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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Interview with award winning author C.J. Darlington!




Welcome C.J! Thanks for taking the time out to chat with us.

Thicker than Blood is a unique imaginative story about sisterhood, betrayal, and addiction. It was a fascinating read! I couldn’t put it down. Where did the story idea come from?

When I first started writing Thicker than Blood, I wanted to write about two sisters who hadn’t seen each other for 15 years. They would be leading different lives---one of them would be a believer, the other would be a troubled soul in need of forgiveness.

Over the years the plot developed, and bit by bit I added things like the rare bookstore setting, and Christy’s abusive ex-boyfriend. It was a novel that grew and developed over a long period.

I hear it took fifteen years to complete. Wow, what a book! Any obstacles during the writing process? Publication process?

The biggest obstacle was not growing discouraged. I had to determine that no matter how long it took, I wouldn’t give up. But even so, after multiple rejections I almost did. I was just weeks away from putting the book in a drawer and beginning the process of submitting my second book to publishers. Thankfully, the Lord didn’t let me do that. He prompted me to enter the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest which allowed the book to be published by Tyndale House.

I also heard your mom titled it. Great title! How supportive has your family been in your writing career?

Yep! Mom came up with that great title. I like it too. J My family is the biggest reason why I didn’t give up. I don’t think they would’ve let me. I really don’t know how writers who don’t have supportive families do it. I couldn’t without mine. They’re my first readers, first editors, cheerleaders, and the ones who’ll say things like, “So… shouldn’t you be writing?”

Is Thicker than Blood part of a series?

Yes! My second novel Bound by Guilt (coming in 2011 from Tyndale House) is a sequel to Thicker in that some of the main characters from Thicker (Christy, Hunter, etc.) become minor characters in Bound. But there are plenty of new characters, too. Rare books play a big part, and so does the town of Elk Valley. There are definitely similarities and they have the same flavor, but the themes are different.

I am currently in the midst of a third book (uncontracted so far) which has ties to both books.

Can you fill us in on the award you won? Also who was the first person you shared the news with?

Every year the Christian Writers Guild (owned by Jerry B. Jenkins) runs a contest called Operation First Novel in which unpublished writers can submit their complete novels. It’s an awesome opportunity. The winner receives a cash prize and publication by Tyndale House. Thicker than Blood won in 2008.

Mom was with me when they announced the winner from the stage at the Guild’s annual Writing for the Soul conference. I attended, knowing only that I was one of four finalists, so it was a huge surprise to me! Moments after I stepped off the stage Mom and I ducked into a hallway and called my Dad and sister who were waiting by the phone to find out if I’d won. We were all in shock!

Would you mind sharing THE CALL with us? You know, that special call every aspiring writer dreams about.

Well, my experience was a little different from some. I essentially got “the call” from that writing conference stage when Jerry Jenkins announced Thicker than Blood as the winner of Operation First Novel. We actually got it on video, and I really don’t think it fully hit me what happened until later that night in my hotel room! Another amazingly cool aspect of the contest was that I got to see a poster of the book cover that very night. Usually you don’t see your book cover until months into the publication process.

Did you ever experience any self-doubts? If so, how do you overcome them?

Here’s what I’m learning---every writer experiences self-doubts. It’s almost as if it comes with the territory. What enables us to write well, feeling deeply, also makes us prone to beating ourselves ragged with self-doubts. Recognizing this is the first step to overcoming the problem. We have to learn how to turn off that internal editor until we get the words out. I won’t say this is easy, but it’s essential if we’re to stay healthy emotionally as writers.

I have had many times when I’ve been discouraged and doubted my calling as a writer. Sometimes it takes a friend, family member, or fellow writer who’s on the outside to help us through these funks. They have a perspective we don’t. I’ve asked for advice from author friends more than once!

What aspect of writing was the most difficult for you?

Persistence. I wrote this novel over a period of years, and I had to learn to be patient with myself and with the market. Even when I received rejections I had to remember perseverance and dedication would eventually pay off. And they did!

Craft-wise, dialogue and action scenes have always been difficult. But the more I write the less difficult they become.

Any favorite resources for finding story ideas?

Story ideas come from everywhere for me. Sometimes a snippet of a news story, or a “what if” thought while out walking in my back yard.

Which marketing tool have you found the most helpful?

Social networking is hugely helpful if you can manage it wisely. I still struggle with balancing the time spent versus the return. But it’s really about building relationships any way you can.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Finish your novel. That’s a big hurdle right there. Then, and this is huge---write your second book. I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I had a second novel nearly complete when I got my first contract. I didn’t have to stress about coming up with a new idea while trying to market my first book.

Second, don’t give up! It can take time. It took me fifteen years. You might not have to wait that long, but if you’re prepared to, anything less will be a bonus.

Where can we learn more about you?

My website probably has more than you need to know about me: http://www.cjdarlington.com/

:)

Wishing you much success and many blessings, C.J.!
Thanks for taking time out for us!!

8 comments:

lynnmosher said...

Thanks so much, Mart! Great interview! Always love reading about CJ. What a sweet spirit! Blessings to you both!

Martha Ramirez said...

Thanks, Lynn! I know, I never grow tired reading about C.J! Awesome and talented soul.

John Robinson said...

Great interview, CJ. Fifteen years, and you didn't quit; that's a lesson right there. Thank you. And thank you, Mart, for posting this.

John

Susanne Drazic said...

Great interview. I'll have to be on the lookout for this book. Sounds very interesting.

Martha Ramirez said...

It is an awesome book! You won't be able to put it down.

Linda Yezak said...

Mart, thanks to both you and CJ for this wonderful and encouraging interview. I've had my eye on Christian Writers Guild with the hopes of joining. Someday, when I feel I can spend the money . . .

C.J. Darlington said...

Thanks so much for doing this interview, Martha. And thank you everyone for all your kind comments.

Mika said...

An inspirational journey of 15 years and award winning prize. Thank you, Martha & CJ, for the motivational interview.