Jerry Jenkins’s name is one
associated with a myriad of successful writing projects. With more than
170 published titles on his resume and owner of The Christian Writer’s
Guild and Jenkins Entertainment, no part of the creative process is
left unexplored within this intriguing man’s life. When presented with
the opportunity to interview this icon of the Christian publishing
industry, I was a bit overwhelmed.
However, as I researched Jerry
Jenkins’s life and his work, I discovered a man devoted to the Lord,
his family, and the task of becoming the very best writer he could
possibly be. This wholehearted devotion has been blessed of God far
more abundantly than even Mr. Jenkins ever dared to hope or dream. As
he and I e-mailed back and forth, I found him to be humble and kind,
warm and gracious, and willing to share his thoughts on a variety of
I hope you are as blessed by Mr.
Jenkins as I was, and I pray that we will all be encouraged by his
testimony and challenged to become our very best for the glory of God
the balance between writing, family, and other obligations is a feat
that many struggle with (in any career, really). Yet you seem to have
found this glorious balance, and it is reflected beautifully in your
obvious adoration of your wife, children, and grandchildren. Can you
share your secret and give suggestions to others whose careers seem to
rob them of time with family instead of enhancing it?
in my career (and marriage), I was in my early twenties, and Dianna and
I had no children yet. In a period of about six months I happened to
interview a half dozen or so middle-aged men. At some point in these
very disparate interviews I asked each man whether he had any regrets
at this stage of his life. To a man, they said they wished they’d spent
more time with their kids when they were growing up.
I told Dianna it was clear God
was trying to tell me something, so we established a policy that from
the time I got home from work until the kids went to bed I would do no
work from the office or do any writing. When kids came along, I was
working in Chicago and living in the suburbs, so I was up and gone
early and home late in the afternoon. Yet I religiously maintained that
policy until I went full-time freelance when the kids were school age,
and then I wrote only when the kids were at school or asleep (I joked
that sometimes we put them to bed at 4:30 in the afternoon).
I am a firm believer that we
find the time to do what we really want to do. I am a morning person,
but I became a late night writer. After spending time with the kids
until they went to bed, and then getting in at least an hour with
Dianna, I wrote until midnight for years.
Kids hear what you say but
believe what you do, so when I told them they were my top priority, I
could prove it only with time. I couldn’t ignore them behind a
newspaper, a shut door, a TV, or a deadline. Ironically, I was as
productive during those years as ever because I was forced to be
productive in a short time each day, and—best of all—I worked without
I remain close to all three sons
to this day, and we never suffered the pain of rebellion or a prodigal.
Kim: What is
your fondest memory of your first published work?
first article was sent to the Chicago Tribune by my
high school journalism teacher, and when that was published I hardly
knew what to think. It was picked up by Campus Life
magazine, and I was on my way.
My first book was published in
1974 when I was twenty-three and the subject of the book was
twenty-five. That he and I are grandfathers and still close today is
the best part of that.
Kim: Do you
still find it thrilling to hold a finished copy of your latest
Absolutely. That never grows old. And the longer and more successful
you’re in the business, the more the publisher allows you input in
titling, cover copy, design, etc., so I’m always happy with all those
details—or at least have no one to blame but myself if I don’t like the
Kim: I read
the recent dual interview in the May/June edition of Writer’s
Digest featuring you and Stephen King. I understand that you
and he met via circumstances surrounding a mutual acquaintance. Were
you ever given an opportunity to share your faith with him? What was it
like to get to know such an icon in the secular writing field?
read each other’s work, so we know fully where each is coming from. I
find him most kind and respectful, but also earthy and profane. He was
raised in church, so he has a handle on my faith.
When we were brainstorming about
how to best help our injured friend (who has since died), Stephen said
he would engage the New York publishers and that I should approach the
Christian publishers “because,” he said, “I know prayer works.”
One of my great memories of our
time together was asking the limo driver to drive through McDonald’s so
we could enjoy Big Macs on the way back to the airport.
called Riven your life’s work. Why? In what way?
determine whether a novel idea has legs by how long it stays with me
and works on me. This one stayed with me more than twenty years, and
every time I got to where I wanted to dive in, life intruded with other
projects. (I didn’t have the time I needed to invest in it during the
Left Behind series phenomenon, for instance.) When the day finally came
that I was able to give it the attention it deserved, I was more than
ready. I felt I used everything I had ever learned in making the story
work, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with how it turned out.
Riven is also slated as a project for your production company,
Jenkins Entertainment, in late 2010. How are you preparing for this
project and the amazing message that it will carry to the public?
have learned to defer to my son, Dallas, who runs our film company and
who will direct this picture. I have also learned the vast difference
between the mediums of books and movies and how hard it is to make one
translate successfully to the other. Three-fourths of the plot and
characters have to be sacrificed for the sake of a movie (unless it
were to be eight hours long).
And I am not a scriptwriter. I
will have a lot of input, of course, and we won’t put on film anything
I am not happy with. Right now we’re in the initial stages and I have
seen the first draft of the script. It’s a laborious, fun process, and
I look forward to being deeply involved all the way.
Kim: I love
the concept behind Jenkins Entertainment. Your son manages this branch
of your entertainment ventures, but I’d love to know what your role is
in this exciting new adventure (besides writing the books that he is
bringing to life in film)!
Well, not every one of our pictures comes from my writing. For
instance, the one we will show at the Christian Writers Guild’s annual
Writing for the Soul conference in February in Denver is called What
If . . . It’s a sort of Family Man meets It’s
a Wonderful Life, and while I had nothing to do with the
story, we think it will be our strongest effort yet.
Up to now, my major role in
Jenkins Entertainment has been financing. But Dallas also kindly uses
me as a consultant in the area of story issues.
Kim: When I
visit your blog or listen to you in an interview, I get the sense that
you are a kind of laid-back but intense sort of man. How do you view
yourself? Intense? Focused? Laid back? Or a bit of all three?
Focused says it, I think. I tend to be a perfectionist, so I give
myself thoroughly to whatever project I’m engaged in. (I am also an
inveterate editor/proofreader.) Nothing worth doing right will be easy,
so fully engage in it and don’t cut corners.
Kim: I also
read that you are a “sought-after speaker and humorist.” I want to know
more about the humorist! Can you give us a peek into that part of Jerry
People often ask what I would do if I wasn’t a writer, and I have to
say I might have pursued comedy as a profession. For me, though, my
brand of humor is a thing of inflection and timing, and thus it does
not work as well on paper as in person. So when I am speaking or
emceeing, I employ lots of humor. I guess I’m saying, “You have to be
project are you working on right now that you are most excited about?
have three titles releasing in 2010:
is the fourth and last in Dr. Tim LaHaye’s and my Jesus Chronicles
series from Putnam Praise (fiction based on the Gospels). The
Last Operative (Tyndale House) is a thoroughly new and
improved version of my first ever standalone novel, an international
spy thriller from more than twenty years ago, The Operative
(Harper & Row). And Chicago Showdown
(Tyndale) is the working title of the first book in a trilogy of novels
about a police detective.
It’s nice to have work.
interview would be complete without asking what it feels like to turn
sixty. How do you feel about reaching this milestone? What do you look
forward to next?
sobering, and yet I’m healthier than I’ve been since high school, love
closing in on forty years of marriage to the love of my life (January
23, 1971), and we adore the grandparenting season.
Kim: Would you
like to share any closing words of encouragement?
a lot, write a lot, and develop a thick skin. Every piece of writing is
a duet between writer and editor, not a solo.
Kim Ford has been a resident of
Alabama for more than ten years. Originally from Georgia, she holds a
Bachelor’s degree in English from Brenau Women’s College. She has spent
the past 9 years in sales and marketing and has been an avid reader of
Christian Fiction for more than 20 years.
A mother of two teen sons and married to a technical writer and Army
veteran, Kim’s life is full and blessed. She and her husband also
volunteer as teachers for a resident rehab program for women with
life-controlling issues. She uses her fiction to encourage the ladies
she teaches. She blogs at: Window To My World