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WRITE: Interview with C.J. Darlington

C. J. Darlington won the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest with her first novel, Thicker than Blood. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for more than twelve years, scouting for stores similar to the ones described in her novels, before coufounding her own online bookstore. In 2006 C. J. started the Christian entertainment Web site with her sister, Tracy, and has been actively promoting Christian fiction through book reviews and author interviews. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Visit her Web site at Earlier this week, I posted a READ review of C.J. Darlington’s latest novel, Bound by Guilt, which releases March 1. I know you’ll enjoy my Q & A with her below.  1. For readers who haven’t yet met you, can you share a bit of your background as a writer? I’ve enjoyed creative writing ever since I was a kid writing stories on my dad’s old word processor. It wasn’t until I was a teen that I wanted to be a writer. I dreamed of someday having a novel published and used to tell my sister, “Someday you’re gonna see one of my books on a bookshelf.” It took fifteen years of learning the craft, but it finally happened. God has really blessed me.   2. As an author and a bookseller, how do you feel about the digital publishing trend? Nothing can replace holding an actual book in your hands, but if digital publishing allows more people to read, then I’m all for it. I see e-books as just another arm of publishing, like audio books in a way. Granted, e-books have taken off more than audio books, but think about this—paperback books didn’t come in vogue until the 40s and 50s. As a bookseller, I will admit it’s hard to see books only being released in electronic format. 3.  Both this novel (Bound by Guilt) and your first flout some traditional CBA (Christian Booksellers’ Association) norms by presenting characters that drink, smoke, and make other mistakes—sometimes small, sometimes huge. Can you share about your decision to create characters like these? The overarching message that flows through my stories is that no one has ever fallen too far from grace. Maybe that’s why it upsets me when I see Christians judge others based on outward appearance and try to clean up the outside of someone before the inside. Writing these characters is kind of my way of addressing that issue. In Bound by Guilt, especially, the story is about how we can be the hands and feet of Christ by loving the not...

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READ: Review, Bound by Guilt by C.J. Darlington

The sophomore slump. In the publishing world, this term refers to the phenomenon of an author’s second novel that fails to live up to the standards of the first. Like baseball players and filmmakers, authors dread it.   As a reader, I dreaded it, too. I enjoyed C.J. Darlington’s Thicker than Blood, winner of the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel award. I admired the author—a young homeschool graduate—as much as her work. In fact, I took time to interview her for Homeschooling Today magazine. (Read that four-part interview here). So, although we’ve never met, C.J. and I have a history. That’s why I opened the advance reading copy of Bound by Guilt (Tyndale, March 1, 2011) with some trepidation. She took years to develop her first novel. How could this one match it? The truth: Bound by Guilt doesn’t match the writing skill or reading quality of C.J.’s first novel. Instead, this offering exceeds the first at multiple points. In her new book, C.J.’s strength in creating believable characters shines as does her plotting ability. But the true power of Bound by Guilt lies not in the plot or characters but in its warm portrayal of God’s redemptive love.  Life’s dealt young Roxi Gold a tough hand. Abandoned by her drug-addicted mother, she bounced in and out of multiple foster homes before landing with her mom’s cousin, Irene. Problems solved? No, multiplied. Irene’s self-centered perspective extends to her career: stealing and reselling rare books. She trains both her son and Roxi to serve as her accomplices. Despite Roxi’s misgivings, it seems like a great scheme—until the night things go horribly, terribly wrong. Police officer Abby Dawson has an anger problem. Wounds from the past (including a controlling father and an attorney ex-husband who limits her access to her only child) combine to make her dedicated but dangerous. Abby’s pain blurs the line between legal and illegal, right and wrong. When her hurt intersects with Roxi’s, they both need a miracle. Roxi and Abby are fearfully and wonderfully made. They’re also deeply loved. Will  they discover these truths in time? Will they believe them when—and if—they do? Author Darlington uses her bookselling expertise (she’s worked in the antiquarian book business for more than ten years) to provide both foundation and supportive details for her characters and their crimes. I enjoyed learning more about the book business which, along with several shared characters, also appears in Thicker than Blood. But what I loved most about the sparkling prose of Bound by Guilt was its portrait of God as Father, Redeemer, and Lover of our souls.  Read Bound by Guilt for the story. Weep at the ways...

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