Interview with Dianne Matthews

» Posted on Jan 14, 2011 in Blog | Comments Off on Interview with Dianne Matthews

Drawing Close to God
This week I’m hosting Rachelle McCalla with Danger on Her Doorstep, Jim Rubart with Book of Days, and Dianne Matthews with Drawing Closer to God. If you want to enter the drawings, please leave a comment on one of the post during the week with your email address. I will not enter you without an email address (my way to contact you if you win). If you don’t want to leave an email address, another way you can enter is to email me at The drawings end Sunday (January 16th) evening.

Interview with Dianne Matthews:

1.What made you start writing?
As a little girl, I loved to make up stories and share them with the rest of the class. Writing assignments were always my favorite part of school. But as an adult, I didn’t have the confidence or courage to pursue creative writing. It was just something I fantasized about—a lot. Then in my mid-forties, I began writing occasional articles for my church’s newsletter. I loved sharing information and inspiration, and telling other people’s stories in an interesting way.

2.How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?
In 1999 I attended my first writers’ conference, asking God to show me if writing was His will for me or my own self-centered dream. He answered clearly that week and I began attending the Write-to-Publish conference every June. After a couple of years, I started discussing book ideas with editors and eventually Tyndale House asked for sample devotionals for a book based on holidays, historical events, and pop culture trivia. In July 2004, I received one of my all-time favorite phone calls: their publishing committee had just voted to publish The One Year On This Day, my first daily devotional book.

3.Why do you write?
The short answer is that when I write, I believe that I’m being obedient to God’s call on my life. More specifically, writing devotionals keeps me excited about how fresh and relevant God’s Word is. I love finding ways to illustrate Scriptures and draw out practical applications. And feedback from readers motivates me to keep writing. It’s such a blessing when someone tells me that a devotional has spoken to their specific situation, or says that one of my books is a part of their regular quiet time. A woman in Australia emailed to say how amazed she is that the pages of The One Year Women of the Bible often mirror what’s going on in her own life. An older couple sent me several notes as they read The One Year On This Day together. One young mom wrote that she was feeling spiritually dry and unable to serve God, but now she’s going through one of my devotionals and keeping a journal which she plans to pass on to her two daughters some day. Comments like that remind me what a privilege this is.

4.What themes do you like to write about?
I love to use all kinds of themes and topics to look at Scripture in fresh ways and draw out practical applications. This can be seen especially in my first book, where I used such topics as Mickey Mouse, Silly Putty, the fad of streaking, and National Pay Your Bills Week to illustrate spiritual truths.

5.Do you put yourself into your books/characters?
Yes, I often use personal experience stories as opening illustrations for devotionals. If other people are involved, I make them seem fictional, but the Lord has prompted me to share some really stupid things that I’ve done. It’s humbling but at least readers seem to relate.

6.What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?
That seems like asking a parent to pick out a favorite among their children! But I guess I do have a special attachment to The One Year Women of the Bible. The process of researching that book changed how I relate to the people in the Bible. Before, I found it easy to apply individual verses or passages to my life, but the people in the Bible seemed distant and sometimes unreal. Once I studied these women’s lives from the perspective of my own experiences and emotions, they became more real to me than before. Now I see these women as flesh-and-blood people I’d like to meet and have a long chat with over a bowl of figs and dates. It also gave me a new appreciation for how greatly God values women and how He shapes us in unique ways to carry out His purposes.

7.How do you handle rejections?
Rejection is never easy to handle, but it helps to remember that it’s a normal part of the writing life. I heard a conference speaker say once that if we’re not getting rejected on a fairly regular basis, then we must not be working hard enough. After I’ve submitted an article or book proposal and then entered the waiting phase, it helps to pray for God’s will to be done every time I think about the project. That keeps my focus where it should be and if rejection comes, it seems less personal.

8.Tell us about the book you have out right now.
Last October Baker Books released my new one-year devotional book, Drawing Closer to God: 365 Daily Meditations on Questions from Scripture. Each devotional is based on a question asked by someone in the Bible—God, Jesus, Satan, an Old Testament character, or a New Testament writer. The meditation explores the setting, ties it into a spiritual principle or practical application, and includes a verse that relates back to the question or its answer. The day’s entry closes with either a question for readers to ask God (prayer focus) or a question to ask themselves (reflection).

I began noticing how much of Scripture is in the form of questions and how relevant these still are today. Old Testament characters voiced honest questions that we’ve all probably felt at some point. But we may have been reluctant to pray as David did, “Why are you so distant, Lord? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1) New Testament writers used questions to explain spiritual principles, especially Paul. Jesus asked questions as a powerful teaching tool, sometimes gently: “Can any of you add an hour to your life by worrying?” (Luke 12:25), and sometimes with a stronger tone: “Why do you see the piece of sawdust in another believer’s eye and not notice the wooden beam in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)

Many questions in the Bible can be matched with a verse that answers it. Before Pilate asked the universal question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), Jesus had already answered it as he prayed: “Your words are truth.” (John 17:17) As we go through trials and hardships, we may wonder as Gideon did, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” (Judges 6:13) Then we read in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble.”

The more I studied these questions, the more I was struck by how much God communicates to us through them. It intrigued me to think that sometimes we can find answers by looking at the questions.

9.Did writing Drawing Closer to God impact your own spiritual life?
Yes, the fact that biblical characters expressed their questions and doubts so honestly reminded me of how God wants me to approach my relationship with him. Now when I see a question in the Bible, I think of it as a springboard to look for what God wants me to discuss with Him or what He wants to teach me.

I’m in the process of pulling out a core list of questions from the book to use in my quiet time. I want to periodically go through them as a sort of spiritual check-up to assess my spiritual walk and keep my focus where it should be. For example, I often need to remind myself of Genesis 18:14: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Even though I know the answer, sometimes I forget it in the face of daunting circumstances. And Jesus’ question about worrying (Luke 12:25) is something I should meditate on every day. Maybe I won’t waste so much time doing it if I remember His point about how futile worrying is.

10.What are you working on right now?
I’m currently writing another daily devotional for Baker. This one is still untitled but it has a theme of a one-year “journey” through the Bible. I’m going through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation combining basic information on each book, the major stories and events, and the core teachings with practical application. The book will release in October 2012

11.What is your writing schedule like?
I often joke that I’m only a full-time writer when I have a book contract or an article deadline. I’m still working on the discipline part of the freelance life. My good intentions are to have devotions/prayer time and exercise before I sit down at the computer. I check email and make any needed contacts with editors, and then I write for several hours. Around mid-afternoon, I usually switch gears and do other writing-related stuff: get books ready to mail, look for new markets to submit to, plan marketing and promotional activities, etc. I’m also trying to reserve an hour most days to study a writing magazine or book on the craft.

But the reality is that when I’m working on a one-year devotional, I’m consumed by it. Coming up with 365 different ideas and then doing the research and writing requires extra-long days in front of the computer, and sometimes evenings and weekends, too. Those are the times that I dream about a job at the mall—until I hold my new “baby” in my hands.

12.What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?
I would do more volunteer work and more nature-oriented activities, get back into knitting and learn quilting. And one thing’s for sure, I would be doing a lot of reading—just not books on the writing craft or marketing.

13.Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes, I would like to encourage beginning writers that just when we feel like giving up, God may have something planned that we can’t even imagine, right around the corner. And for those struggling to write while wrestling with difficult issues, I’ve learned that even what seems like barren times in our writing may be preparation for our most important work.