An interview with an author: Chip Mattis
Friends, today I’m doing something a little different on my blog: an interview with one of my fellow writer-friends, Chip Mattis, whose new children’s book, Under the Dancing Tree (Elk Lake Publishing), is about to launch! It’s available for pre-order now. Chip is very active as a family and parenting blogger on Facebook and Twitter, which is where I got to know him. Chip graduated magna cum laude from Greenville University with a B.A. in philosophy and religion. In 2018, he was awarded the Foundations First Runner-Up for Best Children’s Picture Book at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. —By Jessica Brodie
Jessica: Chip, tell us about yourself and your faith journey. How did you get to where you are?
A. I was raised in the church. Growing up, I was in church several times a week. My mom was also really involved with the music, so I learned from an early age that the church needs volunteers.
I grew up as a nerdy outcast. I was bullied quite a bit both at school and at church. It was hard finding a silver lining. If it hadn’t been for my friends, I would have abandoned my faith. As it was, they were God’s way of keeping me on the right path. I did have to leave the youth group at the church my parents went to, but I found a youth group full of kids who liked me. My mom still made me go to church on Sundays with her and my dad, but I was free to attend another youth group. It changed my life.
Q. When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
A. I remember when my dad taught me about poetry and creative writing. He showed me some poems he had written, and it opened a new world for me. I put it together that all those lyrics from songs I loved were just poems people put to music. I had thought an author was just a person at a desk writing what their boss told them to. It never occurred to me that books, music, and even television shows all started out as ideas that someone wrote. I was hooked. I wanted to write.
Q. How does your faith influence your writing?
A. My blog is primarily for Christian parents, everyday people who want to learn and grow in their faith and as parents. When I write children’s picture books, I try to keep an eye on the cross and an eye on the world. It’s kind of like driving—I have to watch my mirrors, my speed, and the road in front of me.
I don’t always write explicitly about Christian faith. I want my books to appeal to an audience hungry for the positive. Some of the ideas I’m working on currently involve teaching biblical concepts overtly and some covertly.
At the end of the day, I want my readers to know I’m a Christ-follower and to know my desire for families to flourish grows out of that. Author Karma Wilson is a great example of how I want to behave as a Christian children’s book author.
Q. When did this story first start stirring in your heart?
A. In 2010, my family moved my dad into a nursing home, and his house was left empty. So my wife, two kids, and I moved in.
The front yard had this beautiful willow tree. I was looking out at it one afternoon, and I saw my daughter hanging onto a branch and twirling without a care in the world.
It left this huge imprint in my mind. Most parents will understand when I say that it’s like that memory is chiseled into my brain, not just written, but permanently etched there. I knew that the beautiful moment in front of me wouldn’t last forever. I mourned and celebrated at the same time.
It was out of that moment the inspiration for Under the Dancing Tree came. I looked at the little girl in front of me, and I dreamed of the woman she’d become. The words poured out, and when it was done, I knew I had written something that would be special to me forever.
Q. Do you have other books in mind, or ready for publication?
A. I do have other books in mind! That was one of the great things about finding an agent and a publisher. They were both looking for a writer with more than one book up his sleeve. As it stands, I currently have another six to ten books that are written and in some state of review with my agent. I hope to have another book published in the next 12 to 18 months.
Q. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
A. I hope that this is a book that changes parent-child relationships. I encounter too many parents who don’t stop to enjoy the few short years they have with their kids. Too many parents get wrapped up in their own lives and the interruptions kids inevitably are. But it’s those moments when we parents stop and get out of our own little zone that can be the most precious.
I want parents, particularly dads, to read this book and fall in love with their daughters all over again. I want daughters to feel deeply secure in their dads’ love for them. Daughters should know they will always have a partner, helper, and cheerleader in their dads.