The Sweetest ThingThe Sweetest Thing
Elizabeth Musser
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The Singleton family's fortunes seem unaffected by the Great Depression, and Perri--along with the other girls at Atlanta's elite Washington Seminary--lives a carefree life of tea dances with college boys, matinees at the cinema, and debut parties. But when tragedies strike, Perri is confronted with a world far different from the one she has always known.

At the insistence of her parents, Mary "Dobbs' Dillard, the daughter of an itinerant preacher, is sent from inner-city Chicago to live with her aunt and attend Washington Seminary, bringing confrontation and radical ideas. Her arrival intersects at the point of Perri's ultimate crisis, and the tragedy forges an unlikely friendship.

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Elizabeth Musser

Elizabeth Musser

Elizabeth Musser, a native of Atlanta, Georgia now living in France, is a novelist who writes what she calls ‘entertainment with a soul.’  Elizabeth attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee Her novels have been acclaimed in the United States and in Europe.  The Swan House (Bethany House, c2001), set in Atlanta in the early sixties, was an ABA and SEBA bestseller and was named one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the past 100 years, right behind Gone with the Wind (from Georgia Backroads, Autumn, 2009).  Elizabeth’s other novels,  all set in the South in the 1960s-1980s, continue to examine themes of brokenness and healing, faith and forgiveness, surrender and sacrifice. For over 20 years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in mission work with International Teams.  The Mussers have two sons.

Psalm 63: “Oh God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water…”

The Sweetest Thing


 Our Interview with Elizabeth Musser


Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Bonjour from France!  I’m a wife, mom, missionary and novelist.  I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and love the South—it often makes its way into my novels, almost as a character!  My husband and I have lived for the past 20+ years in France as missionaries with International Teams.  We have two grown sons and a brand new daughter in law.

What is your favorite Bible verse?  Why?

My favorite verse changes according to the season’s of my life.  Right now I’ve been meditating on Psalm 63: “Oh God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water…”

I’m memorizing this in English and French and use it on my daily walks to meditate on the glory of God and ask Him to give me a heart and soul that truly thirst for Him.

How did you come up with the concept for The Sweetest Thing?

When we moved my dear grandmother (now 97) from her apartment to a full-care floor in her retirement home in Atlanta, my parents found Grandmom’s diaries from 1928-1932.  I was, of course, eager to take a look.  The diaries sealed the fate of my next novel: I’d write about 1930s Atlanta and specifically the life of two girls attending Washington Seminary (the real-life girls’ school my grandmother attended which eventually became The Westminster Schools, the school I attended). 

As I researched that era and heard stories of how both the wealthy and the disadvantaged survived the Great Depression, I found my characters asking questions that I have asked (and heard asked) time and again: Does God provide in the midst of difficult circumstances?
Do you have a favorite character The Sweetest Thing? Why?

Can’t pick just one.  I decided to try something new for me with this novel:  writing the story using two first person point of views (POVs), in this case, the two teenage girls, Perri and Dobbs, who attend an elite girls’ school in Atlanta.  With this boundary in place, I knew I needed to develop strong individual voices—so I researched each girl’s personality (using Myers-Briggs) and taped those traits up in my office, to help keep me on track.  I grew to love both of these girls with their strengths and faults.  I especially enjoyed exploring the strong bonds of friendship and the influence those bonds have on us.

Dobbs and Perri are completely opposite in personality,  yet they are both determined to survive, no matter what.  How they go about ‘surviving’ is the plot of the story.  The Sweetest Thing is about friendships and the influence they can have on us.  Near the end of the novel, both Perri and Dobbs find themselves doing things that resemble the other person’s actions or thoughts, adopting the habits, expressions, even beliefs, of the other, although at first they were diametrically opposed to each other.  I enjoyed creating the twists and turns not only in these girls’ outer lives, but their inner lives as well.

I also really love two of the little girls in my novel: Coobie and Parthenia—love getting into the skin of these fun and feisty and courageous little girls.


How much research did The Sweetest Thing take?

A whole lot!  Many of my previous novels were set in the 1960s in America and France.  Delving into the 1930s was brand new territory for me.  I greatly enjoyed my research, from spending hours in the archives of The Westminster Schools and looking through the yearbooks and school newspapers etc of the real Washington Seminary to studying about what was going on in history during the 19030s.   I learned so much.  The only thing that is frustrating is that I only get to put a tiny bit of my research into the actual book.  But I have to get all my facts straight so that the story will be believable.

What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing The Sweetest Thing?

I suppose the thing that struck me most was how we humans never change.  In the 1930s setting of elite Atlanta, people are desperately looking for ways to fill themselves up—movies, parties, cars, dates—so that they won’t have to face the deeper void in their lives.  But the financial crisis (the Great Depression) forces them to look for help—in one way or another.  It’s the same thing today.  In crisis, we seek help, but from where do we seek it? What fills our void?  Does it work?

What are some of the challenges you face as an author?

My biggest challenge is balancing two jobs.  With our mission’s work, there are many times when I’m simply not available to write.  I LOVE to escape to my ‘writing chalet’, the tool shed in our yard that has become my office.  But there are weeks and sometimes months when I am away and busy and cannot do this.  For The Sweetest Thing, I had to start and stop the novel several times within the year I was writing it.  This isn’t ideal.  However, the Lord knows my life and schedule and I am so thankful for both of my jobs.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?

I love the aspect of creating.  Once I’ve got an idea down—I’ve created a place and time and characters and plot—I really enjoy the pace of writing the first draft, just letting my creativity flow.
I also enjoy the editing process.  I am blessed with wonderful editors and that makes the refining process fun.

What new projects are on the horizon?

Well, it’s an ‘old’ new project.  I’m thrilled that David C. Cook will be putting my French-Algerian trilogy back in print in 2012.  I wrote the trilogy (Two Crosses, Two Testaments, Two Destinies) way back in the 90s.  The first two novels were published by Victor Books, but the third was never published in English (they are all available in Dutch, German and Norwegian!)  Readers have been begging me for years for Two Destinies.  I’m delighted that finally I can offer this novel to them.  I’m also re-editing the first two—very fun.  I’ve learned a thing or two over the past 15 years and hopefully it will show!


What message would you like your readers to take from reading The Sweetest Thing?

First, here’s what I’d like to ask my readers: Have you ever asked God ‘Why’?  Have you ever wondered if good can come out of bad?  Have you ever been in a place where you are simply trying to survive?  Have you ever found yourself drawn to a friend in a quick spontaneous way and known that she would become a soul mate, even though you’d only known her for a few days? Join me in the story of Perri and Dobbs, two remarkable young women, opposites in every way, who are thrown together in 1930s elitist Atlanta in the midst of great national and personal turmoil and are forced to asked these questions and search for answers.  I guarantee you’ll fall in love with the characters and you might even find a few answers to questions you’ve been asking yourself!

I’d like the reader to look for several themes and come to some conclusions for herself.  First and foremost, I tackled the theme of: ‘Survival and God’s provision.’  I wanted my characters to struggle with a question I’ve contemplated for many years: Does God provide for the individual in the midst of life’s difficult circumstances, and if so, how does He do it?

Another important theme is how people are constantly trying to fill themselves on something—be it wealth, entertainment, politics, friendship—and are never quite satisfied.

Other themes include: the powerful influence of friendships in an individual’s life, the disparity between the wealthy and the poor in the midst of the Great Depression, the influence of society on the choices of the individual, and what a ‘crisis of faith’ looks like.

After reading The Sweetest Thing, I hope my readers will have several things to chew on and perhaps apply to their lives.

What was your favorite book as a child?

My favorite book as a child was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

What is your greatest achievement?

Letting Jesus be Lord of my life, day in and out, and trusting that when I fall, He will lift me up.  I am over-the-top thankful that He’s allowed me to have a family, a ministry in France and a ministry in writing.  I am also very thankful that I’m married to my best friend and that our sons have become not only sons, but dear, dear friends.  And it humbles me daily that the Lord allows me to see other people’s lives changed—what joy!

What do you do to get away from it all?

I’m a person who is easily overwhelmed by life, so I have to be careful about how much information I put into my little brain.  To get away on a regular basis, I take a long walk with the Lord—daily. I also enjoy photography, watching old movies, reading all kinds of things and doing gardening and scrapbooking.  I enjoy puttering around the house with beautiful music playing, laughing with my husband and hearing our sons’ voices on the phone and playing with our dog.  And sleep.  I love to sleep!  The simple things in life refresh me.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

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 and begin to understand His power in our lives.  And with my books, it’s when someone writes to me or 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…’.

It 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!


The Swan House
The Swan House
Elizabeth Musser
CBD Price: $11.99

Sweetest Thing, The - eBook

Sweetest Thing, The - eBook
Elizabeth Musser
CBD Price: $9.69

Swan House, The: A Novel - eBook

Swan House, The: A Novel - eBook
Elizabeth Musser
CBD Price: $9.99

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