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. www.peterleavell.com.

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?

—Respect
—Validation
—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.

Bio—

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.


Questions—
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?

Game of Love

Peter Leavell

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. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. For relaxation, he writes westerns. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.

If God has told you to write, and writing wants you, then
you have no choice. You must write.
Coaxing someone to pay money for your work—to
become a published author—is brutal. An impossible dream. Your writing must be
quality. But it’s worth it. How do snatch the public’s disposable income with your story?
The game of publishing is like the game of romance. You
have to learn the language.
My goal was to marry this girl. But first things first. I
had to ask her on a date.
I marched across the college cafeteria straight for her. She
was so cute, it made me sweat. As I approached, her cheeks reddened and she
smiled.
Oh please, let this work. “Are you going skating tonight?”
Her brow rose as her large eyes enveloped my world. “I
wasn’t planning on it. But…” She let the word drift between us.
I clutched my stomach and stumbled away. How could she reject my date proposal, despite the obvious attraction? At the exit, I spun and saw a look of
hurt and confusion in her eyes. Why would she feel pain? I was the one she turned
down. 
I grew up with two brothers and no sisters. To say I didn’t
understand the dance between men and women is, well, an understatement. I didn’t get the language. 
This girl was too cute to let go. I learned a little more
about what I did wrong. Form the words differently. Will you go skating with me? She was my
audience. I wanted her to buy me, aka
spend her life with me. After a year of talking with her, I learned her
language.
Writing is similar. You can’t use feminine grunts and
strength or masculine looks and wiles to publish a book. It takes practice to learn the art. Yes, there are
hurt feelings and bitterness along the way. Yes, you cry and shout. At times, moments are
sweet and precious. But don’t forget the end goal—a well-written book someone is
willing to pay money to read.
At the end of the year, the cute girl was cornered in the botanical
gardens in Des Moines, Iowa. I dropped to a knee and opened a box. Inside was a
Precious Memories figurine, an Eskimo giving his girl a block of ice. I Only Have Ice For You. Attached to the
block was an engagement ring. And I knew the words my audience would respond
to. Will you marry me?
She said yes.

The amount of work to become a great writer can be
discouraging. The dance between readers and authors is difficult to understand.
You must learn the language. Study the craft of writing, though, because
becoming a published author—much like getting married—is the thrill of a
lifetime.
April 2015
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? April 2015

Will They Like My Writing?

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. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. For relaxation, he writes westerns. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.


Every writer has doubts.

Again. EVERY writer is mired in doubt.

You and I are sitting at my kitchen table, talking this through.
We both have doubts. Sure, we’ve a few writing credits to our name. A blog
here. Maybe a published book or a few articles. I’ve won an award or two. I
share that one writer I spoke with is on his twelfth book and called me because he’s filled with doubts.

But not like our hero writer. Not like the one we emulate.
Because she’s got it all together.
Ahhh, forget it. It’s been a brutal day at work, and I’m in
no mood to write or talk, so I’m going for a jog. I’ll talk to you in a bit. You
head home.
My playlist rocks and rolls, pumping creative juices.
Cool winds brush across my skin, and my feet beat a steady
rhythm to the music, awakening joy in my soul. But fears about my writing drive a
frozen spike through any happiness. Worthless, pointless, unskilled and
readerless—the doubts drift through my mind. My running slows and I lower my
head. Writing is everything to me.
Then a song jars from my absurdly awesome playlist. Muppets.
Mahna Mahna. Do doo bedodo.
A fun song, no doubt, but not for this run. I reach up to
skip it.
Mahna Mahna. Do dodo do.
DON’T CHANGE THIS SONG
I pause. It’s God speaking. The song continues.
Mahna Mahna. Do doo bedodo.
I hold my thumb on the clicker. LEAVE IT
Come on, God. I have some amazing music on this playlist.
Some Christian tunes even.
LISTEN
I stop running and listen. There’s not a real word in the
entire song. Mahna Mahna is just
dribble. Worthless, pointless, unskilled, and amazing dribble. How could the
writer of that silly song know the meaningless words would make millions upon
millions of people happy?
My mouth opens wide. I play the song again as I sprint home to
call you.
Listen, I say in a rush. It’s not about the work and the
edits and the story. Sales aren’t our problem. Reviews…pshhh—we can’t
control them—and they weren’t written for us, anyway. In fact, it’s not about
us at all. God’s given us a passion. It’s inside us, and He wants us to write.
That’s it. There’s nothing more. Sure, we’re going to do our best to learn the
craft and market and stuff, but in the end, who knows how our writing will influence people? Yep,
that’s right. Only God.  

Good point, you say. You end the call, sit down, and push away
your doubts. Because you’re a writer. And the rest is in His hands.

Give the Girl a Gun

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. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. For relaxation, he writes westerns. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at www.peterleavell.com.





Studying gender stereotypes is as much fun as I can have. Why? Because once upon a time, I believed those casts defined everyone. A woman’s place was locked in the kitchen while she gently pined for a life outside the home. A man worked a brutal eight-to-ten hour day, with only two days off a week. He longed for a castle at home while his pretty and demure woman waited on him.

There’s a Bible verse about it somewhere that justifies the idea—I didn’t know where—that’s just what I hear.

I just slapped myself so you don’t have to.

My writing reflected my beliefs. I didn’t see people as individuals. Instead, I followed the stereotypes, and my characters were locked into these gender rolls. The girl couldn’t defend herself.

About a decade ago, everything changed. My wife and I reversed rolls when I went to college. I was so exhausted with a full time job and college (gender studies class, ironically) that my wife went to work and I stayed home. Homeschooling our two kiddos was a blast, cooking was a breeze, and keeping the house clean was simply daily maintenance.

Day two I was tired, but I kept up the same regiment.

By day five, frustrated by repetition in chores, I tried to design a laundry-folding machine and failed.

On the other hand, I was tickled to get to know the children better.

At the start of the next week, my wife came home from work exhausted. I was eager to tell her what the kids had done, but she just wanted to eat, relax a bit, and then go to bed. The thought ran through my mind—if she really loved me, wouldn’t she want to hear how my day went? To start the conversation, I asked her what happened at work, and she babbled, animated, for ten minutes, and then rolled over and went to sleep.

I know this was a jump, but I wondered if someone was making my wife happier than I could. Tossing and turning, I spent most of the night guessing where our relationship was going.

A few days later, I’d had it with the bag I’d been using for school. I went shopping, and overheard several ladies chatting about their husband’s clothing and how to get the funny smells out. I gossiped with them for a bit, and we arrived home late. My wife didn’t say anything, but I could tell she was a little peeved dinner wasn’t ready. I simmered. I’ve done a lot of cooking lately. Would it kill you to take us out to eat now and again? Just for a little break?

I craved adult conversation. An online group for stay at home fathers accepted my ‘join’ request. Watching them complain about the little things their wives did was too annoying. I quit right away.

Suddenly it dawned on me that I walked the path of a stereotypical housewife. I harbored feelings that had nothing to do with my gender, but simply as a human being playing a role in a family. The necessity of the roll I’d taken dictated natural emotions and needed support just like any job.

It realized all my characters were locked into gender stereotypes.
I changed my female characters in my books. No longer demure and helpless, I empowered them with weapons of all sorts, from determination and cunning to love and swords. Sometimes they save the men. Sometimes children save grownups. If all possible, I let her defend herself.

I gave the girl a gun.

A few weeks later, I went back to work. Sheesh, being a stay at home mom was too difficult.

Gideon’s Call is an unprecedented tale of tragedy and triumph amid the backdrop of the Civil War through the story of Tad, a very clever slave boy who comes of age as America’s war reaches the sea islands of South Carolina. Tad’s desire to better himself is obstructed by the color of his skin, until Northern soldiers force the evacuation of white plantation owners, setting 10,000 slaves free in a single day. These circumstances seem like a dream, except that the newly freed slaves have no money, no education, and little hope for the future—unless someone rises up to lead them. Based on true events, Gideon’s Call is the dramatic tale of a young man who battles the shame of his past and faces the horrors of war and unimaginable prejudice to become the deliverer of thousands of freed slaves.