reading was for research, throughout my high school years, I cannot say. I received my inspiration from movies, my imagination, and history itself.
What do you think is the most difficult part of writing historical fiction? Trying to actually work with real people and real dates, has posed quite a challenge—one that would not be faced if strictly of the fictional gender. Still, I cannot say I regret my choice. I found it a valuable and impressive feat, to work with what was given in history.
What can people gain by reading historical fiction that they can’t by reading non-historical fiction? Well, for one, it passes down facts. Since history is a valuable piece of our present and future, then being informed while enjoying a good story, is a good thing!
What message do you wish to convey in your book? I don’t have a very good answer for this one. I don’t think I went into writing this like I would if I were writing a book on learning lessons or something. But I will say, I wanted Lord Norington to be a very wise character (some of his lines are from my actual dad). I wanted the conversations to be witty. I wanted real mysteries to be solved (or at least given an intriguing scenario or answer). I wanted a good love story. And very much so, I wished to capture emotions and imaginations that I have had inside of me for a long time! There were many things I wished to show in my tale—but I hope my work will never be a waste of time for anyone who ever reads it and that it will be enjoyed, just as I enjoyed writing it. Also, I received a touching letter for a teenage girl I had befriended and ministered to, saying that when she needed encouragement and advice, she would turn to my book. And while my book should in no way replace the Bible, I would hope that there are some valuable insights to be gleaned for many more.
How do you find time to write? I found that I have been able to write based at nighttime or when on breaks from being on the “road”, traveling from church to church. I have had writer’s block upon writer’s block, but when the inspiration comes….I am in love with it all over again. It gets hard to make time for it when there are so many things easier to work on than trying to make 1,000 pieces come together in my head and on paper!
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing? As I said in my previous answer, writing at nighttime, when the world around me is a sleep, my mind is sharp, and there are not many distractions, is usually when I have written best.
Would you ever consider doing any different genres or time periods? I most certainly would. I have always been determined about completing my current story…however long it takes. Thus, when I have an idea for a new story, I put it out of my mind for later. (Before Rebel Hearts, I actually hand-wrote the beginning of a World War II book. I was very young then, and had an older friend type it up for me. Needless to say, it was never finished.) So yes, I don’t know when I will put writing behind me, if ever. I am 21 now, and even though Rebel Hearts and its sequel have taken much time and many years, I do not anticipate giving up this joy of “creating” any time too soon.
Did you learn anything from publishing your first book and what was it? I have only ever self-published, so I don’t have much to compare it to. However, with its sequel, I am going through WestBow press which is still like self-publishing but it is in the hands of a Christian publishing company. It is a branch of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, so we will see how this process goes. Since I no longer have a traveling “platform” to sell my book, I thought it would be helpful to have it marketed by someone other than just me and my friends and family. So that is the direction I am heading now.
What are you working on now? As I have mentioned, I am working on the sequel. I have considered splitting it into yet another book, as it will be long. But after much thought and consideration, I am planning to keep it as a single book. It will just be much bigger than the first.
How has your homeschool background helped you in other areas of life? I don’t really know. My life was a very unusual one, moving to different churches every week and a half or so, for the length of a school year, and then back home for Christmas and Summer. My schoolroom was in a room in a church building, and we were taught by one of the team members. Really, my peers were college-aged Christians and my siblings. So I got to skip out on the poor influences of those who would attend a more public school, or really anywhere one might be learning with a bunch of other kids. I suppose that was a blessing, one I may never be able to tell the impact. Also because of my upbringing, we got to see many places and states that you wouldn’t, even on a field trip!
What is one of your favorite quotes or Bible verses? I love quotes, but can’t think of a great one right now, so I’ll leave you with a Bible verse. I really have grown to appreciate the second half of this verse from Hebrews, which says, “…anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” It has encouraged me, from time to time, to that end.
Thank you so much, Hannah, for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us!