Meet Debut Novelist Karen Kirst

Karen Kirst is a new author writing for Love Inspired Historicals. Her debut novel, The Reluctant Outlaw, will be released September 2011. It’s the first in the Smoky Mountain Matches series which centers around the O’Malley family. The second book, The Bridal Swap, is set for January 2012.

Karen lives in coastal North Carolina with her Marine husband and three lively young sons. When she isn’t homeschooling or attending MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meetings, she’s working on her current manuscript. Karen earned a degree in Speech Communication and believes writing all those lengthy papers and speeches prepared her for the daunting task of novel-writing.

Karen’s favorite ways to recharge are chatting with friends at the local coffee shop and visiting tea rooms. She’s known for her chocolate chip scones and is sure to have a wide selection of teas on hand for visitors. At the end of a long day, she and her husband like to curl up on the couch and watch romantic comedies.

The Call

A call story is like chocolate—nice and sweet. I can’t get my fill of them. Please share yours, complete with your reaction to the BIG news.

I’ll never forget it—my son Jacob and I were in the midst of a history lesson when the phone rang. When I saw the area code and realized it was from New York, I started shaking. And when Emily Rodmell introduced herself, I found it difficult to concentrate at first on what she was saying. It was truly an out-of-body experience!

After we ended the call, I was on the phone the rest of the day sharing the news with family and friends. My neighbor offered to babysit so my husband and I could go out and celebrate, which of course we did! I remember being so thankful to God for allowing this dream to finally come true.

Karen’s Journey

When did you begin writing, and how many manuscripts did you complete before selling?

I started writing in 2001, submitted my first two manuscripts to Love Inspired in the years following and both were rejected. I didn’t submit my third manuscript, perhaps because I was wrestling with doubts about whether or not I’d ever achieve my dream. I didn’t write for a few years after that. With my fourth manuscript, I decided to write a historical and set it in my home state of Tennessee. That’s the one that sold!

What were the high points en route to your First Sale?

The highpoint was opening my mailbox and seeing the response letter from Love Inspired. I was scared to open it, thinking maybe they weren’t interested. When I read the words asking for the full manuscript, I was thrilled! My sister and her family were visiting us that week, and it was wonderful to share that moment with them.

Lessons Learned Along the Way

I understand there were some bumps in your road. How did you deal with them, and what did they teach you about yourself and your writing?

I put aside my writing two times. The first was because of self-doubt and fear of further rejection. I’d had two rejections and was working on a third manuscript that just wasn’t coming together. I had what I felt were good ideas, but I’d had no experience in creative writing. Frustrated, I shelved my dream.

The next several years were hectic—my husband joined the military and we moved to another state, leaving behind family, friends, and all things familiar. While pregnant with my third son, the urge to write resurfaced and I began my fourth manuscript. This story was different. My writing skills were improving. I’d taken the time to learn more about my craft. How to create characters and plot out a story, for example. And I was having a blast writing a historical.

Gradually, I began to forego my quiet time with God. My focus shifted to my dream, and I allowed it to become more important than my relationship with God. My manuscript was finished, but I made the decision to set it aside. About a year passed before I felt God prompting me to submit it. The Reluctant Outlaw was accepted a few months later!

Paying it Forward

What tips do you have for others eager to receive their first contract offer?

Keep writing. And reading. There’s something about a compelling love story that inspires and challenges you to write. It also gives you an idea what type of storylines editors and readers like.

Educate yourself. There are lots of helpful books on how to plot, create conflict, etc. The first one I bought was The Idiot’s Guide to Getting Your Romance Published. Clear and concise, it was helpful without being overwhelming.

Most of all, write what you love. If you’re thrilled with your story and characters, chances are others will be too.

What can a writer do now to prepare for life after that long-awaited First Sale?

Learn to use your time wisely. The essentials of life do not change. I’m still responsible for the laundry, the dishes, taking care of my family. Only now I have a new responsibility—fulfilling my editor’s requests regarding my upcoming books. And working on my next manuscript!

Let’s Learn a Little More About Karen

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Definitely morning!

What’s your favorite cartoon character?

That’s a tough one! I love both Rapunzel and Flynn in the new Disney film Tangled. But if I have to choose, I’d say Flynn. In the beginning, he’s a bit of a ruffian, living solely to please himself. Over the course of the story, he learns what he thought was important in life—money and things—really isn’t. And he comes to care for Rapunzel to the point he’s willing to sacrifice everything for her. Now that’s a hero!

If we peeked in your purse, what would we learn about you?

A scary thought! I strive to be organized, but my purse is a catchall for receipts, Star Wars figures, and tubes of Vaseline Lip Therapy. I never know what odd item I might find in there!

What three words would your best gal pal use to describe you?

Okay, I checked with her and the three words that stuck out were—zest for life. I definitely look for as many opportunities to squeeze joy out of my day.  Café Mocha, anyone?

What do you consider your three best traits?

Diligent, hospitable, caring

Karen’s Debut Novel

•Please tell us about The Reluctant Outlaw.

The Reluctant Outlaw is set in 1880s East Tennessee. It’s the first in a series following the O’Malley family entitled Smoky Mountain Matches.

A Kidnapper—and a Gentleman?

The ruthless criminal who took Juliana O’Malley hostage was a thief and an outlaw—or so she thinks. But on a perilous journey through the Smoky Mountains, he becomes her unlikely protector. And when he pledges to return her home safely, she somehow finds herself believing him.

Evan Harrison has risked everything to find the men who killed his brother. Saving spirited, strong-willed Juliana could blow his cover with a deadly gang. Yet her courage and unwavering faith make him dream of the home and family he thought he could never have. And suddenly, that future is incomplete—without Juliana in it.

Copyright 2011 by Karen Kirst
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

Karen’s Question for You

What obstacles stand in the way of your writing and how do you overcome them?

Karen’s Drawing

Karen has generously offered to give away a $10 Starbucks gift card.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Karen by midnight March 13th PST and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)

On March 14th, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well as in a comment and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)

Congratulations to Margaret Daley, winner of the Starbucks gift card.

Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

Learn More About Karen

Visit her website ~

Visit her personal blog ~

Friend her on Facebook ~ Karen Kirst

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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59 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Karen Kirst

  1. Tania says:

    I’m glad that you made it!
    I’d love to read your book!!

  2. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by to learn more about Karen and to those who left a comment. I’ve held the drawing for the Starbucks gift card Karen so generously offered as a prize, and the winner is Margaret Daley.

    Congratulations, Margaret! I’ll be in touch.

  3. Susan says:

    Hi Karen … I loved your book and thrilled to read the next one!!!

Comments are closed.