Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Recent Interview

Check back here every Wednesday for a few thoughts on the craft. Here are today's:

Wednesday's Writing on Writing...

A highschooler, Ms. Logan Glover, sent me a whole bunch of questions for a class project. Here they are:

1.) How long have you been writing?

Since I was 14 when I started sports writing for daily newspapers.

2.) When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?

Soon after that I realized I had found my niche.

3.) What was your first book?

Sammy Tippit: God’s Love in Action – the life story of a young man totally sold-out to God. We remain friends to this day and I serve on his ministry board now.

4.) How old were you when it was published?


5.) How long have you known Tim LaHaye?

Since the early 1990s.

6,) How did you meet Dr. LaHaye?

Out mutual agent introduced us.

6.) Are the two of you good friends?


7.) How did Left Behind all come about?

It was Dr. LaHaye’s idea, but he’s not a fiction writer, so he needed a novelist, and that became me.

8.) What was the best moment of your life?

When I met my wife.

9.) When is your anniversary to your wife? (Beverly, am I right?)
No, Beverly is Dr. LaHaye’s wife, and they have been married longer than I have been alive. My wife is Dianna, and we were married January 23, 1971.

10.) What is one thing you regret most?

No huge regrets. Just stupid things I wish I hadn’t done when I was a young person. Nothing horrible.

11.) What are your hobbies?

I love movies, Scrabble, racquetball, but mostly spending time with our grown sons and five grandchildren (soon to be six).

12.) When is your birthday? (September 23th, right?)

Right, 1949. Same day and year as Bruce Springsteen. :) We both turned 60 this year.

13.) How many children do you have?

Three grown sons, Dallas (34, lower right), Chad (31, upper left), and Mike (27, upper right).

14.) How many grandchildren do you have?

Five. Dallas and Amanda have Sam (8), Maya (6), and Elle (4), and are adopting a 2-year-old boy from Thailand soon. They’ll call him Max. Chad and Christa have two sons, Isaac (2) and Micah (2 months).

15.) When you were ten years old, where did you see your life going?

The only thing I wanted was to be a big league baseball player.

16.) Is your life how you expected it to be?

Four years later I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I thought I would be a newspaper sportswriter or sports editor, not a biographer and novelist and owner of a writers guild and a filmmaking company.

17.) What are your religious views? (I'm pretty sure I already know, but it never hurts to ask).

I would be considered a conservative evangelical. John 14:6.

18.) What are your political views?


19.) What is your nationality?


20.) Who are your parents?

My father, Harry, who died in 2003, was a career law enforcement officer (a police chief for most of his career). My mother, Bonita (83), worked in a bank, was a church choir director, and both taught and studied piano for most of her life. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where I was born.

21.) Do you have any siblings?

I have three brothers. Jim (63), Jeff (61), and Jay (49).

22.) How many novels have you published?

Around a hundred of my 175+ books are novels.

23.) Do you plan to keep writing for a long time?

I don’t sing or dance or preach. :) Writing is all I do.

24.) What are some of your main problems you come across when you begin writing a novel?

Procrastination. Getting started is always toughest. I make sure I have an idea that won’t leave me alone and have done most of my research. I never miss a deadline.

25.) Are you often/ever asked to speak about your writing?

I could speak just about as much as I wanted to. I accept only about one such speaking engagement a month.

27.) If you could describe yourself using five words, what would you say?

Husband, father, grandfather, writer, mentor.

28.) Does your writing affect your time spent with friends/ family?

Friends yes. Family no. Family is top priority. When my kids were at home, I never wrote when they were awake.

29.) If so, how do they handle not having your constant attention?

Can’t say that’s ever been an issue with the family. And I think friends understand.

30.) Approximately how much time each day do you spend writing?

I write only when I’m on deadline, and then I write between 10 and 20 pages a day, whether that takes 2 hours or 12. It’s all about producing pages.

31.) Do you ever work on more than one novel/book/article at once?

I used to, but these days I write only one at a time. If I need a break, I might take a day and research the next project, but otherwise, one at a time.

32.) When you go out in public, do people ever seem to know who you are? (Besides family friends and relatives. People who are fans, in other words).

I get recognized just enough to make it fun but not so much that it’s a nuisance. I have worked with really famous people, and that kind of a life would be a prison. They can’t go anywhere without being recognized. While that might sound fun and gratifying, they hate it. Sometimes people in airports (like TSA agents) recognize my name and say, “Left Behind? I love those books!”

33.) What is your number one tip for young writers?

Develop a thick skin. Published writing is a duet between writer and editor, not a solo. And two more: Write a lot. Read even more.

34.) Does speaking in front of crowds make you nervous?

Good question. It doesn’t any more, I suppose because I’ve done so much of it and have learned it’s not about me but the audience, and I know what has worked in the past. When I was in high school I was so petrified of speaking in front of the class that if someone had told me public speaking would be part of my future I would have bet my life it wouldn’t. Finding out I was funny helped a lot.

35.) How do you handle the critisism of your novels?

I cry all the way to the bank.

Seriously, criticism hurts, but I try to learn from it as long as it isn’t personal. When someone accuses me of doing it for the money, I know better, despite the above crack stolen from Liberace.

36.) Who is usually the first person to read your novels/drafts besides yourself and the editor?

Dianna or son Dallas (who runs our film company). My brother Jay likes to read early versions too.

37.) Are any of the characters in Left Behind based on some one you know in real life? If so, which ones, how, and why?

All are based on someone’s look, name, personality, character, speech pattern, etc. And my mother says she sees me in every character. I use a lot of myself for men, women, old, young, healthy, infirm, etc., and mix and match with everyone I’ve ever met.

38.) Do you ever regret becoming a writer?

Never for a second.

39.) What would be your advice to teenagers who are doubting their writing skills?

Doubting your skills is a good position to write from. Realize the poverty of skill you bring to the table and continue to learn, read, self-edit, and work, work, work. If you’re not growing, you’re stagnating.

40.) Did you ever do this?

I work hard at never resting on my laurels and always trying to make each piece of writing better than the last.

41.) How many television interviews have you done?

I’ve quit counting. I’ve been on every show except Charlie Rose and Today.

42.) What is your full name? (Google turned up Jerry Bruce Jenkins).

That’s it.

43.) How long did it take for you to publish your first novel?

I had an idea and an editor friend had a little lineup of books and needed another. I was pleased that the first one worked for him.

44.) Did the others take just as long, longer, or shorter?

About the same. Of course after a hit like the Left Behind series, publishers trust my ideas.

45.) How do you feel about people saying they want to be like you? Are you honored, or does it sometimes get on your nerves?

It’s an honor, humbling. Tells me they don’t really know me. :)

46.) Does it embarrass/ annoy you when people make a big deal about who you are and what you've done?

Everybody likes to be appreciated, but if it gets excessive, I try to deflect it or just say I feel blessed, which I do.

47.) How do you feel about people naming their own children after you, or characters in your novel? Does this honor you or does it tend to seem silly to you?

I’m not aware of it. We have named pets after some of my characters, and I’ve heard of others doing that.

48.) What is your biggest pet peeve?

Drivers who don’t pull out into the intersection while waiting to make a left turn. (I need to get a life, don’t I? :)

49.) Do you ever get frustrated while writing a novel, and give up on it?

I never give up, but yes, there are sometimes rough spots. You have to soldier on. If a story flags, I introduce conflict.

50.) How do your ideas for novels usually come to you?

Often from other mediums. A movie, a book, the news, newspapers, magazines. You never know. Usually they grow into novel ideas when they’re mixed and matched. I got the idea for Riven – about a man who chooses crucifixion as his method of execution – after taking a close look at a crucifix and later adding the idea of this as a choice. Riven became my favorite of all my books and will become a movie next year.

51.) Are all of your novels Christian novels?

All but one. ‘Twas the Night Before is an allegory of faith wherein we discover that Santa Claus is real after all. Those who believe without seeing benefit the most. But of course, it’s such a fantasy that it can’t be considered a “Christian” novel.

52.) Where did you attend college? And how many years did you go?

I attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for one year, The Loop College in Chicago for a semester, and William Rainey Harper College (Illinois) for a year and a half. No earned degrees. But I have taught several semesters of graduate school writing and journalism and have four honorary doctorates (for presenting commencement addresses).

53.) Are you travelling a lot?

I travel about half the time. I don’t like travel and being gone so much, but I am getting choosier about where I go.

54.) How do you feel about your life as it is now? Love it/ hate it/ no complaints?

This is by far the best season of life. Love it. Zero complaints.


Patricia said...

Thank you for sharing these questions and answers. I enjoyed learning more about you and your family. I'm taking your Article Writing course now.

Anonymous said...

Great answers, Jerry. I seem to learn something new every time I read one of your interviews.

Particularly intrigued about your answer to #39. I'll be mulling of the notion of 'poverty of skill' for the rest of the week, I think.