Introducing Author C.J. Darlington

Today, we have a special guest to the blog, debut author C.J. Darlington. And a giveaway of a signed copy of her book!
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C.J., welcome to the blog. I’m so excited about your first book, Thicker than Blood, which I had the privilege of reading a few months ago.

You have a really cool “how I got discovered” story. Tell us about that whole process.

CJ: Back in 2004 I saw an ad in Writers Digest magazine for the Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest. The contest deadline was the kick in the pants I needed to finish my novel. So I entered an early version of Thicker Than Blood. A couple months later I found out it had placed as a semi-finalist, but not as a finalist.

I started submitting proposals to editors and started receiving back rejections. I revised the book a couple of times and lengthened it by about 10,000 words. But still no publishers wanted it. I got close once or twice, but I began to feel discouraged and wondered if maybe I should put the novel in a drawer and start submitting something else.

I almost did. But late one night I had a flash of inspiration I’m pretty sure came from the Lord. I thought, “What if I enter this revised version of Thicker Than Blood in this year’s Operation First Novel contest?” I had about two weeks before it would’ve been too late to enter. That was in September 2008.

In November I found out the novel was one of four finalists, and in February I attended the Writing for the Soul Conference where the winner of the contest would be announced. I was amazed when Jerry Jenkins announced Thicker than Blood was the winner! Part of the prize was publication by Tyndale House, and it’s been the most exciting thing that’s happened in my life so far.

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I love that story. And such a great example of not giving up on your dream or your manuscript.  C.J., you are definitely no stranger to Christian fiction or Christian music. You and your sister originated and operate TitleTrakk.com. Tell us about that awesome website and resource.

CJ: We want TitleTrakk.com to be a one stop Christian entertainment website for anyone interested in learning more about all the amazing Christian books, music, and movies out there. It’s our goal to shine the spotlight on the newest and brightest in the industry, and we’re excited at the opportunity to every week bring our readers new interviews, reviews, contests, and more. It’s been amazing how the site has grown in the last few years.

Since beginning TitleTrakk.com, who is the coolest Christian musician you’ve interviewed?

CJ: Well, my sister Tracy is the music maven, but she’s let me sit in on several cool interviews. Shhh…don’t tell anyone, but I was incredibly nervous when we did a press conference once with Michael W. Smith. He was sitting about four feet from me, and I was star struck.  We interviewed Rebecca St. James on several different occasions, and she’s always wonderful. We also recently interviewed Britt Nicole and new artist Paige Armstrong and were really impressed with how sweet and articulate they both were. And their music rocks too!

Let’s talk books. What is your favorite book you read as an elementary-aged kid?

CJ: Oh, wow. I had so many! If I had to pick. . . do I really have to pick just one? Okay, fine. The Chronicles of Narnia. I know that’s technically seven books, but I love that series. Adventure, suspense, intrigue, redemption–it has it all.

Favorite book you read as a teenager?

CJ: Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti. I first read this one at twelve or thirteen, and then re-read it at least five times.

Now it’s time to gush about your book. In Twitter-style, what is this book about?

CJ: Thicker Than Blood is about two estranged sisters who meet again after 15 years, one needing God’s love, the other God’s help.How’s that for abbreviated?

Why is the main theme of Thicker Than Blood an important one for you to convey? What do you want your reader to walk away with after reading this book? (Besides an urge to buy 10 more.)

CJ: An urge to buy 100 more?

The main theme of this novel is that love is thicker than blood. God’s love, that is. As Christy and May Williams find out, their blood ties were not enough to keep them together. It takes something more to make them a family again.

Another theme that’s important to me is that no one’s ever too far gone for God’s love to reach them. We might think we’ve screwed up too many times, that God could never love us for what we’ve done, but in reality God’s just waiting for us to take one step toward Him so he can wrap his arms around us.

Writing that first book is so hard.  What all was going through your mind as you went through the publication process with Thicker than Blood?

CJ: Besides the millions of doubts saying I could never succeed as a writer, that my book would never be published, that the hours of time spent in front of my computer were wasted?

Seriously, I had many days when I felt like throwing in the towel, but in the back of my mind I knew I couldn’t give up. I had a dream to be an author, and I was going to stick with it no matter how long it took before my writing was published. It certainly helped too that my family was a huge support and wouldn’t let me quit. I had to write, whether I was ever published or not.

When Tyndale House did give me a contract for Thicker than Blood, I found myself so honored to have such a wonderful team coming alongside me in the process. Everything went so much smoother than I could’ve imagined, which taught me not to let myself worry so much.

What advice would you have out there for those who aspire to be authors, no matter the age?

CJ:   Number one: You’re never too young for God to use you. He often puts desires and dreams in our hearts when we’re young to guide us into our callings. Are you passionate about reading, books,and writing? Are you happiest when creating? Allow yourself to pursue those dreams. Chances are God’s given them to you for a purpose.

(Jen here, wondering what the purpose of my passion for ice cream could be… In my heart I’ve always known that deep love had to have some value.)

CJ: Number two: Follow your heart. It’s easy to talk ourselves out of our dreams. But don’t let yourself, or your friends, or anyone do that. You have the desire for a reason. God’s got great plans for you!

Number three: Bloom where you’re planted. There are always steps we can take right now. Don’t wait until you’re older to begin following your dream. You don’t have to go to college or take a million courses (though some choose that route). I personally learned best by reading other novels and books on the craft.

Jen: I agree. I learn the most about writing from reading other people’s novels. And I’d also add that while you don’t have to go to college or take a million courses, I think you do have to do things that build your repertoire of life experiences, which could be college, work, travel, and just living. You gotta live to write about it. And get ideas. Reading is so necessary, but so is seeing some of it for yourself. Just like your experience as a seller of antiquarian books inspired so much of your first novel.

CJ: Number Four: Be flexible. If we had our way, our dreams would come true right now. But you know that Scripture in Jeremiah 29:11 that talks about God’s ways being higher than our ways? It’s so true. It took 14 very long years before my book was published, and I had to learn to trust God, even when I didn’t feel like it.  I’m glad now that I didn’t get published right away. If my dreams had come true the way I envisioned, it would’ve been a lot harder journey. Commit your life, and your writing to God, and he’ll make sure you get where you need to be at just the right time.

For those a little older, you’re never too old for God to use you. Never give up. It doesn’t matter if you’re seventeen or seventy. I know of many writers who didn’t see success in the publishing arena until they were over fifty. It’s never too late, and it’s always worth pursuing your dreams. Never stop learning.

Great words. And that happens to be my life verse. At least it was for last decade. I might need to pick a new one for variety’s sake. C.J., I’m so excited for you and your book. Tell us what you’re working on now.

CJ: I am putting the finishing touches on my second novel, tentatively titled Innocent Blood. It’s a sequel to Thicker than Blood. I’ve also just started my third book. It’s been rattling around in my head for way too long, and it’s time to get these characters under control.

Jen: Thanks for stopping by the blog, girl. You guys will totally want your copy of this book. And to win it, just leave a comment now through Thursday evening in which you respond to today’s prompt by giving me a little help. I just found out this weekend I’m GETTING A PUPPY!!!! (And I’m freakin’ out. I’m such a cat person. I mean seriously. I LIVE for low maintenance.) But anyway, I need some name help. It’s a girl. And it’s a dorkie. And it’s small. Forever small. So…what should I name it? I mean her. A furry, high-maintenance her. Leave your suggestions and help me in my time of need.

See you guys, Wednesday! I’ll share pics of the dog. And we’ll talk Chuck and American Idol. And my puppy commitment fears.

JEN

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23 comments

23 Comments so far

  1. Rhonda January 11th, 2010 10:10 am

    Yay! Congrats on the dorkie–I’m SO jealous. I want to see pics. Here are my suggestions for names:
    Buttercup (I know you LOVE that movie), Portia, Willa, Pandora, Anais

  2. Catrina January 11th, 2010 10:42 am

    Princess, Precious, Belle, Snow, Sophie, Trixie, Sprite, Honey, Hope, Daisy, Lilly, Mocha, Lady, Chloe, Mona, Sugar.

    Just a few puppy name suggestions.

  3. hannah January 11th, 2010 11:05 am

    puppy name suggestions?

    try puppynames.com

    the most popular ones i found on google are:

    Kami
    rylie
    ella
    abercrombie (where did that come from?)
    adara
    faira
    fiona
    falleigh
    fashion boy (where did this come from?)
    ( also on the list is: fat man, fat daddy, fat boy, and fattyfatty)
    fantasia
    fayna
    jace
    jada
    jeanie

    thats all i got for now!

  4. Salle January 11th, 2010 12:54 pm

    OMG what kind!!!!!!!!!

  5. Tammy January 11th, 2010 2:22 pm

    Personally I like the names Pookie, Sniglet, Shagford and Fluffernut but ya know thats just me ;) I hope you have a good time getting to know your doggie, I have a pomeranian..and hes a male and very high maintenance, have fun potty trainning her!

  6. cara January 11th, 2010 3:59 pm

    You will love having a dog! I have three, and they are all so awesome :D

    You should name you dog Kitty haha :)

  7. Bethany Ellis January 11th, 2010 5:34 pm

    Yay for dogs! I always thought Meineke (like the car repair place) would be a cute name for a dog, but I suppose its a big manly. :) For a girl doggie… lets see.. hmm.. Maxine? Hhaha :) I’m not quite creative right now. So sorry :) But YAY For dogs :)

  8. Rebecca January 11th, 2010 6:07 pm

    Someone else who watches Chuck! I love the show :)

    OK name suggestions…. the 1st thought that came to mind was Bella. I see several others suggested it. Other ideas are Affinity, Boppi and Faith.
    Have fun!
    Rebecca

  9. tori January 11th, 2010 6:55 pm

    Oh how adorable! I love tiny dogs, but big dogs make me want to run away and hide. LOL. You should name your dog:
    1.Abby
    2. Riley, because she would be just like the one in your book! Needing care, love, and attention to make her the friend she should be.
    3. Libby
    4. Tori, because we all know it’s the most beautiful name on the planet. :) Jk.
    5.Magnifique, and call her maggie. Magnifique is French for beautiful.
    6. Peu, because it’s French for little.

  10. Hannah Y. January 11th, 2010 8:32 pm

    Oh, yay! I love dogs, or at least, I collect dogs like most people collect teacups. (I have three pups. All mutts. All very brainless.) Maybe you can name your dorkie (they are sooo precious!): Cassidy, Ears, Haddie, or Snickers.

    Thanks for posting the interview with C.J. Hearing her publishing story always gives me courage to keep writing.

  11. Jenny B. Jones January 11th, 2010 8:44 pm

    Rhonda, I have a Pandora in class this semester. Very cool name.

    Hannah 2, I love the name Haddie. And the puppy actually came with the name Cassidy. : )

    Tori, great suggestions. I love the reason for Riley. : )

    Rebecca, Bella is a great name too.

    Bethany, I LOVE the name Maxine. Unfortunately, she’s not a Maxine. She’s too whiny for that so far. But great pick. And very near and dear to my heart.

    Cara, I could name her Kitty. And change Miller’s name to Dog?

    Tammy, Fluffernut is fun. Though a lot of syllables to yell when she’s peed on the carpet.

    Salle, a dorkie. So far all she does is nap.

    Hannah 1, great list of names. Thanks for doing some research! Ella and Fiona are super cute.

    Catrina, also a great list. I really like Sophie. : )

  12. Cassidy January 12th, 2010 1:06 am

    You should name her Isis = )
    I like that name.

    Or cutiepie = )
    Emily is good
    Cassie is cute
    Or doggy = ) LoL

  13. Nicole O'Dell January 12th, 2010 10:41 am

    Great interview!

    Can’t wait to see pics of the puppy!!

  14. Suzanne Schaffer January 12th, 2010 1:23 pm

    Princess. Perfect name for your puppy! Please enter me in the contest.

  15. Cara January 12th, 2010 4:28 pm

    Cara, I could name her Kitty. And change Miller’s name to Dog?

    Haha, that would be awesome! And it’s actually not hard for dogs to relearn their names…we renamed our chihuaha terrier mix from Petee to George :D

    …he got it….after a month or two :)

  16. Alli January 13th, 2010 7:34 am

    Great interview!
    Personally, if I ever have a dog I would name her Cassie, especially if it’s a small dog. But another cool name is something like Tinkerbell.
    Hope you have fun with your new puppy :)

  17. Hope January 13th, 2010 12:10 pm

    You should name her Miss Wendy Foresight.

  18. Jenny B. Jones January 13th, 2010 3:50 pm

    Great suggestions, guys. Keep ‘em coming.

  19. karen k January 13th, 2010 5:18 pm

    i like the name ‘emma’ or ‘bella’

    congratulations on your newest addition to your family :)

  20. Erin McFarland January 13th, 2010 5:31 pm

    You gotta go with a tough name so that she won’t have “little man’s syndrome” at the dog park… I’d go with Terminator (Big T for short) or Spike.
    BTW- great interview!

  21. Stephanie January 14th, 2010 2:48 pm

    I’m thinking Doris or Myrtle or Allie or Babs haha

  22. Liana January 14th, 2010 9:14 pm

    I just looked at the puppy- cute! i had this like brilliant name last night i forgot :( WEll my sister is a fanatic with dogs so i asked her for suggestions:
    (these might seem a bit weird)
    Chaila (chai for short… lol we are chai latte fanatics too)
    Angel
    love the ‘Pandora’
    Milly
    Meeka
    Lillian.

    Well there i go. :) love the interview. your puppy is adorable! my sister is looking into buying one at the moment.. just finding one at the right price is the probs.
    liana

  23. C.J. Darlington January 24th, 2010 1:31 pm

    Thank so much for this fun interview, Jen! I had a blast. :)

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