The best-selling novelist who is often called “America’s favorite inspirational storyteller” says she received 30 rejection letters as a young writer before a publisher took a chance and hired her.
Karen Kingsbury’s books have sold more than 25 million copies and have been made into multiple movies and television series, including her latest one, Pure Flix’s A Thousand Tomorrows, starring Colin Ford and Rose Reid.
But Kingsbury told Christian Headlines she had trouble finding a publisher for her first faith-based inspirational book, Where Yesterday Lives, in the mid-1990s. At the time, Kingsbury was a crime book author and was a former journalist.
“I had done four true crime books,” Kingsbury told Christian Headlines. “I had written for the L.A. Times – I was a sports writer and then a crime writer. And so I wrote crime books, and everyone loved them. And they were received very well. But I didn't want to write that.”
Kingsbury had read Francine Rivers’ book, Redeeming Love, and felt led by God to transition from crime novels to Christian inspirational novels.
“So I wrote my first [inspirational] novel, Where Yesterday Lives. My agent dropped me. He said, ‘Karen, you were going to be a star. Why do you want to do this other stuff?’ – you know, why would you want that? He dropped me and I had to kind of be on my own.”
Kingsbury shopped Where Yesterday Lives around to dozens of publishers. She received 30 rejection letters. It took about a year to find an interested publisher.
“The first rejection letters kind of surprised me. But it was a secular publisher. And they were like, ‘We do nonfiction crime, and you're wanting us to look at fiction inspirational. We just don't do it.’” She said a woman at another publisher said, “I loved it – it made me laugh, made me cry. But I don't have a place for it. We don't publish” inspirational fiction.
Faith-based inspirational fiction, Kingsbury said, “wasn't really such a thing back then.”
“And finally at the one-year mark,” she said, “I got a call back from a publisher at Multnomah who said, ‘Please tell me it's available. And please tell me you have more because we want to sign you to a three-book deal.’”
Multnomah published Where Yesterday Lives in 1997. She has written more than 100 books – some of them being turned into Hallmark movies.
Kingsbury, who teaches at Liberty University, said she often recounts her story to young writers, telling them, “Stay with it until God closes the door. Because it’s worth it. You don’t know what’s gonna be right around that next corner.”
Photo courtesy Pure Flix
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.