Karen Kingsbury – Best Selling Author, Inspirational Storyteller, Changing Lives With the Written Word.
Karen was born in Fairfax, VA, the oldest of Anne and Ted Kingsbury’s five children. She was hooked on Dr. Seuss from the first time her dad read her The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. She had the story memorized by the time she was five.
She moved often because of her dad’s computer programming job with IBM. Maybe it was the moving that truly underlined her love for reading. In books she found friends she never had to leave.
When Karen was 10 years old she left Michigan for California, where she stayed for the next two decades. She loved Southern California back then and she grew up in the San Fernando Valley – a true Valley girl. The beach was just thirty minutes away over Malibu Canyon, and there on the shore of the Pacific Ocean she dreamed about being a novelist.
Her heart overflowed with stories.
But the practical side of writing looked like journalism, which she studied through high school and college. There was a point in her freshman year at Pierce College when she actually decided she was sick of writing. She would be a lawyer, a prosecutor.
That year she took an English class and three weeks into the semester, Professor Bob Scheibel ordered her to the front of the room. Bob was a surly old journalist with a lifetime of experience. He ran the school newspaper. He pointed at Karen, real sharp-like, and said, “Are you Karen Kingsbury?”
She felt her knees tremble. “Yes, sir.”
“Two things.” He looked over the glasses at the end of his nose. “First, you will never ever stop writing. And second, you’re on staff.”
There was no arguing with Mr. Scheibel. And like that Karen’s future was set. She graduated from Cal State University Northridge with a degree in journalism in 1986 and immediately started work as a sports writer for the Los Angeles Times. She didn’t know anything about sports, but her dad was a good teacher and she was a quick study.
Karen covered high school sports initially, but quickly began seeing bigger stories, deeper stories and earned a reputation. If a story needed tears, her editors would give it to her.
About that time she met the love of my life, a blond, blue-eyed California boy named Don, a guy with one driving passion – to live his life for Jesus Christ. He brought a Bible to their first date and asked her if they could read Philippians together. Karen didn’t know a Philippian from any other “ippian” and seriously she thought he was crazy. But he was “cute and clean-cut,” so she put up with the Bible reading.
Three months passed and the tension in their “Bible” conversations grew. Karen couldn’t defend her viewpoints, her worldly values she’d accumulated over the years. Finally, she’d had it. One afternoon standing outside Don’s car Karen took his precious, underlined, highlighted Bible and I threw it on the ground.
Split the binding right down the middle.
Don picked up the pieces, gave her a sad look, and drove off.
Karen figured the ground would open up and she’d be headed straight for … well, you know. Instead, God allowed her to get in he car and drive to a Christian Bookstore, a store she’d driven past all her life and never, not once stepped inside.
There Karen bought a Bible and a concordance. She went home to her apartment and set about making a case for her manmade beliefs. Instead, she could hear God saying, You can either fall away with your unfounded views on life, or you can grab onto my Word and never let go.
She grabbed. She’s still holding on, still standing on that rock today. She’ll be devoted to God’s word the rest of her days.
Don forgave Karen and they joined a non-denominational Bible-believing church. They attended a weekly Bible study and a few months later they were baptized. It was the same week Don proposed to her.
The two of them were married on July 23, 1989, on what was a record-breaking day of heat. They didn’t care. With God on their side, they were ready to tackle the world, ready to share His love however the Lord would see fit to use them.
Karen and Don lived in a rented $100-a-month garage apartment with no air conditioning or heat. Don was finishing up his teaching credential and Karen worked at the newspaper. About that time she was moved to the front page to write the Sunday feature story – usually something involving a sad and twisted murder.
On their sixth-month anniversary they found out she was pregnant – though that was certainly not their plan. Karen figured she’d never know this child – too busy working long days at the newspaper. Don simply rejoiced and said, “We need to pray. God will show you a way to write at home. He can do that!”
Over the next nine months Karen prayed doubtfully, Don prayed faithfully. They prayed the Lord would allow her to make her salary from home. An unlikely request at best. During that time Karen sold a story to People Magazine – a sad true murder story she’d covered for the newspaper. When it ran in People, a literary agent in New York contacted her. He thought the story would make an interesting book. She agreed to write a proposal.
At the time, Karen didn’t see her conversation with him as part of God’s plan. But three days before she returned to work the agent called again. He told her to sit down. He had gotten her proposal into a bidding war and the resulting deal was beyond anything he had hoped for. The first check? Just $12.49 more than she made a year.
Karen quit her job the next day. She’s been home writing books ever since.
Over the next few years Karen wrote four true crime books – not her favorite topic. After that she couldn’t write about another murder. Karen begged God to show her what was next, how she might find her way back to that long ago Plan A – being a novelist.
In 1995 Karen read Francine Rivers’ book, Redeeming Love, and knew she wanted to write books that glorified God for the rest of her life. That spring Karen wrote her first novel – Where Yesterday Lives. She had no agent wiling to represent it, and no publisher. Thirty rejection letters followed. The publisher she’d worked with for the crime books said they loved it – but without sex scenes and strong language, they didn’t know what to do with it.
She pressed on, praying and believing.
A year later in 1996, Karen received word from Multnomah Publishers – they wanted her book. And two more. At least. At the same time she and Don welcomed their third child – Austin – to their family. He joined Kelsey and Tyler and they figured their life was set. Where Yesterday Lives was published in 1997 – the same week Austin was born.
Only days later, doctors discovered that Austin had a severe heart defect. At three weeks old, he had emergency heart surgery – a surgery that saved his life. The operation left him healed and with a life-long battle against congenital heart disease.
Over the next few years Karen and Don decided to add to their family in a way they had never planned. They adopted three little best friends from Haiti – Sean, Josh, and EJ.
Ever since that first novel, Karen has been writing Life-Changing Fiction ™, certain that when God puts a story on her heart, He has her readers’ hearts in mind.
And Karen is still sure that her professor from that distant freshman English class was right.
She will never, ever stop writing.
Learn more about Karen and her ministry work here.