After writing 195 books — the 196th in progress — New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins will be among 21 authors who make up the first class of inductees into the Colorado Authors Hall of Fame.
The Black Forest-based writer, known perhaps most notably for co-authoring the “Left Behind” Christian book series, will be honored in a Sept. 14 ceremony at the Courtyard Marriott Cherry Creek in Denver. He’s among other inductees including the late Western novelist Louis L’Amour, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, celebrated Colorado photographer John Fielder, and horror novelist (and Jenkins’s personal friend, with whom he appeared on the cover of Writer’s Digest in 2009) Stephen King, who wrote “The Shining” in Colorado.
Modestly, Jenkins says he’s honored to be one of the hall of fame inductees. “There are some impressive names on that inductee list.”
His induction is the latest in a long list of accolades Jenkins has earned throughout his more than 40-year writing career, the foundations of which began before the Kalamazoo, Mich.-born author was in kindergarten.
“My mother taught me to read before kindergarten and I’m told I enjoyed writing stories even in elementary school,” Jenkins said.
A self-proclaimed “sports freak,” he took quick interest in sports, reading the sports sections in newspapers and Sports Illustrated.
“I wrote imaginary sports stories as if I had covered real games, just for fun,” he said.
At 14, he hoodwinked his way into a job as a sports reporter.
“I went to the ... sports department and asked how they were fixed for sportswriters, ‘because I am one.’ I looked older than I was, and the sports editor tried me out by assigning me to cover a couple of high school football games, not realizing that I wasn’t even old enough to drive yet. My mother was waiting for me in the parking lot and had to drive me to the games ...,” Jenkins said.
He made “$1 per inch that survived the editor’s cuts,” he said.
Jenkins was then sports editor until he was 22 before working as a magazine editor and publisher until he was 31. After that, he served as head of Moody Press, eventually becoming vice president for publishing for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.
“At 40, I’d written nearly 100 books and went full-time freelance,” he said.
It was during that time that Jenkins, who then lived in suburban Chicago, traveled often for work, including to the Front Range. “When in Colorado Springs, I was taken by the beautiful scenery, the bright, sunny skies, and the fact that Colorado gets about one-quarter of the snow Chicagoland gets and is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer,” he said.
Jenkins and his wife, Dianna, moved to Black Forest in 1999.
“For many years I would get away to a place we owned in Hartsel ... It was on 59 acres and had 360-degree mountain views. I was without excuse for inspiration there. When I was writing a particularly climactic scene in the ‘Left Behind’ series — the War of Armageddon — a tremendous lightning storm began in the west and thundered across the entire horizon. It provided the perfect backdrop, and I was just glad the storm didn’t knock out the power,” he said.
Primarily a faith-based writer, Jenkins also works in several general markets, “mostly sports-related,” he said. But as a teen, Jenkins “felt a call to full-time Christian work.” He believed he’d have to give up writing to pursue it, but a counselor told him writing might be the vessel through which Jenkins could heed that call.
“Success to me meant answering the call by writing ... The fact that it turned into a phenomenal career is really just icing on the cake.”
Jenkins has been named to the New York Times bestseller list 21 times (seven works debuting at No. 1) with more than 70 million copies sold.
“‘Left Behind’ was my 125th book,” Jenkins said.
The 16-novel series, published in 1995, is set in the contemporary era and tells the story of the end times: the pretribulation, premillennial Christian eschatological interpretation of the Biblical apocalypse. The series has been adapted into four films and has spawned four video games, a soundtrack album and graphic novels.
Jenkins said the idea for the novels came from his co-author, Dr. Tim LaHaye, “but he was not a fiction writer. I got the fun part.”
At its peak, the first book in the series alone was averaging 275,000 sales per month.
Jenkins’ career includes works in many genres, from mysteries, romance novels and children’s adventures to Christian fiction, biographies and marriage and family titles.
“I am trying to express my own faith when writing Christian fiction. And the sports bios let me keep a finger in that world. I feel privileged to have met and worked with some very special people over the decades: Hank Aaron, Walter Payton, Nolan Ryan, Meadowlark Lemon, Billy Graham, et al.”
His advice to writers is twofold.
“First, starting your writing career with a book is like going to graduate school when you should be in kindergarten. Start small and short, get a quarter million clichés out of your system, learn the business, learn the craft, learn to work with an editor, etc. And second, when you do want to publish a book, exhaust your efforts to land a traditional contract — where the publisher takes all the financial risk and pays you, before resorting to paying to be printed.”
To buy tickets to the induction ceremony, visit coloradoauthorshalloffame.org.