It is my honour to host this week, the talented Australian Christian author Jo-Anne Berthelsen. Having just read her latest fictional novel The Inheritance, I was super interested in why she wrote this story and her inspiration behind it. And since she was offering interviews, I didn’t want to let this offer pass!! So, wondering who Jo-Anne Berthelsen is???
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne loves communicating through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of five published novels – Heléna, All the Days of My Life, Laura, Jenna and Heléna’s Legacy, with a sixth, The Inheritance, due for release in 2013. Her first non-fiction work Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey was released in October 2012. Jo-Anne loves music, reading, mentoring younger women, and sharing with community groups about writing. She is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren.
For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com or www.soulfriend.com.au.
Now for the interview. I had lots of fun asking Jo-Anne these questions, and I hope that you will have just as much fun learning about her 🙂
1. What inspired you to write The Inheritance?
The inspiration for this novel came from two quite different sources. The setting, the main male character and also his family issues initially came to me while doing a writing exercise at a course I undertook several years ago at the NSW Writers’ Centre. But then, as my ideas developed, I realised that the main inspiration behind this story was Hebrews 12:15 – See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. In other words, I wanted to write a novel that demonstrates how anger, bitterness, hypocrisy and pretence can adversely affect our lives and the lives of others and keep us from experiencing God’s grace.
2. Who is your favourite Christian author(s)? If you could list one book of theirs, which would it be?
Hmmm! While there are some excellent Christian authors currently writing whose books I enjoy, I would have to say my two favourites are from waaaay back now! One is the English author Elizabeth Goudge and the other is American author Madeleine L’Engle. I think my favourite Elizabeth Goudge novel is The Scent of Water, while my favourite book by Madeleine L’Engle is Walking on Water.
3. If you could co-write a fictional book with any author, who would it be?
Since my favourite older authors above are no longer around, I would say the Australian author Kate Morton. I loved her books The Secret Keeper and The Forgotten Garden.
4. I know that you have written a non-fictional book, as well as quite a few fictional. What non-fictional story has had the most impact on your life?
I have written only one non-fiction work so far—my memoir Soul Friend—and I do read a lot of non-fiction in general. But the non-fictional story that has impacted me the most would be either Nelson Mandela’s The Long Walk to Freedom or Jung Chang’s Wild Swans. Can’t decide!
5. If you were able to meet any of your characters, who would it be and why?
That’s such an interesting question, because now that I have written six novels, I have quite a few I’d like to meet! However, I think I would choose the main male protagonist in The Inheritance, Michael Trevelyan, because he seems to me to be a highly intelligent, deep thinking, compassionate and courageous character who comes to understand more of God’s grace and who is prepared to turn his life around in the process.
6. God obviously plays an important and significant role in your life. Is there any specific way in which he guides you in your writing?
Definitely. Each day, I try to take time before I begin writing to acknowledge God’s presence around me and in me and to remember I am doing what I believe God has called me to do at this stage of my life. And if God has called me, then I know he will strengthen and inspire me to write to the best of my ability. I believe that if God’s Spirit is alive and active within us, then surely this will impact what and how we write. When I began my first novel, I remember praying out loud to God at times, ‘Is this how I’m supposed to write, God? Is what I’m writing okay?’! And I still rely on him in the same way today.
7. What is the toughest thing about writing any book?
I think for me at present, finding the time to do it! Because being an author involves lots of speaking and promoting our books as well, this currently impacts on my writing time quite a bit. But I am looking forward to being able to write more a little later in the year. And I think the best way to tackle this issue is just to rest in God and be at peace about it—we can only do our best and God’s in charge!
8. When and where do you like to write?
I like to write each morning, if possible, but usually I just seize every moment during my day to do so! Currently I have my own study, which is a luxury for me after writing five novels on the end of the kitchen table in our small home, with all sorts of things happening around me!
9. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
I would love to visit Germany again, since I used to teach German, and also the UK. But first and foremost, I would head back to Turkey where a good friend of mine lives and works. I have visited her there five times in past years and would love to head there again soon.
10. You were given the opportunity to convert one of your books into a movie. Which book would you choose and why? Who would play the main characters?
I think I would choose my first novel, Heléna, firstly because so many of my readers told me they could just see it as a movie and secondly because it is quite a dramatic story inspired by a Czech migrant we knew many years ago now in our church. As to who would play the main characters … hmmm! Perhaps Meryl Streep as Heléna? And perhaps a young Gregory Peck as Stefan?!
11. Are you currently working on your next novel? If so, care to inform us over the details?
I have the outlines and the first chapters of three other novels on my computer, although a fourth idea is beginning to surface in me at the moment and will probably take precedence over them! But my current work in progress is another non-fiction book entitled The Rest of Me, which will hopefully encourage others to become all God purposes them to be in life.
12. When did you discover your passion for writing?
I believe God called me to begin my writing journey in June 2003—ten years ago now. I had always loved writing but felt there were too many other things to do until that point. But God made it clear this was my next step as I sat on a rock reading some verses from Isaiah 42 near the Mediterranean coast in Turkey while visiting my friend there! A few months later, I began my first novel—and my passion for writing has continued ever since.
13. Other than English, are you able to speak any other language?
There was a time when I would lay claim to speaking German (I note you have a German sounding name, Johanna!) but I am very rusty now. I also majored in Japanese at university but have forgotten most of that too, sadly. And I know a little Turkish as well.
Funny that you should pick that up, because I have a very close German heritage and my first language is actually German. Sadly though, we don’t speak that much at home anymore. However we have kept many of its traditions.
14. What are some words of encouragement you can give to aspiring writers?
Stay close to God throughout the whole process and, to the best of your ability, try to discern that writing is truly what God wants you to do. Once you know this, this will be the thing that will motivate you to keep going and to stay focussed—even in the hard times when publishers might reject your manuscript or when those speaking engagements are hard to come by or when the inspiration to write seems to have deserted you.
15. Are there any prayer points you would like your readers to pray about?
Thank you for asking! I write my novels and non-fiction not only to interest or entertain my readers but also to impact their lives in some way and hopefully to bring them just that bit closer to God. So I would love it if, as you read any of my books, you would pray that God would not only make you aware of what he might be saying to you personally but that others’ lives would also be touched through my books.
Want to learn more about Jo-Anne?? Hop on over to her website to find some really inspirational and encouraging material, as well as information for her other books. Thinking that The Inheritance is sounding like a good book?? Why not follow the link and see what I have had to say. I highly recommend this book as you WILL walk away challenged!
I hope you have all been blessed by learning more about Jo-Anne!!