Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Part II: Interview with Title Trakk Founder & Debut Novelist, CJ Darlington

C.J. Darlington's first novel, Thicker Than Blood, was the winner of the 2008 Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest. She is the co-founder of the Christian entertainment Web site http://www.titletrakk.com/. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania. When she's not writing, she's reading. Her hobbies include book and art collecting, fly fishing, painting and drawing. Visit her Web site at http://www.cjdarlington.com/.

(Continued from last week.)

What is one weakness you have as a writer and what do you do to overcome it?

Oh, this one’s easy---time management.

I am sometimes the world’s worst procrastinator, and I have let months of my life slip through my fingers without writing anything worthwhile. I’m not proud of that. It’s something I have to work on every day.

In fact, I’m just coming out of a period where I’ve allowed the internet, blogging, and all the social networking I’ve been doing eat away at my precious writing time. Not to mention my quiet time and family time. It slipped up on me.

How do I overcome these tendencies?
I’m still learning how. But what usually works is setting time limits on extracurricular stuff. Right now I’m experimenting with only checking my e-mail three times a day (at 10, 1 and 4 respectively), limiting non business related internet time to one hour (this includes blogging, Twitter and Facebook), plus I can’t be on the internet after five o’clock.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

What is one strength you have as a writer and to what do you attribute your success in this particular area?

It’s so hard to judge your own work. I had to ask my first reader/editor (who’s also my Mom!) what she thought was my one strength. She said that:

I’m not afraid of revision.
That’s true. I used to be, but not anymore. In fact, one of the funnest experiences of this whole publishing journey was when I got to work with my terrific Tyndale editor Lorie Popp. I loved having someone come alongside me and make my work stronger.

I attribute my attitude toward revision to Mom---she was (and still is) my first editor. She’s wielded her red pen on my work ever since I was a kid. She’s not afraid to tell me when something doesn’t work, but she also usually knows how to fix it. Thanks, Mom!

If you could go back to the young writer you were when you were just beginning, what advice would you give yourself?

Enjoy every moment. Even the waiting. And never stop writing.

What’s one publicity tip you can share that you’ve gotten a good response with in promoting your work?

As I write this I’m still learning so much about publicity. But I remember reading a piece Randy Ingermanson wrote a couple years ago in which he recommended new

writers focus more on making friends with other published writers than editors and agents.
You’ll learn so much from those who area already treading the ground you hope to walk someday. I’ve found that advice to be true. I think it does help to have a blog and comment on other blogs. That gets your name out there. Writing reviews and posting them on Amazon is another way to give yourself a little exposure. A well-written book review will get noticed.

Tell us about Thicker Than Blood:

Thicker than Blood is just hitting shelves, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s the story of two estranged sisters. Here’s the little blurb Tyndale and I wrote:

Christy Williams finally has her life on track. She’s putting her past behind her and working hard to build a career as an antiquarian book buyer. But things begin to unravel when a stolen Hemingway first edition is found in her possession, framing her for a crime she didn’t commit. With no one to turn to, she yearns for her estranged younger sister, May, whom she abandoned after their parents’ untimely deaths. Soon, Christy’s fleeing from her shattered dreams, her ex-boyfriend, and God. Could May’s Triple Cross Ranch be the safe haven she’s searching for? Will the sisters realize that each possesses what the other desperately needs before it’s too late?

What do you do to improve as a writer?

Reading other great novels is probably the number one way I learn how to improve now. When I first started I devoured every writing craft book I could find. I still read them, but nothing teaches me how to write better than reading great writing. I’m not one of those authors who’ll sit down with different colored highlighters and index cards and figure out exactly what makes a particular book tick (though I know of many who this works for). I learn better by osmosis.

What are a few of your favorite books not written by you?

I always find this question amusing when I see you ask it of authors. Do you get a lot of folks picking their own books as their favorites? Ha ha. I have so many favorite books in the CBA alone. One author I’m recommending everywhere I go is Sibella Giorello. Her first novel The Stones Cry Out won a Christy award for first novel, and her second book The Rivers Run Dry is even better.
If I write half as well as Sibella someday I’ll be doing well.

I love thrillers, so hook me up with a new James Scott Bell, Randy Singer, Tim Downs or James David Jordan and I’ll be happy. I also love Jenny B. Jones! Her books crack me up. One other author I like telling people about is Renee Riva. Her first novel Saving Sailor and its sequel Taking Tuscany were fantastic. Kinda like To Kill A Mockingbird meets Because of Winn-Dixie.

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?

I’m still wet behind the ears, so I haven’t had too many reader responses. I’m looking forward to hearing from my readers!

Do you have a pet peeve to do with this business?

Not really. I’ve been so amazed by the generosity of CBA authors, and the editors and agents I’ve come to know have also been fantastic.

What’s your favorite part of being a writer/least?

My least favorite part is having to manage my own time. My favorite part is managing my own time. Seriously …
I do love the freedom of being self-employed
(I’m my own boss at my day job too), but it also has its downsides. If I don’t meet a self-imposed deadline, it’s so hard to penalize myself.

Another of my favorite parts was seeing my book cover for the first time.
Tyndale surprised me with it on stage at the Writing for the Soul conference, and I was blown away. The designer, Jennifer Ghionzoli, captured the themes of the story so beautifully. I had always thought the coolest part of the entire process would be seeing the book cover for the first time, and I was right. For me that’s so awesome.

What has surprised you most about this industry?

Wow, that’s a good question. Some of what I mentioned about being surprised on my journey to publication applies here. One thing I’ve been very blessed to discover is how kind and generous Christian authors can be. I’ve corresponded with so many who’ve given so generously of their time and have been huge encouragements in my life.

Advice to aspiring writers?

Don’t be afraid to write the book of your heart.

Write something you’d love to read, not what you think the market needs
or you neighbor would like---what do you like?
Also, never give up. If God has put the desire in your heart to write (and He is the one who gives us our dreams), He has a way to fulfill it. Maybe it won’t happen exactly the way you first envision. If it had been up to me, I would’ve won the first Operation First Novel contest, but I am so glad now that I didn’t. Because God had me wait to be published, I was able to finish a second novel without the pressure of a contracted deadline. And I made connections I didn’t have in the beginning. God’s timing is always perfect!

Parting words?

Seek first the kingdom of God. This is something I’m having to live out day by day, but God keeps whispering it in my ear. Maybe He’s whispering it in yours too. Then, after we seek Him, all the rest will be added unto us. Thanks so much for having me, Gina!

You can read the first chapter of Thicker Than Blood HERE. Or watch the trailer HERE.


lynnrush said...

Fantastic interview. Thanks.

I enjoyed the trailer too.

Gina Holmes said...

Great interview, CJ. So proud of you!

C.J. Darlington said...

I must admit... it's still surreal. Which is the way I want it to stay! Thanks, Gina, for the opportunity. It's really amazing to be on the "other side" of the interview mic. :)

Sibella Giorello said...

CJ, you might like my books but my kids think you're a total rock star: "It the famous CJ Darlington!" they exclaim.

You deserve every ounce of success for your dedication to your gift. On top of that you've nurtured so many other creative souls, and this interview is testimony to your generosity. Having read "Thicker than Blood" twice, all I can say is: More, please!!

Great interview.

Jessica Dotta said...

Nice interview C.J. I went online and read the first chapter of your novel within the last two weeks. Loved what I read!