Reading a Karen Kingsbury novel is akin to experiencing a makeover.
Her Christian fiction books can draw you into the characters’ lives so deeply that you find yourself examining your own. Through believable twists and turns in plots, Kingsbury routinely delivers on her trademarked promise to give readers Life-Changing Fiction.™
Kingsbury’s most recognized titles include Ever After, A Time to Dance and When Joy Came to Stay. She receives hundreds of e-mails each week from readers around the world, who share how a particular book helped them recommit to their marriages, extend forgiveness or renew their faith.
The revelations confirm for Kingsbury that she’s operating in her primary purpose: to draw others into the body of Christ. Another special calling—writing—just happens to be her vehicle.
“Evangelism is my gift,” Kingsbury said recently from her home in Vancouver, Washington. “If I was a person who cleaned floors for a living, joyfully my gift would be to share the love of Christ with others. I’m blessed to be able to do that on a much larger scale.”
Kingsbury has penned more than 30 novels, several of which have been made into television movies, with several more slated for small screen release. An estimated 6 million copies of her books are in print, and 2.6 million copies sold last year alone. That track record has given her the distinction of being the top-selling inspirational novelist in the nation.
The numbers are humbling, said Kingsbury, who remembers struggling early in her career to convince her publisher to print more than 15,000 copies of each new title. When she completed her sixth book, she surrendered.
“I just realized that God did not want me to be about bestsellers’ lists or numbers,” she said. “It was not where God wanted my heart. He wanted me to be about writing books that glorify him and writing books that would draw people to him.”
That shift took her eyes off of the success of her colleagues and ushered in an obedience that has yielded multiple books each year and an impact on people’s lives she couldn’t have fathomed.
“I’m grateful for all of the readers that my work is touching,” said Kingsbury, whose latest novel, Summer, arrives in bookstores August 21.
Kingsbury’s Ever After, a love story set against the backdrop of the war in Iraq, made history last month when it was named the 2007 Christian Book of the Year by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. For the first time, a novel and a female author received the honor.
“The message is one of supporting our troops, no matter what our viewpoints on the war,” Kingsbury said. “With ( each book) I’ll get tears in my eyes, definitely if a main character has cried. With Ever After, I needed a box of tissues, because I couldn’t see the screen.”
Kingsbury was also named Author of the Year last month by the Association of Logos Bookstores. She is thankful for the recognition, but more so for the opportunities such accolades provide to extend her reach for Christ, she said. She’s also diligent about balancing the demands that more acclaim brings with her primary ministry—caring for and nurturing her family.
Kingsbury and her husband, Donald, have three biological children, and in 2001 the couple adopted three Haitian boys. Their brood of six ranges in age from 18 to 10, and firstborn Kelsey is the only girl.
It’s not uncommon to find her sitting on the edge of the family pool with her laptop or cheering on her sons from the sidelines of a football game or other extracurricular activity. When she travels for book-related speaking engagements, at least one of her children or her husband always accompany her.
“Perfecting the craft of writing is very important to me, but more important is that my kids and family will say, ‘Yes, she wrote a lot of books, but she was better at being a mom and at being a wife,’” Kingsbury said.
Kingsbury’s dream of writing novels blossomed during childhood, but like many budding writers, she segued into a journalism career. Her path included an internship at the Los Angeles Times and reporting stint at the L.A. Daily News.
After penning several true-crime books based on her work as a reporter, Kingsbury turned her attention to fiction. Her deadline-oriented journalism training helps her whip out a book in less than a month. She has honed her ability to create tearjerker characters dealing with timely social issues and matters of faith.
For Kingsbury, however, the process always begins with a crucial routine: She asks God what He would have her to write, and then she asks how he would have her live. Kingsbury pursues obedience in both areas.
“I just bathe in prayer before, during and after,” she said. “As I’m writing a story, I feel like He’s guiding the whole process.”