Interview with Susan Pohlman

Susan Pohlman’s book Halfway to Each Other is nomianted for an INSPY in the category of Creative Nonfiction.

Summary from goodreads:
The true story of a California couple on the brink of separation who unexpectedly find love again on the Italian Riviera.
Tired, empty, and disillusioned with married life, Susan Pohlman was ready to call it quits. As soon as she and her husband, Tim, wrap up a business trip in Italy, she planned to break the news that she wanted to end their eighteen-year marriage.

During their last day as they walked along the Italian Riviera, Tim fantasizes aloud that, perhaps, they could live there. Susan initially dismisses the notion as nonsense but is inexplicably overwhelmed with a desire to give the marriage another try. Defying all logic, the couple find a school for their children and sign a lease for an apartment. Maybe a life in such a charmed setting could help them find their way back to each other.

Together with their fourteen-year-old daughter Katie and their eleven-year-old son Matt, they trade in their breakneck Los Angeles pace for adventure and a slower, more intimate lifestyle slipping out of the constraints of the traditional American Dream into a dream of their own.

Instead of seeing each other for fleeting moments in the mornings and evenings, the family starts to spend their days together rediscovering the simple joys that bring texture and meaning to all our lives. Travel with them as they stumble upon new customs, explore medieval alleyways, browse street markets, befriend neighbors, learn to cook, and try a new language.

Why do you write creative non-fiction?
I am drawn to nonfiction and memoir because I am deeply moved by the transformative power of God’s grace in our everyday lives. Truth is not only stranger than fiction, it is a treasure chest of quiet, joy-filled moments and personal acts of great courage that would go unnoticed but for the writer who captures them on the page. Because we walk together on this planet, through a world filled with conflict and opposing ideologies, it is vital that we share our journeys with each other. Exploring the interconnectedness of faith and risk opens our minds to possibility and allows hope to light the way through difficulty.

I chose to entrust the improbable tale of our family’s year of renewal in Italy to the greater community because I think there is a need for true stories that offer hope. Stories that encourage families to stay together and see God at work though their trials as well as their joys.

What are the challenges/benefits of incorporating faith into your story?
My faith is my story. Until I wove my faith journey into the adventure of Halfway to Each Other, the manuscript lacked the depth necessary to touch hearts in a meaningful way. I come from a large family that loves to laugh and enjoy the ironies of life, so it was easy to dwell on the humor and craziness of what we did as a family, but without exposing the deep spiritual guidance that inspired and challenged me, it meant very little.
The book is about trusting God, putting the sanctity of family first, and fully embracing a life of surrender. The cultural clashes, the travel, the family bonding was real and quite amusing, but all of that paled in comparison to realizing the key to a peaceful heart.

As a craft, I am working on finding that right balance between sharing faith and preaching. I find the former to be more powerful.

Favourite book – favourite movie – favourite TV show?

I have loved storytelling in all of its forms my entire life. My list of favorites would fill pages!

Let’s see, The Book Thief moved me to tears on several occasions. Markus Zusak’s gift of imagery is mesmerizing. Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge was heart wrenching. Her ability to illustrate the deep aches and desires that define human nature was exquisite. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett was simply delightful.

I’m not much of a TV watcher though I was swept away for many seasons by Jack Bauer and his quest to save the world in 24! I do miss him, by the way.

As for movies, I am an indie film lover and have a great respect for the passion of documentary film makers. On the lighter side, our family loves to watch Trains, Planes and Automobiles every Thanksgiving. Though we can recite every line, we still laugh together like it is the first time we’ve ever seen the antics of Steve Martin and John Candy.

How do you feel about blogging? Do you have a blog?

The blogosphere is a great source of information and inspiration. I am just getting started with this and look forward to developing a blog where people can come to share the powerful moments that matter in their lives.
I have a blog that can be accessed through my website, www.susanpohlman.com, and invite all to come visit and share in that journey!

Tell us about a book that epitomizes quality [Christian] faith-driven lit.

‘Epitomizes’ is a strong word and I hesitate to use it, but I enjoyed Blue Like Jazz. Donald Miller’s courage to put himself and his vulnerabilities on the page was inspiring on many levels. It was a wonderful mixture of personal reflection and the search for meaning. It gives permission to wrestle with questions and explore spirituality in an age where religion is an easy target. I like Anne Lamott’s books for the same reasons.

Quality, faith-driven literature should be a safe place for people to explore their beliefs and to participate in the dialogue; fertile ground to share in the questions and delight in the answers. I applaud all of those writers out there who have the courage to wrestle with faith and proclaim truths in the public arena. It is not an easy thing to do in this era of the “open season” nature of the internet. Cruel and unnecessary comments inevitably ensue when people reveal their faith and the contents of their souls. But let us hold fast the truth that love is always louder and stronger than hate and keep writing what God has planted in our hearts.

  • I LOVED this book. Two of my friends have read it and I actually don’t know who has my copy now. I plan to buy it for my sister-in-law for Christmas since she always finds good books for me. 🙂