Author Chat: C. J. Darlington

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control;
against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 ASV

Reader Friends,

The Apostle Paul admonishes his student and beloved friend and helper Timothy in 2 Timothy 1 to hold onto Paul’s sound words and to guard the treasure committed to him in the faith and love of Jesus. He reminds the younger man that doing so is possible through the Holy Spirit which indwells him.

In Galatians 5 Paul speaks of the “fruits” of the indwelling Spirit. These come to mind when I read our guest author C.J. Darlington‘s answers to questions about her journey from aspiring writer to award-winning author and now publisher as co-owner of Mountainview Books LLC. In particular, four fruits of the spirit–love, joy, peace, and long-suffering–shine when C.J. writes about her Paint mare named Sky

Look carefully, and I think you’ll find the clues …

~~~

C.J. Darlington Welcome, C.J. What an honor it is to have you as our guest today. 

1) How would you categorize yourself as an author?

I mostly write contemporary stories that include elements of suspense, but I also have a lot of fun writing my speculative YA stories. It’s a great time to be a writer because we don’t necessarily have to stick to one genre. I love the variety!

2) You won the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild Operation First Novel award for Thicker Than Blood. Can you give us a brief summary of the plot, C.J.?

thicker-than-blood-250Thicker than Blood is the story of two sisters who meet again after fifteen years of estrangement. The older, Christy, is a troubled alcoholic who works at a rare bookstore. The younger, May, is the co-owner of a failing cattle ranch. They both have something the other desperately needs, but they don’t realize it.

A bit about the main character … The majority of the story follows Christy, who is becoming adept at the intricacies of rare book buying and selling. She works at a four-story used bookstore called Dawson’s Book Barn. But on her thirty-third birthday she’s arrested for drunk driving and has to decide whether to return to her abusive ex-boyfriend or face the consequences. It isn’t long before she hits rock bottom.

The main theme? No one is ever too far gone for God. (Tweet That!) I also love weaving a story of sisterly love and devotion.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

It was always about two very different sisters. The plot grew from there. I loved being able to share about rare books, and that was something that developed over time. Christy was actually a real estate agent in early drafts! A first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls plays an important part in Thicker than Blood, which is especially neat for a book lover like me.

3) Tell us about the other three novels in the Thicker Than Blood series: Bound by Guilt, Ties That Bind, and the latest, Running on Empty:

Brief summaries and a little about the characters:

bound-by-guilt-250Bound by Guilt: A botched robbery at a used bookstore sends a teen girl on the run. The story focuses primarily on teen Roxi Gold who’s desperate for the love of a family. She’s been in and out of foster care since she was eight and just wants to fit in and have some stability. We also get to know police officer Abby Dawson who’s determined to find out who killed her brother.

ties-that-bind-250Ties that Bind: On a quest to find her father, a young woman discovers she has two sisters who have no idea she exists. Brynn Taylor has just gotten out of prison and is finally ready to fulfill her mother’s dying wish and find the father she’s never known. She ends up in the small cattle town of Elk Valley, Colorado, where her plans and her life begin to unravel.

running-on-empty-250Running on Empty: A lonely, down-on-her-luck young woman suddenly finds herself the guardian of her much younger half-sister. Not only is she blindsided with the news that she has a biological mother out there somewhere, but now she has to take care of Callie. But Del and Callie soon develop a sweet bond that I really enjoyed writing. Plus there’s a greyhound named Utah who I hope readers come to love too.

The theme of families and reconciliation is woven into all my stories (Tweet That!), right along with the theme of Thicker than Blood about the amazing reach of God’s love to all of us, no matter what we’ve done.

How would you compare/contrast the four novels?

I wrote all four with the intent that they stand completely by themselves. You don’t have to read Thicker than Blood to be able to enjoy Running on Empty, for instance. But there is a deeper experience if you read them in order. They all have the same flavor but take a look at a different issue.

Do the novels’ main characters intersect in the four stories?

Yes! That was something I enjoyed a lot. Most of the main characters from each book have a supporting role in the next.

In which main character do you find the most of yourself?

I think May Williams from Thicker than Blood is the closest to me in some ways. She has a deep love for animals and the outdoors and she’s trying to live a good Christian life. When she messes up and makes mistakes, which she does, she picks herself back up and keeps going. That’s what I hope I can always do in my life.

3) Your novel Jupiter Winds was a finalist in the 2015 American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award contest. How does it compare with the other four? How different was the writing experience?

jupiter-winds-250Jupiter Winds was a novel I wrote originally for pure fun. I had all these crazy ideas in my head and just spilled them out on the page, which I think allowed for some interesting plot twists! The book is different from my other books mostly just due to the genre change and that it features two teens. I came away from writing Jupiter Winds with a renewed respect for those who write fantasy and science fiction because world building is hard!

4) Having won Operation First Novel Award for Thicker Than Blood, you’ve been asked many times how the win changed your world. Now that you’re a publisher, how do the life changes compare?

Every new venture creates some great experiences. The great part about working as a publisher is the chance to bring even more stories to readers. I love great stories. Period. So it’s been a privilege.

5) How do you balance writing and publishing on a daily basis?

I am still learning! One thing I am discovering is the need to set a writing quota based on words rather than time.

6) Tell us about your Paint mare named Sky.horse-422111_1280

Sky is a sixteen-year-old Paint mare who has been such a blessing to our whole family. I have learned so much from this horse. Sky teaches me how to be patient, listen to animals, work hard, and have fun. (Tweet That!)

Have you written into a story an equine character with Sky in mind?

Not yet, but in Ties that Bind I wrote about a troubled horse named Lacey who was based on the horse I rode before we got Sky.

piercing-the-darkness7) You’ve said reading the Frank Peretti novel Piercing the Darkness was a turning point in your writing journey. Can you point to one scene or one element of the story that transformed or inspired you?

His character Sally Beth Roe is still one of my all time favorite characters. Her spiritual journey (I won’t give too much away) is beautiful. In fact, I think it’s time I picked the book up again!

8) Mountainview Books is a family endeavor. And home schooling was a family endeavor. How do they compare? Which has been the most challenging?

Each are uniquely challenging, but homeschooling taught me so many value things I am now able to bring to life as an adult. Pretty much everything I do stems back to the sacrifices my parents made to homeschool me. I am convinced I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

8) Describe for our readers your spiritual purpose in writing for the Christian market.

You know, each book provides a different answer to this question. With Thicker than Blood I was focusing on a salvation message.

In Bound by Guilt it was about unconditional love.

Ties that Bind continues with that.

Running on Empty is about child-like faith.

And Jupiter Winds challenges us to realize no matter where we go, God is with us. (Tweet That!)

I also value just telling a good story and have learned not to try too hard to force a spiritual take-away.

9) What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from your writing/publishing experiences?

Oh, my. Trusting God with everything!

Thank you so much, C.J., for taking the time to chat with our circle of friends. You are a young adult possessed of uncommon wisdom. Thank you for sharing with us.

~~~

Did you see the fruits, Readers? Look at how C.J. described the lessons she’s learned from her Paint mare Sky:

…What’s patience if not long-suffering?
…Doesn’t listening to animals require a listener at peace?
…Doesn’t love of life require hard work?
…And isn’t having good fun just plain joy?

Father God, we bow before you as Creator, Sustainer, and Thicker-Than-Blood Friend. We thank and praise You for stooping to love us, for coming so near You’d reside within us. Keep us in You, the Vine. Feed us as we cling to You. And produce fruit from us according to Your perfect will. For Jesus’ sake …

12 thoughts on “Author Chat: C. J. Darlington

  1. Thanks so much for having me, Linda!

     
     
    1. Having you was an honor, C.J. Thank you for being our guest.

       
       
  2. I like your thought on not forcing a spiritual take-away, C.J. So many books that have challenged my faith really didn’t seem to have a spiritual agenda, but it was THERE.

     
     
    1. Thanks for joining the chat this past week, Gail. Sometimes I feel as if C.J. writes her books–and lives her life–rather effortlessly. And that’s a spiritual lesson in itself.

       
       
    2. It’s a challenging balance, I know, but you are right–sometimes we get the most out of books that were more subtle.

       
       
  3. G.J. Hoffman

    Thank you, Linda, for hosting this.

    And thank you, C. J. Darlington. It was fun to hear more about you.
    A couple of years ago, I picked up Bound by Guilt at a Barnes and Noble to read the back and realized you were an Operation First Time Novel winner. At the time I was taking classes from the Christian Writers Guild, so I actually knew what that meant. So I bought your book.
    I enjoyed it and found it refreshing, particularly because it was different from the run of the mill adult romance or teen genres. And, I just finished Ties that Bind a couple of months ago.
    I did not, however, know that you had published anything in the speculative genre so that was fun to find out here. I too love the fact that, as writers, we can jump from contemporary to speculative, or in my case, to period medieval.
    So, I’m curious. What are you working on now/next?

    G.J. Hoffman (https://whentherocksspeak.wordpress.com/)

     
     
    1. Thanks for joining the chat this past week, Given. C.J. and her writing and publishing story are an inspiration to both of us and many others.

       
       
    2. Hi G.J.! Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad you enjoyed the stories. Running on Empty was just released in December of last year (Book 4 of the Thicker than Blood series), but I just finished the first draft of the next Jupiter story (sequel to Jupiter Winds.) I am also in the beginning stages of a completely new book! I still don’t know where I’m going with it, lol.

       
       
      1. G.J. Hoffman

        Wow, sounds like you have been busy. 🙂 I look forward to checking out your other books. Thanks.

         
         
  4. C.J.’s books definitely held my interest–for all the right reasons: well-developed characters, mystery, tension, history, and clean, crisp, intelligent writing!

     
     
    1. Ditto, Clarice! Thank you for joining the chat.

       
       
    2. Thanks, Clarice! Appreciate it.

       
       

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What’s so Great About Freedom to Write?

berlin-wall-234450_1280

Writing the historical novel The Calling of Ella McFarland has taken me into the past many times over.

In 1983 when “The Wall” still divided East from West, I was blessed with the opportunity to visit East Germany where I bought this band of little angels with IMG_2075“green spotted wings”. It was made by an East German artisan who worked in her home, longing for freedom.

Among the freedoms denied East Germans in 1983 was freedom of speech. Had I lived beyond The Wall in those days, I would not have enjoyed the freedom to express myself as I am in this blog. The freedom to write what I please, to express my faith and values, opens doors and windows to the world, airing out ideas like winter’s mothballed coat.

green-boa-244768_1280Jehovah God has always set a high price on freedom. Adam and Eve were denied access to one tree alone; their rebellion locked them out of Paradise. [Genesis 3:23-24]

The Israelites were denied access to the Promised Land for their ingratitude. [Numbers 14:21-23]

tree-189158_1280And for his momentary disobedience Moses was allowed only to view the land of promise, not enter it. [Numbers 20:12]

The angel of the Lord slew 185,000 Assyrians to assure the freedom of God’s people. [2 Kings 19:35]

The Old Testament is replete with the tragic stories of God’s people being taken into bondage for their faithlessness. 

The highest price ever paid for freedom was the life of God’s own Son. [Galatians 5:1] jesus-578217_1280

I treasure my band of little angels because it represents the original angels’ announcement of the birth of the Savior whose eventual death provided a new kind of freedom–a way out of the bondage of eternal consequences for sin. But for me the little angelic band also represents my freedom to write. The Apostle Paul wrote in a dungeon; I write in a comfortable office.

fire-836635_1280First Century Christians risked their lives to protect and transmit the writings that now compose Holy Scripture. William Tyndale, among others, gave his life for translating the Latin Scriptures into English and refusing to be silenced. Many Christians in the world risk the same today. Meanwhile, I can’t keep up with all the dusting required for the dozens of Bibles in my home.

The painstaking, labor-intensive process of printing that began with Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press in Germany testifies to the preciousness of the written word.

Thankfully, the U.S. Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to free expression of viewpoints and faith, including my right to express my faith in written form. I exercise that right while sitting in a comfortable office chair imagining plot lines driven by flawed characters both espousing and defaming the name of Christ.

chinese-675456_1280What’s so great about the freedom to write? Ask Paris. Or Christians in China, Iran … or any spot on Earth controlled by ISIS.

Do you have a “freedom of speech” or “freedom to write” story to share? I’d love to hear it.

All praise to our Savior who is the Lord!

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.   

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:4-18

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