14 July 2011

Getting to know you Thursdays with Jo-Anne Berthelsen

Please help me welcome Jo-Anne Berthelsen to my blog today. Jo-Anne is another Aussie author who I have recently met online and look forward to checking out her books.

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up in Brisbane, Queensland and hold degrees in both Arts and Theology, as well as a diploma in Education. I have worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary in Sydney, and have also been employed as part of a local church ministry team. I am passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. I am the author of five novels – ‘Heléna’, ‘All the Days of My Life’, ‘Laura’, ‘Jenna’ and ‘Heléna’s Legacy’ – all published by Ark House Press. I love music, reading, mentoring younger women, and sharing with community groups about writing. I am married to a retired minister and have three grown-up children and currently two grandchildren.

2. When you were a child did you have a favourite book or books?
I remember enjoying having favourites like ‘The House that Jack Built’, with its lilting repetition read to me and also being both fascinated and horrified with a version of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ that had parts cut out of the pages so you could see onto the next page. I remember feeling scared as I put my finger in these cut out parts and wondered if the wicked witch would pull me into the oven! And my sister and I were also fascinated by a series of large books called ‘Coles Funny Picture Books’ that had a strange mixture of poems and drawings and short stories in them.

3. Do you have a favourite Genre to both read and write?
I love writing both historical and contemporary general Christian fiction, although I plan to try writing a work of non-fiction next – a kind of memoir of my meetings and journey with a dear older Christian friend and spiritual mentor. And I enjoy writing my weekly blogs (see www.joanneberthelsen.wordpress.com).
 As far as reading goes, I love good contemporary general fiction, Christian or otherwise, but I also enjoy biography and books by authors about how they go about their own writing, as well as ones about writing itself. However, probably the books I enjoy reading the most are those on some aspect of spirituality or the Christian life, and particular those which relate this to the journey of creativity that authors experience. One I really enjoyed recently in this genre was ‘The Soul Tells A Story’, by Vinita Hampton Wright.

4. Did you have favourite authors growing up who have influenced you?
Oh yes, quite a few. I loved the whole ‘Anne’ series and everything L M Montgomery wrote. I suspect I owe my wordy style to that fact, to some degree at least! I loved ‘Little Women’ and the others of that series – I especially related to Jo, given we have the same name and she wanted to be a writer! I loved ‘What Katy Did’ and ‘What Katy Did At School’ and ‘What Katy Did Next’. And I cried my heart out over books like ‘Seven Little Australians; and ‘Daddy Long Legs’ and so on. Later at high school, I discovered Charles Dickens – and at the other end of the spectrum, my mother’s Georgette Heyer Victorian romance novels!

5. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I always loved English and writing essays at school. I had wanted to write for years but I believe God had other things for me to do first, including going to theological college in my late forties and being part of a ministry team. Then around nine years ago, while visiting a missionary friend in Turkey, we were sitting in a little village on the Mediterranean coast reading our bibles one morning when God spoke to me very clearly through some verses in Isaiah and challenged me to start writing. I began my first novel a couple of months later and haven’t stopped writing since!

6. How did you go about becoming an author?
I attended some basic seminars put on by the NSW Writers’ Centre in Sydney on novel writing, getting published, book promotion etc and a wonderful course called ‘Catch the Whisper’, which somehow gave me permission to allow my creativity to flow and to ‘hear’ where my story wanted to go. I read books on writing such as Mark Tredinnick’s ‘Little Red Writing Book’ and Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’ and scoured the net for all sorts of information to do with writing. And then I simply took the plunge and began my first novel! I had five people of different ages read that first manuscript and took on board all their feedback. And then I found around six different publishers who would accept unsolicited manuscripts from first-time authors and tried them one by one. Since then I have attended other conferences and kept reading about writing – and most importantly, kept on writing. And now I have just completed my sixth novel, I still feel I have so much to learn and am not quite worthy of the title ‘author’!

7. If you were not a writer what would you like to be?
Probably still a pastor – I love seeing God work in people’s lives and bring healing and change. But I think I would enjoy being a librarian too – or perhaps a hermit!

8. Outside reading and writing what do you like to do?
I love speaking to all sorts of groups and in all sorts of contexts. I think being a trained pastor and also a schoolteacher in the past has helped in this regard. Apart from that, I enjoy playing the piano and listening to music. I love mentoring/coaching others, both face to face and via email and skype, including two missionary friends on the other side of the world. And I spend quite a bit of time with our grandchildren as well.

9. Do you have a place you love to visit or would love to visit?
I have visited my missionary friend in Turkey five times and would love to go back there again soon. We have travelled through so many different areas of Turkey together but I would still love to see more. And one day I would love to visit Germany and England again.

10. If you could have a meal with 3 living people who would you choose and why?
In no particular order, I’d like to chat with TV personality Jennifer Byrne of the ‘First Tuesday Book Club’ on the ABC. Her warm personality appeals to me and I enjoy her ‘take’ on books and authors. I’d like to meet Caroline Jones, also from the ABC – I have read her book ‘An Authentic Life’ and would like to hear more about her spiritual journey. And I’d also like to have dinner with poet and essayist Mark Tredinnick. I love his books about writing style and grammar and the whimsical way he makes them so easy to read. I have heard him speak and enjoyed his gentle, entertaining style.

Finally can you tell us about your current books and/or any that will be coming out soon.
My fifth novel, ‘Heléna’s Legacy’, was released earlier this month. This novel follows the story of one of the minor characters from my second novel, ‘All the Days of My Life’, Dr Susan Curtis. Susan faces the birth of her first child alone, bitter at being rejected by her fiancé and family. She begins her own reluctant journey towards God, but it is not until she comes to know Heléna Hajek, the main character in my first two novels, and to trust her that she is able even to consider forgiving those who let her down. Meanwhile, Heléna desires to make a real difference in the lives of Susan’s whole family as well as that of her good friends Ben and Marie. She thinks and prays about what sort of legacy she can leave behind for each of them – yet in reality the best and most lasting legacy she manages to leave them is the way her wisdom, kindness and prayerful support have brought such blessing and healing to them all.
My other novels currently available are ‘Heléna’, ‘All the Days of My Life’, ‘Laura’ and ‘Jenna’.

 Also, where we can find you on the web?
 My website is www.jo-anneberthelsen.com, and my weekly blogs can be found at www.joanneberthelsen.wordpress.com. I am also on Facebook - www.facebook.com/joanne.berthelsen.


PurlingPenny said...

Goodness Jenny, however will I find time to do all this reading I simply must do? I'm sure I'll enjoy Jo-Anne's books, so they are on my list to purchase.I enjoy fiction that moves me forward in my life walk. Thanks for yet another introduction.

G. HUBBARD said...

jo-anne our free global SPREAD THE WORD TALK WITH THE LORD program inspires daily talks catch they need your help with first question our blogs help g hubbard po boox2232 ponte vedra fl 32004 http://talkwiththelord.blogspot.com/

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