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 www.TitleTrakk.com 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 www.cjdarlington.com.
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 so loveable.
It’s always been my goal to write realistically, and I think that comes into play with the characters I create. In some ways it’s a conscious decision to not shy away from hard issues, and thus hard characters, but I usually don’t come at it thinking, “I want to create a character here who bucks the CBA norms.” I’m just naturally drawn to flawed characters.
4. Roxi Gold, the protagonist of Bound by Guilt, has experienced the pain of parental abandonment and the failure of the foster care system. How did you research her experience and feelings?
Stories of people like Roxi have always touched my heart. And while I did read a few books on teens in foster care, most of her character came from imagining what it would be like to be in her shoes. All of us have felt the various emotions she feels, though on different levels. So even though I grew up in a great family with great parents, I can still imagine what it would be like to have missed out on that.
5. I know you’re working on your third novel now. What does it have in common with Thicker than Blood and Bound by Guilt?
I can’t say a lot right now because it’s still in the developing stage. I hope to have the rough draft finished by March. I wish I could tell you more, but let me just say that I’m excited about it.
6. What’s your favorite thing about being a novelist?
Hearing from readers who’ve read one of my books and somehow been touched by it. That makes all the hard work worth it. I also love those special moments when everything flows, and what I picture in my head makes it to the page just the way I envision. Just today I was in awe of the fact that my second novel is about to be released. It’s such a gift to be able to share stories with readers.
Thank you so much for sharing with our readers, C.J. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to review your latest offering.
Readers, do you have an opinion about what C.J’s decision to incorporate tough issues and realistic characters into her fiction? Have you read authors who accomplish this successfully? Feel free to share your thoughts.