K.L. Gilchrist writes fearless fiction for women of faith. She enjoyed a long career as a technical writer and information designer before returning to her first love: creative writing. She is the author of Broken Together, Holding On, Thick Chicks, and the upcoming novel Engaged. Her contemporary stories feature diverse characters walking out their faith in God in a rapidly changing world.
K.L. Gilchrist is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She lives with her husband and two bright and funny daughters in Pennsylvania.
Are you ready to laugh, cry, and cheer for rich stories featuring diverse women of faith? Check out one of K.L. Gilchrist’s novels today!
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
First, I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this interview! I knew I was called to write since I was twelve. Most writers are readers and books were my best friends. A good day for me was a day spent at the library or the bookstore. My desire to write exploded at age fifteen when my cousin Dawn took me with her to DC while she visited her hair braider. The braider’s name was McCoy, and McCoy owned floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with novels and anthologies by African and African-American authors. My cousin would get microbraids and I’d sit for hours and read J. California Cooper, Alice Walker, John Oliver Killens, Ntozake Shange, Rosa Guy, and so many more. I didn’t really trust my own writing until my early twenties when I sold short stories to romance magazines.
What I love most about writing is discovering my character’s vulnerabilities, and how the readers love their pains and triumphs. Lately, I have a love/hate relationship with writing because the publishing industry is very hard on authors. Too hard, in my opinion. I’ve had secular publishing houses reject my work because it keeps God and Jesus in the narrative. But I’ve seen evangelical Christian publishing houses reject my work because of a perceived inability to market my voice–I write with a very urban/metropolitan yet Christian rhythm. In the end, I always have to trust God and turn my work over to Him. Every time a book releases, He will be glorified, and I find my writing peace in that.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
My latest novel is called Engaged and it’s a funny and faith-based “follow the yellow brick road” adventure for a young woman named Chablis, who accepts her beloved’s marriage proposal and gets thrown headfirst into eye-opening situations involving money, family, and sex. Let me be clear – Chablis is not a cool/savvy/entrepreneurial have-it-all-together chick, far from it. She’s more awkward Christian black girl in terms of personality. But, she has a colossal heart, especially for her man, and I think that will resonate with readers. Find out more about the story at https://www.klgilchrist.com/books. You can also rock with me on Facebook (K.L. Gilchrist, Author), Twitter (@KL_Gilchrist) and Instagram (@klgilchrist).
3) What projects are you currently working on?
This month I’m starting notes and research for a novel tentatively called Blvd of Broken Dreams. This one will be a bit of a challenge because it will be my first novel with five main characters, who all react to the violent death of a cherished friend and local Philadelphia activist in different ways. All my full-length novels, in some way, show how people of faith react as broken people in a destructive world. Blvd will have characters dealing with grief, depression, poverty, and infidelity—but they are all trying their best to find a path forward. In many ways, that’s what we are all trying to do, and I pray readers will connect with the lesson. God willing, Blvd will be available in the summer of 2023. I also want to produce at least six or seven fun and faith-filled romance novellas for 2021 through 2022.
4) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
My biggest achievement has been to hang in here for the past five years (LOL)! I have questioned this thing called authoring every step of the way. I think God uses my career to teach me perseverance. I’ve learned how to be a warrior through it, and every time I get an email or someone stops me and tells me how much they liked a novel or a certain character, I know I’m doing my job which is to make people laugh, cry, and think. In the next five years, I’d like to have five more full-length novels out and I’m praying to do screenplays as well. Currently, I’m blessed to be working with a small group of aspiring Christian screenwriters and we want to push into the film realm.
5) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career?
Initially, not well. Lately, I’ve learned to embrace that rejection is a part of every author career.
6) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel?
I must follow a schedule. My household includes a busy husband with two jobs and a small business (I’ve tried and failed to get him to stop this), an emerging adult who insists on walking around the house taking work calls and yakking loudly, a dance-addicted pre-teen who is adorably cute, but also very loud, and assorted cousins, toddlers, and friends who stop through. My prime fiction writing time happens between 5 and 8 in the morning when the house is quiet. My outlines are like outlines on steroids–not just what’s happening in the novel, but snippets of dialogue and timed turning points and bits of conflict. A novella takes a month to write. A light romance takes two months. A full-length women’s fiction novel takes 3-4 months to write, but about a year to re-develop, rewrite, edit, revise, and edit once more.
7) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
No. There’s never a time when it’s too late for anyone to become a successful author. Especially now! The demographic is shifting and there are older people living active second lives. This is the best time to dust off that writing dream and tackle it. Good Morning America is DYING to interview that seventy-year-old bestselling author who didn’t finish writing their first book until age sixty-five. The key is that the story must be compelling! Anyone can write a compelling story – age isn’t a factor.
8) Are you an avid reader and have you always been? What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? Who is your favorite author? What book are you currently reading?
I read so much I think I must have been reading in the womb. The first book to really move me was Alice Walker’s The Color Purple – Celie’s letters to God were full of such realness and heart. To this day, passages of the book can make me cry. My favorite author is, and probably always will be, Terry McMillan—she taught me that the type of black women I know and love (no Hollywood, unreal, either impoverished and distraught or hyper-glamorized versions) have a place on the written page. And yes, they are allowed to be whatever they choose: mothers or career-driven or professional or off drugs or on drugs or married or divorced or Christian or sexually longing or young or aging or whatever. But more than that – she let them SAY whatever they wanted without worrying about judgment. Because of her, I have no problem writing about an awkward Christian black woman who tells the truth about her physical desires. Regarding reading, Currently, I’m re-reading Olive Kitteridge, because I’m studying the character detail and structure to get a feel for how I might want to write Blvd of Broken Dreams.
9) The Pandemic was a challenging time for some writers and creative individuals but also for others it was time that they needed to focus on their creative passions. Which side of that spectrum do you fall on? Are there any lessons or nuggets of wisdom that you gained during the Pandemic that help you within your writing career? Did the quarantine stifle your creativity or did it make you even more driven to get things done?
The pandemic took more from me than it gave. I lost my aunt who raised me. I lost my father-in-law. I lost my seventeen-year-old daughter. That’s my reality. As I move forward, I move forward grieving and wondering how life would be if these three people were still living. But I do move forward because I believe God has given me a creative writing ministry, and no matter what has occurred, I exist to glorify Him.
10) What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry as it is being represented today? Do you lean more towards traditional publishing or self-publishing as a preference? Does being a hybrid author interest you?
I wrote to a fellow author the other day and told her that I think, in the end, all authors will all be hybrid authors. And the reason is marketing. Some of our books will be commercial in nature (traditional romance, suspense, mystery, and so on) and easily digestible by a large crowd, and those will appeal to traditional audiences. Then, authors will have their own favorite projects for niche audiences (for example, urban and young and Christian) and they will look at self-publishing. I self-published all my novels so far, but last year I wrote a sweet romance currently being considered by a large traditional publishing house. If the deal goes through, overnight I’ll go from self-publishing guru to hybrid newbie.
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
You are absolutely right – writing is a great tool to help people cope emotionally. Mostly, writing helps me go in on everything I love. When I write about God and relationships and church or even dancing or comfy t-shirts and jeans and Nikes, what I’m really doing is writing about what I love. Even if the sentiment comes from the mouth of a character, I’m writing my love letters. We are creatures borne of love, and it empowers me to push more love out there into the world.