by C.J. Darlington
Karen Kingsbury Interview
"I cry whenever I'm writing a novel--tears are good for us. Ice collects around the edges of our hearts. Tears happen when a little bit of that ice melts." -- Karen Kingsbury
Karen Kingsbury is currently America’s best-selling 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 several of her novels are in the process of being made into movies. Her emotionally gripping titles include the popular Redemption series, the Firstborn series, This Side of Heaven, Take One, Ever After, Sunrise, 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.
C.J.: Were books a big part of your life growing up? If so, what books influenced you most as a child?
Karen: Dr. Seuss was a major influence on my childhood reading. I loved the way the stories always had a deeper meaning, and how they rhymed perfectly, with perfect rhythm.
You were a reporter for the LA Times & LA Daily News long before you were a novelist. What first drew you to journalism?
Journalism was a way to take my love for writing and make a living with it. Being a reporter taught me how to organize a story, how to start strong and finish strong. I still recommend a journalism degree for any students wanting to become authors.
Why the sports beat?
I had written about several athletes while in college, and those stories provided a background that attracted the sports editors at the paper where I applied.
As a female in a mostly male dominated field, was there ever a period of proving yourself as a female sports writer?
Actually, there was no proving myself. The facts were clear – I knew virtually nothing about sports compared with my colleagues. However, I learned everything I needed to know, and I learned it quickly. I was never a walking encyclopedia of sports trivia, but I learned how to write about football, baseball, basketball, volleyball, and several other sports.
What was the most memorable interview you’ve ever conducted and why?
I interviewed Magic Johnson after the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers had just repeated as champions. Magic was conducting a camp for kids, and I went to the camp and hung out all day. Magic and I talked several times during the day and I wound up with two feature stories. He was very polite, a real gentleman.
You wrote four true crime books before ever writing fiction. What made you decide to write a novel, and how did your first novel’s publication come about?
I always wanted to write novels, but God opened the door to publishing through my work at the newspaper. By then I had moved from the sports page to the front page, and I was in charge of the Sunday feature story. The true crime books I wrote came from my work on the front page. All the while I longed to write fiction. After I finished the fourth true crime book I knew it was time to try something new. I wrote my first novel, and a year later I was on track to a totally different writing career.
Family and forgiveness often play huge parts in your stories. Do you always have a theme in mind for a novel, or does the message grow out of the characters?
It happens both ways. Sometimes God is pressing a theme upon my heart, and a story grows from that feeling. Other times I have a story I can’t wait to tell, and God reveals the message as I write.
Tell us about the Sunrise series.
The Sunrise series is a four-book set that will detail the next season in the lives of the Baxter family and Katy and Dayne Matthews.
What’s been the hardest part about writing these books?
The hardest part is realizing that after the Sunrise series, I will say goodbye to the characters I started out with in the Redemption series and then continued in the Firstborn series.
It’s fun that a reader chose a character’s name in Sunrise through your Forever in Fiction auctions. Share with us how Forever in Fiction works.
Forever in Fiction ™ is an item I donate to about 8-10 auctions each year. The winner gets the chance to name a character in one of my upcoming novels. So far it’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities and Christian schools.
You’ve said, “Christian fiction is more powerful than other fiction.” Could you expound on this?
Christian fiction is fiction-plus. Mainstream writers can write a story involving the physical, intellectual, and emotional. I can do all that and also add the spiritual. The result is a much deeper story, involving the whole person. We are all spiritual beings, whether we are running from God, toward Him, or indifferent. When that element plays a role in the story, readers walk away changed.
One of your novels, A Thousand Tomorrows, wasn’t “Christian fiction” per se, and was in fact published by Center Street, a mainstream publisher. Why did you write this novel, and what kind of doors has its publication opened for you?
It never opened any doors, and honestly that wasn’t my intent or the intent of the publishers. Rather it was a novel that told – almost in parable form – a story of 1st Corinthians 13 love. I wrote it because I wanted a book that would feel okay for non-Christian readers, and at the same time compel them toward my other novels and whatever life change might come from that.
Could you give us an update on the movies coming out based on your books? Where are they each in the production process?
Like Dandelion Dust is being produced by Fox, and will be in theaters before summer, 2008. It is currently in pre-production. Gideon’s Gift will be in theaters Thanksgiving, 2008, and they plan to film later this summer. In addition, Moment of Weakness is being filmed for a Hallmark TV Movie, and A Thousand Tomorrows and Even Now are in the early process of being made.
Have you had any say in story adaptation, actors, etc. in these films?
Yes, the producers have been very kind in letting me have input in the screenplays and casting process.
And you’ve also branched out into songwriting! How long will we have to wait before we hear one of your songs on the radio? :)
One of my songs will be on the Gideon’s Gift soundtrack! It’s called “Miracles Happen.” So sometime in the next year or so we should hit radio with that and maybe a couple others.
Does the process of songwriting go hand in hand with novel writing for you, or have you found yourself using completely different creative juices when you write songs?
It’s very different, because in songwriting you tell a story in three minutes. With a novel, you have three hundred pages. Songwriting is quicker and more intense, and almost entirely emotional. I love the process. It’s a great break, a great diversion from writing novels. I find that after writing a song, I’m more inspired to write a novel, and vice versa.
Could you talk about some of the bands and songs that have impacted your life?
Mercy Me has been an impact with their song, “I Can Only Imagine.” And Casting Crowns really makes me focus on my relationship with God. I also like Barry Manilow – whose romantic songs often inspire entire novels for me – and Richie McDonald – lead singer of Lonestar. He’s a brilliant songwriter, and his music was special to me long before he was a friend and a co-songwriter with me.
Having adopted three children yourself, what advice would you give someone who’s considering adoption?
Research extensively. Adoption is always hard, but it’s also always rewarding. Our struggles with an international adoption from a Christian orphanage in Haiti are much lighter and fewer than the struggles of someone adopting from the United States social services system. Know what you’re getting into ahead of time.
What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?
I have to keep that part a secret! I’m working on several titles dealing with issues I haven’t written about yet. Thankfully God continues to place issues and topics on my heart that are pertinent to today’s women and families.
What motivates you to get out of bed and head to your keyboard?
My faith, my family, and the ministry factor that comes with every book!
Where is your favorite place to write?
I have a small room off our bedroom. It’s almost entirely windows, lined with pine, and filled with a single leather loveseat. I face the windows, throw them wide open, and the stories come. I love writing from home because I’m close to my kids and husband, closer to the action of life.
What was the lowest point in your writing career, and how did you get out of it?
After I’d written six novels, I couldn’t understand why the publisher wasn’t giving me a larger first print-run. The books were running out at the warehouse in the first week, and still the print run stayed the same. I remember wondering if I should look for a job to supplement my writing income. Instead, I gave up looking at numbers, sales figures, and bestsellers lists. I gave my entire writing career to God, and He has carried it ever since.
What’s the best advice your mother and father ever gave you?
Mother: Save your kisses for your husband. :)
Father: “Keep writing, Karen . . . you’re a wonderful, gifted writer, and one day the whole world will know about your ability to tell a story!”
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I love Frisbee and Ping-Pong.
You’re at the checkout counter in Barnes & Noble and are purchasing something from the book, music & movie sections. What are you buying?
Books – a humor compilation from Dave Barry; music – instrumental and mood-setting to write by; movie – the latest chick-flick, the more emotional, the better.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Spending time with my family, taking walks, bicycling, going to plays, watching my kids play sports and perform in theater, sitting on the front porch with my best friend and husband – Don – and listening to him play the guitar.
What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Oatmeal, egg whites and blueberries
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Flax Seed Oil, eggs, a bag of cooked brown rice.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
Venti iced green tea, no sweetener.
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
I want to write a screenplay based on one of my novels.
The three words that best describe you:
Loyal, transparent, emotional.
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
Selah’s collection of hymns, the soundtrack to the Broadway play Mary Poppins; Barry Manilow and Five for Fighting.
When was the last time you cried?
I cry whenever I’m writing a novel – tears are good for us. Ice collects around the edges of our hearts. Tears happen when a little bit of that ice melts.
Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?
Thanks for taking the
time to read this, and for reading the books. I feel like I’ve found a friend every time a reader writes to me and
tells me what my books have meant to them. I’m amazed at what God
is doing with the power of story.
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.