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About Utah: 30 years later, Eyres still writing about child rearing

Published: Thursday, Nov. 25 2010 10:43 p.m. MST

When the Eyres returned to their hotel room, their phone was ringing. It was Susan Petersen (now Kennedy), the Random House president who was in San Francisco on a business trip.

"We want to buy your books," she said.

"Great," said Richard. "But we don't own them."

Random House subsequently negotiated with Deseret Book, bought the books, and released them nationally.

Better yet, they asked the Eyres to write another one. They assigned an editor, Jo?le Delbourgo, to assist them.

"What impressed me was their incredible kind of clean-cut, very transcendent appeal," remembers Delbourgo, now a literary agent in New York. "They were attractive and appealing and passionate with a real message that was very fresh."

The suddenly in-demand writing team decided a return to England for a year was in order to write their next book. "We went back 10 years later and lived in the same place so our younger kids could go to the same Church of England schools as the older kids," says Richard. "We wanted them to have that same opportunity."

They determined that the topic of book No. 3 would be "Values" and plotted out a 12-chapter format, one value per month. Random House enthusiastically received each chapter — until the final one.

It was the one about chastity and fidelity, which called for self-discipline, control and no small measure of abstinence.

"Basically they were saying that's a little old-fashioned," remembers Richard. "We said we'll work on it and sort of changed the words but they still didn't like it. Finally, they said we'd have to take that chapter out. We felt that was the wrong thing to do. AIDS was in the news, how could we write a book on values and have no reference to fidelity?"

Random House held firm. The Eyres held firm. The book was not published.

"We basically just walked out on the publisher," says Richard. "We thought we'd killed our writing career."

They returned to Utah from England and, still hearing that clarion call, Richard ran for governor. He won the Republican convention but lost to Mike Leavitt in the Republican primary.

"Got that out of my system," he says.

"Thank goodness," says Linda. "I hated it."

Meanwhile, on the writing front, the Eyre's agent at the time, Jan Miller in Dallas, was trying to shop their "Values" book elsewhere. She eventually found a favorable reception at Simon & Schuster, another New York publishing giant.

Miller phoned the Eyres.

"They love your book," she said.

"What about the last chapter?" they asked.

"That's their favorite," said Miller.

Not only did Simon & Schuster buy "Values," they also signed the Eyres to a five-book deal.

It got better. As part of the book tour to promote "Values" they were booked on Oprah.

Linda still laughs about her skepticism during the limo ride to Oprah's studio in Chicago.

"On the way to the show I said, 'who watches TV in the afternoon?'" she says.

About 22 million people, it turned out.

On the show, Oprah held up the "Values" book repeatedly in front of the camera, imploring, "You parents need to read this book."

The next day, stores all over the country ran out of books.

Within weeks, "Values" vaulted to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list — the first child-care book to make it to the top since Dr. Benjamin Spock's "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" was published at the beginning of the Baby Boom in 1946.

"Bless Oprah," says Linda.

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