C.J. Darlington is the winner of the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over a decade, scouting for stores similar to the one described in Thicker than Blood before cofounding her own online bookstore. She also cofounded the Christian entertainment Web site www.TitleTrakk.com. A homeschool graduate, she lives in Pennsylvania with her family. Visit her Web site at www.cjdarlington.com.
I understand you started writing the story that became your first novel, Thicker than Blood, when you were fifteen-years-old. Do you remember when the story idea first came to you? What’s Thicker than Blood about?
I remember the exact day—May 1st, 1995. I still have the notebook I first used to write out by hand the story that became Thicker than Blood. Back then all I had was the concept—two estranged sisters who meet again after many years. One’s a Christian; the other isn’t. That’s still what the novel’s about. But along the way I’ve added some fun details, like the used bookstore setting and the rare first edition facts, which I hope give the story a slightly different flair than other novels out there.
As a writer, which authors initially sparked your desire to create stories?
I’ve been influenced by many authors, but the very first was Frank Peretti. I read his Darkness novels in my early teens, and I believe they affected me in more ways than I realized at the time. I loved how he was able to create these compelling, suspenseful plots without watering down the message. His character Sally Beth Roe in Piercing the Darkness has stuck with me to this day. Her spiritual journey was awesome to read.
I’ve also greatly been impacted by James Scott Bell. I use his novels as examples of how to write well. His knack for snappy dialogue is to be emulated.
When you first started writing, what were some of the most difficult craft techniques to master?
Hands down, dialogue. My early conversations were horrible! I’d have characters talk like this:
“Hi, John. How are you?”
”I’m fine. You?”
“Okay, I guess.”
“Well, that’s too bad.”
I wouldn’t say I’ve completely mastered dialogue now, but it does come a little easier than it did in the beginning. I guess it’s just a matter of practice and reading novels that do it well. Osmosis is the way I learn the best.
What about the publishing industry has surprised you the most?
A couple things. First, how kind and helpful Christian authors can be. So many busy novelists have given freely of their time to me when I’ve needed advice and encouragment. They don’t have any more hours in their day than I do, and yet they’ve been so gracious to an unknown newbie.
Another aspect of the industry that surprised me was how slow the wheels of publishing can turn. It’s not unusual to wait months for responses from editors on submissions. But I’ve come to understand how busy and strapped so many editors are these days. I’m amazed they have time to do what they do at all.
Do you have critique partners or someone that reviews your manuscript before you send it to your editor and or agent?
My first reader and editor is my mom. Her red pen has saved me from embarrassment more times than I care to admit! She has an uncanny ability to recognize when something is or isn’t working, and then she usually knows how to fix it, too. It’s one thing to realize something needs to be changed; it’s a whole different ball game to be able to suggest ways to fix the problem. I’m really blessed to have her on my side.
My dad is a voracious reader of Christian fiction, so he often has great feedback. If I can surprise him in a story I know I can surprise anybody, because he will often guess the twists and turns well before the average reader. And my sister also is a terrific sounding board. If I can make her laugh, then I know I’ve got a winner.
If you were not a writer and you had to choose another profession, what would you do instead of putting pen to paper?
Well, I’d probably still continue my day job selling used and rare books, but then I think I’d also like to be an artist. I’ve dabbled in oil painting over the years, and finishing a painting is like finishing a story or a novel. There’s great satisfaction, especially when the pictures (either on paper or canvas) turns out the way you envisioned it. I think I would enjoy devoting more time to learning how to paint better.
My last question, C.J., is a bit of a curveball. My readers all know how much I enjoy a funny story. When you’re in the mood for a good comedy movie, what movies are guaranteed to make you laugh?
As a rule I generally don’t like comedies. Especially romantic comedies (sorry!). But then my mom or sister will put on Bringing Up Baby with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, and I won’t be able to not watch it. We have so many lines from that movie memorized: “I’ll be with you in a minute Mr. Peabody!” “It’s all here in one dollar bills.” “You can hear what you want to hear!” “I wasn’t gonna hit George!” 🙂
Filed under: Featured Authors | Tagged: C. J. Darlington, Christian author, Thicker than Blood, Winner of Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel Contest |