I can still remember the day in 2006 when I saw the proposed cover of my first novel for the first time. I can even remember the time of day and what I was doing. I was part-way through cooking our dinner, but also checking my emails on my laptop, which sat on the end of our kitchen table. And just as those veggies were almost cooked, I found an email from the publisher that said simply, ‘What do you think of this?’
With shaking fingers, I clicked on the attached photo—and the front and back covers of my first novel filled my entire screen. I loved the photo the graphic designer had chosen—it typified the story so well and seemed to draw me in. But it was my name, printed in capital letters across the top of the front cover, that shocked me into asking myself a question I should have thought about much earlier: ‘What have I done?'
In an instant, it dawned on me that, by agreeing to be published, I had put myself in a vulnerable position. People could see what I had written. They could love it—or hate it. They might think I was a talented author—or they might laugh at my efforts. Or perhaps they might be kind and decide my writing showed potential, but that I still had much to learn. I stood there for some time, cringing at the thought of the various unpleasant scenarios that might unfold. But my heart sang with joy too. That dream I had had for years had at last eventuated. I would be a published author.
Since then, I have had six more books come into being and each time, I have felt a jolt in the pit of my stomach when I have seen my name on the cover again. It is something I often mention when sharing with groups about my writing journey because it is something many people seem to be curious about. What inspired you to start writing, they often ask. Where do your ideas come from? Do you write under your real name? How does it feel to see it on the cover of a new book?
I often respond to this last question by explaining that, while seeing my name there gives me a great sense of achievement, it still fills me with considerable dismay that, once again, I have laid myself open to the judgement of others. But it also causes me to think about what I have written and ask myself the following questions. Is it the best book I could create at this point? Do I believe my book honours God? Do I stand by all I have written in it?
I want to write books that are enjoyable to read but that also make a difference in this world, that share God’s light and love in some way. And I want to do this with integrity, so that what I write reflects my true heart. So I will continue to seek to have my books published because, while it might be a risk, it is also an honour and privilege to share what God has given me.
How about you? What are your thoughts on being a published author, whether you are one as yet or not?
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 is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.