'All money isn't good money' - Rockford author shares her journey from businesswoman to full-time writer
Kimberla Lawson Roby wrote her first book when she was 30.
A New York Times Best Selling author from Rockford is sharing her story in hopes that more women will be inspired to live out their dreams.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of Kimberla Lawson Roby’s author journey. She has landed on many best-sellers lists and has won several awards including the 2013 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction.
She said she wrote essays as a child, but creating books wasn’t a part of her life plan. She did however love writing about real life issues and recalls sending one of her papers to the television network CBS.
“And they wanted students to submit something about why parents shouldn't smoke and talking about the dangers of smoking,” Roby explained. “And at nine years old, I wrote that paper -- like that really resonated with me.”
An excerpt from her paper was chosen to be read during a Saturday morning cartoon break. This still wasn’t enough for Roby to recognize her calling for writing books. She said she had teachers who persuaded her that she had the gift of writing, so she did some research after graduating high school.
“Then I thought, 'well, I'm definitely not going to be a writer because I won't be able to eat, pay my bills or do anything.' So, I was really sidetracked,” she said.
Roby decided to go to school to study business, but the writing bug kept gnawing at her.
“I love everything about the business world and being professional and all of the above with that, but writing was still there and so I was never happy,” she said. “And then finally at 30 years old, I just made up my mind to sit down and start writing the first book.”
That book was called “Behind Closed Doors.” Roby said she almost gave up on publishing after writing it because every literary agent and publishing house she sent it to rejected her manuscript. Her mom convinced her to keep pushing.
Her husband also reminded her that she was a businesswoman and suggested that she publish the book on her own.
“I started my company that next year, in the summer of 1996. First 3,000 copies of the books were printed and ready and delivered in September,” she added.
She said her opening reception that next month was a success and when she returned home that night her husband suggested that she become a full-time author.
Roby said she didn’t have enough faith to believe she could do it, but her spouse helped her see the light. She went on to find a publisher and has written many books including 15 in the Reverend Curtis Black series.
Despite Roby’s success, there came a time where she said her internal light was starting to dim. This was 20 years into her writing career.
“I have anxiety, something I've never had. I've never struggled with it until later on in my career. And so, I thought to myself, 'this is great from a career standpoint, and from a financial standpoint, but what good is it if I'm miserable?'” she questioned. “What good is it if I'm waking up every single day, wishing that I could just stay in bed for the rest of the day?”
She said she had a deep sensation for the need to open up about her hardships, but she tried to ignore it.
“And just really realizing this is literally a calling that God has placed on my life,” she said. “And so, I have always believed and known that writing and speaking was my purpose. And helping women in whatever way I can was my purpose. But I don't think that I was necessarily ready for a purpose that included me sharing so many parts of my life, and not just the success and not just the writing career, but flaws.”
The novelist decided to turn a page in her literary life and took a break from fiction to write the nonfiction book “The Woman God Created You To Be: Finding Success Through Faith—Spiritually, Personally, and Professionally.”
Although most of her works were published by a traditional publishing company, Roby says she was led by God to self-publish this title. She also created a namesake podcast to accompany the book.
“And so then, as the months started to pass, I thought, well, you know, it would be so nice if I could do something from an audio perspective, but really have it be a companion piece to this particular book,” Roby explained.
Last summer she took a digital podcast course, and now she creates the podcast on her own.
Roby wants young people to know that all money isn’t good money and that they should focus on creating the life that they truly want.
“I think that so many times we do find ourselves focused on the money and how much money we earn and the lifestyle that we want to live that we will sometimes bypass what our true purpose is,” she explained. “When if we really do what God is calling us to do, the money will eventually come.”
The author has just completed her latest book entitled “Sister Friends Forever” which is scheduled to come out next summer. She said she’s thinking about rounding her career off at 30 books but she’s still toying with this idea. She will be the keynote speaker for the virtual Romance Writing of America conference Nov. 18 through 20.
But after all the accolades she’s won, Roby said inspiring others is still her ultimate reward.
- Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.