Karen Kingsbury explains why her latest novel isn’t just a love story about people—it’s a love letter to booksellers, too.
Even after penning 50 novels, Karen Kingsbury still has to remind herself she’s an author. “Every single time someone writes me and says, ‘Wow, your book saved my life,’ or ‘it changed me,’ or ‘it brought me back to God’, or ‘it healed my marriage,’ I am amazed. I probably explain at least once a day that God put the story on my heart, but He had her heart, or those hearts, in mind. Only God can do that. I can’t. The bigger it gets, the smaller I feel. I’m not really doing anything differently from when I wrote my first novel. The only difference is that more and more people are finding out.”
And they’re doing just that in amazing numbers. Karen has shot up to become the nation’s No. 1 best-selling inspirational novelist, with more than 20 million books in print, and she shows no signs of stopping.
If anything, her audience grows with every novel she writes—especially now that she’s selling more eBooks than paper. “Reading eBooks is so easy and impulsive,” Kingsbury says. “You get to the end and just click and buy the next book. At the same time, I am a big proponent for keeping bookstores open, too.” Karen makes her case for traditional book reading in her newest offering, The Bridge. The first of a 10 book deal with Howard Books/Simon & Schuster, it’s the first of Karen’s novels to be offered in hardcover. The Bridge is a tale about a struggling Franklin, Tenn., bookstore hit by hard times.
“There are a lot of people in America who are discouraged,” Karen says. “People are not feeling that the dreams they set out to find have actually happened. The Bridge was a chance for me to write an encouraging, hopeful, love story that shows the beauty of second chances.”
She calls the novel, which takes place around Christmas, a “desperate love story,” not only between a young man and woman who connected at The Bridge bookstore, but also in some ways a story of love for bookstores themselves. “They are closing everywhere,” Karen laments. “With each bookstore that closes, a piece of Americana goes away. A guy like Charlie Barton, my bookstore owner in The Bridge, finds his inspiration and passion in handing copies of Little Women, Jane Eyre and Treasure Island to people and seeing the stories inspire and change lives. Now he doesn’t know what to do next.”
There’s another reason Karen’s so adamant about keeping independent bookstores open. She bought her first NIV Bible at a local Christian bookstore to disprove her future husband’s beliefs. But after spending a weekend poring over Scripture, she realized she was the one whose beliefs needed to change.
“That experience in a bookstore profoundly impacted my life,” Karen remembers. “To me, whether it’s a Christian store, an independent store or a Barnes & Noble, these bookstores are where we meet and discover. You don’t stroll down the aisles of Amazon. I feel that the bookstore in my novel is a character in this story.
“Our attention spans have shortened; we think in terms of 140 characters. There’s some good that comes from that, of course, but we mustn’t lose the ability to get lost in a story, to find the parallels and the symbolism that will relate to and shape our lives. We need the deeper walk and the deeper places. Stories that are life-changing cannot be condensed to a tweet or a Facebook post. We need more than that, and I feel like readers would agree.”
Visit Karen Kingbury’s author page here: https://www.familyfiction.com/authors/karen-kingsbury