A Determined Couple
Bodie and Brock Thoene
by W. Terry Whalin
Editor's note: One of the more unusual writing stories is about Bodie and Brock Thoene. Make sure you notice Bodie's commitment to writing--despite her own dyslexia. Her novels are riveting reading and often keep me up until late at night to finish one. wtw
The news trumpets, "Violence erupts in Jerusalem." While the public watches television news or reads about it online or in print, the Mideast war seems distant. It's not so for best-selling fiction authors, Bodie and Brock Thoene. For many years, they have lived and worked on stories about Israel. First through their award-winning series from Bethany House Publishers, the Zion Chronicles and Zion Covenant Series then through the Zion Legacy series from Viking.
In March 2004, Tyndale House Publishers released the second book in their A.D. Chronicles entitled, Second Touch. The first book in the series (released in August 2003) entitled First Light evolves around a series of people who have had personal encounters with Jesus of Nazareth. The Romantic Times wrote about the first book, "Bodie and Brock Thoene dig deep into the culture of the Middle East at the time of Jesus' ministry to bring us a riveting tale of love and loss, sacrifice and triumph."
The couple have written more than 40 novels, which have garnered eight Evangelical Christian Publishers Gold Medallion Awards in the fiction category and sold more than ten million copies. Today's skirmishes in Israel mark a continuation of the historical conflict between Arabs and the Jews, which the Thoenes have carefully chronicled.
With a head-spinning pace, the Thoenes produce compelling, award-winning fiction. "There is no way one human being could do this kind of background research," Bodie says, looking over at Brock. "My writing is backed up with a tremendous foundation of research and structure."
Bodie Wrote for John Wayne
In the mid-70's, Bodie's writing gained national attention when she wrote The Fall Guy, 30 Years As The Duke's Double with Chuck Roberson. Shortly afterwards, she began working for John Wayne's Batjac Productions as a writer and researcher.
Bodie's screenwriting career demanded intensity in working hours and lifestyle. Eventually the maddening pace and deadlines drove her to re-evaluate her career. "I didn't think I could write again," she says.
But her interest in Israel had begun to grow. In 1978 while working on The Fall Guy, she told John Wayne about her desire to write about the events surrounding Israel's statehood. "That's one you ought to do," Wayne said. "It's the Jewish Alamo!"
An unusual series of circumstances directed Bodie into the Zion project. A producer persuaded her to write a script centering on the day in 1948 when Jerusalem's mayor received from the British the key to the Old City. For the first time in 2,000 years, a Jew held the key to the city gates. While an intriguing story to Bodie, the producer needed the script in three weeks.
"It was a crazy, impossible task. That kind of job usually took six months," Bodie says. She got lost in the unfamiliar Jewish district of Los Angeles. Praying for help, she pulled over at a Jewish bookstore. The shopkeeper, yarmulke in place, and his wife greeted her.
"Do you have a copy of O Jerusalem?" Bodie asked.
The woman nodded, "I've got it."
At the cash register, Bodie paused. "What I really need is to talk with someone who was in Jerusalem in 1948 when the British evacuated."
Pointing to her husband, the woman said, "My husband, he was there. As a matter of fact, his uncle was the mayor of Old Jerusalem who took the key from the British when they evacuated."
Within 20 minutes, Bodie had found the one with the Jerusalem story, among the millions of people in Los Angeles. "Those leads were God's confirmation to me that I should write about Zion," Bodie said. "I still get goose bumps when I think about that incident."
The Typical Thoene Writing Day
Today the couple divide their time between London, England or Hawaii. They work together on every aspect of the story. During an early morning story conference, they discuss the day's writing. Typically, Brock will give Bodie oral and written research material about an event for example something in Jerusalem on May 23, 1948. "We use a library of newspaper clippings on microfilm covering this period so every detail is historically accurate," Brock says.
Bodie sits at her computer hitting the keys with two fingers. She may work until 10 p.m. to reach her goal--at least five finished pages. "No little elves come out of my closet to write 650 manuscript pages," Bodie says. "Some mornings I don't feel like writing, but I do it out of obedience to God."
"The opening scenes are always the hardest and can take as long as 10 or 20 pages," Bodie explains. With the opening pages behind her, the writing accelerates until she often completes 20 or more pages a day. Then Brock reads the pages aloud to Bodie and they discuss any rough spots. "If I have to rewrite, then I do it on the spot and never look at the pages again," she says.
Bodie's Early Years of Struggle
While the Thoenes have worked as a team for almost 30 years, it wasn't always the case.
Brock began elementary school a grade behind Bodie in Bakersfield, California. During second grade, he caught up to Bodie due to different learning styles. For Bodie, school was difficult while Brock made straight As.
Bodie's third grade teacher told her parents that she was lazy. Her father and mother refused to doubt Bodie's ability. They hired a tutor who worked four hours a day through the summer until Bodie memorized the letters and could read well enough to move to the next grade. "Because words were so unattainable to me, I developed a fascination with them and an ear for storytelling," she explains. Carrying her reading and spelling difficulties with her into college, Bodie finally learned she had reading dyslexia--a learning disorder that affects millions.
During her senior year in high school, traditional roles were reversed for the Christmas formal--the girls invited the boys. During choir, Bodie spotted Brock and thought, Oh, Brock's good looking and he'll make a nice picture. At the dance, the pair talked nonstop for two hours. "We almost didn't dance," Brock remembers, "but we insisted on one dance then went to dinner and kept talking."
How Faith Enters Writing
Despite their mutual attraction, after a few months they broke up and attended different colleges. Bodie didn't know Jesus and Brock was a legalistic Christian. During nine months apart, both changed. At a Campus Crusade for Christ conference with Hal Lindsay teaching on modern day prophecy, Bodie accepted Jesus as her Messiah.
Back in Bakersfield for the summer, Brock and Bodie began dating and were married in her home two days after Christmas. Moving to Waco, Texas, Bodie began writing westerns gleaned from Texas cowboy stories while Brock attended college. Today the Thoenes' three children, Rachel, Jake and Luke, have left home but are also connected to publishing. Luke and Jake have written numerous books and Rachel abridges the text for the audios.
Historical fiction readers will continue to wait for each one of the riveting novels about Israel from the pen of Bodie and Brock Thoene.
You can follow the Thoene's work at their personal website: The Thoene's website
W. Terry Whalin understands both sides of the editorial desk--as an editor and a writer. He worked as an editor for Decision and In Other Words. His magazine articles have appeared in more than 50 publications including Writer's Digest and Christianity Today. Terry has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Book Proposals That Sell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Write Now Publications). You can learn more about Terry's background at: www.right-writing.com/whalin.html. For more than 12 years Terry has been an ECPA Gold Medallion judge in the fiction category. He has written extensively about Christian fiction and reviewed numerous fiction books in publications such as Christian Retailing and BookPage. He is the former Fiction Acquisitions Editor for Howard Books and creator of www.right-writing.com. Sign up for Terry's free newsletter, Right Writing News.
© 2008 W. Terry Whalin