“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 
― Sheryl Sandberg

BABE #153: KIMBERLA LAWSON ROBY, Author + Speaker

BABE #153: KIMBERLA LAWSON ROBY, Author + Speaker

Today’s babe reminds us to keep on keeping on, no matter the obstacles. Having faced much rejection in the early days of her career, Kimberla resolved to turn her vision into reality - even if that meant using her own funds to propel it forward. 27 books later, she's a New York Times bestselling author and motivational speaker whose insights and persistence encourage us to dream big, take chances, and appreciate the ones who are by your side when we do. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Kimberla!

*JAX locals: Kimberla will be appearing at the Jax Book Fest as a keynote speaker this year! Don’t miss her presentation at the Main Library downtown on Saturday, March 3rd at 1pm. Book signing to follow. The festival is free and open to the public. Click here for more information.

The Basics:

Hometown: Rockford, Illinois
Current city: Belvidere, Illinois
Alma mater: Cardinal Stritch University
Degree: B.A., Business Administration
Very first job: Hostess/Cashier @ KFC
Hustle: Author + Speaker

The Interests:

Babe you admire and why?
My deceased mom, who went to work only 17 days after I was born. Her husband (my father) walked out on her when she was six months pregnant with me. Still, she made sure I had everything I needed, and she remained at that same place of employment until she passed away 36 years later. She also loved and helped as many people as she could, even if she didn’t know them personally.

How do you spend your free time?
Relaxing at home, watching reruns of “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: SVU.”

Go-to coffee order?
Medium roast coffee with flavored creamer. But only one cup per day.

What would you eat for your very last meal?
Tasty desserts continue to be my weakness, so it would definitely include something very sweet. Either red velvet cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory or some delicious gourmet cupcakes.

What is something you want to learn or master?
Even after doing it for more than two decades, I still want to become a better writer and speaker.

If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
President Barack and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Hustle:

Tell us about your hustle.
I am a New York Times bestselling author of 27 books (the 27th will be released on July 31). In the beginning, I was rejected by every literary agent and publishing house editor I submitted my manuscript to. So, ultimately, I started my own business and self-published my first novel, “Behind Closed Doors.” Once it began selling and made the Essence magazine bestseller list, I soon found a literary agent to represent me. She went on to sell my second book to a major New York publisher. Along with writing books, I also speak at libraries, colleges and universities, book festivals, churches, conferences and other engagements nationwide.

What does your typical workday look like?
During a typical workday, I respond to email messages from my editor, publicist and other staff members at the publishing house that publishes my work. I also communicate with various organizations that are interested in having me serve as keynote speaker at their events. I converse with my readers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as by direct email. Then, when it’s writing time for me and I’m working on a first draft, I’ll generally write anywhere from eight to 10 hours per day, every day, until that particular draft is complete.

Have you always been passionate about writing?
I have always loved writing, ever since I was a child. It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that I finally sat down to begin writing my first book.

How have your past internships, education, and work experiences (in writing and beyond) prepared you for the work you do today?
Interestingly enough, my business degree and the various positions I held in corporate America prepared me very well for the business side of being a writer.

What’s been your biggest career milestone? Why?
My biggest career milestone was winning the 2013 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work – Fiction for my novel, The Reverend’s Wife.

How has being a woman has affected your professional experience?
Since women are not always compensated equally or promoted to positions that they are highly qualified for, I have always found myself regularly researching and learning everything I can about publishing and the business world as a whole. At a very early age, my mom encouraged me to work hard at being the best I could be, regardless of what field I was working in.

What are some of the everyday struggles with your job that we might not see?
No matter how many books I’ve written, I still worry that what I’m in the process of writing won’t be good enough. My hope is that each book will be as good as the last or better. As a writer, I know it’s not logical to expect that everyone who reads my work will enjoy it, but it’s still something I strive for. Writers don’t look forward to seeing some of the pretty nasty reviews that some readers tend to write online about their work.


What’s one of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced in your work? How’d you overcome it?
One of the biggest obstacles I faced was being rejected by every single literary agent I contacted when trying to get my first book published. Then, if that wasn’t enough, I was also rejected by every publishing house I submitted my work to. But, thankfully, when I’d made the decision to give up, my mom encouraged me not to and my husband suggested I use my business background to start my own publishing company. He offered to borrow money from his 401K account, we took out a loan from our credit union and we used some of our personal savings to make it happen. But, I have to say, I was scared to death. I feared what might happen if we invested thousands of dollars into something that could easily fail, and I wasn’t sure I could live with that. But my husband really believed in me and the book I had written, and I’m so glad he did.

Where do you find inspiration for your books? Do you ever struggle to come up with new ideas?
Even though I write fiction, I have always written about real-life social issues. So, in terms of inspiration, I am inspired by many different people—family members, friends and also people I don’t know. I’m even sometimes inspired by what I see in the headlines, and for three of my books, I was inspired by my own personal experiences.

What would you say is your biggest strength in your work?
That I don’t sugarcoat anything I write, even if the topic is taboo or controversial.

Who are some women in your field that you look to for inspiration?
Joyce Meyer, Valorie Burton and many other women who both write and speak professionally.

What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
I would tell her to follow her passion and purpose and to never give up, no matter what. I would also encourage her to find her own voice and to write and speak straight from her heart at all times.

What does success look like to you?
For me, success means doing what you love as well as inspiring, motivating and uplifting others all at the same time.

What is your philosophy on work/life balance?
Family-life comes first, and work-life comes second. For years, it was hard for me to find that kind of balance, but I’m now in a place where I finally have.

What helps you wind down and manage stress?
Watching syndicated sitcoms, especially “The Golden Girls” at night!

Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Believe in God, believe in yourself,and believe in whatever it is you are trying to accomplish. Believe in that order.

Connect with Kimberla!

Facebook // Twitter // Instagram // Email

This interview was conducted by Hurley Winkler of the Jacksonville Public Library.
This interview has also been condensed and edited.
All photos property of Kimberla Lawson Roby unless otherwise specified.

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