Jonathan Kellerman Writing Career

The Kellerman family is blessed with literary talent. Both Jonathan and his wife Faye (whom he met when he was twenty-one and she eighteen) are best selling authors, and also their eldest son Jesse went this path. They live in the area of Los Angeles, California.

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Jonathan Kellerman. He told me he had been writing compulsively since the age of nine and began to think about it as a possible secondary career (Jonathan is also a famous child psychologist) after he won a literary award at the age of twenty-one. After he received the Samuel Goldwyn Creative Writing Award in 1971, he began to write novels – or at least, tried to.

He had a good day job as psychologist and medical school professor for more than 13 years, while he sidelined in writing. Being a psychologist, according to Jonathan, was helpful in developing plots and characters. It enabled him to open a window on certain aspects of the human condition that might otherwise have been unavailable to him.

His first crime novel was a lucky shot at success, although it did not look like that at first. In fact, it took Jonathan about six months to develop the concept of the book, to plot and to outline the manuscript of “When the bough breaks”. Then when he was finally ready and presented the manuscript to the publishers, he was rejected twice before he could at last sign a contract. “Bough” became an immediate success and won the Edgar Allen Poe and Anthony Boucher Awards for Best First Novel. It was also produced as a TV movie.

The success felt great – it was the ultimate vindication after suffering enough rejections for nine previous novels. Jonathan felt he was no longer a self-deluded loser. The monetary advance for that book was small, but he didn’t care.

By now Kellerman’s novels have sold over 30 million copies. He writes five days a week, self-imposed. Still, only one of his books was ever made into film, as a lot of people find his novels too complex or too intellectual. The main character is Alex Delaware.

One would imagine that the talk is often about books when the Kellermans are at home. The truth is different. Jonathan and Fay have been married for more than 35 years now and most of their conversation centers around real life. The eldest son, Jesse, is also a best selling author, but Jonathan still sees him as his son and he’s still a kid in his eyes. Jonathan and Fay have four children and one granddaughter and they are pretty focused on family life.

When it comes to judging his work, Jonathan rather listens to his own criticism – in his eyes, the worst – and doesn’t care what other think about his novels.

Right now, Jonathan is no longer active as a psychotherapist, but he still is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Psychology at the University of Southern California.


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