Jerry B. Jenkins is a novelist and biographer who has written 186 books with sales over 70 million copies, including the Left Behind Series. Twenty-one of his titles have reached the New York Times bestseller list. He also mentors writers internationally at JerryJenkins.com. No stranger to most people, he has written biographies as well as fiction, non-fiction and children’s books. I recently interviewed him via email to get a feel for his future plans as well as his background.
Where did you grow up? I asked him. “Kalamazoo, Michigan, until age 13, then the Chicago suburbs until college,” he stated. “What did your parents do for a living? “My father was a career police officer, eventually rising to the rank of chief of police. My mother was largely a stay-at-home mom, though for a time she worked in a bank,” Jenkins explained.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Jenkins found his path early in life, “When I was injured playing sports in high school, I started sports writing to stay close to that scene and realized immediately I had found my niche,” he said.
Was faith writing just as natural as breathing? “When I felt called into full time Christian service, I assumed I would have to give up writing and train for pastoral or missionary work, but I was wisely counseled that God often equips a person before He calls them and that I should consider that writing would be a way to answer the call. That set the course for my life,” I could imagine him smiling as he said this via email.
Were you trained as a writer, or is it just a natural ability? Jenkins replied, “It was really both. Because my mother had taught me to read even before I went to kindergarten, I had been reading the sports pages and Sports Illustrated by the time I became a sports writer at age 14. Through osmosis I seemed to have developed a knack for it, though I wasn’t good yet. I still had to get a quarter million clichés out of my system and have never quit learning the craft and polishing my prose.”
“I was a sports writer for a local paper before I was old enough to drive. My parents had to drive me to the sports events and to the newspaper office, but I have been a professional writer for more than 50 years. I studied journalism in high school and during my brief time in college, and I still read every book and article I can find about writing.”
What was the most interesting or fun writing project for you? “I have had countless exciting projects because I have been able to meet and work with many of the sports heroes of my youth (Hank Aaron, Meadowlark Lemon, et al), but the privilege of a lifetime was assisting Billy Graham with his memoir Just As I Am,” Jenkins stated.
I’m certain I’m not the only one to think of you as the C.S. Lewis of our day. You are a prolific Christian writer who tackles many subjects. Do you have a favorite area of writing or a favorite character you have created? Jenkins reply may surprise you, “Though baseball is my favorite sport, I do enjoy writing adult fiction most because I can create my own worlds and characters and stories. My favorite character has been Nicolae Carpathia, the antichrist from Left Behind, because he is—naturally—the ultimate villain. For the first half of his reign he is not only not suspected of evil, he is perceived as the opposite: the most attractive, articulate, smart, charming, brilliant leader in history, mistaken for God reincarnate.”
I asked him, Are you always making notes about your books? “Yes, that’s fairly accurate,” he stated. How many pages do you write in a day? “When I’m on deadline I write between 10 and 20 finished pages per day, largely due to my journalism background,” he said. Do you use a computer, voice recorder, or pen? “I have used a computer since the first rudimentary ones became affordable in the early 1980s,” he reported.
Although he does not write movie scripts and has no plans to write one, he does have plans to write more books in cooperation with the man who came up with the concept of the Left Behind book series. “Dr. LaHaye and I are shopping a prophetic trilogy of novels based on the Book of Daniel,” he stated. One thing is for sure, as long as Jerry B. Jenkins can write, he’s going to be producing books worth reading.