|Valerie Anne Faulkner
interviews Karen Kingsbury
Christian Fiction On-line Magazine, June, 2009
|toured the nation and met so many interesting authors, their families, and even their pets. Bill, I think I need a
“Well, I thought since Karen Kingsbury has such a busy schedule she’d probably like to spend some time
with her family, and I’d just call her.”
“That works. Its summer, vacations, schools out.”
I lean on the broom, “Or, we could set up the camera and do the video phone?”
“Val, I can make that happen.”
“Excellent! Let’s invite everyone to see her interview, during the party.” With a high five in unison we have
the same idea. Bring a dish, and set yourself down.
Bill’s Weber Grill sparkles, “Pot luck-Southern style!”
Every July the gang, that’s my family, comes over for the Fourth of July celebration and we cook out and
go swimming. Bill and I aren’t concerned with meal planning since our guests bring a dish, to share.
My sister Kathie will probably bring salad with lots of fresh greens, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I wonder if
she’ll toss in walnuts and dried cranberries. That’s so good!
Her hubby Dave will help Bill cook up the pork ribs and chicken.
My other sister Joyce will undoubtedly bring her own recipe of fish spread, served on crispy crackers. She
and her better half Micky always have fresh fish!
My daughter Stacie and her family will take care of the chips, dips, and ice cold beverages. Son, Billy and
wife Amy, will show up with my favorite, macaroni and tuna salad. My youngest daughter Shaye, and her
husband Brian, homemade potato salad. Perfect!
Nieces and nephews will tote in beans, corn on the cob, and homemade breads. The kitchen counter will be
covered with an array of foods and ‘the porch’ will at times have standing room only.
My mom and dad will bring dessert. Ice cream cake! You see my Dad‘s (the original) Yankee Doodle
Dandy, born on the Forth of July. This year he’s ninety one.
The grand-kids will laugh, the gang will splash. The barbecue will glow most of the day. It’ll be paper plates
and greasy fingers, country music and summer fun. Watermelon, marshmallows, sparklers, and flags Red,
White, Blue. A fun filled afternoon.
“Shhh!” Bill puts his finger up to his mouth. I can hear them whispering. He motions, “Calm down
everyone. Val’s on the computer. C’mon, you can listen in but you must be very quiet.”
“Good afternoon, Karen. I am so happy to meet you.” She smiles and looks stunning in a royal blue v-neck
tee. She appears to be alone and can’t see my family standing off camera. “I appreciate you taking the time
for this interview...” Ms. Kingsbury chuckles as she stares to my right shoulder. Naturally I turn, to see Lily
my youngest granddaughter, peering into the monitor. Bill snags the little darlin’ as I turn three shades of
purple. “Oh dear! I’m sorry, my family wanted to see you too. Umm, I’m sure they’ll all become your
newest fans...I grin sheepishly, uh... maybe, I’ll just begin.”
Valerie: I’ve noticed on your website you have a section named ‘Prayer and Praise.’ After clicking on the
venue I thought what a terrific idea, and by the show of your followers...they do too. Who came up with
Karen: The idea for Prayer and Praise on the website grew out of the hundreds of readers who wrote in
asking for prayer. The body of Christ is a global community, and eventually it occurred to me that there was
ministry opportunity here. Some of my readers have a great love of praying for others, and others have a
great need for prayer. By listing the prayers and praises on the website, the readers have a way to connect,
and true ministry can happen.
Valerie: Did this blog take awhile to get established, or was it an instant success?
Karen: Initially, we had bugs to work out. At first, people with wrong motives posted inappropriate links and
photos, and we had a network of readers letting us know when we had a “crisis” situation on the website.
Very quickly we moved to the system we have now, where the prayer requests, praises, and guestbook
entries come to us for approval first. Another learning curve, was our decision to edit the requests as
needed. If a reader writes in asking for prayer regarding her husband Joe, who is stealing from his job and
having an affair with his secretary, for legal reasons we have quite a lot of editing to do. This way we keep
the requests free from any libelous material. At this point, we are happy with our system, and we believe
God is using it to bring my readers together in a way that is pleasing to Him.
Valerie: Have you ever had a post from a reader- fan- that really touched you, perhaps stirred your
emotions...and even brought tears? Could you tell us about it? And, how you replied?
Karen: I’m smiling as I write this, because I get those kinds of letters daily. Seriously. I’ll give you an
example from this morning. A reader wrote in after reading Summer, one of my books in the Baxter Series.
Summer deals with a baby who is born with anencephaly – an always- fatal birth defect. The brief life of
this child is a major part of the life-changing aspect of this book. So this reader write and tells me that she
lost a baby forty-two years ago, after the infant lived only one hour. She went on to say that reading
Summer allowed her to actually feel her baby in her arms again. I had tears streaming down my face as I
read her feelings, and the way God used my story in her life. I wrote back and thanked her for sharing, and
I assured her that God alone could have that sort of impact on her through the power of fiction. I play only
a small part in the process.
Valerie: You’ve accomplished being a wife, mom, writer...I should say, “Best Selling Author.” Most women
today try to juggle work and family, and wonder how they’ll ever get everything done. What advice could
you give to women about keeping prioritized in today’s super-mom-era’ and sane... while still, being able to
keep a smile on your face?
Karen: First of all, the smile is something that always needs to be there. Our attitude is everything, and as we
seek to follow Christ, we must remember that He told us to “be joyful always.” This doesn’t mean we show
up laughing at a funeral, or that we are giddy when our kids get sick. It means that we approach life looking
outward, not inward. With Christ in us, we can truly live in a way that is other-focused. The way I
approach life is with a priority system that almost always will mandate my schedule. God first, family next,
then the ministry of my fiction. That means that if Austin has a baseball game, I’m there – even if my next
deadline is quickly approaching. I realize that sort of decision isn’t always possible – and that’s true for
other women as much as it’s true for me. Sometimes the game falls on a Saturday and I’m away speaking
at an Extraordinary Women Conference. In that case I get a play-by-play from my wonderful husband, and
a heartfelt phone call with my little athlete after the game’s over. Life – successful life – is about balance.
Always there will be the tendency for one area to consume more of our time. At that point, it’s up to us to
pull back and find a way to meet the needs of the people God has placed in our lives. A couple points that
have helped me – first, I’m not perfect. None of us are. If we’re too hard on ourselves or take ourselves too
seriously, we will rob ourselves of our joy. Second, let the little things slide. We can’t be all things to all
people all the time. Prioritizing happens on a minute-by-minute basis.
Valerie: And, while we’re on the subject...with six children in your family, I’d imagine you have some
designated routine chores for each of them and are there rewards for jobs well done, or consequences?
Karen: Yes, indeed, we have a chore list. A team of two kids handles the dishes for the week – all dishes,
anytime they need doing. The other four kids are assigned individual jobs – sweeping outside, feeding the
dogs and cats, keeping the living room tidied, etc. The jobs rotate every week, so that after a six-week
period, everyone’s taken part in every job. The rewards fall more in line with their grades – where money is
awarded for A’s and B’s accordingly. Chores are a part of life, and they are expected. Certainly we praise
them for work well done, and our kids are really wonderful. The system works for us. And yes, if they don’
t get their chores done they are docked money from their “grades account.”
Valerie: Have you ever considered hiring a Nanny to assist you?
Karen: Also smiling. Not a nanny, because we love spending time with the kids more than anything. Instead
I have my husband, who is the best dad ever. Between the two of us, we have the kids covered, which is a
blessing. On the rare times when the two of us are gone together, my sister and mom help out with the kids.
That might happen once a year. Where we do have help is with the details of life that aren’t as fun. I have
cleaning help, for sure. We believe in hiring people to help us with work that might otherwise take away
from our time together as a family. This is certainly one of the luxuries of the life God has blessed us with.
It was particularly hard for my husband at first – because he’s such a hard worker in all things. But I had to
convince him that God has blessed us to pay others to do a lot of the work around our home. Those people
need the work, and we need the time together. It’s a win-win situation, and when he understood that, he
was in agreement. An example: The painter who worked on our house when it was being built, was low on
work. He came to our house in November with a flyer advertising his services to put up Christmas lights.
Every year until then, Donald had done our lights on Thanksgiving weekend. The tradition wasn’t something
we wanted to give up. But our painter needed money for his family. So we hired him to put up lights on the
house and the trees, and Donald and the boys did the ground decorations and bush lights. Again, everyone
Valerie: Okay, about now all the multi tasking mommies and I want to hear about the “Girls Get Away
Cruise,” you got to go on this past spring? Care to tell us all about the best parts? Where you cruised to,
what you did?
Karen: The Girls Getaway Cruise is amazing. This last one was a little more adventurous than the others, but
it was memorable all the same. We ended up going into Progresso instead of Cozumel, because of a timing
issue. For the most part everyone rolled with this change, and we had a blast touring the small fishing town
of Progresso. My time on the cruise is really spent with my reader friends. I do a number of signings,
meeting readers, sharing a hug and a picture together. Also, I have the chance to speak from the platform,
and share with my reader friends that way. Basically, we’re all just a group of girlfriends enjoying the
adventure of growing in our faith while sailing the open seas. Amazing times.
Valerie: My sister and brother-in-law have been trying to get me to go on a cruise, for years...I have to ask,
did the seas get rough? Have any sea-sickness? Last, did you see anything resembling... jaws?
Karen: More smiles. Most of the time there’s no one dealing with sea-sickness. I’ve never had a problem
with it, thankfully. On each cruise it seems like there’s a handful of women who do have a problem. I’d
recommend against the motion-sickness patch, since people tend to have side effects with it. Usually if a
person drinks a lot of water and gets plenty of rest, they can handle the motion of the ship. Now, keep in
mind that these are huge, enormous ships, so for the most part the rolling sensation is mild. On the last Girls
Getaway Cruise we ran into a little storm system one night, and the boat was rocking pretty good. I asked
one of the workers to rank the rocking and rolling on a scale of 1-10, and he told me with a shrug that it
was maybe a 5. Still . . . for us it was closer to a 10. I thought the rocky seas were more fun, adventurous,
really. But they taped paper bags to the common area walls in case people needed to grab one for, well, for
motion sickness. And lots of girls turned in early that night. One speaker actually ran off stage, lost her
lunch, and returned to keep up with her session. So, yeah, it was a little rocky. But again that was unusual,
and most of us truly enjoyed it. Certainly nothing to worry about, and definitely no sharks circling the boat. I
haven’t seen anything but a few happy dolphins.
Valerie: I have a question about your books. Above the Line, take two came out in June...just this past
month, and Shades of Blue, will be out in October. I’d assume you work on more than one novel at a time?
Karen: Actually, no, I don’t work with more than one novel at a time. They’re like planes lined up at O’Hare.
I allow the stories to fall in line, and I’m vaguely aware of what the novel will include . . . but I don’t
actually work on any book but the one due next.
Valerie: Busy lady! How do you handle interruptions when you’re up to your elbows in work, or
don’t you? Are you Calm...with a matter of fact attitude, or do you get Exasperated- and blow up...?
Karen: I’m a very calm person, by nature – or by God’s shaping of me, maybe. I can’t stand tension
between me and others, and I want peace as much as possible. At the same time, if I’m writing and I get
interrupted with an interview, business call, important set of emails, etc, quite often the interruption takes me
out of my writing mindset for the rest of the day. That’s why when I get close to my deadline and the heat
is truly on, I ask my staff to shield me from the distractions. Of course, the kids are never a distraction, and
they’re always welcome to visit me in my writing room. My husband keeps them from coming in too often,
but if Austin wants to come in for a hug or Kelsey wants to tell me about her day at college, if Tyler has a
dilemma with friends or one of the boys needs to tell me something in private – I’m available always. Same
for a kiss from my Prince Charming. In other words, I have my staff protect me from the distractions as
much as possible – especially down the stretch on a deadline.
Valerie: Everybody loves the “Baxter’s.” How did they originally stumble on you?
Karen: Gary Smalley – relationship expert – was reading my books and loving them. He asked me to come to
Branson for a meeting with him, where he suggested I write a series of books that would illustrate his
relational teachings. He left the rest up to me. Actually the whole idea for the Baxter family came to me in a
five-book outline, titles, everything during a single flight from Denver to Portland, our home airport. It was
amazing, because the storyline just poured out of me. Completely a God-thing, as we all like to say.
Valerie: Since you’ve already said, ‘they’re going to be around for awhile’...can you give us a clue about
their future? Please?
Karen: Most of my readers know by now that I’m including the Baxters as background characters in my
current series – Above the Line. They appeared in a big way in Take One – the first book in the series, and
they’ll appear in each successive book – Take Two (in stores June 23) Take Three, and finally Take Four.
Alsop, I recently had another break-through flight where I came up with the next series. I’m calling it the
Bailey Flanigan Series – since she has been a developing character from the Baxter series. She is more of a
featured character in the Above the Line series, and after that she will be the subject of her own series.
There will definitely be more Baxters in that one.
Valerie: I read that your novel, “Like Dandelion Dust,” has been made into a motion picture recently, a first
for you... This had to have been an enormous thrill for you and your family. I wondered though... How
much input from you personally, as the author, was considered, as to who might play the roles?
Karen: I was kept in the loop every step of the way, which was wonderful. A lot of times it was a situation
where the producers and director were going for a certain actor or actress and I was praying on the
sidelines. When we landed Barry Pepper, who is a phenomenal actor and who gives a stunning performance
in Like Dandelion Dust, we knew God was opening some very amazing doors. In addition, Academy Award
winning Mira Sorvino was tremendous in her role as Wendy, the child’s birth mother. Actually there wasn’t
a weak link in the acting. I’m grateful for the standard of excellence that our producers applied to every
aspect of making this movie.
Valerie: Seems so many people read a book...see a movie...and say, ‘the book was better than the movie.’
Like Dandelion Dust, the ‘movie,’ has won a number of independent film awards...so, my question for
you is, what did you think?
Karen: Movies can only show some of the content that is presented in a book. That said, I feel that the visual
presentation of Like Dandelion Dust is absolutely brilliant. It is leaving audiences touched and changed –
which is something I pray will happen when I write. Again, with excellence as the standard, all of us
involved knew we would settle for nothing less than an unforgettable adaptation of the book. I’ve seen it at
three of the dozen or so festivals now where it has won the main honors at every single one. So, yes, I love
Valerie: Just a couple months ago, in May, my hubby and I celebrated another fabulous wedding
anniversary. Looks like you’re accumulating quite a few as well. I related to your blog about “The Bunker
Had me remembering...We started out in a bungalow on Long Island. The tiny little house had 576 square
feet of living space, and a separate detached garage. Two people in love, one baby and just starting out...
Life’s so different in 2009; do you feel those simpler days made you who you are today? Why?
Karen: We talk about those simpler days all the time. They were easy and fun, full of laughter and growing
our faith together. We had less, so we had less to do, less responsibility and a whole lot more time together.
We tell our kids that if for some reason we wound up back in a bunker – six kids and all – we would still
have love, we would still have our Lord, and we would still have laughter. Our time would be spent in and
around different things, and our surroundings would be considerably smaller – but that wouldn’t change
who we are. Yes, I think God used that time in our lives as a place of preparation for my wonderful husband
and myself. We were new Christians, newly in love with God’s word and each other. Every hour of that
precious time helped build the foundation that keeps us strong today. I also think those beginnings are part
of what keeps us completely unaffected by the success God has allowed in our lives. This isn’t about me or
about us – not in any way. Like I said earlier, I’m only a small part of what God is doing with these Life-
Changing Fiction ™ stories. I’m just a girl trying to live for God and love her family.
Valerie: Many of us are trying to make an effort, and change our wasteful behavioral patterns of the past...
what are you doing personally in ‘The Going Green’ scheme of things?
Karen: We live in the Pacific Northwest. Life has been green here since before we arrived a decade ago.
Recycling is a part of life in a major way, and the stores we shop at are very conscientious about using
biodegradable products and packaging, etc. Using more natural products and less chemicals is healthy for
our family and our home, so that has become important to us. That said, I’m not convinced about Global
Warming. My husband and I track temperature highs and lows, and it’s never been colder in most of the
US. Here in our area we’ve had record-breaking snow the last two years beyond anything this area has ever
seen since data was recorded. Either way – whether we’re entering an Ice Age or a Global Warming Period,
God is in control, and as responsible Christians, we owe it to Him to take care of the planet He’s given us.
Being wasteful is not a good, godly trait. Conservation is a healthy choice for everyone, as is living in a more
natural manner, if we do so as Christians first. If it isn’t a lifestyle that consumes and defines us, going
green is a good thing.
Valerie: I know you have been asked so many questions during your career, but I was wondering… is there
any one thing you would like to share with your fans? Something, you haven’t been asked… but think they
would enjoy hearing about?
Karen: My kids love talking about some of the crazy things I’ve been and done in my past, my years leading
up to this season of writing books. In Middle School, I won a city-wide Ping Pong tournament, and I still
love to play. I can beat most of the guys who come by the house and I’m still very competitive with my
tremendously athletic kids. It’s a way we bond and spend time together. They were probably most proud of
me the day I beat San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, eight out of ten games. Fun times. In my
college days I was on the $25,000 Pyramid – a television game show - as a contestant. I won $1,100 which
paid for that year’s state college tuition! Also, I hold Frisbee contests with my boys on the front yard and I
love tadpoles and the bald eagles that soar over our house from the nearby forest, and the sound of frogs
talking with each other while we fall asleep.
Valerie: “Ah...love this...Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview Karen. From the sounds
of it (we both smile hearing my family applaud in the background) you have also gained some new fans!
Have a wonderful summer and God bless.”