"Godfall" is a love letter to Van Jensen's hometown

Wednesday, June 5, 2024 - 3:30pm

Author and College of Journalism and Mass Communications alum Van Jensen ('04) doesn't believe in writer's block. His first job as a crime reporter at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette taught him that writer's block isn't an option.

While on the night cop beat in Arkansas, there were times Jensen would get notice of a murder at 8 p.m., then drive to report on the scene, dictate his notes while driving back to the office and write 600 words in 10 minutes to meet his 9:30 p.m. deadline.

From working under tight deadlines as a reporter and publications director to turning complex topics into engaging stories as a freelance writer and comic book ambassador, Jensen's journalistic training proved significant in his journey to becoming an author.

Jensen published his debut, "Godfall," in Nov. 2023. The science-fiction novel takes place outside a fictional Nebraska town. When a life-threatening asteroid, turned alien, touches down in Little Springs, the once-small farm town is transformed into a major metropolitan area.

In Oct. 2023, the Hollywood Reporter announced “Godfall” would be adapted into a television series by Imagine TV, founded by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, who won the rights to Jensen’s debut in an intense bidding war.

"Godfall" is a love letter to Jensen’s hometown of Lewellen, Nebraska. He feels fortunate to have grown up in a family of artists and storytellers—his mother and uncle are painters, his cousin is a world-renowned violin maker and numerous other family members are musicians.

"I was very curious how Godfall would be received because it's a lot of home county and it was a town that I was desperate to get away from because I didn't fit in there," Jensen said. "But I do love Lewellen very deeply, and it's been really cool that everyone in the county has read the book and loved it. Amid everything, that's been the best part of all of it."

By the time Jensen turned 30, he had several million words in print. Were they good words? Not according to an author like Jensen, who values progress over greatness. The advice he always shares with younger writers is to remember that for any skill that you want to master, it doesn't matter who you are—you're going to be terrible at it when you start.

"It's about having a good work ethic and being comfortable with the fact that although you might be very talented, you're not a good writer because you haven't done enough writing," Jensen said. "The ballgame is knowing that you're going to have to work hard for a really long time."

Throughout his four years at the J School, Jensen sharpened his journalistic talent at the Daily Nebraskan (DN). It's where he first found his voice as a writer while under the mentorship of fellow student journalists.

In the fall of 2000, during his freshman year, he and a friend on his dorm floor hyped each other up and decided they'd apply at the DN. The pair got their first official writing gigs as intro-level sports writers and Jensen's been writing professionally every day since.

"There's no way to learn something like doing it, so to have had the opportunity to work at what at the time was a five-day-a-week print newspaper was just such a foundational learning experience for me," Jensen said. "And so many deep, lifelong friendships came from it."

Van Jensen, author of
Van Jensen, author of "Godfall"