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What Inspires a Writer

By Elizabeth Musser

I often get asked the question by readers, “What inspired you to write this novel?” And my answer is usually the same each time. “Life.” So, so many things in life have inspired my novels.

My first novels, a trilogy, were inspired by the Huguenot cross, the first Protestant cross made in France in the late 1600s. Having recently arrived in France, I was drawn to the delicate beauty and rich history of the cross.

The cover of The Wren’s Nest in Dutch. The title in Dutch is Closer Than You Think

With my novel The Swan House, I had to reach no further than my memories as a child. I often visited The High Museum of Art in Atlanta with my grandmother or my parents. Inside the museum, there was a stone plaque on which were listed 130 names of Atlantans from my neighborhood who had perished in a plane crash. One of the casualties had been my grandmother’s next-door neighbor. The story of that true and terrible event haunted and inspired me for decades, until at last, I penned a novel about it.

As writers, we walk around with our antennas up, don’t we? Since truth is stranger than fiction, we pay attention to those stories about real people which have a surprising twist or turn. That’s the case for my upcoming novel, The Wren’s Nest.

Several years ago, my brother told me about a conversation he had on a genealogy site.  A woman posted that she was looking for information about a certain family line.  My brother, knowing that this was our own family line, responded, “I believe I have information for you.  Are we related?”

“We’re not related,” came this woman’s reply through cyberspace, “but my great-great-great grandmother was a slave on your great-great-great grandfather’s plantation.”

Wow! I thought. Now that’s a great story. And so I began to formulate my story. What if two women with this connection met in present day and what if they had records from that plantation (as my brother did) and what if I added another layer to this story…

Around the same time, I had become very involved in an association that reaches out to victims of human trafficking here in Lyon.  Along with other members of our small association, I went out in the streets late at night to offer hope to these trafficked girls.  As I learned more about the statistics of trafficking all over the world, I saw similarities between slavery in 19th century America and modern-day human trafficking.

I wrote this novel because I was paying close attention to life.

I’m sure you do it, too. You get that pinching in your chest when an idea inspires you, when something touches your heart, when you just know there is a story to be told. Then we take out a little notebook or our cell phone and scribble or text ourselves the fleeting idea that floated into our mind after hearing some tidbit of a story that we can’t seem to forget or the scene we just witnessed outside our car window. Or a conversation with our sibling. Or the memory of that stone plaque at the museum.

We reach inside, and we let ourselves be moved by life.

And then, we take a deep breath, and we write.

Elizabeth Musser usually writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France where she and her husband, Paul, live. They are involved in missions’ work in Europe.  To be closer to family, the Mussers have moved back to the Southeast for 2017-2018 school year and are living in the Chattanooga area near their son, daughter-in-law and three wonderful grandkids. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at and on Facebook, Twitter, and her blog. The Wren’s Nest is already a bestseller in Europe and will be coming to the US in the very near future.







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5 Responses to What Inspires a Writer

  1. JPC Allen says:

    Great reminder on how to find inspiration!

  2. Oh, wow, Elizabeth! I didn’t know the backstory for A Wren’s Nest. Now I REALLY can’t wait to read it. Sounds wonderful! Also, I love your use of the word “haunted.” That’s exactly how I feel when a story won’t let me go and I know that eventually I simply MUST write it. I have a couple of stories haunting me right now. For a writer, this is a very good thing. 🙂

  3. Ane Mulligan says:

    I missed that one, Elizabeth. I thought I’d read all your books! I need to get that one.

  4. Been wonderful ‘getting to know you’ a little through your books and contact this year. I am about to put ‘Long Highway Home’ and Deborah Raney’s ‘Nest of Sparrows’ on my top 10 reads for the year.
    Hope to read more of your books this year.

  5. Thanks, girls, for you kind messages! Merry Christmas!!!