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Interview with Elizabeth Musser

A life-long dream of wanting to write articles and one day a book came true for Elizabeth Musser, and it all started 30 years ago when she was trying to "keep her sanity" as a young mom of a toddler and newborn, while she was a missionary in France.

Part of her task of a missionary was writing quarterly letters explaining her ministry to over 400 prayer partners in the United States. She wanted to make those reports home as interesting as possible—and release some of the stress that comes with being a new mama—so there came the first opportunity to test out her writing skills.

"I'd write down the morning's disaster during the boys' naptime, turning it into some sort of anecdotal and redemptive story. Many people who received those letters wrote back commenting on how well I wrote and encouraging me to write a book. I like to say: If you recognize a gift in someone, tell them! You may be used in his or her life to keep that dream alive."

That's exactly what those heartening words did for Elizabeth, propelling her to keep writing the newsletters, then later giving her the courage to speak to Jill Briscoe, a well-known author and speaker, which then turned into Elizabeth getting her first published article in Jill's newsletter for ministry wives. She continued to write for Jill's magazine for women in ministry, Just Between Us.

This then inspired Elizabeth to attend a writer's conference in the summer of 1994 while she was visiting the U.S., and pitch about writing a women's devotional to editor Dave Horton (who is now VP at Bethany House Publishers). Dave, by the way, one time served as a missionary in France with Elizabeth's mission—talk about divine intervention! They were both shocked, but happy, to see each other. He said no to the devotional idea, but told Elizabeth he was looking for a woman novelist, and encouraged her to send a book proposal to his publishing house. A couple of months later Elizabeth sent it, and the publisher wound up offering Elizabeth a contract.

The contract turned into the publication of her first novel, Two Crosses (Book 1 in The Secrets of the Cross trilogy), which was dedicated to Elizabeth's grandma, Allene Massey Goldsmith. This event was another prayer that was answered. During the time of writing newsletters and magazine articles, Elizabeth also kept a journal. While writing in it, she often would pray she would be able to write a book and dedicate it to her paternal grandma while she was still alive, because her grandma always listened, loved, and encouraged Elizabeth. It may have taken God over 20 years to answer this book dedication prayer, but in 1996 He did!

After she finished writing the trilogy, Elizabeth wrote The Swan House, a novel inspired by Elizabeth's fight to understand her belief in God within the context of being raised in an affluent Atlanta home, where her father was a stock broker for Merrill Lynch, and her mother was a lifelong equestrian, who showed hunter-jumper horses.

Elizabeth's mom however, also worked in the inner city of Atlanta, helping prepare meals for the poor. For over forty years, she worked alongside Louise Adamson, a Baptist home missionary, whose life work is described in The Swan House. Elizabeth's mom got involved in that ministry through the Baptist church the family attended. The stories Elizabeth heard of God's miracles in that place were used by the Lord to move Elizabeth toward missionary work.

France first came into the picture when Elizabeth attended Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, where she studied English and French literature. She had an opportunity to spend a semester in Aix-en-Province, where she discovered there were beautiful French cathedrals, but there wasn't really a spiritual interest in the culture at large. When she returned home, she decided she wanted to travel and write and share her faith with others. It just so happened that during her senior year, a five-day missions conference was held for the Vanderbilt students. Here, Elizabeth learned there was a need for missionaries in France, and she felt God was calling her there.

Elizabeth and her husband, Paul have lived in France for over 30 years, doing missionary work. But what exactly does a missionary do?

"I've been involved in church-planting, all kinds of evangelization, discipling teens and young and older women, working in anti-trafficking by sharing the Gospel and coffee and hugs with prostitutes in downtown Lyon, youth work, and lots of other things."

For most of their years overseas, Elizabeth and Paul had been involved in helping establish and build up the evangelical church in France. Nine years ago, their roles changed to being "Pastors to Workers (Missionaries')." This means they have the oversight for the spiritual well-being of their missionaries living in Europe and North Africa, so they travel a lot.

"We have the great privilege of visiting colleagues who work with refugees, trafficked women, gypsies, pilgrims, artists, students, and other seekers. Our goal in this pastoral capacity is to help our colleagues be heathy physically, emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically, so they can be effective in their ministries. Additionally, Paul manages a team of other men and women who offer care to our missions' workers around the globe."

Although Elizabeth has lived for over three decades where she is surrounded by people speaking their native tongue, and she is fluent in French herself (she started learning the language in 9th grade and continued with courses through college), she claims she still has "a lovely Southern accent when I speak."

Of course, there are several differences between southern France, and "the South" – as in the part of the U.S. where Elizabeth was raised, Atlanta, Georgia. Not only the food is different – calves-hoof salad or testicles of cow anyone? – but the people are different too.

"We say that Americans are peaches and the French are coconuts. It's easy to get to know Americans—they appear 'soft' and friendly on the outside, but they don't necessarily go much deeper in their relationships. The French take a long time to get to know. They have a hard, critical exterior, but once you're a friend, it's for life and they're very loyal."

The French typically don't see a great need for religion, Elizabeth says, and talking about faith can become an argument about Protestants and Catholics.

"But they are like every other human. There is a spiritual vacuum there. We just have to be culturally sensitive in how to hear their hearts. We believe our lives are our best testimonies—living Jesus out before others and always being ready to give a response when asked to give an account for the hope that is in us. (1 Peter 3:15)"

Part of Elizabeth living Jesus out before others is shown through her display of writing novels that contain Christian themes, characters, and God's love and grace. However, this is done in a special way, as she points out that her goal in writing her newest release, as well as all her novels, was not to write a "Christian book." She says in centuries past, religious themes were naturally incorporated into excellent literature, such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Hardy, James Joyce, and hundreds of other writers.

"My goal is to write the best literature I can, with real characters and themes that strike a chord in the reader’s heart and force the reader to think, to ask questions, to laugh and cry and hope. To be entertained way down in her soul. My main characters struggle with many questions about pain and suffering, loss, faith and belief and what that means in life. My stories include history, mystery, romance and intrigue, but I also want my readers to wrestle with and ask questions about the issues my characters deal with. I write what is 'given' to me—what the Lord is working on in my heart."
This is particularly true with When I Close My Eyes, as it is a book that Elizabeth says explores themes of forgiveness, grace, and sacrifice, as the characters deal with mental illness and religious faith. She says the novel is a timely one that is "part whodunit, part unreliable narrator, and a study in character and motive and family."
"This novel is very dear to me because I discuss the hot topic of mental illness, especially depression and suicide. It’s very personal too, since I've struggled since childhood with depression. I feel very strongly that these are issues that must be addressed by Christians today."

Deep topics will continue to be examined in Elizabeth's novels, and her next book, The Promised Land, that comes out in the fall of 2020 with Bethany House is no exception. The hook for that book is, "You'd be surprised at what can get through to you when everything else is taken away."

This contemporary novel was inspired by Elizabeth's and her husband's mission and pastoral care work. They have a team of missionaries who opened a welcome center along the Camino, which is the famed pilgrimage in France and Spain. Heroine Abbie in The Promised Land will make this walk along the Camino – and if readers' reviews from Elizabeth Musser's past novels are any indication, the author's skilled writing will take us readers on that journey right along with Abbie.


Melinda Freeland wrote her first "novel" at age 8 about Mr. & Mrs. Texas Toast, and their struggle to get off the plate before someone ate them. Today, Melinda writes fiction you can relate to—about humans—and their real struggles, not only in relationships, but also with understanding and trusting God. Love, Texas – Population 2 is her debut Christian contemporary romance novel. It was inspired by Melinda's reunion with her first love, her life as a small-town reporter, and her faith journey. Melinda lives in Texas with her handsome husband, two great kids, and her lovable Pug. She'd love to connect with readers at and on social media @authormelindafreeland and @melindafreeland.

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