Picture the following. There I am, standing behind my book table during a conference break at a large church. I am a little tired, not only from being on my feet for some time but also from having to explain to one person after another that I am the author of those books in front of me and then having to answer their questions. Now another lady approaches. Once again, I point out my non-fiction book and briefly talk about my novels. She seems to listen well but then fires a question at me.
‘Which one would you recommend?’
For a moment, I am dumbfounded. Did I hear what I thought I heard? Did she really ask me which of my own books I would recommend? Does that mean she thinks I would waste my time writing and selling books I would not recommend?
I take a deep breath and try to calm down. She didn’t think about what she was asking, I tell myself. But how can I best respond? Perhaps I need to ask her a few questions to see what sort of book she’s looking for. I try that, but the only further light she sheds is that she would like something her eighteen year old daughter might want to read. I decide to recommend my novel featuring my youngest heroine—perhaps that might connect the best. The lady peruses it, then moves on to my other books. In the end, she does buy one, although now I don’t remember which.
How would you have responded? I have been asked before which of my books I like best—and even that’s a hard one to answer. I love them all for different reasons. Granted, my earlier novels are not my best writing. And yes, my memoir Soul Friend holds a special place in my heart because I share my true self in those pages. But I can’t honestly say which one I like best. Perhaps that is the question this lady was actually asking, I realise now.
Just a few days earlier, as I sold my books after speaking at a secular women’s club, I was asked a different and much more heart-warming question. There I was on this occasion, wondering if I would sell any books, when a lady came up to me with tears in her eyes.
‘I need that book of yours you mentioned about forgiveness,’ she told me straight up. ‘Which one would that be?’
Again, I was a little dumbfounded. Several of my novels include something about forgiveness—which one had I mentioned in my talk? Then I suddenly remembered explaining that my latest novel explores the theme of holding onto anger and bitterness and the trouble that can come as a result. She quickly agreed that was the one and bought it. And as I signed her copy with my usual ‘God bless’, I prayed in my heart that she would truly be blessed as she read it and set free from whatever was troubling her.
I know I need to answer any questions thrown at me at my book table with patience and grace—and I continue to ask God to enable me to do that. Still, I’d much rather be asked which of my books talks about forgiveness than which one I would recommend!
How about you? Have you perhaps asked or been asked some interesting questions at book tables too?
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 or www.soulfriend.com.au.