Jerry B. Jenkins
Jerry B. Jenkins, former vice president for publishing at Moody Bible Institute of Chicago and currently chairman of the board of trustees, is the author of more than 175 books, including the best-selling Left Behind series. Twenty of his books have reached the New York Times bestseller lists (seven in the No. 1 spot) and have also appeared on the USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. DESECRATION, book nine in the Left Behind series, was the bestselling book in the world in 2001. His books have sold nearly 70 million copies.
Also the former editor of Moody magazine, his writing has appeared in Time, Reader's Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and dozens of Christian periodicals. He was featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine in 2004.
His nonfiction books include as-told-to biographies with Hank Aaron, Bill Gaither, Orel Hershiser, Luis Palau, Joe Gibbs, Walter Payton and Nolan Ryan among many others. The Hershiser and Ryan books reached the New York Times bestseller list.
Jerry Jenkins assisted Dr. Billy Graham with his autobiography, JUST AS I AM, also a New York Times bestseller. Jerry spent 13 months working with Dr. Graham, which he considers the privilege of a lifetime.
Jerry owns Jenkins Entertainment, a filmmaking company in Los Angeles, which produced the critically acclaimed movie Midnight Clear, based on his book of the same name. See www.Jenkins-Entertainment.com.
Jerry Jenkins also owns the Christian Writers Guild, which aims to train tomorrow's professional Christian writers. Under Jerry's leadership, the guild has expanded to include college-credit courses, a critique service, literary registration services, and writing contests, as well as an annual conference. See www.ChristianWritersGuild.com.
As a marriage-and-family author, Jerry has been a frequent guest on Dr. James Dobson's “Focus on the Family” radio program and is a sought-after speaker and humorist. See www.AmbassadorSpeakers.com.
Jerry has been awarded four honorary doctorates. He and his wife, Dianna, have three grown sons and four grandchildren.
Check out Jerry's blog at http://jerryjenkins.blogspot.com.
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A Look Back
With the arrival of the twelfth book in the Left Behind series, Jerry Jenkins looks back on how writing the series has affected him personally.
It's ironic. The two things so many people in this world crave, seek, and work hard for ---wealth and fame --- both have been bestowed upon Jerry Jenkins. But Jerry Jenkins never aspired to either wealth or fame. The ways the Left Behind series has changed his life go deeper.
No doubt that the series has made the authors wealthy. The first book alone, LEFT BEHIND, sells a million copies per year; last fall sales reached more than 8 million. The Left Behind books have hit the bestseller lists for eight consecutive years. The past five books in the series each started as number one of the New York Times bestseller list ---which does not include sales from Christian bookstores. Overall, Left Behind book sales top 58 million. To call it a publishing phenomenon is a gross understatement. Publishers Weekly reports that the only authors whose publishers will print 2 million hardbacks for the first printing are J. K. Rowling, John Grisham --- and Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.
Such figures are staggering to most of us. They are to Jerry Jenkins as well. "Those kinds of figures go way beyond any writer's ability," he says. "The numbers are so huge, I can't dream of taking any credit. It's way too overwhelming to be anything but a God thing."
Fame inevitably follows such success. Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye were again ranked No. 42 on Entertainment Weekly's "Creative 50" list of the most powerful people in show business. "Funny, I don't feel any more powerful today than yesterday," said Jerry upon hearing the news. He says he lost his awe for celebrity status even before he wrote LEFT BEHIND. "I've written enough books with real celebrities, such as Walter Payton and Hank Aaron and Billy Graham, to know that fame looks good only to people who don't have it." Jerry quips that he is "the most famous person nobody's ever heard of"; he says he gets recognized "just enough to make it fun."
What the wealth and fame have done is give the authors a right to be heard in the national media. One or both authors have appeared on ABC's Nightline's Upclose, the CBS Early Show, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, and 60 Minutes, among others. It varies how much they get to share their faith, Jerry says.
Behind the numbers and the accolades lurks the real story, the kingdom story: God is using the Left Behind series to change lives. The authors have heard from more than 3,000 people who said they have become believers as a result of reading the books. No doubt those numbers represent many more who haven't contacted the authors. Other people write to say how they have passed the books along to family, friends and neighbors and used the series to share their faith with them.
That's what has been most gratifying to the authors --- knowing that God is at work through the books. Jerry says, "The stories readers tell us never get old."
Writing the Left Behind series has changed Jerry's life in the same ways the books have changed readers' lives: "It's made me more expectant of the imminent return of Jesus, and also more sensitive to the people around me. Knowing Jesus will return soon makes me want all the more to tell people about him and all that he offers."
With the twelfth book, GLORIOUS APPEARING: The End of Days, finished and the end of the series in sight (there will be a sequel and a prequel), Jerry says his goal hasn't changed. "My dream remains to inform and entertain through fiction in the form of novels and movies that compete in the marketplace of ideas."
Compete, indeed. The Left Behind series is an unparalleled publishing phenomenon with eternal consequences for a great many people.
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Jerry B. Jenkins, best known as the co-author of the bestselling Left Behind series has embarked on a new series, a trilogy that begins with the recently released SOON, a futuristic thriller. In this interview conducted by FaithfulReader.com founder Carol Fitzgerald, Jenkins discusses why he thinks religion has been so divisive around the world, reflects on his style of writing and the theme his books share, and talks about what readers can expect to see in the second book of the trilogy.
FR: The concept of the world changes brought on by World War III and the tsunami that you present at the start of SOON leaves readers with a lot of food for thought. It seems to me that you like writing a bold concept like this, which grasps your readers' attention right at the start of the book and immediately transports them from their "safe" world to another place. Am I right about this?
JJ: Yes. Of course, that's not unique to me. It should be the goal of every novelist.
FR: Many --- if not most --- wars have been fought over religious beliefs. Why do you think religion has been so divisive?
JJ: I fear it's because religion is man's attempt to reach God, and when he feels he has succeeded, he cannot abide anyone else's claim to have done the same. In my opinion, Jesus is God's attempt to reach man. But while I believe Jesus is the way to God, it makes no sense to hate people who disagree.
FR: Once again with Paul Stepola in SOON we have a man whose marriage has deteriorated, much like Rafe's in Left Behind. Is there a reason why you chose this theme again?
JJ: Such tragedy occurs daily, especially among people without faith. Of course, bad marriages are so pervasive that they have invaded the faith community too. Broken relationships are a source of heavy heartbreak that seem to affect every family. That I have enjoyed an idyllic marriage for nearly 33 years also makes the other side of that an interesting topic to explore.
FR: Your books lack a lot of description and your dialogue is spare. Tell us why you feel so strongly about this style of writing.
JJ: Actually SOON has more than the Left Behind series, but I really believe less is more. The theater of the mind is impossible to compete with, and I like the idea that with a few suggestions, each reader forms in his or her own mind what a character or a place looks like. As for dialogue, I think it keeps things moving to cut to the chase.
FR: Your faith is so deep. Is it difficult for you to write about nonbelievers and make them real to readers?
JJ: I hope not. I try to put myself in their place, imagine myself responding to someone of any other faith entirely. And I try to remember the kinds of responses I have received to "God talk" over the years. The uninitiated have real questions and valid concerns over how the things of God appear to them.
FR: Left Behind is such a successful series. You have written other books since you started the series, but none like SOON. What were your thoughts as you started a new series on your own?
JJ: How much I wished I had the world's leading prophecy expert on the other end of the phone. :) But Dr. LaHaye is there again for my current project (GLORIOUS APPEARING, book 12 in the Left Behind series). But it was fun, in a tightrope walking sort of way. I love inventing worlds and characters and settings and scenarios.
FR: You did an extensive tour for SOON. What did you hear from readers while you were on the road?
JJ: It's always great to meet readers, as writing is a very lonely profession and you like to have an idea who's on the other side of the page. They are most kind, saying wonderful things about Left Behind, asking when the next one is coming, and sharing their enthusiasm over what they know about SOON so far.
FR: Can you share anything about the second book in the trilogy and does this trilogy have a name? When can readers expect to see the next book?
JJ: We're assuming it will become known as the Soon series. The next book is due to Tyndale in February to be released approximately 9 months after the release of SOON, which was September 16th. The third book will be another 9 months out. In book 2 we'll resolve some of the mysteries from book 1, including what happened to the letter Paul had discovered (from his father), Jae's motivations for what appears to be a reconciliation attempt, etc. Of course, the entire underground is in grave danger because of what has happened at the end of book 1.
FR: When you write the final cliffhanger of each book, do you immediately write the next chapter and "hold it back?"
JJ: Never have.
FR: You have said that it takes you six weeks to write a Left Behind book. Is the same true with the books in this trilogy? When you write have you already thought through your concepts with an outline, or do you always start from scratch?
JJ: The first book of a new series takes longer, as I'm establishing characters and settings and the overall thrust. SOON was the first novel where I used a rough outline. Usually I have characters and an idea and write as a process of discovery. Like working without a net.
FR: How do you feel about winding down the Left Behind series, with the last book being published in March? A twelve-book series over 8 years was a huge undertaking. Would you ever want to do a project like that again?
JJ: If I did, it would only be because the preceding books were phenomenally successful --- so yes, sure I would. I can't imagine that happening twice in a lifetime. Books that do a tenth of what Left Behind has done are smashing successes. [A prequel and final sequel are also planned in the Left Behind series, so I am by no means finished when book 12 is done.]
FR: When you started Left Behind, did you ever foresee it becoming such a giant success, or were you taken by surprise?
JJ: Oh, sure, I thought it would sell 60 million. :) Not! I am still astounded. More every day.
FR: What do you think fueled that success?
JJ: The great writing. Kidding. In truth, I think whether people would call it this or not, there is a God-hunger in society. People buy books by the Pope, the Dali Lama, the Eastern mystics, the inner-healing gurus. People are looking for something beyond themselves, and when they hear of fiction based on Bible prophecy, it fuels that hunger. They read out of curiosity, and then, if the fiction works fundamentally, they get hooked.
Thanks for your interest.
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