Help! My Daddy’s a Writer!

Jerry B. Jenkins, Peter Leavell,
and Byron Williamson

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho.

Three years ago, Jerry B. Jenkins announced my name to the world, and in one instant, all my dreams came true. Operation First Novel made me a published author. 
Jost, Kade, Tonya, and Peter!

How did my life change?

—A multitude of blogging opportunities
—A multitude of speaking opportunities
—A dance in a world of agents and editors, publishers and sales boards

One year later the shock waned, and I was ready to get back to work. But what did becoming a traditionally published, multi award-winning author do to my family?

My wife and I had long ago decided to be open with readers about our lives. My kids are talented and find their names in newspapers and pamphlets everywhere, so there’s no hiding their identity.

But I wondered what having an author/father was like for my family. So I asked them.


My wife, Tonya, homeschools our children. Well under forty, she has a logical, focused mind. She reads nonfiction and mysteries, and she’s pretty, too. My son Jost is 14, plays tennis for a high school, and loves reading mysteries and adventure. He’s our scholar. Kade, my daughter, is 11, and may be a prodigy ballet dancer. Her reading must have animals, such as James Herriot.

Jost plays tennis, Peter jogs,
and Kade dances!

You remember Dad before he was published. Do you want to go back to that time?

Son: No. The parties for authors are so much more fun.

Daughter: I like Daddy being an author. I love talking to people, and writers are the most interesting people to talk to. And they know how to really talk. Normal people try to start normal conversations, but you never know what a writer will say next. It could be anything.

Do you wish you had more time with Dad?

Son: Yes, but our schedules are just as busy. We understand.

Daughter: Yes, but money we get writing is used to take us to awesome places. It’s not for nothing. I miss Daddy sometimes, but I treasure the moments we get together.

Wife: Of course! Sometimes it feels like the characters move in with us, though. When we’re with him, we forget they’re not real people.

How do you feel about people reading the details of your life?

Son: I want to go read in a corner. I want to do just normal everyday stuff. It’s weird to go to a writer’s thing, and people know me because they read it somewhere. I don’t like it so much.

Daughter: It happens to me a lot, when a story was on Facebook, and they know things about me and what happened. I love to be noticed. Not like a movie star, but famous on Facebook.

Wife: I like the fact that we entertain people. Our lives are crazy, and it goes back to light and salt from Matthew. This is our sparkle. It’s what comes out from what we are.

What is the worst part of being a writer family?

Son: People expect so much more from each of us than the average person. We’re expected to go with people to do stuff, and to do stuff for them. And if we don’t, they think we don’t like them anymore. If Dad does stuff, then he’s behind on a deadline and has to stay up all night. Also, my dad’s shadow is pretty big, and I’m my own person. People forget that. Peter: Wow, Jost. You talk more about this than anything else. Jost: Yeah.

Daughter: It’s hurts me to see my daddy be so social. He’s really shy, but a good actor. And some people expect me to be social, and a writer. I like to talk, but I’m going to be a dancer, not a writer.

Wife: Deadlines are the worst. And it never occurs to people we’re too busy to do things, and that if we do things with them, it’s at the expense of writing.

What’s the best part?

Son: The places we can go. And the people we meet are above average. They’ve dedicated their lives to being artists, studying to be better people, smarter. I like that.

Daughter: The dinner table conversation is so much more interesting. And the people we meet have a goal, a meaning to life. Others just kinda live their life. Sometimes that makes them uninteresting.

Wife: Free books! More books!

Tonya and I discussed the positives that have come from the experience.

—The kids believe their dreams can, and with enough work, will come true.
—The kids are not afraid to work hard.
—The kids can converse with famous people as easily as they can with… well, infamous folks.
—The kids do not want to be writers when they grow up.
—We get and review free books!
—The kids embrace challenges and pursue things that matter.

All that, to say, with all the ups and downs, we wouldn’t trade our lives for anything! Because we have each other. Thanks for sharing this journey with us!

Western! Out Now!
Philip Anderson keeps his past close to the vest. Haunted by the murder of his parents as they traveled West in their covered wagon, his many unanswered questions about that night still torment him. 
His only desire is to live quietly on his homestead and raise horses. He meets Anna, a beautiful young woman with secrets of her own. Falling in love was not part of his plan. Can Philip tell her how he feels before it’s too late?
With Anna a pawn in the corrupt schemes brewing in the nearby Dakota town, Philip is forced to become a reluctant gunslinger. Will Philip’s uncannily trained horses and unsurpassed sharpshooting skills help him free Anna and find out what really happened to his family out there in the wilderness?