Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with Joanna Weaver is Jennifer Pederson! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (email@example.com)
This week is CJ Darlington is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of CJ’s latest book, Bound by Guilt, leave a comment on this post!
Share a bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
I am happily single with a full time job as a used and rare bookseller. It’s been my family’s business now for over twelve years, and it keeps me busy. I’m also the co-founder of the Christian entertainment website TitleTrakk.com and a contributing editor at Family Fiction magazine. But even though I have many obligations, fiction writing is my first love. It’s my goal to write five days a week, usually in the evenings.
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
I write contemporary novels. A theme that seems to pervade all of them is that no one has ever fallen too far for the grace of God to touch them. I love writing about hurting and broken people—those who aren’t perfect by any means, make mistakes and need redemption.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream to be a published author?
I remember being eight years old typing at my dad’s old word processor. As a kid I always enjoyed writing little stories, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I entertained the idea of being a published writer. But the bug hit hard then. I started my first novel Thicker than Blood when I was fifteen. My apprenticeship in writing began at that point, and I devoured every writing how-to book I could find.
After you started writing seriously—how long was it before you were published?
I started seriously considering writing as a teen, but didn’t really commit to it until I was eighteen or so. My first short story was published when I was twenty, my first novel when I was thirty. I’m thankful I wasn’t published in book length right away because there was so much to learn during that time.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
Coffee or tea certainly help! There isn’t any one thing that makes writing easier. Often it’s just a matter of sitting my butt in the chair and going for it whether I feel like it or not. Sometimes I’ll feel in the zone, other days it’s like pulling teeth to get out a paragraph. What usually helps me is just diving in and going for it. When I overthink things is when I often get in trouble.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
My mom as my first draft reader is a HUGE help to me. She has a wonderfully keen editorial eye and helps me in every draft to pinpoint what’s working and what isn’t. I’ve also been blessed to have some kind mentors in other authors who’ve taken the time to answer my questions and offer advice.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions I had as a beginning writer was that getting published would change my life. It didn’t. I’m still the same person I was when I was submitting manuscripts to editors as I am today. Nothing magically changed. So I guess I did think it would be more glamorous than it is. That said, I am incredibly thankful and blessed to have my work read by others. It’s such a joy to hear from someone who’s taken the time to read a story I’ve written. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it helps to understand that unless your name is J.K. Rowling, the writing life really doesn’t change your life all that much.
What are your biggest distractions?
Hands down, the internet. What’s hard is that things like Facebook and Twitter and blogs are all useful tools as a writer. But used excessively they become a drain on creativity. I really don’t need to be checking my FB page ever five minutes. And checking Amazon rankings of my books? A complete waste of time. But do I do it? More often than I should.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
There was nothing like sitting in the audience at the Writing for the Soul conference and hearing Jerry B. Jenkins announce my novel as the winner of Operation First Novel. That was amazing. But now that I’m further down the road of this journey, what impacts me the most is when I hear from a reader who was somehow touched by something in my stories. It’s so important to remember being a Christian writer is more than a career. For me it’s a ministry, and I never want to lose sight of that.
A low point in my career was when I almost gave up on my first novel. I had been submitting it to publishers for four years, and I was feeling discouraged. I was beginning to wonder if it was time to put it in a drawer and move on to something new. Thankfully, the Lord intervened and prompted me to enter Operation First Novel two weeks before their cut off deadline for entries.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
There are some days when the marketing aspects of the job are overwhelming, but really there’s not much I don’t like about it. I most enjoy hearing from readers.
What is the role and importance of an agent?
This will vary from writer to writer, I think. Some authors despise anything to do with the business and negotiating side of things. For those, I think an agent is important. They need someone to be their advocate and help them through the process. Some writers don’t have a family support system, and an agent can be a huge encouragement on the days when they feel like throwing in the towel.
Then there are other authors who don’t mind tackling the business end of things. I fall into that camp. I don’t have an agent. Maybe someday I will have one, but for now I’m happy with how things are coming along.
What advice would you give to new writer?
As I get further along in my career, I’m realizing something that is enormously important for new writers, and that is this: Write the book of your heart. Don’t worry about publishers, marketing, editors or readers AT ALL in the beginning. You’ll paralyze yourself. Instead, search inside and listen to that still small voice leading you to the story only you can tell. If you aren’t passionate about your story, it will show on the page. Then, once you finish your first book, get moving onto the next! Then whenever you do receive interest from a publisher you’ll have more than one thing to show them.
Pretend I’m a customer at a booktsore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
Bound by Guilt is about a teen girl desperate to fit in and a female cop searching for justice. One fateful night both their lives are changed forever.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
I’m just now finishing the rough draft of my next novel. Revision time!
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
My website is full of info: www.cjdarlington.com