Susan G. Mathis is a former Editorial Director at Focus on the Family and Founding Editor of Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family magazine. She has written hundreds of articles and columns for magazines and newsletters, mentored editors, coached writers, and consulted with a variety of Christian writers and publications.
Susan and her husband, Dale, have coauthored two marriage self-help books and worked with couples in premarital counseling and as mentors and facilitators for Woodmen Valley Chapel Premarital classes.
You’ve worked in publishing for almost twenty years. What sparked your writing journey?
My mother quips that I started my writing career when I signed my crayon drawings—on the foyer wall—with a great big “S”! Though I’m not sure that was the start I wanted, I can’t remember not writing.
My journey has been multi-faceted, and I consider my writing as a ministry, so I pretty much do whatever my hand finds to do. I’ve taught Language Arts for nine years to 4-8 graders, had my own newspaper column, developed and wrote missions curriculum, and have written just about anything God put in my path.
As a published author, a freelance writer and editor, a publication’s consultant, a writing coach, and a speaker, I’m simply passionate about working with words. And as the Former Editorial Director at Focus on the Family of twelve unique publications and Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine, I’ve done a lot of writing. It’s been a really fun journey!
How does your faith play into your work?
Eric Liddel said, “When I run, I feel His pleasure,” and I can sure relate. When I write, I feel His pleasure! So even though it’s hard work, I enjoy it immensely.
For nearly two decades I worked in Christian ministry as a writer, editor, or publications director, so faith has always been at the very center of my writing. Since I’ve written hundreds of magazine, newsletter and newspaper articles, it was a natural transition to write non-fiction books. But one day, I’d love to try my hand at writing fiction, especially faith-based children’s books.
Let’s talk about your new book, The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Happiness (Focus on the Family/Tyndale, August 2012), which you co-wrote with your husband, Dale. Please tell us about it.
Both The ReMarriage Adventure and our first book, Countdown for Couples, are easy-to-read premarital guides that will help individuals, couples, pastors, counselors, small groups and/or premarital classes prepare for the adventure of remarriage. We cover the gamut of topics ranging from communication, conflict resolution, expectations, differences, in-laws, sex, money, and much more. And there are helpful questions and discussion starters to help couples along the way. Because the failure rate for first marriages is nearly fifty percent and for remarriage it’s nearly seven-five percent, our goal in writing both books was to help lower these rates significantly by preparing couples for the adventure of marriage and remarriage.
What was the catalyst for the project?
Our new book, The ReMarriage Adventure: Preparing for a Lifetime of Love & Happiness, comes from personal experience. As a remarried couple, Dale and I knew what a challenge—as well as an opportunity for redemption—remarriage and blending a family can be, so we wanted to help smooth the way for other remarrying couples. We share stories of over a dozen couples who are navigating these blending-family waters and provide lots of tips for doing it well.
Almost three out of four remarriages fail, but statistics say that couples who participate in premarital education report a thirty percent higher level of overall marital satisfaction and better communication. That means couples are greatly increasing their chances for success by preparing for the adventure of a second marriage before they head into it. There are a zillion things couples should know about one another, so they really need to do their homework well. We help them do just that!
God often uses our writing to teach us something. What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?
I learned more about balancing the two sides of my writer self. Writing takes a lot of work, and it’s a journey. For me, I have to separate my writing self and my editing self. The writing side is very creative, but the editing side is very analytical. So in the morning I usually do my creative writing, but in the afternoon, I switch hats and research or edit.
I also let my current work sit a few days, because I often need distance to ‘see’ my work clearly. It’s simply hard to be objective and edit well when I’m working so intensively and using creativity. But when I edit, I have to be brutal about what works for the reader and what doesn’t.
Finally, I always try to remember why I am writing. In 2 Corinthians 9:12-15, Paul is talking to the Corinthians about giving and sowing into other people’s lives. But does this not apply to you and me as writers?
“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”
You’re also a speaker and writing mentor. What’s your favorite topic to speak and/or teach about?
Because I’ve been in the publishing industry for so long, I’ve mainly spoken at writers conferences and journalism conferences. I’ve taught on being the Ideal Editor, polishing your manuscript, finding your writing sweet spot, moving from print to digital publications, and even the nuts and bolts of creating publications.
But my heart’s desire is to move into helping women with adjusting to change and preparing for the adventures of family transitions. So in 2013, I hope to begin the journey of speaking on the topic of change at women’s retreats and other venues.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
I’m half English and half Irish, so tea is definitely my comfort food! I can’t imagine not sipping tea from a china teacup as I write. That’s why you’ll see a steaming cup of tea on my Susan G. Mathis author page on Facebook.
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
Not a chance! But music inspires me, uplifts me, and draws me into worship. So, though I’m not musically talented, I thank God for those who are!
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
A worship song, hands down!
In the story that is your life, are you the strong, female lead; the girl next door; the mysterious woman behind dark glasses; the super heroine; or the little girl trying to walk in high heels?
Hah! That is a fun question. I used to be the little girl trying to walk in high heels, but thanks to God’s gracious redemption, I’d now be the strong female lead.
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
Because we travel a lot, we don’t have any pets. But I must admit, as a past dog lover, I get the same feelings of love and joy and happiness by being a Grandma! Skyping with my precious missionary family in South Africa is always a highlight of any day. My two-year-old and seven-month-old granddaughters fill my world with laughter, love and learning with every visit, whether online or in person. No comparison, I know, but I had to share about my grandkids somehow. Smiles!
Thanks, Susan! It’s a pleasure to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
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