Best-selling author packs them in at the Evergreen Park Library
By Claudia Parker
The Evergreen Park Public Library has played host to several New York Times best-selling authors in the past. Accommodating large audiences isn’t new to the staff. Yet, on June 28 when Rockford native and New York Times bestselling author Kimberla Lawson Roby showed up, they were scrambling to unstack more chairs so they could move the overflow of people out of the hallway and doorframes.
“The response was a bit of a surprise to us,” said Evergreen Park Public Library Director Nicki Seidel. “We had 45 people register on our website but well over 100 patrons showed up.”
Lawson Roby is an American novelist that pens fiction around real-life social issues. “A Sinful Calling,” released on June 21, is her 13th title from The Reverend Curtis Black Series. However, she has 24 books to her credit; gracing the New York Times best-seller list with 16 of them.
The Evergreen Park Public Library was Lawson Roby’s seventh of eight consecutive meet and greets since A Sinful Calling’s book tour began at the end of June and her only Chicago area appearance.
“We’re not just traveling to a different city every day, we’ve been in a different state,” said Lawson Roby, referring to herself and husband of 25 years, Will Roby Jr. He inconspicuously sat among her readers at the EP library near the back of the room. He was a spouse undetected until she outed him with an introduction at the conclusion of her author chat. The crowded room cheered as he waved hello and quickly yielded the spotlight back in her direction.
Lawson Roby said Will’s faith in her helped manifest her professional writing career.
“I didn’t set out to be a writer,” she said. “I have two business degrees. I came from Corporate America and also worked for the city of Rockford and state government. I was successful in my career but I wasn’t fulfilled.”
That discontentment lead her to start writing, which she said is something many people said she had a knack for. However, like many novice writers with no publishing credits to their name, she was unable to find literary representation.
Novice as a writer but savvy in business, Lawson Roby then founded Lenox Press and published her first book, “Behind Closed Doors” herself. A first time, self-published author is considered successful by some literary agent’s standards if they sell at least 5,000 copies within the first year. Behind Closed Doors landed in the hands of 10,000 readers within the first six months.
That success cracked the combination that had kept Lawson Roby locked out of publishing houses; 14 rejection letters had taken residence in her mailbox from editors and literary agents.
“And here I was worried I’d have difficulty choosing which publisher to go with.” She joked. “I thought I was going to get multiple offers.”
The audience erupted with laughter. Being able to sell books makes all the difference.
Within the first two months of official sales, Lawson Roby signed with a literary agent and sold her second book, “Here and Now,” to Kensington Publishing in New York. Behind Closed Doors was then picked up by Black Classic Press in Baltimore.
That was the prelude to her now 20-year writing career.
“I’ll never forget the date, it was Oct. 28, 1996 that my husband suggested I give my employer my resignation,” recalled Lawson Roby. “He goes with me on every book tour. He’s retired from the Chrysler Corporation; worked there 30 years. Back in 1996 when I couldn’t get published, he took funds from his 401K and a small loan from our credit union to help fund the publishing company I started. I’m not a risk taker. I was uncomfortable with the idea at first but he had more faith in me than I had in myself. He recognized that I had a gift.”
Apparently, he isn’t the only one. The audience at the Evergreen Park Public Library was giddy at the sight of her. Many of them boasting, “I’ve read every one of your books.” She listened attentively and expressed great appreciation for their kindness. She treated each person as if they were the only one present -- despite the remaining line that wrapped around the corner and down the hall that patiently waited for her autograph.
If you haven’t experienced Lawson Roby’s work before, A Sinful Calling could be the place to start. It’s a turbulent tale of how the good Rev. Curtis Black’s secret son, Dillion, moved back home, got married and decided he wanted to follow his dad’s footsteps and become a pastor. He founded his own church smack center of his living room that surprisingly flourished to a congregation well over 1,000. Regrettably, the same demons that wrestled his father, Rev. Black, from righteousness 30 years prior, latch onto Dillion causing him to fall prey to the lust of his flesh for power, money and women.
Rev. Black’s daughter, Alicia, leaves his church to join her brother Dillion’s congregation. While she’s been forgiven, she’d once been the black sheep of the family for disgracing them with an affair with a former drug dealer whom she later married. Realizing her family will never truly accept him, she distances herself from them. Consequently, her newfound happiness becomes overshadowed by the condemnation that taunts her from within for having betrayed her ex-husband.
Learn more about Lawson Roby’s books at KimRoby.com.