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Posts Tagged ‘novelist’

I have to say I am feeling a mixture of both excitement and slight trepidation as the release date for my fourth and latest novel ‘Jenna’ approaches. You see, this novel is a lot closer to home than my three previous novels.  It is not my story – and yet there are more than a few situations in it that either I or friends close to me have experienced.  And the local church featured in it is not the church I was part of for many years – and yet at least one or two events described in the book actually happened there.  For those who have not heard already, here is a brief synopsis of ‘Jenna’:

Jenna Ramsey believes God is calling her to fulltime ministry training, so steps out in faith, determined to overcome her self-doubt and to grow in her gifts of leadership, teaching and encouragement.  But some disapprove – are theological studies and ministry truly something women should undertake?  And while Jenna grows in confidence and many come to value highly what she has to offer her church and community, some, including close colleagues, are not so supportive. Will she be able to stand firm and continue serving God as she desires? Will she find true fulfilment in both her ministry role and her personal life?

Who can say exactly where the novelist gets his or her ideas from?  They are a mixture of so many things – experience, hearsay, research, observation of the world around us, long held beliefs, sheer imagination, and even perhaps inspiration from God at times. All that has gone into the writing of ‘Jenna’.  And I hope my readers will hear my heart in the ‘mix’ they find on its pages and follow Jenna’s journey with empathy, thoughtfulness and grace. 

Should you wish to join in the release of ‘Jenna’, I will be speaking during the morning service on Sunday 1st August at Telopea Christian Centre, 16 Shortland St Telopea here in Sydney at 9.30am and also be interviewed.  Signed copies of ‘Jenna’ will be available afterwards, or you may wish to take up one (or both!) of the following options:

  • SPECIAL DEAL:  Up until the official release date of 1 August, ‘Jenna’ will be available from my website for the special price of AU$20 including postage (within Australia) – that’s a saving of $5.00. Please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com for more information and to place your order. 
  • You can invite me to speak or be interviewed at your church or group! For further information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com/speaking. You will find there some suggestions for possible speaking topics, a list of my current speaking engagements and also a few testimonials.

 

Thanks so much to those of you who have continued to buy my novels and encourage me in my writing and speaking journey. My three previous novels are still available in Christian bookstores such as Koorong across Australia and NZ and my fourth will soon join them.  My fifth novel, ‘Heléna’s Legacy’, is now complete and I am approximately half way through my sixth, ‘The Inheritance’, although progress on this has been slow, largely because of preparing for speaking engagements. Finding the correct balance in all of this is a challenge, but I am very grateful for the amazing opportunities that have come my way to speak in a variety of settings. I feel very privileged right now – as well as excited and a little nervous!

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As a novelist who is constantly trying to grow and learn, I like to read how other authors handle the various challenges the whole writing process brings.  Some write only when they are ‘in the mood’ and the inspiration is flowing.  Others say that if they worked that way, they would never write anything.  These are the more self-disciplined among us – the ones who can set themselves a target of writing so many words per day or per week.  Some are very organised and totally plan out their novel or other work before they start.  Others are what are known as ‘seat of the pants’ writers who have only a vague idea where they are heading when they begin.  And still others like me fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

When I begin a novel, I like to have a clear concept in mind as to what my story is about – what general challenges and joys my main characters will experience and what central issues the story will grapple with.  But I also like to leave room for my characters to develop, to make their own choices as to how they will handle this or that situation or even what sort of a person they will become.  It is an interesting journey, watching these characters grow and change.  As a result, life as an author can be fascinating and exciting – even totally absorbing and energising.

But it’s not always like that, in my experience.  In fact, many days I sit staring at my computer screen, wondering where all that flow of creativity and joy of bringing my characters to life could possibly have gone.  Should I discipline myself on these occasions to write anyway?  Or should I conclude that my ‘writer’s block’ has won out for the moment?

Well, at times I do go off and do something else for a while.  Yet at others, I know I simply have to ‘hang in there’ and push through this difficult stage.  And that’s why some words Paul wrote to the Colossians impacted me recently – words that on the surface seem quite a contradiction.   As Paul is endeavouring with all his might to help believers stand firm in their faith in Jesus Christ and grow in understanding and love for one another, he writes:

We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:28-29).

So I get the picture that what Paul was trying to do wasn’t easy.  Yet in the midst of it all, he was being energised by a power beyond himself.  He was definitely ‘struggling’ and putting in a lot of effort of his own, but the energy that sustained him was not his alone.  Instead he was receiving and relying on ‘his’ energy – that is, Jesus Christ’s – to complete the task he had been given.

So on those days when I struggle very much with my writing, I try to keep my eyes on Jesus, knowing he called me to do what I’m doing and will ‘energise’ and empower me to complete it.  God is bigger than any writers’ block – his energy and creativity are inexhaustible!  And I’m so thankful for that.

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Who would not want to be a novelist?  Why would anyone ever want to be anything else?

Most days, I have the privilege of sitting down at my computer in my own little ‘novel kingdom’, revisiting what I have previously written, catching up on what my characters have done and then hatching further plans for their futures.  I can even change their names, if I decide their current ones don’t suit after all.  With one or two flicks of my finger, the ‘find and replace’ function of my computer is activated – and Steve is no longer Steve but Josh, or Sue has now miraculously become Jan and has a whole new identity.  Perhaps they have even moved cities as well – perhaps they have acquired a new partner or even an entire new family.

Writing can be fun.  It can be life-giving and oh so satisfying.  I have power – power to make characters do and say certain things, to react in certain ways, to experience wonderful, happy times as well as go through great valleys of grief.  But be warned – characters can sometimes take on a life of their own!  At least, my characters have.  Sometimes they have surprised me no end or shocked me or even made me so proud of them and the choices they have made.

And I have to own up.  It is a fact that one day, when out enjoying coffee with my husband, I urged him to drive home quickly, so that I could see what my characters had been up to while I had been out!  Sad – but very true.

It helps to be crazy to be writer, I have often maintained – especially since the episode I have just described.  It helps me handle the unexpected insurrections of my characters when they rise up in revolt or attempt to sort out their own lives, without even so much as a by-your-leave.  It helps me come back day after day and stick at it, sometimes deleting everything I wrote the previous day in disgust before beginning again, at other times losing track of reality and writing for hours without a break.  It helps me deal with the fact that, barring the dream that one of my novels might become a bestseller, I will make very little money out of writing.

But I will keep on persevering.  After all, not everyone has been given this same privilege as I have to write, to create, to share my heart and hopefully God’s heart with others.  I know God is with me on this crazy writing journey.  And that’s all that matters.

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