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A conversation with Jerry Jenkins - S10.E5

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WORLD Radio - A conversation with Jerry Jenkins - S10.E5

Best-selling author shares insights on writing and God-given creativity


Jerry Jenkins Handout

I’m Warren Smith, and today you’ll be listening in on my conversation with the man who may be the best-selling author of Christian books in history: Jerry Jenkins. He shares some of his writing secrets in a new book, Writing For The Soul.

JERRY JENKINS, GUEST: For me, writing is obedience. I'm following a call to full-time Christian work. So once I've written the book, I've obeyed. The best selling part of it, or the big royalties or the reviews and all that, I don't have any control over that anyway. That's up to the marketplace. And so I my goal is not all those earthly things. My goal is is, to me success is obedience.

You might think that Jerry Jenkins needs no introduction to the evangelical world. After all, his name has appeared on the cover of more than 200 books, books that have sold more than 72 million copies. The Left Behind books, which he wrote with Dr. Tim LaHaye, became a global phenomenon. Twenty-one of his books have been on The New York Times Bestseller List, with seven of them debuting at number one.

But Jerry Jenkins was no overnight success. An avid sports fan, he covered high school sports for his local paper while still in high school himself. He labored in news rooms in an era when they were noisy with the clackety-clack of typewriters and the profanity and cigarette smoke of hard-charging reporters on deadline. Those early experiences gave him the discipline to write crisp, punchy prose, a discipline that has served him well over his career.

Jenkins has also had an interesting career away from the typewriter. For example, he has developed a friendship with the horror writer Stephen King, which we talk about in our interview today. He has had executive positions at Moody Bible Institute. He has collaborated with his son, Dallas Jenkins, on a successful movie and TV projects.

The book we’re discussing today is his instruction manual for writers, called Writing For The Soul. Originally published in 2004, it was recently re-published, and, for my money, it deserves a place on any writer’s bookshelf next to William Zinsser’s classic On Writing Well and Stephen King’s own excellent book about writing called On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

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WS: Well, Jerry Jenkins, welcome to the program. And I cannot resist getting started with a little anecdote and asking your reaction to it. Probably, my son, who is in his early 30s now, he's in grad school actually, he's a screen in screenwriting program at Columbia University in New York. But when he was about 10 years old, I was at a conference, and I took him with me to that conference. And he was carrying around the Left Behind book because whenever I was doing boring adult stuff, he'd be sitting there reading the book. Well, Dr. LaHaye was at that, Tim LaHaye, was at that conference. And at one of the breaks, we went up to the coffee urn, and sure enough, he was standing right there getting his coffee while we were getting our coffee. And I, I knew Dr. LaHaye before, so I said, hey Dr. LaHeye, I'd like to introduce you to my son, Cole. And he's reading your book. And so Dr. LaHaye got really excited about that and grabbed the book out of his hand and autographed it for my son Cole, which I thought was really sweet. And we were at that conference for another probably two or two and a half days. Every single time Dr. LaHaye saw my son Cole, he called him by name, and asked him how he was doing, and… does that sound typical of Dr. LaHaye?

JJ: It really does. He was an incredible person. You know, he was kind of a polemic. You know, he was he was a political guy. And he spoke out and he wasn't afraid to tell you his views. But that shows sort of a hard side of him. But the soft side comes through your story. I remember being at a signing with him in Nashville. And we had quite a crowd in a bookstore. And I look up and Dr. LaHaye's missing. You know, he was, uh, he'd been sitting right next to me. And I saw him over in a corner, and he's praying with somebody. And you know that that was the guy, he was a soft heart. And he did remember names. I mean, people would introduce themselves to him. And he would do that where he'd see him again and know their name. He was an amazing pastoral type.

WS: Yeah. Well, that was the thing that was remarkable to me was just the fact that he remembered my son's name. I think that must be a Baptist preacher thing, when you go to see, you know, like you can't get into seminary if you can't demonstrate that ability, maybe I don't know. Well, I one of the reasons I wanted to open up with that story was because, you know, for a couple of reasons. One is because I think you're, you know, you've written 150 plus books. But I think it's fair to say that you're probably best known for the Left Behind books. The other reason I wanted to share that story was to kind of confess to you and to the world an error that I made, when I said, you know, Dr. LaHaye, my son has got your book. And in fact, it's really more your book than Dr. LaHaye's book. Which I mean, he came up with the idea and was the theological, I guess you could say, consultant on that story. But you were the one that actually put your fanny in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard and wrote that book. All those books.

JJ: Yeah, he was very generous about that, too. He would always say that, you know, Jerry did the writing. But it was his idea. We split everything 50/50. And obviously, you know, he chose me to do that. We had the same agent. But we all got together on that end. But I always say, I got the fun part. And he was really good that way, because he knew his role, and I knew my role. I'm not a theologian or a scholar, and I needed to have his input, you know, all along the way. Plus, he was a great cheerleader. I would send him 100 or 200 pages at a time. And he would say, keep sending them, I want to know what happens next myself.

WS: Well, that's great. In fact, I've heard it said that one of you know, if you're telling a kid a story, and you stop, you can tell if the story's, you know, got any juice or not, well, if the kid says, Well, what happens next, what happens next? I mean, that's kind of the thing. In fact, I want to come back to the Left Behind books, and maybe some of the stories about that. But the real reason I wanted to have you on Jerry is because of your book, Writing For The Soul: Instruction and Advice For Any Writer. I know a lot of our listeners will not be writers, but we are all creators in some way or another. God, in the beginning, God created. We are created in His image. So we are creators. And whether we're specifically, you know, called to the vocation of writing, all of us are called likely to be a communicator, or written even a written communicator in our lives. And so I found your book very nourishing both as a writer and as a human. And and, you know the what happened next in some ways is part of the advice that you give in the book. you say? You say that you love cliffhangers. You want people to ask the question, wait a minute, what's, what's, what's coming next? Right?

JJ: Exactly. Yeah, that's something that too few writers think about. I mean, some can overdo it, where everything's a cliffhanger. But really, every page should motivate you to turn the page and read the next one. And so I put it in simplest terms, every word should lead you to the next one. And I've often said, you know, it doesn't have to be slam bang action all the time. If you simply set up in a story that, uh, that your character has an appointment the next day, maybe he's going to the dentist. The reader, just subconsciously realizes, he's not saying that unless something interesting is going to happen there besides a tooth cleaning or something, Something's coming. And that's a setup that demands a payoff. And that's how you get readers to keep turning the pages.

WS: On the other hand, I interviewed a writer, Orson Scott Card, a few years ago. He wrote the Ender's Game series. And one of the things that he does whenever he's writing a book, he he's got readers that he gives the book to. And he asks them to read the book. And if for any reason, they stop reading, I mean, they fall asleep, they have to go to the bathroom, you know, their house is on fire. For any reason, he doesn't care what the reason is, he wants the reader to draw a line in the manuscript. And he says that if two or three of the readers draw a line at the same place, he goes back and reworks those paragraphs right before and afterwards, because he wants to motivate people, you know, to keep reading. He said, I don't care what the reason is, if something in your life is more important than reading the next paragraph, I want to know where that is. It seems to be, at least in part, what you're saying. But later in your book Writing For The Soul, you say that you're not much of a fan of readers, of critique clubs, so to speak. Can you sort of reconcile those two?

JJ: Yeah, there are some issues with that. I mean, I do encourage new writers to join critique groups. But I say it's important that the leader of that group be somebody who's been published and knows the business. Because otherwise you get the blind leading the blind. You get people who all want to be published. And so they get together and talk about how fun that would be. And then the group either falls into where everybody's criticizing everybody else's work, so everybody gets discouraged. Or the opposite. Everybody loves everything everybody else is doing. And nobody learns anything and nobody gets published. So I basically just say, make sure your your mentors are people who know what they're doing. And I'm not too much for beta readers. I do encourage younger writers to do that, because they want input. They want to know, not necessarily professional critique, yet. They just want to know what typical readers, how they would react. And I say, you know, go ahead and send your manuscript to friends and loved ones. Some of them will love it, because they love you. And so don't take writing instruction from them. But just, it will give you a feel for where the people are saying, wow, this is fantastic, and I want to read more, and I would buy it and that type of thing. But then for professional input, you need an agent or a publisher to really react.

WS: Yeah, Jerry, I want to go back to sort of the beginning of your writing life. And it also happens to be near the beginning of your book, you talk a lot about your career. Short, though it was in some ways, your career as a newspaper journalist, as being extraordinarily formative to your your long term writing career, even though, well I guess you stayed in that in that world for a long time. You've you've but you've had such a long career, the vast majority of your career now has been in book writing and other kinds of writing. But talk about those early days and how you got into sports writing initially, and you know what that was all about for you.

JJ: Yeah, my, my mother was quite a linguist. She studied Latin in high school, skipped a grade, one of those kinds of students. Not not the kind of student I was. But she taught me to read before I went to kindergarten, so I was sort of a typically obnoxious elementary school student and a little ahead of the others at that point. The joke in our family is that in first grade, I was reading at a fourth grade level. And then by college I was still reading at a fourth grade level. But her teaching me to read was so great because I loved reading Sports Illustrated and loved reading sports pages in the local paper. I was really into sports. And so we would play a board game at home and it was a baseball game. And I would write the story up as if it was going to be in the newspaper and what happened in the game?

WS: Oh, wow.

JJ: So when I was 14, I went to the local paper and talked to the sports editor. And I said, how are you fixed for sports writers. And he said, why? And I said, because I am one. Well, I was a big kid. And I looked older than I was at 14, which was an advantage as a teenager, not so much now. But he said he would try me as a stringer. In other words, he would send me to high school games, maybe at my own high school, and I could write up the story and then bring it to him, and he would edit it. And what survived, he would pay me $1 per inch of copy that let, that wound up in the paper. So this was back when rainbows were black and white, you know. But I thought I was making some big money, $10 here, $12 there. And I learned so much from the editing. He didn't even know I was too young to drive and that my mother was waiting for me in that parking lot, you know, to drive into the games and back to the to the newspaper office. But being edited was crucial to my career. And I was in the newspaper business probably till I was 21. But I felt a call to full time Christian work. And I was probably 16 when I felt that call and I fell under conviction. I had to go forward and say I am willing to do this. The speaker basically said, all Christians should be full time Christians, but some of us will actually make our living in full time ministry. And I thought, I'm gonna have to give up the sportswriting, study to be a missionary or a pastor. And a counselor that night, in fact, the wife of the speaker said, sometimes God equips us before alls us. Don't be too quick to give up the writing. That may be the vehicle you use to fulfill the call. Well, that's proven true. But it also totally adjusted my view of writing as a profession, because most writers think success is bestsellers, royalty checks, good reviews, becoming famous, all that stuff. For me, writing is obedience. I'm following a call to full-time Christian work. So once I've written the book, I've obeyed. The best selling part of it, or the big royalties or the reviews and all that, I don't have any control over that anyway. That's up to the marketplace. And so my goal is not all those earthly things. My goal is is, to me success is obedience.

WS: Yeah, well, you know, in fact, that line that you just said that God often gifts people before he calls them is one of the lines that I underlined when I was reading the book. I thought that that was, you know, so powerful. And, and again, on the other hand, if I could say, you also say later in the book that I call writing a sacred profession, because I believe God chose the written word to communicate with man. So I'm with you, loud, and I hear you loud and clear when you say that, you know, all professions, if you are called by God to it, and you're doing it for His glory, it doesn't matter whether you're a baker, a brewer, a plumber, an engineer, whatever, pastor. They can all be sacred professions. But, but let's just stipulate for the record, that maybe some professions are more sacred than others, or what? I mean, the writing profession really does resonate deeply with you, right?

JJ: Yeah. And some, you know, some professions, obviously, are total ministry oriented. But I think the point that that counselor was making was that, you know, and the speaker was making, was that no matter what you do, even if you're in a totally secular profession, maybe you're a mechanic, you do it to the glory of God. You do your best work because you're a child of the King. And you share your faith with people. You're a full time Christian. You know, some people say, well, I'm not a missionary, I'm not a pastor, I just do my work and keep my head down. We're all told to make disciples. So there's some full time work involved in that too.

WS: Yeah, one of the, another thing that you wrote about in your book that really deeply resonated with me, I'd like for you to say a little bit more about, is this idea that you don't have to be a published author. And you've already sort of suggested this. You don't have to make a lot of money to be a writer. You know, a runner is somebody who runs. A sleeper is someone who sleeps, right? A writer is somebody who writes. You know, if you, you know, think of yourself as a writer, identify as a writer, and you're actually writing, you've actually got your fanny in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard, you're a writer.

JJ: Yeah, I've got a little plaque in my in my office that says the only way to write a book is with seat in chair. You know, it's doing it. And I hear from a lot of writers, you know, I've had a lot of writing students online. And they say, well, I'm not a writer yet. And I go yeah, you are. You're studying it. You're practicing it. You're a writer. Call yourself a writer. Own it. You're not saying you're a published author, you're saying you're a writer. And someday maybe that'll turn into being a published author.

WS: Yeah, yeah. One of the other ideas that really jumped out of your book at me, Jerry, was this idea of writing to communicate. That if you've got to explain, if you’re sort of, you know, airy fairy pie in the sky, you know, hyper experimental, and you've got to basically explain what it is that you're doing, then maybe you have violated the ultimate purpose of writing, which is, in fact to communicate. Can you say a little bit more about that idea?

JJ: Yeah, I think this is particularly a danger in inspirational writing, because we have a message. And you know, we want to want people to apply this to their lives. But the mistake, I think, is people think they have to preach or teach. And I say, you know, a story well told, even if it's a true story, I'm not talking about just fiction. If you want to share your memoir, and tell what happened to you, what you're doing is you're telling about where you were, some bad thing maybe that happened to you, or some challenges you came through, what it did to you, how you came through it, and who you are now, then resist the temptation to say, in essence, so how about you, dear reader, are you going through the same things? You don't have to apply it for the reader, if the story is well told. The reader will apply it for himself or herself and say, Well, I may not have been raised in an abusive home, but I lost a spouse, or I lost a house or I, I have a child who's has challenges. Whatever they're going through, they're saying, I read your book, you came through your problem, I can come through mine. They'll apply it for themselves. And I call that the ‘come alongside’ method, where you you're throwing your arm around the reader saying, I'm coming alongside you to tell you my story. And then leave it at that. Let them get their own application.

WS: Yeah, it seems to me that that bit of advice is related to another bit of advice that you give even earlier in the book, which is that a double minded book is unstable in all its ways. And too often I see in Christian books, and in Christian movies, in particular, there will be what I call the Jesus Juke, right? Where, you know, that moment in the book, where, you know, the pickup truck suddenly starts running again, and the dog comes back to life and your football team wins. And, you know, and and everybody lives happily ever after. But you say that, you know, telling the story in a true authentic, unvarnished way, full of conflict and sort of the brokenness of the world, is really the best way to help people understand whatever spiritual lessons that might be embedded in that story.

JJ: Yeah, my, my contention is that whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, tell the truth. I mean, I was raised, you know decades ago, and one of the sort of popular theologies of my teenage years was, you come to Jesus and get saved, and you'll never be happier. You know, this will make, your life will be wonderful. Yeah, I have not found that true. I've had some wonderful blessings in my life. But if you're really devout, you're going to suffer. And the Bible says, you will. And if you're not, you're probably avoiding the truth. One of the things I like to put in my fiction is what I call credible skeptical characters. Not everybody comes to Jesus and then marries, and the kids grow up to be missionaries, and all live happily ever after. You're going to face trouble. And, and when we use characters to try to preach, and they're sharing something religious or, or trying to explain why a relationship with Jesus is not like religion and that's true, you need a skeptical character who's credible, who can say, do you realize how religious that sounds? You're talking jargon to me, and I don't even know what you mean. You sound like a religious nut. And then make your character talk his way out of that. Because that's real life. And, again, not have every villain get saved and redeemed. It doesn't happen in real life. And so, you know, make them credible, make them skeptical, and then you're speaking for the whole audience.

WS: You know, it's interesting, Jerry, that's, that's a deeply biblical technique. I mean, you know, if you look, if you read the New Testament, you'll find characters like Thomas. You'll find characters like the the two men on the road to Emmaus that Jesus appeared to, who said to Jesus, don't you, are you kidding me? You don't know what's been going on these last few days? It's like, there was this... And in Shakespeare, you know, we often see either the fool, the so-called fool, or the jester in Shakespeare, who is often the only person in that play that can speak the truth to the king, right? Because he's not, he's not taken by the power and the majesty of the king. It sounds to me that you're saying nothing very different from what both scripture and Shakespeare have done. That's pretty good company.

JJ: Yeah. And that's the thing, that if people will read scripture, you know, sometimes you get criticism, and they'll say, I don't think this this horrible stuff you wrote in your book would would happen or that a Christian should be writing about that. And I'm thinking, what do you think the Bible is rated? I mean, you look at the Old Testament, even some of the New Testament, there's every bit of mayhem you can imagine.

WS: Yeah.

JJ: You know, you may not like that. But the point is, you don't know how good the good news is, until you know how bad the bad news is. So tell the truth.

WS: Yeah, yeah. Well, Jerry, let's just stipulate for the record, that we cannot unpack every word of your really great book, Writing for the Soul. But I do kind of want to maybe pivot in our conversation to have a little bit of a lightning round of a couple of things that were of particular interest to me. And one of them was your relationship with Stephen King. I want to know how that happened, how that started.

JJ: Yeah, that was kind of bizarre. It happens that Stephen and I had the same audio reader who was absolutely the best in the business. He had won all the awards for years. And this is a man who's who's now gone. But he had a horrible motorcycle accident and took him six years in rehab before he died. He could barely speak anymore, let alone read, you know, the wonderful work he had done.

WS: And just to be clear, you're talking about your reader who had the automobile accident. Because I think a lot of our listeners might know that Stephen King also had an accident. He was hit and hit by car, but we're talking about the reader now.

JJ: Yeah, this is this is the audio reader. His name was Frank Mueller. So one day, I'm in my office. And, you know, this was sort of in the heyday of Left Behind. And I had some means and so I was helping with his rehab. It was, you know, the, the costs were in the millions of dollars. I don't know how his wife ever survived it. But I was sending to this fund and trying to help Frank out. And my secretary tells me, there's a phone call for you from Stephen King. And I thought, right, I've got a lot of friends who would say that. I almost got on and said, yeah, this is John Grisham, you know. But I just I thought, well, maybe. So I said, this is Jerry. And he said, Yeah, this is Steve King. And I thought only Stephen King would call himself Steve. I've never heard him referred to that way before. And he said, I noticed that you've been giving to this fund for Frank Mueller. And he said, the only reason I know that is it's my fund. And I, I've got it under a phony name so that people didn't give out of respect for me, it was just for Frank. And I said, yeah, I didn't know that. And he said, well, he's basically, you and I are the only ones really giving to it in any, you know, significant manner. And he said, we should have a benefit for for Frank. And he said, I can get the New York publishers. And, he said, you can get the Christian publishers because I know prayer works. And I have to say that took me aback. I, you know, I've read Stephen King stuff, and you know, some of the some of the stuff that's not so horrible, like The Green Mile and all that stuff.

WS: Right.

JJ: But, you know, I was impressed with that. And so we were chatting, and I said, well, this may come as a surprise to you, but I'm a reader of yours. And he said, well, this may come as a surprise to you, but I'm a reader of yours. He said Frank had given him copies of Left Behind when he was reading, you know, for me. And he said, he also read more of my baseball novels. King is a big baseball fan. So we kind of connected over that. And then we decided we would go visit Frank in rehab. And so you know, he flew from Maine, and I flew from Colorado. And we visited Frank and his wife, and it was a pretty sad day. But we spent that day together, and, you know, kind of hit it off. And we've kept up over the years. And that was, you know, several years ago. And he, in fact, he endorsed this book, Writing For The Soul.

WS: Right.

JJ: But it's been an interesting relationship. And I've mentioned it a few times and on my site, and I sometimes get criticized. People say, well should you be friends with a guy like that? And I'm thinking, I think Jesus would be friends with a guy like that. You know, this is sort of what the Bible teaches that we, you know, we can't be staying in our own cocoon, you know. But I find him a very fascinating guy, obviously a great writer. And he's become a, you know, I can't say a personal friend, but we're acquaintances over the years and it's been a rich experience.

WS: Right, right. And there was an interview that was in Writer's Digest that you reprint in this book that I also found pretty fascinating. And, yeah, I've got to confess to you that I'm not a huge, I'm not an avid reader of Stephen King. I wouldn't say that I would call myself a fan. Though, I have read enough of his work to know that he is concerned with spiritual matters. I mean, they, the horror genre in some ways, the, one of the things that I, again, not a huge fan, but one of the things that I do like about the horror genre is that it acknowledges the existence of the supernatural. And it makes space for the possibility of the transcendent, of the spiritual world. And I think with Stephen King's work, you see that particularly upfront.

JJ: The thing that I find really interesting about his approach to spiritual things, when I'm reading, I read a lot of the competition. I want to know what the sector, you know, general market, fiction writers are writing about.

WS: Right.

JJ: And when they write about the faith, they write about church and things like that, they so often get just the simplest things wrong. They don't understand it. I mean, I was reading a novel one time where a couple was saying they, they thought, they weren't church people at all. They were kind of earthy people. In fact, criminals, I think. But they, they thought they wanted to send their daughter, six or seven year old, to Vacation Bible School, if they could afford it. And I thought, how much research do you have to do to find out, nobody pays to go to Vacation Bible School? Those are the kinds of things that Stephen gets right. I've noticed that - he'll, he'll say something about a Sunday school class or somebody that plays organ in church or whatever. And the little details are right. And he was raised in a mainline church. So you know, he at least does his homework. And he doesn't claim any faith. And he doesn't pretend to be anything he's not. But he gets the details right.

WS: Well, and you take a story like The Shawshank Redemption, which was based on a Stephen King short story, I mean, that tha,t a lot of Christian critics, film critics have commented, what have you know, about what a powerfully redemptive story. I know the book is different from the short story, but nonetheless. Yeah, so. Well, okay, another writer, I want to hit you with because you mentioned him more than once in your book. More than twice, more than three times, is Dean Koontz. First of all, I didn't get from the book that you had a relationship with Dean Koontz, just that you are an admirer. Is that accurate?

JJ: That is accurate. Back in the 80s, I picked up his book, How to Write Best-Selling Fiction. And you talk about best-seller, he's in the Stephen King range, you know, and also writes horror, but a little different. He's sort of the thinking man Stephen King, you know. But he had what he calls a classic story structure. And he was making the point that it fits every genre, including comedy. And, you know, it's basically, I can run down really fast. You plunge your main character into terrible trouble as soon as possible. Everything they try to do to make it better makes it worse, until things look impossible. And then because of what that character has learned, and how they've grown, through all those setbacks, they become heroic, and they win the day. And he said, think about it, that even works for I Love Lucy. She'd get herself in terrible trouble. Everything she tried to do made it worse, until she had some ‘splainin’ to do and it looked impossible, but then she figured it out and solved it. I started applying that to my fiction and my career skyrocketed overnight.

WS: Wow.

JJ: I mean, well, I'd been a midlist writer, I'd been writing mysteries and things like that and having fun. But all of a sudden, books started selling and people started responding. So I teach Dean Koontz and what he writes about the classic story structure.

WS: Again, in this lightning round, Jerry, just a couple of quick things. One is, this is a little bit random. But I can't resist asking. You mentioned several times in your book that about your weight. When you were a kid, they called you Moose. You were, you mentioned that you were a big boy. That's how you were able to sort of infiltrate your way into the adult world of a newsroom. You're not that big now. You're 100 pounds lighter than you were at your peak. Is that accurate?

JJ: Believe it or not, I'm 180 pounds lighter than I was at my peak.

WS: Holy cow. Well, how did how did you do that?

JJ: Well, I did have gastric bypass surgery back in 2003. But my surgeon says, to keep it off, to keep all of it off for 18, 19 years like this is one in 1000. Because, you know, it's just a tool. You know, it's not a cure all. But yeah, at my peak I was about 380. And this morning, I was under 200. And it's a whole new life and has been for several years. And basically the motivation came when my son Dallas had his first son - our first grandson. And I thought you know, I'd love, I love being a grandpa. But I want to see this kid go to college and get married and you know, and now he's in college. And luckily I'm still here to see it and I might not have been if I'd stayed at 380.

WS: And so other than the gastric bypass, what did you do? Was it a diet? Was it exercise? Was it both?

JJ: It’s both. I keep track of everything I eat on computer. And you know, really the bottom line is it's calorie intake. I don't believe in these diets where you cut out bread or you cut out sweets. Or you know, if you cut something out, you're eventually going to binge on it if you're, if you're a problem eater, which I obviously was and recovering from that. And so I have what I want, but I limit the calorie intake and that that keeps me where I need to be.

WS: Yeah, I've got a friend also in Christian ministry lost about 100 pounds. And he said, you get strong in the gym, but you get lean in the kitchen. That if you don't limit the way you eat, you can work out, you can exercise and I mean, obviously that helps because you are burning off calories, but but it's a lot easier to limit your calorie intake than it is to burn it off once you've taken it in.

Well, since you mentioned Dallas, I'd like to maybe pivot one last time in our conversation and ask you to react to something. I interviewed, Dallas, of course, your son Dallas Jenkins is having massive success right now with The chosen. And so as a consequence of that I interviewed him probably about six months or a year ago. And I asked Dallas this. Or maybe I should preface it, Jerry, by saying this, that a couple of years ago I had lunch with Adam Bellow, who is the son of the great writer, Saul Bellow. And Adam Bellow is a great editor. But he’s not really so much known as a writer. He's written a couple of books, but not many. And one of the books I had read, which is one of the reasons I was having lunch with him, it was it was quite good. And I asked Adam Bellow, hey, Adam, this is a really great book, why don't you write more? And he said, well, as you might imagine, I'll never forget, this is almost the exact words. As you might imagine, I have a fairly complicated relationship with writing. And I can imagine that that would be true being the son of one of the great writers of the 20th century, right? And so often, whenever I talk to sons of famous people like Dallas Jenkins, like Barnabas Piper, the son of John Piper, for example, you know, I will ask them, you know, what's it like to be the son of Jerry Jenkins? Is it a blessing, or a burden? And Dallas's words, instantly, I mean he didn't even let me get the question out of his mouth, out of my mouth, before he said, a blessing in every way. He said, he's just been fantastic. How does that hit you?

JJ: In the heart. It's it's been a thrill to raise this kid. He's something special. And he always has been proud. Of course, his dad is not Jerry Jenkins anymore. Jerry Jenkins is Dallas Jenkins' dad. That's what I'm known for. And may it ever be so. I mean, it's just, I told him I was on, I'm gonna be on the live stream with him soon. And we pre taped it. And he said, I said, I've always thought everything you did was brilliant, but this time I was right. And the idea that the magic or the lightning could strike twice in the same family, in a period of a quarter century astounds me. I mean, at least I was able to advise him about the phenomenon, the way Dr. LaHaye advised me. He said, let the phenomenon take care of itself. You stick with what, what put you there, you know. And he's, he's always been a brilliant kid and a good writer. And in fact, we wrote a novel together some years ago, because I, he did a movie based on one of my short stories, and wanted to make a full length movie. So we expanded it. Interesting you mentioned that about sons of famous writers. Stephen King's son is a great writer and doesn't write under the name King. Everybody knows who he is. I mean, it's out now and it's well known. But he wanted to make it on his own. So he just uses a different name and has become popular in his own right.

WS: Yeah, well, and and as you said, you and Dallas are getting to work together on projects as well. I mean, what is that like? Because one of the things that you also say in your book is that you don't like to co-write. That even though you've shared the byline of many, many, many books, you're the guy that's actually doing the writing and that you have found the co-writing process to be troublesome, problematic, not really in the center of your bullseye, so to speak. How's it writing with your son?

JJ: Well, in a sense, I'm not writing with him. That's the fun part about this. You know, I helped him start his career years ago when he got out of college. We started a little production company, and he started doing movies. And it was Jenkins Entertainment. But this one is on his own now. And you know, he created this idea. And he's got co-writers and all that stuff. And I feel like I kind of pressed my nose up against the glass and said, can I play, too? And he liked the idea of writing, of having me write a novel based on each season of The Chosen, which is really sort of a deconstructive way to do it. Usually, you're basing a TV series or a movie on a book. Well, they're basing the TV series on the Bible. But I'm basing the novels on their scripts and their seasons that have already been shot. And so I'm bringing to the table that inner monologue, the thoughts of the characters, and then of course, any lines that people might have missed on the screen. They're reading and they say, oh, that's what he meant. That's what he said. So I'm having great fun with it. And Dallas is happy with how it's turning out. So we're thrilled to get to work together.

WS: Yeah.. Well, I have two more questions for you, Jerry, before I let you go, you've been very generous with your time. I really appreciate it. First question is, I think it's a serious question, though. Some people might think it is a little bit of banal or trivial, but I'm a huge baseball fan. And I know you are. And it always kind of frustrates me when people talk about baseball, making the game shorter. And I'm like, the only thing worse, the only thing better than a three hour baseball game is a four hour baseball game, in my opinion. But I guess I'm just curious what the real quickly, what do you think about the direction of baseball these days? I mean, they're, they're trying to shorten the game, they, they've started the designated hitter in the National League. I mean, there's just a lot of changes and innovations happening in baseball. Fan or not a fan?

JJ: Um, sort of half and half. I don't mind the speeding up of between innings and that type of thing, given the pitchers two minutes instead of three or four. And stuff like that. I'm sort of a purist. I wish they would have kept the, the DH in the American League and keep the National League pure. But I still love the game. And and, you know, I, somebody one time, there was a reviewer who didn't like my baseball novel, because they thought it was long and slow. And they said it was like watching a 20 inning, minor league game. And I thought, Man, that sounds like fun.

WS: It does sound like fun.

JJ: But yeah, you know, as long as the teams are competitive, I'll watch it all day. And so yeah, it's interesting. My wife and I just went to see the Cubs when they were visiting the Rockies here in Denver. And of all the guys she's she's a huge baseball fan and a huge Cubs fan. All the games we've watched over the years at Wrigley and everywhere else, hundreds and hundreds of games. She gets hit with a foul ball on Sunday.

WS: Oh, wow.

JJ: Dallas knows the bench coach for the Cubs. So I'm texting him and I said your mother just got hit with a foul ball. So he brings it up online and everything and he he contacts, contacts that bench coach during the game and says you need to have that hitter give her a signed bat, and he did.

WS: Oh, wow. That's great. Well, yeah, no, I'm a big baseball fan. I root for the Cubs when they're not playing the Atlanta Braves. I was raised in the Atlanta area. But I, I, when I was in grad school, that was back when the cubs were still playing daytime on WGN. And I put myself through grad school teaching freshman and sophomore English. And I would, I would teach in the morning, and watch the Cubs and grade papers in the afternoon, with Harry Carey and Steve Stone calling the play by play. I've got plenty memories of the Cubs from in those days. What Jerry, my final question for you is just, you know, I mean, obviously, you've had this robust career, you know, written all these books. And, you know your work as a teacher of writers is, in some ways, in my view, as significant, you know, with the Writers Guild and other things that you've done, you know, is is is also going to be an important part of your legacy. And now your son, you know, Dallas and in the work that he's doing will be an important part, your legacy. But my question for you is, what do you consider to be the most important part of your legacy? How do you want people to remember Jerry B. Jenkins, 10, 15, 20, 50 years after you're gone?

JJ: You know, it might sound funny coming from somebody whose life has been writing, but you know, the joke in our family is that my wife is going to put on my tombstone, “Never an unpublished thought.” But that's not true. What, what I would like my legacy to be is that I was a good husband, and a good father, and a good grandfather. That's the most important thing to me.

That brings to a close my conversation with Jerry Jenkins. His new book is Writing For The Soul: Instruction and Advice for Any Writer.

Listening In comes to you from WORLD News Group, and this program is just one of the many benefits that comes with a WORLD subscription. To find out more visit WNG.org/subscribe.

Also, Listening In is now in its ninth year, and we have an extensive archive of more than 400 conversations with writers, filmmakers, news makers, and interesting people of all kinds—including Jerry Jenkins’ son Dallas Jenkins, who I interviewed last year. So if you’re new to the program, head over to the World News Group website and use the search engine to explore what we have there. Again, that’s WNG.org.

Tune in next week to hear my conversation with author and speaker, Andy Crouch. Andy Crouch has emerged to be one of the wise men of the evangelical movement with outstanding books such as Culture Making, Playing God, and The Tech-Wise Family. His new book examines relationships in a technological age. It’s called The Life We’re Looking For. We had a rich conversation, and I hope you’ll join us for it on next week’s program.

The producer for today’s program is Leigh Jones. Johnny Franklin is the technical producer. And Paul Butler is executive producer for WORLD Radio. I’m your host, Warren Smith. And you’ve been Listening In….

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