For over twenty years, Elizabeth and her husband Paul have been in involved in mission work in France with the International Teams, providing pastoral care to (in her words) “a lot of wonderful, courageous people who work all over Europe.”
Elizabeth with her mom, celebrating the arrival of Two Destinies! Says Elizabeth, “This novel is dedicated to Mom – only took 14 years for her to get to hold it!” (Since it is only now debuting in America.)
With her precious 97-year-old Grandmom, holding a lovely photo of her when she was 15… inspiration for Elizabeth’s novel, The Sweetest Thing
As Elizabeth says, “Adorable, n’est-ce pas?” Loving new Grandma, soaking up time with beautiful first grandson, Jesse Andrew Musser… Oh, too soon, it’s back to France…
But for us, now, it’s delightfully…
Pam at Apples of Gold:
I love your theme in the Secret of the Crosses Trilogy about God’s tapestry in our lives, how He weaves people, places and times into our lives, how the back side of this may look like a tangle of many colored threads, but when you turn it over you begin to see God’s beautiful plan for your life…intertwined with others. How has the Lord inspired you with this theme? In what ways have you seen God’s tapestry in your own life…bringing you to who you are today as a person, a writer, a wife/mother/grandmother, a minister of His heart?
For many years, I prayed “Lord, if you want me to do something more with the gift of writing that you’ve given me, please show me!” I never could have imagined the way He would combine my love for writing and my passion for sharing my faith. I honestly felt that my life was a tangle of elements, and I was especially confused as to what direction I should take upon completing my degrees of French and English in college.
I’d spent a semester in France and seen the spiritual apathy in that country, but I didn’t imagine myself as a missionary. Then I attended Urbana 1981, a missions’ conference for 17,000 students, and most unexpectedly felt God calling me to short-term missions in France. I was shocked! And I am even more shocked that, thirty years later, I am still involved in missions in France and all over Europe.
The Lord brought Paul into my life (he was the young single man on my team for that short term mission) and I finally convinced him to remain my teammate for life. I certainly never expected to meet my husband on the mission field. And then the Lord spurred me along in my writing journey as I sent quarterly prayer letters to people back in the States. Their encouragement that I should think of writing a book kept that dream alive.
So for many long years, God was weaving, weaving, these callings and circumstances into my life in a way that would one day allow my life as wife, mother (and new grandmother!), missionary and writer to become a tapestry of His love. I am amazed at what He has done and I look back on all the different times He gently pushed me into things I was afraid of, to get me to where I am today—a woman in love with Jesus and dependent on Him to finish the weaving of my life’s story for His glory.
A Tapestry of His Love. I like that. Who or what has He woven into your life tapestry that has most influenced your writing?
He has woven: being raised with wealth and learning to live with much less, psychological and chronic physical pain with learning to appreciate the joy of the moment, the joy of seeing new life in Christ and the heartbreak for those who hear the message of the Gospel and turn away, the love of my family and friends with the heartache of being far away from those I love, the feelings of being alone in a foreign culture with the gift of other ‘family’ in the country of France and the way this country has become home; He has woven hardship and humility and suffering and weakness in with silliness and depth of prayer and study and hopelessness that found hope only in Him. He the Weaver has woven the stitches so that it all became a tapestry that pointed back to His keeping power in my life. On my own, I can’t, but with Him, I can.
I can see all of that within each of your novels…And that makes me wonder, what in particular spoke to you about the French Algerian war that made you just have to write this story of the two crosses?
I think that first and foremost, what spoke to me was that I didn’t know a thing about this war and barely knew where Algeria was. I lived in Montpellier, a city directly across the Mediterranean Sea from Algeria and burgeoning with ‘pied-noirs’—that is, French citizens who had lived their whole lives in Algeria and had been forced to flee that country at the end of the war in 1962. I heard stories, I did a great deal of research and I felt that Americans might be interested in learning about another war with which they weren’t familiar.
Also, as the romanticist that I am, I imagined many wonderful scenes in the beauty of Southern France. Everywhere I looked, history spoke to me—from the imposing arches of the Pont du Gard aqueduct dating back two thousand years, to the craggy hills of Les Baux de Provence where the village was built right into the stones, to the lazy tree-lined avenues of Aix-en-Provence and Montpellier where students sipped drinks at sidewalk cafes. I also had much I wanted to share about art and literature and the history of the Huguenots (the first French Protestants) as well as all the grisly details of the war. I was so thrilled to have a contract to write a novel, that I wanted to put all of my favorite things in it!
The first thing that struck me about this series was – how have I never heard of this war? And I love all the beauty and romance of Southern France that you wove into this story! Your favorite things… they inspire the reader to dream. I love each of the characters in this trilogy and can see a bit of myself in several of them. Do you see pieces of yourself in one or more of them?
How do you come up with your cast of characters? Do you see them clearly in your mind as you are writing, or do they evolve as you write?
I generally have an idea of the main characters, but they certainly develop as I write the story and then the secondary characters seem to naturally take their place as the story continues. As I’m preparing the synopsis and outlines, I make a sketch of the protagonists and this includes not only their physical appearance, but all the different aspects of their personality. I like to use the Taylor-Johnson temperament analysis and the book Please Understand Me (as well as other tools) to create believable personalities. And of course, my personality makes its way into some of the characters.
When I was writing The Sweetest Thing, my depression-era novel, I had two first-person point-of-view protagonists, so I needed my ‘voice’ for each girl to sound different. I kept their personality traits on a post-it taped to the wall of my writing chalet (the tool shed where I write) to help me keep on track.
As a writer, how do you take the germ of an idea, like the fact of the French Algerian war, and weave the characters and setting so intricately? Would you say you are more of a planner of the details, or do you find the Lord leading you to new characters, twists and turns as you write?
I’m a bit of both. I usually have a lot of ideas for the storyline as I begin a novel and probably have a notion of the ending, but I don’t plot everything out because as the story unfolds, the characters change and they do unexpected things. I love that!
Also, with some of my novels, I really had no idea how one of the subplots was going to be resolved until well into the story. I figure that if I, the writer, don’t know how it’s going to turn out, then the reader won’t be able to guess either! And as I delve into research, I often find sparkling tidbits of information that fit in perfectly and even reaffirm a plot-line I’m using. Very fun. Throughout the whole process, I am praying and asking the Lord to help me create a story that is believable and will indeed touch hearts.
I love how your books always lift my heart with an ultimate story of redemption from sorrow or tragedy. They are rich, poignant and heart-involving and each one is unique. Your characters are so real they feel like people I know (or wish I knew), and although they may have a back story of a sorrowful event, their stories are intricate and lovely, without being depressing.
Where do you think this heartbreak/redemption theme comes from in your writing?
Thank you, Pam, for your encouraging words. I believe this theme comes from the Gospel, the ultimate story of heartbreak and redemption. I believe God planted my desire to write this type of story in my heart way back when I was a little girl. All throughout elementary school and high school I wrote short stories with themes of loss and sorrow and redemption. It came straight from the Lord (the desire, I mean) —
There is more to this answer from Elizabeth,
and still more questions to come…
so please join the conversation again for Part III, next…
If you’ve missed any, simply go to Interviews,
under categories on the right…
© Pam Depoyan
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Linking with: Multitudes on Monday counting blessings with this blogging community, with thankfulness for His heart and light shining through Elizabeth and the words and stories He leads her to write. For the beautiful threads of tapestry He is weaving in each of our stories. For the gift of words…and sharing…and prayers…across oceans and Internet. For becoming friends with those we may not otherwise have met. For God’s Divine Appointments and setting dreams into motion. And for the incredible power of a beautifully written story to attune hearts to His Holy Spirit whisper in just the moment we need it.
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