G.R.I.T.S.
Ok, Here it is, March's Author of the Week is, Elizabeth Musser!!!! So Sit back and enjoy the Interview that I had with her!!!

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~Today I would like to introduce y'all to Elizabeth Musser, the Author of Swan House and Dwelling Place. Welcome to Caffeine & Romance Elizabeth, Thanks for Joining me here today!

Thanks so much, Rae, for inviting me to share on your blog. And I love it that you use one of the best words in the English language: y’all!

1.What inspires you to write your stories?
All kinds of things inspire me. For my first three novels, a trilogy (Two Crosses, Two Testaments and Two Destinies), I started imagining a story when I worked in the library while my husband was in seminary. As I reshelved books, I began to create an idea about a young American exchange student living somewhere in Africa. But when I moved to France and learned about the Algerian War for Independence from France (1957-62) and started doing research, my story really came to life. I watched documentaries, interviewed people involved in the war and visited historical places in France where scenes in the novels would take place.
I love to work my stories around little-known parts of history. In my novel Searching for Eternity, (2007, Bethany House) I found great inspiration in the city where I live here in France: Lyon. It was not only the capitol of the French Resistance during WWII, but also the headquarters of the Gestapo from 1942-1944.) I spent long hours researching at a wonderful museum in Lyon. Also my father had lent me a Time-Life book on the Resistance and the pictures of different household goods that the Resistants used to hide radios, bombs, guns, knives, etc set my creative mind to thinking. And Lyon is filled with the most wonderful hidden passageways called traboules. A writer’s paradise!
For The Swan House, my grandmother saved all the magazine and newspaper clippings from the Orly plane crash, a real tragedy that took the lives of over a hundred prominent Atlantans in 1962. I brought them back to France when I started my research, but even as a young girl, I remember visiting the Memorial Museum in Atlanta and being moved by the long list of people who had perished in a plane crash.
For Words Unspoken, (coming out in May, 2009), I was inspired by my son learning to drive (he was in the US, me back here in France). He told me of taking driving lessons in a little school in Fort Oglethorpe, GA near a military park, and voila! I also want my novels to deal with real issues we face, and a big thing I’ve had to learn in my life is which ‘voices’ in my head to listen to and which ones to tune out. So the characters in this new novel are each dealing with this.
Sometimes, it’s a phrase I hear or read or something in a movie I watch or something in nature. Recently, I felt so inspired by the title of a song which goes along with an idea I’ve had.

2. Who is your favorite character(s) and why?

I’m assuming you are talking about in my novels. Wow, that’s hard to say. I love Gabriella, the beautiful redhead in my trilogy. She was my first heroine. It was such a dream-come-true to have a contract to write a novel, that I just fell in love with her. There’s a bit of me in Gabriella. Mary Swan Middleton, the main character in The Swan House, is probably the most like me. The story is set in Buckhead, an affluent neighborhood in Atlanta where I grew up. Many of the questions Mary Swan asks in the novel are ones I have wrestled with also. When people ask me if Mary Swan Middleton is me, I respond that I’m a blend of dear Mary Swan and her neurotic, artistic and often depressed mother, Sheila. People don’t always know how to take that! Fortunately, through the amazing grace of Jesus, I am no longer that depressed woman.
Although the story is set in the early 60s when I was just a toddler, much of the background and the characters are taken from my growing up days. I was terrified to see the book in print. I thought my milieu would hate me for writing some of the things I pointed out. But it was the truth as I felt it. And that book has done very well and especially been well received in my hometown of Atlanta.

3. How have your personal faith and beliefs influenced your stories?
I have always longed to write fiction that has the Gospel subtly woven in. I admired Catherine Marshall for doing this back in the 50s with her novels, Christy and Julie—which she wrote long before there was category called Christian fiction. I see my stories as tools. Hopefully Christians will read the story and be encouraged, challenged and even bothered at times by the themes. I call my writing ‘Entertainment with a Soul’. But I also pray that after a reader reads the book, she will pass it on (or better yet, buy another copy=) to a friend who would never darken the doors of a church, and she will read the novel for its captivating story, but also be introduced to the idea of the Gospel and Jesus.
In John chapter 3 verse 30, John the Baptist, speaking of the Lord Jesus, says, “He must increase and I must decrease.” It applies to all of my life, of course, but I find it very important for my writing. I can get stressed out with deadlines and reviews and marketing plans and how many books are selling, and I easily feel overwhelmed. But when I go back and focus on Christ, reminding myself that I have given Him my words and my writing, peace follows. My job is to write the best literature I can and help—as I have time and opportunity—in the marketing of my books. But ultimately, I must leave the results up to the Lord.

4. What is the hardest part of writing a book for you?
It’s writing the book proposal and especially the synopsis. I do plot my stories some, but the characters change and grow as I write and I have such a hard time summing it all up in 2-3 pages for my editor. Right now, I am struggling through this process. I’m itching to just start telling the story, but I have to do the hard part of making my proposal professional and convincing and well-thought-out.

5. What is easiest?

My favorite part is once the story is started and the ideas are flowing. Each day in front of the computer feels like a hug from the Lord. I get to do what I love doing! I enjoy so much watching my characters develop and getting inspiration as the story goes along. Sometimes an image will just float into my mind that will end up being a very important metaphor or symbol in the story. That is such fun. My high school English teacher used to say that ‘the best metaphors come unbidden’ and I think this is true.

6. What's next for you?
My novel, Words Unspoken comes out in the US in May. I am working on publicity for that. I’ve put out a video on YouTube to give my wonderful readers a chance to get to know me better and have a peek into some of the places where the story takes place. Here’s the YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVAKxLogoDQ
And I’m working on a proposal (and that blasted synopsis!) for a three-book series which will start in 1930s Atlanta and deal with a different decade for each book. I’ll get to bring my characters back to Europe too. I am hoping to examine the role of suffering, scars and abundance in our lives. How do we react? How should we react?

7. When did you learn that You wanted to Be an author?
Ever since I was a little girl, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up: a writer. Some of my favorite childhood memories involved writing poems for my family and friends for their birthdays. I started doing this when I was about 6 years old and my parents have drawers filled with my poems and handmade cards. I basically used any excuse I could find to be creative and to write. Here is an example of one of my first poems, written when I was 6=). I love animals and often made up stories and poems about them: I have a little pony I ride him all around But when I take him over jumps He throws me on the ground.
My journals, which I started keeping as a teen, are filled with this prayer: “Lord, if you’ve given me this gift of writing, please show me how to use it and please let me write a book and dedicate it to my grandmother while she’s still alive.” (You’ll have to read the dedication in my first novel, Two Crosses, to see how the Lord answered this prayer.)
And do you have any advice for amateur authors?
Write, write, write and pray, pray, pray! (That’s the short answer!) I’d encourage them to attend a writers’ conference and learn how to be professional about a proposal, about talking to a publisher. Do your homework. Read widely, make time to write regularly, become informed about the craft of writing and persevere. (I have more information available on my website: http://www.elizabethmusser.com/) But I really think that the best advice is to keep writing. And reading – I would say read great fiction, all kinds – and then just write.

8. What is your Favorite Time Period/Place to write your stories? Why?
Hmmm. Well, anyone who has read my first six novels would probably conclude that my favorite time period is the early 1960s—when most of these stories take place. I write what I call ‘recent historical inspirational fiction’ (Yes, I know it’s a mouthful!) But Words Unspoken takes place in 1987 during the stock market crash of Black Monday—I didn’t know as I was writing the story how timely it would be—and I am deep into research now about the 1930s, so how about if we say ‘I like to write about the 20th century.’ And I like to place my stories in the south. The south of the US and the south of France. I’m a Southern girl through and through. So you could also say I write ‘Southern fiction with a French twist.’ We can learn so many things from history. I am not a great historian, but I’ve learned to love research. It is fascinating. And truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
Since I write ‘recent historical fiction’, I can often interview people who lived through the certain period of history or specific event that I am describing. This is so very helpful. Right now, I’m reading through my 95-year-old grandmother’s diaries from when she was a teen. Wonderful!

9. You live in France, How does that affect your books?
As I’ve said, I like to challenge my readers in my stories. I have been challenged in so many ways by living overseas and I think Americans need to have their eyes opened to different cultures. So some of the issues I raise will hopefully cause my readers to think about their belief systems and whether or not what they think is actually truth. An example is in my novel Searching for Eternity. The main character, Emile, is a young teen whose father is French and mother American. He’s lived his whole life in France. Suddenly his father disappears and he has to move to America. There, at church, he hears that drinking wine is a sin. Well, in France he grew up with a wine bottle on the table. At one point he essentially asks the question, “In America is it a sin to drink wine but not a sin to make denigrating remarks about someone of a different race?” (The story is set in Atlanta too, during the early 60s). I don’t give an answer—I’m just asking questions.
Living in France has definitely broadened me, made me want to communicate the importance of getting outside our comfort zone and getting to know other cultures. In my writing, there are always issues about race and culture.
I think it is precisely because my stories and characters are not solely in the US—that I deal with themes that are universal—but also that the stories take place in Europe and France and North Africa, that my novels have a big appeal in Europe (they’ve been translated into Norwegian, Dutch and German and the first novel is in French). Europeans (and European Christians) seem more eager to read of these things. Unfortunately, the American Christian market tends to focus mostly on stories that take place in the US. I’ve heard this over and over again. I know that my readers are not only reading stories taking place in the US, but publishers tend to look at stats. So here’s my dilemma: do I change my stories to make them more American? Is this compromise? Fortunately, I have an amazing publisher who works with me and lets me tell my stories—albeit with an American flavor.

10. What's your favorite Type of Books to read? Why?
I don’t have a favorite type—it really depends on my mood. If I want to forget everything and read something fast and entertaining, I read Mary Higgins Clark in French! As a child and teen, I loved Walter Farley, Catherine Marshall, Charles Dickens, Mary Stewart, Bodie Thoene—I wanted to blend action, mystery and faith together. I also loved Nancy Drew when I was a young girl.
I try to read all different types of books—modern literature, some non-fiction, Christian novels… If someone recommends a book, I try to read it. I believe that one of the best things an author can do is to read widely. Some of the books I’ve read recently are: The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver; On Writing, by Stephen King; Lightening by Dean Koontz; Get out of that Pit, by Beth Moore; Money, Possessions and Eternity by Randy Alcorn, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, Winter Birds by Jamie Langston Turner, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, Until We Reach Home by Lynn Austin, a study on the Book of Hebrews called Hoping for Something More by Nancy Guthrie…

11. Anything Else you would like to tell our Readers?
I am often asked ‘what is the most fulfilling thing about your work as missionary and author?’ For me, in ministry, it is when someone catches on to Jesus! When they begin to understand. And with my books, it’s when someone comes up to me and says, “your book made me think, or brought me back to the Lord, or caused me to look at things differently or encouraged me in my faith…’.
For more information about my life and books, please visit my website at: http://www.elizabethmusser.com/
There you can read the first two chapters of Words Unspoken and the first chapter of all my other novels.
And I want to tell y’all that it really is a great blessing for an author to interact with her readers and hear from them. On many days when discouragement sets in, the Lord uses an email from a reader to give me a gentle hug and get me back on track! Thanks for reading!

Well Thanks for joining me today Elizabeth, It was fun!

Merci, Rae, I enjoyed it very much too!

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~Well I hope y'all enjoyed that! I know I did, and check back later this week for different things about Elizabeth Musser, and her writings!
2 Responses
  1. Julianna Says:

    Looking forward to it. She is so personable. You'll have to share some of her books. =)


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