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Intersection Column | When Reality Becomes Fiction

by Elizabeth Musser

As a Southern girl, it’s no secret that Atlanta is my favorite American city in which to spin my stories. But in my new novel, By Way of the Moonlight, I am not just focusing on Atlanta or even Buckhead, the neighborhood where I grew up. This time, I weave a fictional tale around my childhood home as I ask questions about the worth of land, faith, family history, memories and shared dreams.

My grandfather purchased five acres in the “boonies” outside of Atlanta in 1938 and built a small house and a two-horse barn to indulge his only child (my mother) and her love of horses. My mother was a great equestrian, showing competitively until she was seventy.

After my grandmother passed away, my family moved to the house and my parents began additions and renovations to this property, which was located in what was becoming the heart of Atlanta. I was a nine-year-old, horse-loving dreamer. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I rode and wrote stories about horses, and I often wondered what would happen if, in a hundred years, someone dug up our riding ring and found the bones of our buried horses. My novels often touch on themes that mirror events and ruminations in my own life, and many decades later, I began to pen a novel about finding “dinosaur” bones in the backyard of a longtime family property.

I have many photos of the real Hickory Hills, as well as photos of the silver trophies and ribbons won by my mother as she showed her champion mares, and I delighted in making one-minute videos of my childhood home and property to share with readers on the By Way of the Moonlight Virtual Tour.

So how close to reality is this story?

By Way of the Moonlight is my first dual-time novel. One of the great privileges of writing historical fiction is the wealth of new knowledge I gain as I do research. I hadn’t heard of the Coast Guard Mounted Patrol until I began this novel. I serendipitously happened on a photo of a group of military men galloping their mounts along the beach of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina—my family’s favorite vacation spot for the past fifty years—taken during the Battle of the Atlantic in WWII, when the island was still mostly deserted. I found myself cantering into the world of the Sand Pounders, and what a wild ride that was!

I loved every part of writing this novel because it was so close to my heart. I was doing research in my childhood home, reliving my mother’s past and digging into history that was brand-new to me, which was all about horses. I had such fun including lots of slightly altered incidents from my growing-up days with horses, my favorite by far being the mystery of finding dinosaur bones in a Buckhead backyard. Truth is stranger than fiction, and my family’s story has a lot of delightfully strange events in it.

I also enjoyed creating two sweet love stories that, in my humble opinion, are swoon worthy and sure to bring laughter and tears. Love in the 1940s and in present day aren’t so different when they involve a besotted girl, a kind and adventurous guy and horses. Lots of horses!

The story is also a bittersweet ode to my beloved parents, Jere W. Goldsmith IV, my precious and over-the-top generous daddy, who graduated to heaven a few months before this novel was published, and Barbara Dale Bulter Goldsmith, my feisty and devoted horse-loving mother, who predeceased Daddy by six years. The hoofprints of their remarkable lives are all over this story. I miss them both terribly but have a lifetime of wild and wonderful memories in the house and barn at Hickory Hills.

I always love weaving tidbits of what the Lord is teaching me into my stories, allowing my characters to question, grow and change. As I wrote, the Lord reminded me of old lessons of faith and taught me new lessons of trust. I spent a lot of time on my knees, praying for clarity about this story and also praying for my father who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. One of my favorite themes in the novel is one that I think we all need to practice: When life gets too hard to stand, kneel. My prayer is that as parts of my reality have become fiction in By Way of the Moonlight, they will be a blessing and a beautiful ride for my readers.


About the Author

Elizabeth Musser writes “entertainment with a soul” from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. All of Elizabeth’s novels have been translated into multiple languages and have been international bestsellers. For over thirty-five 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, two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren. Find more about Elizabeth and her novels at


About the Book

For as long as she can remember, Allie Massey, a gifted physical therapist, has dreamed of making her grandparents' ten-acre estate into a trauma recovery center using equine therapy—a dream her grandmother, Nana Dale, embraced wholeheartedly. But when her grandmother's will is read, Allie is shocked to learn the property has been sold to a developer. As Nana Dale's past comes to light in Allie's search for answers, Dale's courage and persistence may be just what Allie needs to carry on her grandmother's legacy and keep her own dreams alive.


Did You Know?

According to UNC TV Science News, we make about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day, and an average of 226.7 decisions each day on food alone. Our decisions are important, but we can struggle to make up our mind due to several factors:

  • Mindsets inhibit our ability to choose wisely. We can become entrapped by our own thoughts and confused as to how to make the best decisions. Mindsets impact our emotions, as well as paralyze our ability to think clearly.

  • Mindsets are not a life sentence. Though we can feel like we cannot overcome mindsets like the depressive or anxious mindsets, the mind of Christ is available to all believers. Through repentance, our mindsets can be unlocked.

  • Circumstances impact our mindset, but through strategies, tips and understanding how the mind of Christ works, we can have victory over our thought life and no longer be subject to our mindsets.

When we place God’s thoughts over our thoughts, we can discern truth and walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh.

-Denise Pass & Michelle Nietert, Make Up Your Mind


Why I LOVE My Local Christian Bookstore

“I love shopping in bookstores because there’s nothing like the smell and feel of books, connecting with others who love to read and the hope of finding the perfect story.”


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