Please join me in welcoming the marvelous Elizabeth Musser to the blog today to chat about her latest book When I Close My Eyes!
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. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her blog.
WHEN I CLOSE MY EYES
GENRE: Inspirational Women’s Fiction
PUBLISHER: Bethany House
RELEASE DATE: November 5, 2019
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 tells the story of two families struggling with dysfunction and finding that love is stronger than death.
“When I Close My Eyes is an enthralling story about family secrets, regret, and shame. . . . Thank you, Elizabeth, for writing an honest book that will be a comfort to the afflicted and to those who love and long for them.”–Sharon Garlough Brown, Author of the Sensible Shoes series and Shades of Light
“Musser delivers a powerful story about mental illness and forgiveness, connecting the culprit and victim of a violent attack through their strong faith. . . . Musser’s raw portrayal of life with mental illness and the strength of faith to overcome injury will appeal to readers who enjoyed Katie Ganshert’s Life After.”–Publishers Weekly starred review
Hi dear Elizabeth! Welcome back to the blog!
Elizabeth: I love listening to music while I cook or clean or wrap gifts (but never while I write—I need complete silence.) I haven’t gotten into audiobooks yet, but I’m thankful my novels are available on audio (and no, it kind of freaks me out to listen to my novels, so I don’t do it!)
Carrie: Audiobooks and I have a love-hate relationship (mostly hate lol) but I love having music on in the background while I blog.
Carrie: hahaha i never realized how much in the minority I am on this issue until I started asking authors this question
Elizabeth: I’m from Atlanta so is there any soft drink other than Coke?
Carrie: no, no there is not 😉
Elizabeth: Both and as often as possible! The best is when there are mountains near the ocean.
Q: Other than the Bible, what are five of your most cherished books?
- A Little Princess—As a girl, I loved the riches to rags to riches story, the setting, and the plot twist. I read it over and over, enthralled and inspired.
- A Tale of Two Cities—As a young woman, I was fascinated, captivated, and inspired by Dickens’ writing, the way he interwove the characters’ lives, the many plot twists, the themes of forgiveness and redemption. So many things made my heart leap and challenged me as an aspiring writer.
- Rebecca—Again, as a young woman, this novel captivated me with the mystery, the setting, the plot twists, the beauty of language, the foreboding.
- Two Crosses, my first published novel, an answer to thirty years of writing and praying, “Lord, if you want me to do something with this gift you’ve given me, show me.”
- More recently, Sensible Shoes by Sharon Garlough Brown—a novel that introduced me to Spiritual Direction and took me deeper into God’s heart of love for His children, and especially for me.
Carrie: I loved A Tale of Two Cities AND Two Crosses 🙂
Q: Any snacks/beverages that are a must when you sit down to write?
Elizabeth: I start my writing day with a cup of English Breakfast tea. My second cup of tea is a mix of that English Breakfast teabag and a new Chai Spice teabag (I’m a good missionary—I reuse my teabags!) and a nice thick square of dark chocolate with almonds. Sigh.
Carrie: that sounds delightful and cozy and comforting!
Q: Which of your main characters is most like you?
Elizabeth: Many people have asked me if I am ‘Mary Swan’, my protagonist in The Swan House. My answer has always been, “I am half Mary Swan and half her mentally deranged mother, Sheila.” But with my most recent novel, When I Close My Eyes, I’m not splitting personalities. I am very much like Josephine, the middle-aged writer of historical fiction who lies in a coma after an assassination attempt (no, I’ve never experienced that) and retraces her lifelong struggle with depression (that’s what I’ve lived).
Carrie: As a fellow struggler/survivor, I’m so glad you wrote Josephine!
Q: Which character in When I Close My Eyes was the most difficult to write?
Elizabeth: Hmm. Well, it was hard to get into the skin of Henry, the hitman in the novel, but I loved trying to figure out his motivations—he hires himself for the job out of desperation, needing to raise money to pay for his young son’s heart surgery. I also wanted to have a character completely outside the evangelical Christian world who is looking in and wondering, so I enjoyed the interplay of Henry learning about God’s grace as he reads Josephine’s novels, all the while knowing he needs to ‘finish the job’ if he’s going to receive payment.
But writing in Josephine’s point of view was also difficult because many of Josephine’s memories of her childhood and young adulthood struggles with depression are similar to my own. Those painful memories made the writing a challenge, but one that I gladly welcomed as I discovered Josephine’s story arc. I’ve seen God’s healing hand in my life. Would Josephine find something similar?
Carrie: These two characters are so layered and complex – I love it!
Q: As we’ve already discussed, depression is one of the themes in When I Close My Eyes. What are some ways that we can continue to bring awareness to this vital topic within the Christian community?
Elizabeth: There are many things we can do. I encourage others to ask the Lord how to get involved. For me, writing a story which treats this topic was my way of helping to bring awareness and break the taboo of silence that is all too often present in the Christian community.
It’s estimated that 16.2 million adults in the United States, or 6.7 percent of American adults, have had at least one major depressive episode in a given year. While suicide is the tenth leading cause of death among the general American population, it is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of ten and twenty-four. Suicide rates in the US have increased more than 25 percent since 1999.
Well-known pastor and evangelist Louis Giglio says that mental illness is not a one size fits all problem. It can happen for a number of reasons: trauma in our lives, genetics, chemical imbalance, stress, external circumstances, result of our own personal failures that we try to hide from others. A lot of things can cause it. Louis challenges the church to wake up and understand the power of the grip of the darkness people are struggling with. He insists, and I agree, that we HAVE to talk about depression, anxiety, and suicide. The church has the ability to shine a light into this darkness through Jesus. We must counter the stigma of mental illness—whether it’s PTSD, depression, anxiety, or something else, in the evangelical Christian community and break the silence.
If you have a loved one who is really struggling, be the one to help. Even if you don’t understand depression, be there for him or her. Remind them that the world won’t be better without them and that help is available. Sometimes all we need is a wake-up call from a friend reminding us that we are important and calling us out and making us promise to get help.
Carrie: yes, yes, yes, and yes. If not for that ‘taboo of silence’ that surrounds depression and anxiety in the church, I might have gotten help a lot sooner. I am now so passionate about helping to counter those stigmas and start those conversations. Thank you for what you’re doing to help break this taboo of silence too!
Q: What is one of your favorite quotes from When I Close My Eyes & why do you love it?
Elizabeth: “Breathe in God’s forgiveness each day and breathe out his grace.” This is what I want my readers to experience—the freedom of forgiveness and then the ability to FEEL forgiven and twirl around in God’s amazing grace. Yes, we’re all broken; yes, we all need help. The characters in When I Close My Eyes find that help is available—for depression and other mental illnesses, but also for anger and judgment and hypocrisy. So often it starts with a breath-prayer, admitting our needs, acknowledging the over-the-top love our Lord has for us, and accepting His forgiveness and grace.
Carrie: Amen. So much this. Yes.
Thank you so much for taking time to talk with me! 🙂 Before we say goodbye for today, tell us what‘s coming up next for you.
Elizabeth: Thank YOU, dear Carrie, for the privilege of being with you and your readers.
I just turned in the manuscript for my next novel, The Promised Land, which comes out November, 2020. I’ve had so much fun letting characters from three of my previous novels, The Swan House, The Dwelling Place, and The Long Highway Home, meander their way into this novel. Here’s a short blurb:
“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.
Carrie: eeep!!! Yay!! I can’t wait!
Elizabeth Musser is offering one of my readers a copy of When I Close My Eyes! (US/CAN only for print, ebook is open internationally except where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What interests you most about When I Close My Eyes and/or my Q&A with Elizabeth Musser?