Friday, August 17, 2012

Writing on the Move, by Elizabeth Musser

Elizabeth Musser, a native of Atlanta, Georgia now living in France, is a novelist who writes what she calls ‘entertainment with a soul.’ Her novels have been acclaimed in the United States and in Europe.  The Swan House (Bethany House, c2001), set in Atlanta in the early sixties, was named as one of Amazon’s Top Christian Books of the Year (2001), was an ABA and SEBA bestseller and was recently named one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the past 100 years, right behind Gone with the Wind (from Georgia Backroads, Autumn, 2009).  

For over 25 years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in mission work with International Teams. They presently live in Lyon, France. The Mussers have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and a brand new grandson. 

To learn more about Elizabeth and her books, and to find discussion questions as well as photos of sites mentioned in the stories, please visit

Writing on the Move

How does an author write when she is constantly moving?

I am a missionary and I am an author.  I love both of my vocations and am so thankful to the Lord for allowing me to use these gifts and talents for Him.  For about fifteen years now, I’ve juggled the missionary and writing life.  When I received my first contract for a novel, back in 1994, my sons were young and the only time I wrote was in the mornings, when they were in school.  Ministry and family time came in the afternoons and evenings.

This schedule worked pretty well for many years. 

Then two years ago, my husband and I received a new role within our mission.  Instead of doing ministry uniquely in a local church in France, we were asked to become Pastors to Members—providing spiritual oversight for our colleagues who work all over Europe.  As empty nesters, the job fit well.  I could travel with my husband.  Except for one problem:  how could I write creatively when we traveled so often with virtually no ‘alone time’ to cogitate and dream.  How, Lord?

Ah, that was the best starting place—on my knees before the Lord, asking Him how to manage.

And the Lord reminded of this simple truth: I do write when I travel.  I write in my journal.  I was ‘journaling’ long before that word was considered a noun.  The day I left for college, I bought a yellow spiral notebook and started recording my thoughts, feelings, prayers and descriptions of life.

That practice has continued for thirty-five years.  Now, my journal is on my laptop, a folder filled with hundreds of word documents that record snippets of thoughts and feelings and experiences and adventures.

So as I begin a new novel, I go back to my journal entries, and places like Venice and Tuscany and Vienna all come alive to me as I read about what inspired me back when I walked those ancient streets.  I’ve already done the research!  Now, as I read and remember, I create new scenes for a novel.

Of course, most of my journal entries are letters from my heart to the Lord, praising Him as He shows up in the midst of the mundane.  And those life experiences make their way into my stories too because life is a mixture of the exotic and the mundane.

So, dear readers and writers, if you too find yourself on the move all the time—whether you are running around caring for kids or neck-deep in a career or traipsing around the world like me, my advice is simple.  Jot down your adventures in a journal or on the computer or on an Ipad.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.  Then later, sometimes much later, those entries may serve as fodder for a new story.  It has worked for me.  As I sit down to create, in between the rest of life, there’s a prayer on my lips and thankfulness in my heart for all those ideas I jotted down somewhere long ago.

Her Secrets of the Cross trilogy is now available in its entirety in English.  Elizabeth wrote Two Crosses, Two Testaments and Two Destinies back in the 1990s. The first two books in this series came out in the mid 90’s, but a company buy-out led to a moratorium on adult fiction – thus the third book was never published in English.  In spite of that fact, all three books have been best-sellers in Europe. 

Two Destinies

Faith and love could cost them everything

When Rislène Namani meets Eric Hoffmann in 1994 France, the spark between them ignites a firestorm of trouble. She fears the repercussions from her staunchly Muslim family for her attraction to a Christian. Yet Eric captures her heart. More than that, his faith captures her soul—a faith she comes to embrace. And it all stirs up a wasps’ nest of danger, mystery, and love that could cost her everything, even her life.

The risk is real, especially when Rislène’s family discovers her secret. Eric must save her from a forced marriage in Algeria. As the civil war in Algeria escalates in the midst of Ramadan, and poverty and social ills in France boil over, their lives become as tumultuous and uncertain as the world around them. Clinging to faith, they fight a battle as contemporary as today’s headlines.

The first two novels in her Secrets of the Cross trilogy, (Two Crosses, Two Testaments) which take place during Algeria’s War for Independence from France, were republished by David C Cook in June, 2012.  At last, the third novel in the trilogy, Two Destinies, will be available in bookstores everywhere starting September 1, 2012.  Set in France and Algeria near the end of 1994, it is the story of the persecuted church in North Africa, the terrorist activities in the midst of Algeria’s civil war, the desperate homeless people in France, and courageous individuals willing to risk their lives to help those in need.  The issues addressed in this novel are more timely and relevant to Americans than when Elizabeth wrote Two Destinies back in 1998.  Ever since 9-11, Americans have become much more aware of the Muslim world.  In the trilogy, Elizabeth tackles faith questions and issues which Americans now read about and see on the daily news.

From an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, “Elizabeth Musser likes to say she has two part-time jobs. Not only is she an award-winning novelist, but she and her husband serve as missionaries at a small Protestant church in Lyon, France. In both lines of work, she avoids preaching and simplistic answers, choosing instead to portray a God who cares in the midst of life's complexity...”

Elizabeth adds, “My desire is to offer the best literature I can write, drawing the reader into a story that is compelling, believable and sprinkled with historical detail.  I seek to give a realistic picture of what faith lived out in this world looks like, and, as always, I hope that my stories can be appreciated by all audiences, not just those readers who hold my same religious beliefs.  It is a delight to receive confirmation of this through reader letters.”


Brandi Boddie said...

Thank you for the encouraging tips, Elizabeth. I'm going to be moving soon and it helps to know that writing can be done during times of mobility. Have a great weekend! And congrats on all three books in your series becoming available in the US!

Scribbler said...

I look forward to reading the third book of the trilogy. I lived in Algeria for several months in 1993, when the insurgency of the mid-1990's was beginning. With that background, finding the two books with an Algerian background was delightful. So happy that I can now read the third one of this series.
Ann Gaylia O'Barr

Rose Chandler Johnson said...

I really like this article. I find it both encouraging as a Christian and a writer. Thank you Elizabeth. I'm pleased for your success and the fact that these books are being published all together in English.