Jerry Jenkins: His Novel Based on the TV Series “The Chosen”
New York Times bestselling author Jerry Jenkins has written more than 200 books, including the Left Behind 16-book series, and sold over 60 million copies worldwide and several movie adaptations. His new novel The Chosen: I Have Called You By Name is based on the series written/directed by his son, Dallas. Risen talked with Jenkins about crafting these novels, staying true to the Bible, and his heart for the series.
Interviewed for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Your son, Dallas, created and directed The Chosen television series, now your novel is based on Season 1… what can fans expect from the book and what is it like working together?
Jerry Jenkins: A faithful rendering of what they see on the screen, plus the inner monologues, feelings, and reactions of the characters.
I introduced Dallas to the world of filmmaking by exposing him to great movies when he was a young teenager, and I’ll never forget his telling me, after seeing a particularly good one, “Dad, that’s what I want to do.”
Early in his career we started Jenkins Entertainment so he could make his own movies without worrying about Hollywood studio influence. So in that sense, we’ve been working together for years. But I stay in my lane. Book writing and filmmaking are really separate mediums, and while we consult each other and bounce things off each other, I defer to him on the film side and vice versa. We have an unusually close relationship and interact almost daily, and it’s gratifying to be able to speak to each other in shorthand. Frankly, we don’t need to be as diplomatic with each other as we need to be with others in the business, so that saves a lot of time. If we have a problem or don’t like something, we just say so, knowing that nothing will ever jeopardize our relationship. In fact, he’s a member of my personal accountability team.
RM: The cover says Book One: I Have Called You By Name, which leads me to believe there will be a Book 2, perhaps based on the second season of the series and so on… you know a thing or two about multi-book series thanks to the wild success of Left Behind. How are you crafting these novels?
JJ: Yes, each succeeding novel will cover the ground that has been rendered in the TV series – one novel for each season.
RM: In the book, we see the difference God made in the lives of those He called to follow Him. You stay true to the biblical account but have also invented characters and dialogue… talk about the need to do this but then also your heart not to take away from the Gospel.
JJ: Son Dallas and I are lovers of the Word of God. While we imagine scenarios that might have led to the stories portrayed in the Bible, we do not take liberty with the facts and, of course, add to or take away nothing from the message of the gospel itself. We’re suffering from biblical illiteracy in this country. My hope is that a series like The Chosen and novels like I Have Called You By Name will emphasize the efficacy of Scripture and the centrality of Jesus. Most gratifying of this entire phenomenon have been the myriad reports of people returning to Bible reading, church attendance, and devotion to Christ. That’s our ultimate goal.
RM: You’ve written several biographies from Hank Aaron to Orel Hershiser, and even assisted Billy Graham with his autobiography… what do you love most about helping someone share their story?
JJ: I love the challenge of getting out of the way as the writer and trying to catch their authentic voices. They must sound like themselves to best resonate with readers.
RM: Your life story is fascinating and I know you wrote Lessons Learned Early and even Twelve Things I Want My Kids to Remember Forever, but have you considered revisiting your story, and sharing it in a book? Why or why not?
JJ: For many years I was convinced that what’s interesting about my story are the people I’ve written about. But I have become persuaded that perhaps a writing/memoir book would be a valid pursuit, so I may get to that yet.
RM: What is your book favorite series you’ve written, or one that because of the time you were writing it, it impacted you more deeply? Or are they like kids and you can’t pick a favorite because they all have unique and amazing features?
JJ: My favorite of all my books is the novel Riven (Tyndale House Publishers). I had the idea for decades before I finally got to write it, and I was happy with the result.
RM: COVID-19 had much of the country on lockdown, with quarantine in place how did this world pandemic affect the way you write?
JJ: I have been working from home for decades, so not much changed for me. On the other hand, when you’re forced to stay home, you can develop a real case of cabin fever. I began to look for errands to run.
RM: For those that have taken the forced slowdown to refocus or evaluate their passions, if writing or sharing a story has become a desire, your website offers a lot of free resources. What advice would you share when it comes to turning ideas into more?
JJ: Read, read, read, and write, write write – all while studying the craft. I teach writing at JerryJenkins.com and tell aspiring authors that their Why is everything. What’s behind their desire to write? If it’s fame and fortune, they may attain those and find them unfulfilling. Rather their desire should be to educate, empower, illuminate readers.
Ironically, I was never called to write. I was called to fulltime Christian work as a teenager and assumed I would have to give up my writing dream and study to be a pastor or a missionary. But a wise counselor told me that God often equips us before He calls us, so I shouldn’t be too quick to give up the vehicle that could help me fulfill my call.
That changed my entire outlook on success. It isn’t in bestsellers and great reviews and royalty checks. I succeed when I obey my calling – simply writing for the glory of God. Sales and all the rest are out of my hands anyway. All I can do is the best I can do, heartily as unto the Lord.
RM: Lastly, you have spent so many years, and so many books in Biblical truth and fiction. It seems the world has exponentially changed since you first began. From political division to natural disasters, the world pandemic, unemployment rates, riots and civil rights protests… what advice/hope/warning can you share when it comes to the current state of the nation?
JJ: We seem so far afield from what God would want for us, it amazes me that He still tarries before the Rapture and Second Coming. I attribute it to His mercy.
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