C.J. Darlington

C.J.'s bookshelf: read

Interviews with Indie Authors: Top Tips from Successful Self-Published Authors
4 of 5 stars
Fascinating interviews. If you have any inclination to self-publish, then you need to read this book. Candid advice from some of today's most successful indie authors.
Death Be Not Proud
3 of 5 stars
I had some mixed feelings about this book. First the positive: C. F. Dunn is clearly an excellent wordsmith. I was drawn right into the story from the beginning, wanting to know more about her character Emma. I loved the family dynamics ...
Frame 232
4 of 5 stars
An intriguing conspiracy thriller with a nice Christian message too. Great combination! Whether you're interested in the Kennedy assassination or not, if you like suspense that makes you think, then I encourage you to take a peak at Fram...


10 Fun Facts:

1. I was homeschooled for all my schooling years.

2. I'm an identical, mirror image twin.

3. Iíve never read Jane Austen or watched any of the movies based on her books.

4. I donít like soda. Pepsi, Coke . . . never have and probably never will. Though I do occasionally drink Diet Dr. Pepper or Root Beer.

5. I love to go camping, the more primitive the better.

6. Besides reading, my favorite pastime is going to the movies.

7. I have been to 44 of the US states. Still need to visit Washington, Oregon, Vermont, South Dakota, Alaska & Hawaii.

8. I can wear jeans everyday of the year and be perfectly happy.

9. The first adult Christian novel I ever read was Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti, and Iíve since re-read it something like five times. A classic.

10. I had my first short story accepted for publication when I was 18, and I bought a watch I still wear with my very first earnings.

About C.J. Darlington

C. J. has been in love with reading since she was a kid dragging home bags of books from the library. When she was twelve she started dreaming about becoming a published author. That dream came true when her first novel Thicker than Blood won a national writing contest. It became the first book in the Thicker than Blood series, which also includes Bound by Guilt, Ties that Bind, and Running on Empty. She has also written Jupiter Winds and Jupiter Storm the first and second books in the Jupiter Winds series. Her children's fantasy Alison Henry and the Creatures of Torone released in 2017. C. J. lives in Pennsylvania with her family, their menagerie of dogs, a tabby cat, and a Paint mare named Sky.


When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I have written stories ever since I was a little kid. My most ambitious was called “The Horse’s Story”. I remember starting it when I was eight or nine on my Dad’s old word processor. It was about a horse named Loopter who would become Joshua of the Bible’s horse. He was going to be a witness of the walls of Jericho falling down, but . . . I never finished it.

Then there was my epic (started when I was twelve) called “Moby”, about a Labrador Retriever trying to find his place in this world. He tried being a lap dog (with some humorous consequences!), a fire dog, a police dog, a sheep dog . . . he never did find out what he was meant to be ‘cause I never finished that story either! Around this time was when I started dreaming of having a book published. I knew nothing of how it worked, but the seed was planted.

When I was fifteen I started a story that would change the way I thought about writing. It was about two sisters who hadn’t seen each other for years but eventually met again. That story eventually became my first novel, Thicker Than Blood.

It wasn’t until I was sixteen and discovered writing how-to books and magazines like Writer’s Digest and The Writer at the library that my apprenticeship as a writer began. I devoured everything I could on the craft. I was so excited that you could actually learn to write. Being homeschooled taught me how to teach myself, so it was a no brainer to teach myself how to write better. I learned so much from those books, but I learned the most from reading other novels.

Were books a big part of your life growing up? If so, what books would you say influenced you most as a child?

I loved to read! One of my favorite activities was going to the library. My sister and I would come home with bags and bags full of books. I didn’t read every single one, but what a luxury to have so many available at my fingertips.

I’m trying to think of what book influenced me most . . . interestingly, I loved reading fictionalized accounts of historical figures. I loved the Childhood of Famous Americans series (Will Scout, Boy in Buckskins was a favorite), the Landmark series (I re-read The Swamp Fox of the Revolution several times), the We Were There series, and of course Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Jr. and the like filled my bags, too. And then there were the animal stories like 101 Dalmations, the Dr. Doolittle series, and a book called Brimm’s Boat. And Narnia. I LOVED Narnia. Wow . . . I could go on and on and on.

I guess they all influenced me without me even realizing it. But later, when I was an early teen I picked up Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti. Nothing was ever the same after that!

How did you get published?C.J. Darlington with Karen Watson & Jerry Jenkins

I’ve wanted to have a book published since I was a teen. But it didn’t happen overnight. Aspiring writers would do well to go into the profession assuming it’s going to take at least ten years to be published. Maybe longer. It’s like an apprenticeship. A silversmith doesn’t show up at the shop and expect to craft a masterpiece their first day. It’s the same with novel writing.

I started writing my first novel when I was fifteen. After many years I completed it, and in 2004 I entered Thicker than Blood in the very first Operation First Novel contest run by the Christian Writers Guild and sponsored by Tyndale House. At the time the book was only 67,000 words and needed lots of work. But it still became one of twenty semi-finalists that year. That was a huge boost to my writing self-esteem.

So I started submitting to publishers. And received rejections. And more rejections. I wasn’t submitting simultaneously in the beginning, so often I ended up waiting months for a response. But some editors were kind enough to offer suggestions on how I could improve the story. I tweaked and revised. Added 10,000 words. Continued to submit. And got rejected some more.

By this time I was really getting discouraged. It had been almost fifteen years since I began writing the book, and I was ready to put the novel in a drawer and start submitting my almost finished second book. I was, literally, days away from doing this when lying in bed one night a thought hit me (and this time it really did come as a Eureka! type of moment). “Wait a minute,” I thought. “I have a completed novel that’s even better than when I first submitted it. Why don’t I send it to this year’s Operation First Novel contest?” I would use the contest as a test of the novel’s worth. If it placed again, I’d know it wasn’t complete rubbish. If it didn’t, then it was time to move on.

At this point I had something like two weeks before the cut off for submissions in the contest. I got my manuscript sent in the nick of time. That was in September 2008. In November I found out Thicker than Blood was one of four finalists. Needless to say, I was elated. Maybe the story was publishable after all.

In February, at the Christian Writers Guild’s annual conference, I was amazed when they announced on stage that Thicker than Blood had won the contest! The winner received a contract with Tyndale House, and my little novel that could released in January 2010.

What was it like meeting Jerry B. Jenkins?

Jerry is one of the most humble and soft-spoken people you will ever meet. His one liners can take down the house. I remember sitting at his and Dianna’s table for dinner at the Writing for the Soul conference. I was looking over all the fancy place settings and said, “My goal for the night is to keep from spilling something on myself.” Jerry leaned over and said, “Good luck.”

Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

There’s a little of me in all the characters I write. For example, the main character of Thicker than Blood, Christy Williams, works at a large used and rare bookstore. That stems from my own experiences in the antiquarian book world. I’ve been a used bookseller for over thirteen years and was able to incorporate a lot of what I’ve learned into this story. But there’s also some of me in the other main character of the book, May Williams, sister to Christy. She loves the outdoors and animals like I do.

How much research did your first novel Thicker than Blood take?

The most research I had to do revolved around cattle ranching. Half of the book takes place on a modern day Colorado ranch, and I knew nothing about ranching when I first started. But over the years I have amassed a collection of books on the subject, subscribed to magazines like Farm & Ranch Living, and kept my ears tuned to anything and everything ranching. So really, I’ve been researching this novel as long as I’ve been writing it.

The rare books parts of the story didn’t take as much research since I’ve been involved in the antiquarian book industry for about as many years as I’ve been writing. But even so, I had to check my facts and make sure I was getting everything right.

What was the most interesting fact that you learned while writing Thicker than Blood?

It still surprises me what books end up being valuable. Old doesn’t always mean rare. You can have a book from 1850 that’s worth five bucks and a novel from 1991 worth thousands. Think Harry Potter. A true first edition Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone (UK edition) can fetch over $20,000. And sometimes a book’s dust jacket can be even more valuable than the book itself, which is crazy.

What is the main theme of Thicker than Blood?

The main theme of this novel is that love is thicker than blood. God’s love, that is. As Christy and May Williams find out, their blood ties were not enough to keep them together. It takes something more to make them a family again.

Another theme that’s important to me is that no one’s ever too far gone for God’s love to reach them. We might think we’ve screwed up too many times, that God could never love us for what we’ve done, but in reality God’s just waiting for us to take one step toward Him so he can wrap his arms around us.

Did you have any say in choosing the book cover for Thicker than Blood?

Tyndale surprised me with that cover on stage when they announced my book as the winner of the 2008 Operation First Novel contest. It so beautifully captures the story. I couldn’t be happier with it. The designer, Jennifer Ghionzoli, is brilliant. She actually took that picture of the books on the cover herself.

You always have such a fun way of working books into the plot of your books. Why did you decide to do this again in Bound by Guilt, and how do these stories play into the main story?

Drop me in a used bookstore and I’m like a kid in a candy shop. I absolutely love used and rare books. I’ve been intrigued with identifying first editions ever since I started book scouting as a teenager.

When I began writing Bound by Guilt I started with this scenario---what if a character stole rare books from unsuspecting bookstores and then sold them for a profit? This idea isn’t something I pulled out of thin air either. It was based on real life book thievery that occurred in California. This guy would pose as a customer and often return to the bookstores five, six or even seven times. He also managed to get into locked display cases. Sometimes he purchased a low value book while hiding a stolen book under his shirt. He hit bookstores all over the country, and because of his All-American good looks, quiet manner, and knowledge about antiquarian books, he didn’t arouse suspicion from owners. Just like some of my characters in Bound by Guilt.

With both of my novels I also wanted to bring one particular rare book to the forefront and feature it above the others. In Bound by Guilt that book is a rare first edition of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. In good condition it’s worth thirty or forty thousand dollars.

But while it’s fun to include book collecting tidbits and facts about books in my stories, it’s also very important to me that the rare books play an integral role to the plot. If you take away the rare books, you take away the essence of the story, and that’s exactly how I planned it.

After the success of your first novel Thicker than Blood, were you nervous about writing your second book or was it a little easier since you already had that experience?

I actually wrote most of Bound by Guilt before Thicker than Blood was ever contracted. That’s something I’m truly thankful for because it allowed me to write the story of my heart without worrying what people would think. Only when I submitted it to my editor at Tyndale House did I start to feel nervous! I felt it was a stronger story than my first novel, and I hoped my editors would agree. Thankfully they did.

Where did you get the idea for Bound by Guilt, and what do you hope people take away from reading?

Part of the idea came from reading the news item about the young man who stole the books from those stores I mentioned above. I wondered what kind of story I could build around that idea. But also, for many years I carried around the idea of writing about someone who suddenly finds themselves with nowhere to go and nothing but the clothes on their back. What would they do? How would they survive? These two ideas propelled the story.

When I started writing this novel I didn’t have a specific theme in mind. I had a few elements of the plot and several characters I wanted to include. But most of the story came about organically as I wrote. My working title actually wasn’t Bound by Guilt. What’s really cool is that when my editor suggested that title I stepped back and looked at the story and realized how perfect it fit. Even the first line, which was written long before we had the title, is about guilt! However, this story is also about forgiveness in a big way. How do you become free from guilt? By being forgiven. There are characters in the story who desperately need to forgive, and there are those who desperately need to receive forgiveness. The wonderful thing is, like the Scripture one of my characters shares with Roxi, God can not only forgive our sins, but he can forgive the guilt of our sins too.

Tell me a little about your protagonists in Bound by Guilt and why you enjoyed writing these characters …

I grew to love the characters in Bound by Guilt as if they were real. Roxi Gold is a troubled girl who just pulled at my heartstrings. Of course, I’m the one who made her face so many difficulties in her life, so I’m not sure how she feels about me, but she made this novel what it is. Some of my favorite scenes to write were with her and one of the supporting characters named Jan Mercer. Jan is a rancher who with her husband runs Lonely River Ranch. Readers of my first novel Thicker than Blood will recognize them as neighbors of May Williams.

The character I didn’t expect to play as large a role as she did was Abby Dawson, sister to Hunter Dawson, the manager of Dawson’s Book Barn. When I first began this novel she played a small part, but as I wrote she decided to insert herself more deeply. She’s a police officer, so even though we follow her while she’s off duty it was intriguing to learn how police think.

What is your writing style? (Do you outline? Write “by the seat-of-your-pants? Or somewhere in-between?)

Oh, how I wish I could outline a book and know all the twists and turns before I start! But then again . . . that might take away some of the fun of discovery. I’m pretty much a seat-of-the-pants writer. I do generally have a basic concept before I start. For Thicker than Blood I knew I wanted to write about two estranged sisters, but I didn’t know exactly how the book would end. In early drafts I had things stopping rather abruptly. It usually takes a couple re-writes before I discover exactly what it is I want to say.

Are there certain foods or snacks which keeps the words flowing for you?

I love a good cup of strong tea, and a triple cappuccino doesn’t hurt the word count either. I don’t really snack on food much when I’m writing, which is probably a good thing. Though those Chili & Lime chips are calling my name . . . Unfortunately, I do sometimes find myself in the kitchen when the words don’t come.

How does your faith affect your writing?

My faith is the reason I write. Several years ago I was questioning the value of writing as a ministry, and the Lord brought to my attention that Scripture in Ephesians which talks about each of us being called to different things. When I got to the part about evangelists, I felt like the Lord was telling me that was my calling. Through my writing I have the chance to share the greatest story every told. Maybe someone who would not receive from a pastor or a preacher would pick up a novel. That’s my hope---that people would read my stories and understand how much God loves them.

Tell us about your site TitleTrakk.com.

TitleTrakk.com is a Christian entertainment website my sister Tracy and I started in 2006. We update weekly, and so far we’ve featured 200+ author, musician and filmmaker interviews, as well as hundreds of book, music and movie reviews. The future is bright for TitleTrakk, and we see ourselves continuing in the same direction we’ve been running for the past couple years, only hopefully more and more folks will discover us.

It’s been an incredible experience to interview so many talented people. I’m often blessed by the interviews myself because pretty much everyone we’ve interviewed has been so nice!