Karen Kingsbury is a #1 New York Times bestselling novelist with more than twenty-five million copies of her award-winning books in print.
She is an inspirational storyteller who writes Life-Changing fiction. Her last dozen titles have topped bestseller lists and many of her novels are under development with Hallmark Films and as major motion pictures.
Her first books were centred on true crime, a topic she cites as “not her favourite”. After a lot of soul searching, she decided to go back to her Plan A of becoming a novelist and wrote her first novel. Despite not having an agent or publisher and receiving thirty rejection letters, she pushed on and a year later a publisher came knocking. In 1997 that book was published and the rest is history.
Despite her long writing career, I was only recently introduced to her writing when I reviewed her latest Novel, Someone Like You.
Someone Like You follows the life of Maddie West. Maddie is shaken to the core when she finds out from a stranger that she was adopted as an embryo, a secret her parents hid from her for twenty-two years. Feeling betrayed, angry and confused she leaves her dream job, fiancée and rejects her family and moves across the country to find out who she is.
The main themes of the book are embryo adoption and Christian faith – you can read the full review here. After finishing the book, I got a chance to ask Karen Kingsbury about Someone Like You, the theme of adoption, faith-based novels, and her writing process.
When you decided to switch to writing inspirational/faith-based novels, you mention struggling to find publishers willing to publish your work as it wasn’t “racy enough”. How long did it take to get published and how did you stay motivated to stick the course and to write what you wanted to write?
It took a full year from the time I submitted my first novel until I heard from the publisher. In that time, I contacted them almost daily. It was very difficult in the waiting. I kept asking God if he wanted me to go back to waiting tables or working for a newspaper, or if he really wanted me to write Christian fiction. A few months into that year-long process, I became beyond determined to see the journey through. I decided to keep calling until I had a rejection, because I was convinced God wanted me to write these stories. I remember telling myself, “Even if I’m the only one who reads it, this is what I need to write!” Almost a year to the day when I first submitted my novel “Where Yesterday Lives”, the publisher called. Her voice was almost frantic. “Please tell me your novel is still available!” The rest is history.
Your book Someone Like You is part of the Baxter Family Series which you say one doesn’t have to read all to follow the plot. How do you manage to create such individual stories in a series – ones that connect to each other but don’t have to be read in order or all together.
Most of the complicated Baxter Family storylines happened a decade ago. Those need to be read in order to really grasp the story. Recently, I reached a point where I knew I’d given the Baxters all they could take. Readers were asking for updates on the Baxters, so I thought, well, if there has to be a B-plotline, it might as well include our favourite family. “Someone Like You” involves Maddie Baxter West – the daughter of Brooke and Peter West. Brooke is the oldest of the Baxter sisters. But we really hadn’t spent time with her now 22-year-old daughter, Maddie. Until now! Truly, this book is a standalone. If people like the Baxters, they can always go back and read about their trials and triumphs in the earlier books.
Have you received any criticism for religion and faith being such a heavy theme of the book?
None, actually. I think given our current global situation; people are looking for deep storylines. They are wanting to see the most difficult situations through the lens of faith and hope and redemption. I often consider the fact that God let me be born to write these books for such a time as this.
In Someone Like You when Maddie finds out she was adopted as an embryo she is angry with her parents and rejects them, as the book explores it has more to do with the lie than the actual adoption. As a parent to adopted children what is your advice to other parents of adopted children to how they speak to their children about where they came from?
We adopted our boys when they were all around 6 years old. Three little best friends from Haiti. So, there was never any question that they had birth parents before we entered the picture. We believe it is critical to talk with your adopted children about their family of origin, the birth parents who either passed away or who were unable to parent them for any number of reasons. Sometimes it’s nice to have a photo or a keepsake of some kind to remind them of their birth parents. For us, we purchased a hand-carved small statue of a Haitian woman. Then we purchased three small stones, carved into the shape of hearts. We kept that statue and the three hearts in a visible spot while the children were growing up. The idea that they had a mother before me, a father before my husband… and that through the process God brought their hearts home to us.
What’s your advice for dealing with rejection?
I experienced plenty of rejection before getting my first fiction contract. Writers must realize that rejection is part of the process. It’s like selling a house. What you have to offer will not meet the needs of every buyer. But if God blesses you to be a published author, then the right publisher will one day make you an offer. I’d also say that there comes a time when your book might not be ready to sell. It’s best to join a critique group and let other writers take a look at your story. If it needs a strong edit, do that. Or if the contract never comes, at least you’ll have the one book you did write. You will never regret that.
How do you deal with writers block?
I don’t get writer’s block so much as I get attention-span-block. I typically write at home, but during Covid, I couldn’t seem to get in gear with my last book. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to write – I outline and that always helps. Rather, I simply wasn’t making myself sit down to actually write. There are always many things happening here at the house. I have a staff of 7-9 people depending on the time of year, and we recently started a new movement: YouWereSeen.com. So with all that happening, I eventually took a room at a local hotel for a week and finished the story there! Some other ideas to unstick the writing process: Outline your book first. Work on your outline again. Find a noisy place to write. Find a quiet place to write. Use headphones and instrumental music. Make a playlist of instrumental songs that fit your story, much like a movie score. Give yourself 30-minute challenge blocks. Write as much and fast as you can for 30 minutes. All of this helps!
What’s your ideal writing environment and where did you write Someone Like You?
I wrote “Someone Like You” at a coffee shop near our house. It’s a real vibey-type place with reclaimed wood tables and worn in sofas and chairs. I plugged in and took one of the comfy chairs. I used headphones and let the story come. I literally left home every day around 9 am and returned around 4 after a day of writing. It was wonderful!!! With the pandemic, writing at a coffeeshop hasn’t been possible. So this last time around I wrote 75% of the book at a local hotel.
What are you currently reading now?
I’m reading several things. Always the Bible – currently my husband and I are reading 2 Samuel, and I’m reading Acts. I’m also reading “Mere Christianity” by CS Lewis. I love his work!! Recently I finished another reading of Francine Rivers’ “Redeeming Love”. The beauty of that story never gets old!!
You can find Someone Like You at most local booksellers now or online here.