C.J. Darlington burst onto the scene of Christian fiction three years ago when she won the Jerry B Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest with her first novel, Thicker than Blood
Books have been a part of C.J.’s life since she was a young child–both as a writer and a reader. She says every book she read influenced her in some way, but it was as a young teen when she read Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti that things changed. “Nothing was the same after that”, she said.
When she was fifteen, she started writing the book that would eventually become Thicker than Blood. But as C.J. says, writers aren’t born overnight. She finished writing the book many years after she began writing it. In 2004 She entered the book in the Operation First Novel Contest run by The Christian Writers guild. At the time the book was only 67,000 words and needed a lot of work. It placed as one of the twenty semi-finalists, and gave C.J. the self-esteem boost she needed to begin submitting the book to publishers.
So C. J. submitted the book and was rejected, and she submitted the book again and was rejected again. This situation repeated itself over and over again. Some editors were kind enough to give her suggestions, so C.J. would tweak the manuscript, add to the story, and submit it again. Eventually she began to become so discouraged by the rejections that she was ready to pack the book away in a drawer and begin focusing on getting her second book published.
C.J. decided to give the book one more chance and submit the much improved version to the 2008 Operation First Novel contest. She figured that if it placed again she would know that the book wasn’t completely rubbish, and if it didn’t she would know that it was time to move on. She entered the book two weeks before the contest closed for the year. In November she found out the book was one of four finalists being considered. She was elated and decided that maybe the book was publishable after all.
In February at the Christian Writer’s guild annual conference, C.J. was amazed when they announced on stage that Thicker than Blood had won the contest. She received for winning, a contract with Tyndale house. Thicker than blood was released in 2010. Her second novel, Bound by Guilt was released in February 2011.
C.J. Darlington is an identical mirror image twin who was homeschooled throughout her school days. She loves camping (the more primitive the better), and has traveled the country in an RV visiting 44 states and having all kinds of crazy adventures.
She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over twelve years, scouting for stores similar to the ones in her novels before co-founding her own online bookstore. In 2006 C.J. and her sister Tracey founded the Christian Entertainment website TitleTrakk.
I recently had the opportunity to interview C.J. Here’s what she had to say:
Kristen: You’re involved in writing, bookselling, and running an entertainment website. If you weren’t doing any of these things, what would you most likely be doing?
C.J.: I would love to be involved with something that involved animals or working outdoors. Lately I’ve had a real love of horses–learning how to ride, train, and understand them. It would be awesome to have the chance to work with them on a daily basis. Especially if I could work alongside someone who was much more advanced and skilled.
Kristen: You say on your webpage that as a child you enjoyed reading the Childhood of Famous Americans series and the Landmark series, both historical fiction. If you could know one of these historical figures personally, who would it be?
C.J.: I remember loving a book on Sacagawea. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to hear her perspective and insights on the Lewis and Clark expedition? Or Pocahontas. I went through a huge phase as a kid fascinated with the American Indians. I’m not really sure why, but I loved reading about them.
Kristen: What does C.J. Stand for?
C.J.: A girl’s gotta have some secrets, Kristen!! 🙂
Kristen: How do you think being homeschooled has contributed to your success as an author?
C.J.: Being homeschooled was HUGE for me. I truly believe that if it weren’t for homeschooling I wouldn’t be talking with you today about writing. I learned how to teach myself through learning at home. That’s enormous for me now as an adult. If I don’t understand something or want to learn something new, I don’t necessarily have to go out and take a course on the subject. I can research and discover for myself. I learned how to write fiction purely on my own through reading other novels and how-to books on the craft. Asking advice from others also played a part, but I am so thankful to my parents for making the sacrifices they did to enable me to be educated at home.
Kristen: I’ve heard a lot of talk among Christian authors on balancing storytelling with sharing biblical truth. How does your faith affect what you write?
C.J.: My faith is the reason I write the stories I do. I want to share with others the hope I have. I do that by writing about flawed characters, usually at their lowest points. I want people to know that no one is ever too far gone for God to love and forgive. Some of my stories are more direct than others, of course. But the spiritual aspect is always there in some fashion or another. I don’t always know the direction the story will take along these lines until I’m in the midst of writing it, but I try to pray and ask the Lord for guidance. He’s given me ideas at the spur of the moment that have really surprised me! If one person is touched by what I write, it will be worth it.
Kristen: Do you have a work-in-progress right now?
C.J.: Yes, ma’am! I am currently writing my third novel and am about halfway through the rough draft. I’ve gone through a couple drafts of this story already, but I think I might’ve finally discovered the story I want to tell. I’ll keep you posted!
If you haven’t read C.J.’s books, be sure to pick them up sometime soon. You won’t be disappointed.