Dianne Neal Matthews has written numerous devotionals, magazine articles, and newspaper features. Her work has appeared in Focus on the Family, The Quiet Hour, LIVE, The Christian Communicator, and on websites including CBN.com. She is the author of The One Year On This Day (which won her the 2006 Writer of the Year Award at the Write-to-Publish Conference), and The One Year Women of the Bible, both published by Tyndale House. She has also contributed stories to several compilation books. Dianne is a 2006 CLASS graduate and a member of Advanced Writers & Speakers, Christian Authors Network, and Toastmasters International. She and her husband, Richard, have three grown children and two adorable grandchildren.
Welcome to The Borrowed Book, Dianne! When did you decide to be a writer?
As a little girl, I loved to make up stories and share them. 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 until my mid-forties when I began writing occasional articles for my church’s newsletter. Urged by a friend, I attended a 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’ve never doubted my calling since then.
At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?
I suppose I trust my instincts in certain areas after working at this for so long. But I don’t think I’ll ever reach the point where I fully trust my opinion in my own writing. When I’m working hard on a project, I often don’t have a sense if what I’ve written is good or junk. For me personally, I value other people’s objective opinions but I filter them through prayer and my own instincts.
Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?
After attending years of writing conference classes, I know that serious writers are the ones who write whether they feel like it or not. I understand the importance of a daily schedule but still struggle with the discipline required unless I’m working under contract. Deadlines are my best motivation—I need to learn to set them for myself.
What kind of activities to you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?
Listening to music, seeing a movie, getting outside to enjoy the beauty of nature, and of course, reading for pleasure, not research.
What is your favorite novel (not written by you) and what made it special?
There’s no way I could ever pick out one novel as my favorite, but as a lover of classic literature I’ve always felt that Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is one of the best books I ever read. It gives the reader a dose of history, philosophy, sociology, economics, and more. The story also gives us a picture of selfless, unconditional love, unlike many shallow romance stories.
How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
It exercises my brain and helps me develop my imagination and increase my vocabulary. The creativity of others inspires me to use my own. And of course, it’s a great way to relax and wind down from the pressure of always carrying my work around in my head.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
This month 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).
Where did you get your inspiration for Drawing Closer to God?
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.”
Each daily devotional in this book focuses on a question from the Bible, examines its context, draws out the spiritual truth or practical application, pairs it with a relevant verse, and ends with either a question for the reader to ask themselves for reflection, or a question to ask God in prayer.
What is the main thing you hope readers take away from this book?
My prayer is that the book will renew readers’ appreciation for the relevance of Scripture to everyday life. If we approach the Bible with a teachable spirit, then God’s Spirit will use the questions written so long ago to comfort us, convict us, and transform us. I also hope that the devotionals will encourage readers to feel comfortable examining their own questions through meditation and prayer.
What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?
Since I’m in the middle of a cross-country move and some other life changes, my main focus for now will be on using the Internet for promotion: social networking sites, blog and online radio interviews. I’ve been advised to start using Twitter, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that.
With my last book, I emailed one devotional a day for a month and then held a drawing from among those who signed up. I may do that again with this book.
Tell us about your past books.
Are you working on a new project?
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.