No matter if it’s part of an ongoing series or her latest stand-alone title, Karen Kingsbury’s novels are always a big hit.
So what’s the secret of success for one of Christian fiction’s
most successful authors? For Karen Kingsbury, it’s all
about connecting with her readers—on and off the page.
These days, you can tell a lot about someone
from his or her Facebook page, and bestselling author
Karen Kingsbury is no exception. Considering she’s got
more than 16 million readers and 107,421 Facebook
fans at press time, you’d naturally expect to see plenty
of high praise from her devoted readership on her wall.
But aside from all the love for Kingbury’s
life-changing fiction, what probably began as just
another place to discuss her writing has actually
morphed into a tight-knit community of friends.
In what Kingsbury lovingly refers to as her “virtual
living room,” readers not only share their prayer re-
quests and stories of what God’s been doing in their
lives, but their significant personal milestones as well,
the birth of new grandchildren, the heartbreak of
losing a job, the joys and sorrow of having your kid
leave for college.
While the distance between authors and their
readers has narrowed considerably since the social
networking revolution, a promotional webpage with a
decidedly personal touch is still surprising, especially
from an author with such a busy schedule. But for
Kingsbury, who logs on faithfully each and every day,
this deep connection with her fans is an integral,
essential part of being an author.
“I really do love my readers, and I enjoy getting to
know them and praying for their needs,” Kingsbury
says. “For me, writing is a ministry first and foremost.
You’re not just telling a story and walking away.
You’re telling a story and dialoguing about how that
story affected people.”
Making the Connection
Long before Kingsbury’s name appeared on the New
York Times bestseller list, it was Karen’s father who
always reminded her to remember her fans, whether
there’s six or six thousand waiting to meet you.
“He would always tell me, ’Karen, there’s no autograph lines in heaven’,” Karen remembers. “So from a
really early stage, I would stand—not sit—whenever I
signed books for people. And these days, even if it’s a
five-hour line, I do the same.”
Another facet of Kingsbury’s fan-friendly mentality
has materialized through the popular Baxter Family
Club and Baxter Family Reunion event. The former is
a free fan club with special perks for those signed up
(including extra chapters and other members-only
exclusives), while the latter is an annual two-day
event for readers to fellowship with other Kingsbury
fans and connect with Karen herself.
Born as a natural outgrowth of Kingbury’s time
spent with readers, both Baxter Family projects are
close to her heart. “When I meet readers face to face,
it’s always very emotional,” Kingsbury shares. “Some
people will be shaking; others will have tears in their
eyes. It’s all very humbling and just a reminder of
what God is orchestrating. It’s nothing I can ever take
credit for, of course, and I’m thankful for that. More
than anything, I’m always amazed that God can use me—and
these stories—to help inspire and change people’s lives.”
Putting Pen to Paper
Of course, all that time spent with fans in cyberspace and
beyond cuts into her actual novel-writing time, Kingsbury does
admit. It’s occasionally made penning those novels a little more
complicated time-wise. Nonetheless, it’s a sacrifice she’s more
than happy to make.
In fact, she’s already excited to see how readers will respond to
her latest novel, Unlocked: A Love Story (Zondervan). Describing
it as a beautiful story of the agape love that Christ calls us to, it
tackles a variety of relevant themes including bullying, suicide
and the prison-like existence of someone suffering with autism.
“I love how Unlocked talks about themes of love, but it’s not the
type of love story everyone naturally thinks of—romance,” Karen
says. “Over the years, I’ve realized I have a lot more high school
and college readers than people may know, so I felt like a book
like this could help change the culture by emphasizing the importance of being kind.”
Featuring a young protagonist named Holden Harris, who
Kingsbury describes as one of the purest souls she’s ever written,
Unlocked is a heart-tugging story of the redeeming power of
unconditional love and friendship.
When writing a story with such emotional beats, one can’t help
but wonder how Kingsbury manages to make it through without
crying herself. “Oh, I
get choked up, no doubt
about it,” Karen shares.
“I fully allow myself to
be drawn into the world
I’m writing about, and I
have to be for the story
to ring true emotionally. I’m always crying
when I write, and my
family knows that’ll
happen whenever I’m
working on a new
To set the proper mood, Kingsbury carefully chooses
an appropriate instrumental soundtrack, puts her head-
phones on and immediately gets to work. “The right
music always gets me into that place, whatever that
happens to be. If I
were just listening to
my kids talking in the
would be almost impossible,” Kingsbury
says. “Sometimes my
husband will say, ’Try
and remember that
you’re making it all
up.’ But the funny
thing is, I don’t feel
like I’m making it up. I
have to just give myself it, and I become sort of a slave
to the story. When it comes right down to it, I actually
feel like I’m merely serving the story, rather than
creating it, which is always an incredibly rewarding