How did you become a writer? You can blame the movies. As a kid, all I wanted to be was a wise-cracking newspaper guy. Clark Gable in It Happened One Night or Cary Grant (or even Rosalind Russell) in His Girl Friday, the classic remake of The Front Page. My folks gave me a typewriter when I was 10 or 11 and I used to copy stories out of the local paper and play-like I wrote them. Then one day I started to RE-WRITE them. Then I knew I had the disease, no doctor could cut it out, and I would WRITE. Something. Somewhere.
Name your writing influences. The humorists first. S. J. Perelman, James Thurber, Dorothy Parker. Then John Lardner, the greatest sportswriter who ever touched a keyboard, although he was actually an essayist. Ring's son. I live by some things people said. I was accidentally thinking it before Elmore said "If it sounds like writing, I re-write it." I was agreeing with Dottie Parker before she said, "Wit has truth in it. Jokes are simply calisthenics with words." And an old New York driniking pal, Freddy Finkelhoffe (wrote Brother Rat, the play and movie), once told me, "There's only one rule in fiction. Get 'em up a tree, throw rocks at 'em, get 'em down again."
Today I read strictly for pleasure, and that means the good story-tellers and crime and terrorist busters—Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Vince Flynn, John Sandford, Grisham, Margolin. That crowd. But I've never had more fun that reading Herman Wouk's Winds of War and War and Remembrance back to back. It gives War and Peace 2-up a side. And the early Le Carré was great. I've studied him and I still don't know how he leads me in and out of flashbacks without me realizing it and without interrupting the narrative. I guess you call it talent. No teacher in college ever taught me shit about writing.
When and where do you write? At home. In my office at home. This was also true while I wrote in newspaper and magazine offices.
What are working on now? I'm calling it a "journalism memoir," and it's a pain in the ass, although fun. Fiction, you don't have to ask anybody anything. Just let your fingers outdistance your brain, or maybe it's the other way around. But non-fiction? Christ, you have try to be accurate, and that takes time.
Have you ever suffered writers block? No. Too busy earning a living. Always on deadline. Learned it on newspapers. As a wise old man once said, "The first obligation of a daily paper is to come out every day."
What's your advice to new writers? If they think that's what they want to be, do it, don't just fucking talk about it. Get a job on a paper, if any still exist. Read the Great Books. Read "successful" authors and find out what you don't like. Personally, I like the old Barnes & Noble first 3 pages test. Something better happen or I toss the dude. If you prefer brooding, introspective writing, better see another guy.
Dan Jenkins was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas, where he attended Texas Christian University (TCU) and played on the varsity golf team. Jenkins has written for various publications including the Fort Worth Press, Dallas Times Herald, Playboy, and Sports Illustrated. In 1972, Jenkins wrote his first novel, Semi-Tough. In 1985 he began writing books full-time, though he maintains a monthly column in Golf Digest magazine. His new book is Jenkins at the Majors. Jenkins was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in the Lifetime Achievement Category and will be inducted in May 2012.