Karen Kingsbury is currently America’s bestselling inspirational author. She has written more than 30 of her Life-Changing Fiction titles and has nearly 5 million books in print. Dubbed by Time magazine as the Queen of Christian Fiction, Karen receives hundreds of letters each week and considers her readers as friends. Her fiction has made her one of the country’s favorite storytellers, and one of her novels --- Gideon’s Gift --- is under production for an upcoming major motion picture release. Her emotionally gripping titles include the popular Redemption series, the Firstborn series, Divine, One Tuesday Morning, Beyond Tuesday Morning, Oceans Apart, and A Thousand Tomorrows.
Karen and her husband, Don, live in the Pacific Northwest and are parents to one girl and five boys, including three adopted from Haiti.
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November 17, 2004
Even though the characters in her novels deal with difficult, sometimes heart-wrenching situations, award-winning author Karen Kingsbury calls her own life upbeat and happy. Yet Kingsbury admits that she's an emotional person, and her ability to translate emotional moments into scenes in her novels is one of the reasons why her stories resonate so strongly with her legions of fans. Kingsbury's already busy writing life is about to accelerate with the addition of two new series, and several new children's books are awaiting publication.
FaithfulReader.com interviewer Cindy Crosby recently talked with the energetic Kingsbury about the challenges of parenting six kids and sustaining a full writing schedule, some exciting plans in the works for taking one of her novels to the big screen, and how the Kingsburys plan to celebrate the holidays.
FaithfulReader.com: From writing "True Crime" to faith fiction! My goodness, for a woman who has written six collections of stories about miracles, this seems like a miracle in itself. What led you to switch from writing "True Crime" to your semi-autobiographical faith fiction novel, WHERE YESTERDAY LIVES, in 1998?
Karen Kingsbury: My passion has always been fiction. As a college student, my back-up plan was journalism, and after earning my degree, I took a job as a news writer for the Los Angeles Daily News. Out of my experience as a reporter, I wrote my first four true crime books, but all along I dreamed of writing fiction. After four true crime books, the story of WHERE YESTERDAY LIVES was practically bursting from me. I took some time off and wrote that novel, not sure if anyone would ever want to publish it.
FR: Since then, you've had an incredibly prolific writing career --- 30 books! Do you work on one book at a time? Or can you juggle several writing projects at once?
KK: I work on one book at a time, but the stories coming up are in my mind, growing and becoming stronger even as I work on a different book. It's God's gift that I can write quickly. In fact, the more quickly I write a novel, the stronger it is. I think that's because I see the story very visually, so writing it over the course of a short time period keeps the characters more vivid.
FR: Do you think your background as a journalist has given you a discipline that many other authors might not have?
KK: Definitely. As a journalist I was taught to be creative on deadline. Deadline pressure was a given on a newspaper staff, and in my world it's a given today. I still long for more discipline, but I'm able to meet a fairly demanding deadline schedule in part because of the training I had as a reporter.
FR: Your emotion-packed novels, which you have trademarked "Life-Changing Fiction," really resonate with your readers. Do you consider yourself an especially emotional person? Is writing cathartic for you?
KK: Yes, I'm very emotional. My husband always teases me about the tears I shed even while I'm writing. I've never really considered writing cathartic, since my real life is very happy and upbeat. But I enjoy getting caught up in the lives of my characters, their trials and triumphs, and struggles. They become very real to me, so I can't wait to return to them each day and continue their stories.
FR: Share with us your inspiration for the "Red Gloves" books.
KK: My father always involved our family in a giving project at Christmastime, whether it was taking a meal to a homeless person or singing Christmas carols for the neighbors. With the "Red Gloves" books, I wanted a series of Christmas stories that would be appropriate for family reading time and yet moving enough to tenderize even the most jaded heart. We often need something to help us remember the true meaning of Christmas, and the "Red Gloves" stories are intended to do just that. In addition, it's important that we give something back at Christmastime. We won't understand the real meaning of what God did by sending us Jesus on that day, until we also get caught up in the joy of giving. For that reason, each of the "Red Gloves" books gives a list of service projects people can get involved with, no matter where they live.
FR: How have these "Red Gloves" titles, which include GIDEON'S GIFT, MAGGIE'S MIRACLE and SARAH'S SONG, intersected with real life by encouraging reader involvement?
KK: One reader collected two-dozen pairs of red gloves, along with bags of toys and clothing, and visited a Russian orphanage. The reader wrote and told me of tears in the eyes of the children, as in many cases they received their first Christmas presents ever. The reader sent me a photograph of her experience, showing a group of smiling children --- all of them wearing red gloves. I have heard back from readers who have led clothing and food drives at their local homeless shelters, and others who have served dinner for their local school board. Some people have combined with co-workers to bring toys to orphanages in their areas or Christmas presents to people in nursing homes. All across the United States and Canada, people are getting involved in "Red Gloves" projects of their own.
FR: It sounds like there are some exciting plans for one "Red Gloves" book.
KK: GIDEON'S GIFT has been optioned to be made into a major motion picture. At this point, most of the hurdles have been cleared. Original music has been written for the soundtrack, and major top-notch talent is being considered for the lead parts. Casting is taking place between now and the end of the year, and the movie should be filmed in February. It is slated to open in 3,000 theaters during the Christmas, 2005 season.
FR: Your books ONE TUESDAY MORNING and BEYOND TUESDAY MORNING (coming out in January of 2005), both chronicle the lives of those affected by September 11, 2001. How do you feel these books help America "grieve"? And where do you think we are as a country in our recovery process after 9/11?
KK: Most Americans have moved on from the events of September 11. We will certainly never forget what happened, but we are no longer moved to remember that tragedy on a daily basis. This is not necessarily true of the people in New York City --- especially the members of the FDNY and NYPD. I had the chance to talk to many firefighters who read ONE TUESDAY MORNING. God used that book to change and heal many of them.
FR: Tell us more about that.
KK: The one I will never forget is a captain at one of the firehouses in lower Manhattan. He wrote to me and said he had left his wife and sons and was unable to love after September 11. But reading ONE TUESDAY MORNING changed his life. He told me that God used that book to show him the light he'd been looking for. A few weeks ago I received another letter from him, saying that he and his wife are happily married, and their sons are doing better than ever. Attached to the email was a photograph of their family --- everyone smiling, their eyes glowing. I printed it, and I keep it near my computer as a reminder of the power of Life-Changing Fiction.
FR: What can you share with us about the two new series that you are working on with "Redemption" series characters --- "Firstborn" and "Sunrise"?
KK: They will capture the readers very much the way the "Redemption" series captured them. The story of the Baxters will certainly continue through both series, but "Firstborn" will address issues of singleness, while "Sunrise" will address issues of young families. I can't wait to bring each of those books to the readers.
FR: What are you writing now?
KK: The "Firstborn" series. The first book, FAME, will release in June 2005.
FR: Your first children's book, LET ME HOLD YOU LONGER, highlights the "lasts" we experience with our kids. Can you share your inspiration for this?
KK: My oldest son Tyler was playing outside when it occurred to me that he was too big to run and jump into my arms anymore. Then I looked at my youngest, Austin, and I realized that --- at age six --- his days of doing that were also numbered. It reminded me that every day --- in one way or another --- we are faced with little lasts on the journey of raising our children. I wrote LET ME HOLD YOU LONGER with that in mind.
FR: How is writing a children's book different from writing adult fiction?
KK: Writing for my children is very simple and uncomplicated. I can sit down and write a poem --- like the one in LET ME HOLD YOU LONGER --- in about an hour. The thought is complete and comes straight from my heart --- no mapping out plotlines or analyzing characters.
FR: Do you see writing another children's book in the near future?
KK: I have already written three more children's books, but I will publish them slowly --- maybe one every year or so --- since my main career writing passion is fiction.
FR: And speaking of children, tell us a little bit about what's going on with the lively and diverse Kingsbury family these days.
KK: Well...I always joked that I have it easy because our kids are between the D's --- no one is dating, driving, or in diapers. But these days Kelsey is 15 and pushing hard for her learner's driving permit. Dating doesn't feel that far off, either. Still, we enjoy our family time together --- spending summer days on our boat and playing dinner games around the table. Tyler is still involved in local community theater --- the inspiration for one aspect of the "Firstborn" series --- and our four youngest boys are still sports-crazy. It's wild and busy, but I cherish every moment.
FR: How do you balance writing with taking care of your family?
KK: It's very difficult. It gets more difficult all the time, as the kids get older and being involved in their activities demands more of my time. More often, I'm aware that the stories I write are by God's grace alone. Otherwise it would be impossible.
FR: With the holidays fast approaching, please tell us some special traditions at the Kingsbury house.
KK: We like to do a service project --- much like the "Red Gloves" projects. Last year we helped some local military families. Every year we enjoy caroling to our local nursing home and to our special family members and friends in the area. In addition, we try to spend time reading out loud --- usually from a classic such as THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER. We also have a special family book with a collection of our Christmas letters we've sent out over the years. Every Christmas, we take time to read through that book and remember fondly the years and memories gone by.
Click here to browse Karen Kingsbury's books at Amazon.com.
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Karen Kingsbury talks here about her book, REJOICE, which continues the saga of the Baxter family. Read on to learn what she has to say about a real-life story, which inspired her as she was writing REJOICE.
Q: REJOICE continues the saga of the Baxter family. Which family member is the focus this time?
KK: REJOICE is the story of Brooke Baxter and her husband, Peter. Brooke and Peter are both doctors, and very independent, self-reliant individuals. Following the shock of 9/11, however, both Brooke and Peter realize that they need God and come back to the faith.
Now the Baxters find themselves and their faith tested when the family meets with tragedy concerning their daughter, Hayley. Brooke and her husband have very different responses to the tragedy. One experiences an increase in faith and clings more strongly to Christ; the other tries to block out the pain, resulting in an addiction problem.
Complicating matters is a crisis of faith on the part of the Baxter patriarch, John Baxter-normally a rock of stability-and the wedding of Brooke's brother Luke.
Q: It doesn't sound like the Baxters have much to rejoice about!
KK: First Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to be joyful always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. Sometimes that is a lot easier said than done, as the Baxters' story demonstrates. Woven throughout the story of REJOICE, however, are threads of love, faith, and the incredible power of prayer.
"Rejoice" can mean a lot of different things. It can mean rejoicing in the midst of suffering, or rejoicing during happy times, or --- so often in this life --- a bittersweet rejoicing that encompasses both joy and sorrow.
Q: What does it look like to rejoice during times of trouble?
KK: This truth was brought home to me four months after I'd written the first chapter of REJOICE, when I received a call from a close friend in Arizona. My friend's little nineteen-month-old nephew Devin had fallen into an irrigation canal and drowned. He was struggling on life support, and my friend asked me to pray for a miracle.
I did pray, but not for a miracle. Instead, I begged God to let Devin go home to heaven, where he would be free from the prison of his brain and his body.
However, during a visit to Devin's hospital room, I saw a family who was choosing to rejoice rather than give up. Rejoice rather than medicate their pain. Rejoice rather than believing the dismal reports from doctors. When I left that afternoon, I could only do the same.
Q: What a powerful story! How is Devin doing now?
KK: Devin turned two recently, and continues to recover. His progress has been remarkable. God is good! You can read Devin's full story in the back of REJOICE and at www.devinsmiracle.org.
Q: What's next in store for the Baxter family?
KK: The fifth and final book, REUNION, is set to release in July, which is actually ahead of schedule. This book will bring closure to this series, but I'm planning two new series that connect to the Baxter clan. Watch www.karenkingsbury.com for more information.
Q: What other projects do you have in the works?
KK: My first children's book, LET ME HOLD YOU LONGER, will release from Tyndale in the September as a picture book, beautifully illustrated by Mary Collier. LET ME HOLD YOU LONGER is based on something I wrote for my own children, which was also incorporated into REJOICE as the poem Elizabeth Baxter wrote for Luke before his wedding. It is a book parents and children can read together, and encourages parents to recognize and savor the often-fleeting "lasts" --- those milestones that so easily go unrecorded.
Q: Any parting words for our readers?
KK: Always remember that our God is a God of miracles.
© Copyright 2004, Karen Kingsbury. All rights reserved. Used with permission.