by Jo-Anne Berthelsen
Thank you for having me share in this blog today, not only about my fiction writing journey, but also about my latest book, Soul Friend, my first work of non-fiction.
I have been writing now for over nine years. I have had various occupations in my life, all of which I felt were what God wanted me to do at the time. But always there was this desire in me to write. Eventually, in 2003, I felt God showed me from Scripture that it was time to begin my first novel that had been in my mind and heart for so long—around twenty years, in fact. I began writing Heléna, which in the end became my first two novels! I wrote and wrote—and the whole experience was both cathartic and fulfilling for me.
My first two novels were released in 2007 and 2008, followed by three more, Laura (2009), Jenna (2010) and Heléna’s Legacy (2011). But which direction to head next? I wrote a sixth novel, The Inheritance, but then the challenge came, I believe from God, to write a memoir about my own journey with my spiritual friend and mentor, Joy. One day, someone gave me a copy of Mitch Albom’s book Tuesdays with Morrie. As I began reading it, I sensed a prompting in my spirit to write about my visits with Joy and how much our relationship had impacted my journey through theological college and the ministry role the followed, as well as my current roles of writer and speaker. After thinking and praying about it further and mentioning the idea to Joy, I took the plunge and launched myself into yet another story—this time, my own!
And that was when the challenges began to come. As I sifted through my journal entries that recorded many of my visits to Joy and the reflections that followed, I realised I would have to decide how vulnerable I was prepared to be. Was it wise to share this thought or that struggle I had had? Would it benefit anyone else? And would Joy feel happy about what I had written?
Another big challenge was the whole matter of honesty and integrity. This time around, I was not writing a novel. I could not make the story up or invent characters! After all, Joy and I are real people and I could not embellish the truth of what had happened in my journey or in our relationship. I wanted to be able to stand by all I had written and I wanted it to have that ring of truth about it.
I’m so glad I persevered. Each time I receive an email from a reader, telling me how much Soul Friend has blessed and encouraged them, I am thankful to God. I also send these on to Joy, who is now eighty-three, to encourage her and show her how so many things she shared with me are now blessing others. How wonderful our God is! And how privileged I feel to have been given this opportunity in my life to write both fiction and non-fiction!
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, with a sixth due for release in 2013.
Her first non-fiction work Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey was released in 2012. Jo-Anne 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.
***On Thursday, Jo-Anne’s non-fiction book Soul Friend will be featured on our blog (including a book recommendation) as part of the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (ACRBA) book tour.