BLACKFOOT — When he was in sixth grade, Kirby Jonas fell in love with writing.
Jonas, a Pocatello firefighter, was at Stinkin' Cute signing his latest novel, "The Secret of Two Hawks" on Saturday. It is his 11th book.
Kirby said a teacher in Shelley, whose name he doesn't remember, assigned his students to write a short story. He wrote four words, including "stream," as a possible theme.
"I thought "stream," I can write a Western story about that," Jonas said. He did, the teacher liked it and Jonas' career as an author began. "From then on, I had the urge.
"I used to read a lot of Louis L'Amour books," Jonas said of his love of Westerns.
He wrote his first novel while he was a junior in high school. It was set in Arizona.
After serving an LDS Church mission to France, Jonas moved to Arizona and began researching archives. His first three novels are set there.
Research, Jonas said, is an important element of believable story-telling.
"I go to the archives, the newspapers, for the time period I've decided to set my stories in," he said. "I pay attention to the ads, too, because they add authenticity."
For instance, he said, he discovered an ad for oleomargarine in an 1885 newspaper and mentioned that product in one of his books.
A graduate of Shelley High School and the grandson of former Bingham County Sheriff Arch Hess, Jonas dreamed of becoming a game warden or a lawman while growing up.
He worked for Idaho Fish and Game for awhile, then, with the encouragement of a Soda Springs Police Chief, he attended the police academy at Idaho State University.
Then came three years of service with the Pocatello Police Department before he changed to the fire service. He has served with the Pocatello Fire Department for 20 years.
"It was a neat job," he said of his time with the police force, "but, with 6-year-old kids (displaying their dislike for policemen), I decided it wasn't my bag."
Jonas found a publisher for his first two books, but has since self-published once he understood his market.
Jonas said he hopes to have another book ready by March of 2013.
It normally takes him about a year to produce each novel, he said. That time includes time to do the research, develop the plot and to weave his story.
Jonas is proud that his books are appropriate to all ages.
"My books are clean," he said. "Anybody from your 9-year-old to your grandma can read them without blushing."
His wife Debbie works with him in their publishing endeavors. They have been married for 24 years and have four children.
During Saturday's book-signing, several people told Jonas how much they or family members enjoyed his stories.