Welcome Wednesday – A Discussion on Mental Health with Temperance Johnson

Author: Temperance Johnson

Genre: Historical Fiction

Series: Liberty Chronicles

Published Book: Liberty House

Upcoming Books:

  • Liberty Ranch (currently being edited, due for publication in the spring of 2021)
  • Liberty Mountain (currently being written, set for publication in the summer of 2021 )

Liberty House: U.S. Marshall Cole Donavon arrives to protect the talented Tommy Starry from a mysterious assassin, but Tommy has never trusted anyone, even family. If they are to survive, they must confront their past. Will they be able to trust God and each other before it

A Discussion on Mental Health with Temperance Johnson

Interview by Jenny Fulton

Temperance Johnson enjoys writing in one of my favorite genres: historical fiction with a bit of romance. Her series, Liberty Chronicles, is set in the 1870’s and deals heavily with the perspectives, stigmas, and impact of psychological trauma and mental illness.

“What inspired you to write these books?” I asked.

“Well,” she said, “it was a long journey. I started Liberty House for fun and just went with anything that developed in the story-line.”

Even though Temperance finished writing the book, she wasn’t happy with it. Something didn’t feel right, so she set manuscript aside.

And then Life decided to get involved. It’s interesting how much real life likes to push its way into our fictional stories. Such was the case with Temperance. Close connections with trauma survivors and an interest in the adoption process prompted her to start looking into Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), particularly in adopted/foster children.

“When someone I knew well found themselves in the same type of abusive situation, I was appalled that I didn’t recognize it or see it. It disheartened and put me into a shock of a sorts.”

The pain of the reality that drove Temperance to research the problems of the present also led her to delve deeper into the history of how mental illness was perceived and dealt with in the past. This new information, coupled with love for those going through trauma and abuse, inspired Temperance to return to her original story.

“At the same time as I felt God leading me into becoming a Christian counselor, I also felt led to take a whole new look at this story.”

In 2019, ten years after she’d started it, Temperance proceeded to rewrite Liberty House in light of her findings and newfound purpose.

“It happened then, and it still happens now, under people’s noses, so it’s a topic I feel strongly about writing about. I decided to bring to light what the mentally ill and asylum life was like. The history that’s taught today overlooks that. We talk about Helen Keller, but we forget that what made Helen Keller was her teacher, Anne Sullivan. Anne suffered on and off with blindness throughout her life and lived most of her childhood in an asylum. Those early experiences affected her as an adult. She never connected with her husband. After many years they separated, though neither remarried. Writing Liberty Chronicles has brought all these disorders to light in a historical, realistic way.”

In addition to mental illness, Temperance also reaches into the hard-to-deal-with subject of sexual abuse.

“I wanted to bring readers to light on how sexual abuse can affect a person and how to overcome this. Abuse, especially sexual abuse, was not spoken of in history. So writing these scenes was hard, but I always bring the abuse to healing. I always leave with hope. Through Christ anything is possible. Though they may always wear scars, they still can overcome so much. That is what all survivors do – they overcome so much. I bring that out in many characters in Liberty House.”

While the new version of her story is stronger with pain, hope, and purpose, it ultimately retains the sweetness of the original version.

“Liberty House takes place in Alabama in 1872,” Temperance told me. “The side character, Cole Dovanon, and his sister, Izzy have helped the mentally ill be able to live with families in a home with love and care. In the past it was not that easy to take a patient out of an asylum.”

I didn’t know this. In fact, until I talked to Temperance, there was a lot I didn’t know about this part of history. “How did people in the 1800s perceive the mental illness?” I asked. “Did they believe it affected other areas of life as well?”

“Well, let’s start with the babies that were born blind, deaf, with a missing limb, or lame or slow in the mind (I am using the terms I use in the book). Many doctors, pastors, politicians, and even parents believed the children were created or touched by the devil. They didn’t value their lives. Most of the time, people didn’t speak, talk, or even mention the mentally ill in common settings. However, many asylums that housed a majority of the mentally ill people let spectators walk through them so they could laugh at, be appalled by, and express their disgust at the patients who were kept in cages, chains, and the like. They didn’t see the mentally ill as human. They saw them more like monsters. They would treat their stock/animals better than the mentally ill.”

I also learned from Temperance that mental illness can develop from high fevers (brain damage), tumors, accidents, trauma, lack of care, even severe abuse, etc.

“In the 1800’s when this happened to the person, their caregiver would likely put them in a state or private asylum. This does not count what they called political insanity. When a man didn’t like what his wife, sister, or even mother was saying, at that time he could name her insane and put her in an asylum. If a man wanted to marry another woman, he would put his current wife in an asylum – would say his wife was insane so he could do what he wanted with his life. A male caregiver could put his relative, usually a woman, in an asylum if he didn’t want to care for her. Women had very few rights. That was why most asylums were full of women.”

I believe every part of us is connected – our thoughts, feelings, spirit, and physical body, so I was also interested in hearing, from Temperance’s perspective, how mental illness impacts a person physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

“Mental illness definitely impacts every part of a person’s life and has a stigma attached to it,” she said. “A person struggling with mental illness needs to decide whether medication is a necessity. Spiritually, it is a blow to some people’s belief system. Because of the many lies surrounding the nature of the mentally ill, it may be hard for a person to deal with their personal mental illness in God’s eyes. They may wonder, ‘If I were a true believer and did everything right, why am I struggling with depression and other issues?’ It leaves scars. It also automatically affects the emotional well-being of a person. Family and friends often disappear through the struggles and leave the person alone and discouraged. They blame themselves for having the symptoms as though they aren’t doing something right.”

In the course of her studies, Temperance discovered several connections to past and present dealings and perspectives of mental illness.

“Unfortunately, people in the past and present haven’t changed much in how they view human life, which is very sad. I found the same kind of problems and trauma patterns in history as those we see today. Back then, they were just put in asylums. In the 1800s they locked, sold, hid-away, and never spoke of the mentally ill. In the 21st century, people are still hiding them away, selling them, not speaking of them. Do you wonder how they are doing it? It is called Abortion and human trafficking. 95% of down syndrome babies are aborted. We are not valuing the life of a child by letting them be sold. However, with God’s help, if we keep speaking up for the voiceless (mentally ill and unborn babies), we will see lives change. Miracles happen.”

Besides the ideas and stigmas surrounding mental illness, Temperance’s books also include the themes of healing, forgiveness, and love.

“What I put in there and what readers have pointed out is how I deal with abuse and trauma. Many people say, oh, children are resilient, but that is just not true. What happens to us as children will affect us as adults. In Liberty House, I deal with sexual and physical abuse. One of the characters has been sexually abused in the orphanage. What happened to her as a child has affected her outlook on life. Through her story, I show the reader, in different ways, how she is able to overcome and move through this process. Healing is always a process and takes time.

“I also point out how, through forgiveness, one comes to love. Bitterness is like taking poison and expecting it to hurt the other person. Even if the abuser does not ask forgiveness, healing will only come with forgiveness. I cover this with all the Liberty Chronicles books. When forgiveness happens, then comes love. When a person is bitter and holding unto the past, they can’t fully give love. When forgiveness happens, love can take room in your heart. I show this through various characters in the Liberty Chronicles – how love for each other and for God can move mountains. True love will come through for my characters.”

With the heavier material, I was interested to know how writing this book impacted Temperance as the author.

“I just kept seeing how God views His children – His People. I’m amazed at God’s deep love for us. It is all through His Word and His life in how He loves the little ones – how we as His people need to protect and care for children as He does. I was able to really see others through His eyes.” 

“What do you hope readers come away with after reading your book?” I asked.

“I hope they will enjoy Tommy and Cole’s love story as much as I do. I hope they will see how God sees them, that they know their true worth. I want readers to read Liberty Chronicles and see how we can change the world around us. All of my stories show that no matter what you struggle with, what people say, what happens in your life or a loved one’s life, you are priceless. God created you, just you, for a reason. ‘All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands… For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.’”

Looking Ahead

The second book, Liberty Ranch, will be out in the spring of 2021. It is more about the mentally ill and the asylum life.

Book three, Liberty Mountain, will be out in the summer of 2021. It will focus on human trafficking in the west. 

Book Blurb for Liberty House


A family torn or a family re-born?

A hodgepodge mix of the unwanted and abandoned, the Starrys are as close as any family can get. They charge through life, love, healing, and salvation together, yet, there is one thing that threatens it all- the mysterious man intent on murdering the cherished sweetheart of the Starry family, Tommy Starry. Tommy is an orphan when she comes to Ellen and Owen Starry, who welcome her into the family as one of their own. A passionate artist, Tommy leaves her all on the canvas. That is until she can no longer ignore the pain of her past and the fear of her present. In desperation and realizing they need help in protecting their dear Tommy, the brothers of the Starry family decide to seek help from a friend, US Marshall Cole Donavon. Cole joins in with the Starrys in order to put an end to the years of attacks by the mystery man while Ellen, the mother of the family, works with God on putting an end to the years of shame.

In “Liberty House,” a story of faith, love, mystery, and eventually, forgiveness, the Starrys learn the true meaning of family. They journey together through the hardships caused by secrets well kept and the cruelty of an attacker well-hidden. Will the mystery man succeed in tearing the Starry family apart? Or will his plan be the exact ammunition that brings them closer to each other and closer to God? 

Book Blurb for Liberty Ranch

One heart at a time.

What will it take to heal a broken spirit?

When Katrina and Andrew Starry moved to Colorado territory to start Liberty Ranch, a home for adoptive families, they never expected to be parents right away to three extremely broken girls. As they try to parent, they discover it’s harder than they ever thought. Will these children come between them? Can God heal their hurts and quarrels?

Isabella (Izzy) Dovanon arrived to help Liberty Ranch run well, but she has her own issues to deal with while being courted by rough mountain man Jesse Starry. Having been through what the girls had faced everyday, Izzy attempts to help them while also trying to save Jesse. Will he lead her away from what she knows is right? After a night of passion, Izzy runs away like she always has. Can Jesse truly be the man she needs? Can God forgive them? Will they get a second chance at love? As the Starry women meet new circumstances along the way, they have a choice to follow God. When disaster strikes they must decide what they want. Will the asylum win in the end? Can God pull them through this?

Book Blurb for Liberty Mountain

“Am I in heaven?” Leota Katie muttered.

Maverick took the rag and wiped her bruised face. “No, Katie, but maybe I got you out of hell.”

When Leota Katie was rescued by Maverick Starry from prostitution, she never expected to see him again. Seven years later, while laying over the bodies of her loved ones, they meet again. As Leota Katie embarks upon the dangers of finding the murderer, she find herself falling in love with the Starry family. But can she resist the urge to run from the protective Maverick? When the shooter kills again, can she bring herself to trusts God, and maybe even Maverick?

Purchase Liberty House

Connect with Temperance


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