Hello, reader friends! Author friend Elizabeth Musser is sharing her five favorite Christmas traditions and joining us for a quick chat in honor of her new release When I Close My Eyes!
about the author
Elizabeth Musser writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Elizabeth’s highly acclaimed, best-selling novel, The Swan House, was named one of Amazon’s Top Christian Books of the Year and one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the Past 100 Years (Georgia Backroads). All of Elizabeth’s novels have been translated into multiple languages and have been international best-sellers. Two Destinies, the final novel in The Secrets of the Cross trilogy, was a finalist for the 2013 Christy Award. The Long Highway Home was a finalist for the 2018 Carol Awards. Elizabeth’s tenth novel, When I Close My Eyes, was just released in November, 2019.
For over thirty years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions’ work in Europe with One Collective, formerly International Teams. The Mussers have two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.
five favorite Christmas traditions
E: Setting up our nativity—called a crèche in French—with santons, little hand-painted clay figures made in Provence. Each one is bringing his/her wares to present to the Christ child. We’ve collected over 50 of them throughout our years in France.
Making kiss cookies with our sons (this took planning since we had to have Kiss candies shipped to us in France). Now we make them with our grandkids when we’re home in the States.
Baking a birthday cake for Jesus which we serve at a Christmas Day eve party. The youngest child present gets to blow out the candles.
The annual reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In the first photo, our son Andrew is reading The Grinch in 2006 at home in France. In the second he’s reading to his three children a few days ago in Georgia.
Advent Calendars! For our first Christmas in France, my mother sent us this Velcro advent calendar. Our sons looked forward to unwrapping the little gift each day. Thirty-one years later, we still love hanging it up and letting the grandkids enjoy.
B: What sweet family traditions and those grandbabies are cuties!
What is your favorite activity or hobby not related to books?
E: I love walking, morning, noon, or night, rain, or shine. On my daily, brisk walks you will find me either plotting a scene for a novel, having a heart-to-heart with the Lord, or discussing life with one of the many wonderful people the Lord has put in my life.
B: How lovely! Walking is probably my most athletic activity, lol!
Describe yourself in five words.
E: Creative, encourager, easily-overwhelmed-by-life (hyphenated counts as one word=), recovering-control-freak
B: So far, we have a lot in common!
Share your inspiration behind When I Close My Eyes.
E: When I Close My Eyes opens with Henry Hughes failing in his attempt to assassinate Josephine Bourdillon. While the middle-aged writer lies in a coma, she retraces her lifelong struggle with depression.
Although Josephine’s family of origin in no way resembles mine—her father was a violent alcoholic and my sweet daddy is the best in the world; she has a wild, rebellious sister and I have two wonderful, law-abiding brothers—her struggle with depression and her memories of her childhood as she lies in a coma could have been taken directly from my journals if I had kept journals as a child and teen.
So the novel was inspired by the way I have encountered God’s grace in the midst of my bouts of depression. I wanted to create a riveting story (to share the ‘what if’ question that truly inspired the novel would be a plot spoiler) that invites readers to think about mental illness, hypocrisy, and grace. I am humbled and encouraged by the comments I’m getting from readers.
B: I truly appreciate your transparency and thank you for bringing attention to mental illness.
What are some of the challenges you faced while writing When I Close My Eyes?
E: The novel is part whodunit and part family drama, but, as I’ve shared, it deals with three pretty heavy themes: mental illness, hypocrisy, and God’s grace. One challenge was to present realistic characters from completely different backgrounds who deal with mental illness—showing the many different forms it can take. Another challenge was to create a sympathetic hitman! And I also wanted to tiptoe up to the issue of how we as believers can be known for our hate instead of our love. How to accomplish these things while offering ‘entertainment with a soul’ to my readers was daunting. But I love to be stretched as a writer.
Another challenge was that I had to make two major plot changes for the English edition of the novel. I wrote the novel in English, but it was first published in Dutch, German, and Norwegian. (Don’t even ask.) For very legitimate reasons that you may inquire about after reading the novel, my American publisher wanted me to change one aspect of the plot—so now there are two huge twists, and I’m delighted with the result.
B: Oh wow, what a journey this story has been on! I can’t wait to read it!
What is your next release?
E: I just turned in the manuscript for The Promised Land, (releasing November 2020). I’m very excited about this story which gives a nod to characters from three of my previous novels: The Swan House, The Dwelling Place, and The Long Highway Home.
Here’s a little blurb about the novel:
“You’d be surprised at what can get through to you when everything else is taken away.”
Abbie Bartholomew Jowett is smack dab in the middle of loss. Her oldest son is taking a gap year in Europe, her aging father is losing his memory, and, a week before moving to a new home, her husband of twenty years announces that he is moving out.
Abbie is a perfectionist, and her over-the-top control has gradually worn her fun-loving husband down. Even as he leaves, she has already planned his 50th birthday surprise party, complete with the save-the-date invitation already sent, the tickets for a surprise trip to France already bought, and the cross-stitched family tree, tracing Bill’s heritage back to the first Huguenots in France, almost complete.
Desperate to get her husband back, she goes to see a Spiritual Director who suggests that, instead of plotting to get her husband back, “Let’s get Abbie back first.”
When her son invites her to walk the famed Camino in France and Spain, she takes a deep breath and a deep plunge into the unknown.
B: Aw, yay! Readers love revisiting characters! Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Elizabeth!
about the book
When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser
Won’t they find out about The Awful Year. . . ?
There is one story novelist Josephine Bourdillon shirked from writing. And now she may never have a chance. Trapped in her memories, she lies in a coma.
The man who put her there is just as paralyzed. Former soldier Henry Hughes failed to complete the kill. What’s more: he failed to receive payment–funds that would ensure surgery for his young son.
As detectives investigate disturbing fan letters, a young but not-so-naïve Paige Bourdillon turns to her mother’s tormented past for answers. How bad could remembering The Awful Year truly be compared to the one they’re all living?
Set against the flaming hills of North Carolina and the peaceful shores of the Mediterranean Sea, When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser tells the story of two families struggling with dysfunction and finding that love is stronger than death.
Thanks to the publisher, we have a print copy of When I Close My Eyes for one fortunate Faithfully Bookish reader!
US only | ends 12/26 | complete giveaway rules
Join our chat by sharing your thoughts in the comments!
When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser is on my tbr!
Are you adding it to yours, reader friends?