Michal by Jill Eileen Smith
Kim Ford 

Author Interview

Kim Ford Interviews Our Featured Cover Author
- Jerry Jenkins

Jerry JenkinsJerry 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 subjects.

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 alone.

Kim: Finding 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?

Jerry: Early 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 guilt.

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?

Jerry: My 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 published work?

Jerry: 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 finished product.

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?

Jerry: We 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.

Kim: You have called Riven your life’s work. Why? In what way?

Jerry: I 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.

Kim: 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?

Jerry: I 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)!

Jerry: 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?

Jerry: 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 Jenkins’s personality?

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 there.”

Kim: What project are you working on right now that you are most excited about? Why?

Jerry: I have three titles releasing in 2010:

Matthew’s Story 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.

Kim: No 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?

Jerry: It’s 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?

Jerry: Read 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