I’m delighted to introduce Dianne Neal Matthews to you. I got a copy of her new book Designed for Devotion this week, and my daughter Rebekah latched onto it immediately. It’s a wonderful book that walks you through the Bible devotionally in a year. So, let’s hear more about Diane and what led her to write this wonderful book.
SPECIAL! If you comment below, your name could be chosen to receive this book signed by the author! And you will LOVE this book!
Q: When did you decide to be a writer?
Dianne: 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 (Write-to-Publish, Chicago area) in 1999, 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.
Q: Since then, you’ve published four daily devotional books. What do you find most rewarding about writing devotions?
Dianne: I absolutely love finding creative ways to illustrate a Bible verse or spiritual principle, whether using elements of nature, historical events, pop culture trivia, news events, my own personal experiences, or any other source. I love drawing out practical application that demonstrates how relevant the Bible is to our lives today. I also enjoy trying to find a way to end with a statement that helps the content stick in the reader’s mind (especially when I come up with a pun). And feedback from readers motivates me to keep writing devotionals. It’s such a blessing when people tell me that a devotional has spoken to their specific situation or say that one of my books is a part of their regular quiet time.
Q: Tell us a little about your newest devotional book.
Dianne: Designed for Devotion: A 365-Day Journey from Genesis to Revelation provides an overview of the entire Bible. It explains the background and factual information for each book, including the author, theme, purpose for writing, and historical setting. The book highlights the key stories and characters in the Old Testament and gospels and explores the basic teachings of the NT writers. In the part of the book that covers the Old Testament, I sprinkled occasional “Jesus Sightings” (in keeping with the theme of a trip or journey). These devotions focus on how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. I also included devotions about the 400-year period between the Testaments, the concept of “theophany,” the distinction between the major and minor rophets, and other topics. Throughout the book each day’s devotion ends with a practical application that encourages readers to apply that day’s spiritual lesson to their own journey with God.
Q: What can readers hope to gain from reading Designed for Devotion?
Dianne: This book presented my biggest challenge ever! I don’t make any pretense of being a Bible scholar; I often felt burdened by the weight of such a serious responsibility. But I think that will be a plus for most readers since the book is not “academic.” Readers will gain the factual and historical information needed to understand the context of each book and how it fits in with the rest of the Bible. At the same time, they will be able to see how each story and teaching relates to their everyday lives. Designed for Devotion will help those new to Bible study grow in their understanding of God and His Word; long-time Bible students will enjoy the review. Hopefully, anyone who reads the book will go more deeply in their relationship with God and in their devotion to Him. A trip through the Bible can be a life-changing journey!
Q: What life experience, education, or training helped you become an author?
Dianne: I have a liberal arts degree in psychology and English and a master’s in guidance and counseling. But I consider my greatest training to be growing up out in the country with three brothers and no neighbor kids close by. In the summers I learned to use my imagination to entertain myself while working in the cotton fields or while playing in the woods at the edge of our little family farm.
Q: What kind of activities do you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?
Dianne: Listening to music, seeing a movie, getting outside to enjoy the beauty of nature, and of course, reading for pleasure, not research.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
Dianne: I love classic literature so I’d have to include Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, George Eliot. I also adore Tolkien’s work—his creativity amazes me! As for contemporary authors, two of my favorites are Frank Delaney and Stephen Lawhead.
Q: What is your favorite book and what makes it special?
Dianne: 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 other stories.
Q: How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?
Dianne: In lots of ways! Reading exercises my brain and helps me develop my imagination, increase my vocabulary, and absorb new writing techniques. 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.
Q: Tell us about your previous books.
Dianne: My first two books were both published by Tyndale House. The One Year On This Day (now available only in eBook format) uses holiday origins, historical events and anniversaries, and pop culture trivia to illustrate spiritual truths. The One Year Women of the Bible blends the accounts of biblical women with stories of contemporary women, gleaning spiritual lessons that we can apply to our lives today. In 2010 Baker published Drawing Closer to God: 365 Daily Meditations of 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 closes with either a question for readers to ask God (prayer focus) or a question to ask themselves (reflection). This one is currently sold only as an eBook, but readers can order print copies directly from me.
Q: What projects are you working on now?
Dianne: Although I’ve focused on nonfiction so far, I’m looking into trying my hand at fiction. I would love to research and write a historical novel. In the meantime I write devotionals and articles for periodicals and websites and sometimes contribute to compilation books. For example, this year I was honored to be one of ten writers who contributed to Mornings with Jesus 2013: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul published by Guideposts.
Q: How can readers connect with you online?
Dianne Neal Matthews is a freelance writer and the author of four daily devotional books. She also writes regularly for websites and blogs (such as CBN.com and FindingGodDaily.com), contributes to compilations (including Guideposts’ 2013 Mornings with Jesus), and enjoys speaking and teaching at writers’ conferences. Dianne is a 2006 CLASS graduate and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers, Christian Authors Network, and Toastmasters International. She and her husband Richard currently live in Salt Lake City, which is too far away from their three grown children and two adorable grandchildren.
Reader: What is your favorite book in the Bible . . . and why?