Tell us about your epiphany moment when you decided you were going to seriously pursue writing and eventually publication.
I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid---often silly stories about my pets. I even started a story that was about Joshua of the Bible’s horse. I remember being twelve and dreaming of the day that I might have a book published, but I never realized it would actually happen.
I think my epiphany moment came when I was eighteen. I had been working on my first novel for three years, and I determined to finish it. I distinctly remember deciding I wanted to get serious about the book and really finish it. I gave myself five years, which as a teen seemed like an eternity. I didn’t make the goal, but I came close. In 2004 (when I was twenty-four) I submitted that very novel to the first Operation First Novel contest run by the Christian Writers Guild. It didn’t win, but a later draft of that very same novel did win the contest in 2008 and it’s become my first published novel Thicker than Blood.
Which of your books (published or upcoming) has been the most fun for you to write and which character is your favorite?
I think I enjoyed writing my second novel best (working title is Innocent Blood). I wrote Thicker than Blood over a period of almost fifteen years. When I started the book I had no idea what I was doing. I mean, really. My early stuff was horrible. So basically the whole book was completely re-written several times during those years. But when I began Innocent Blood I’d learned a lot. I felt like I had all the tools in my bag---it was just a matter of figuring out which ones to use. Which isn’t to say I don’t have a lot more to learn, of course. With each book I write I grow as a writer, but I felt like I was able to delve a little deeper into my characters with Innocent Blood. I’m really excited about the finished product.
Which character is my favorite? In Thicker than Blood I’m going to have to pick veterinarian Beth Eckert. She’s the type of gal I’d love to have as a friend. She’s funny, down-to-earth, and a strong believer. She’s someone you’d want to be watching your back.
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
I’m having to come to grips with the fact that I am not an outliner. No matter how much I want to be, I just will not know everything about a story before I start. That’s okay. Acknowledging is half the battle. Brainstorming isn’t my strong point either, so I have to wrack my brain a LOT before I begin writing a story. But another thing I’m discovering about myself and my writing is that I usually have the germ of the story sooner than I think I do. Very early in writing my second novel, and now my third, I knew what I wanted to write. It just took a million rabbit trails to show me I need to trust my instincts (and those promptings the Lord graciously gives us) a little more.
I spent the most time in the head of my main character, Christy Williams. I always seem to be drawn to flawed characters, and Christy certainly fits the bill. She was really interesting to write because she was so different from me in many ways. In the very first scene of the book she’s arrested for drunk driving and has several skeletons she would just as soon leave in the closet. I also had a lot of fun writing the antagonist, Vince. One of my favorite scenes is a confrontation he and Christy have.
What is your strangest habit?
I asked my sister what strange habits I have, and she said, “You eat a lot of cereal.” I don’t know if that quantifies as strange, but I do have a thing for breakfast cereal. It’s my favorite snack, and my waisteline’s downfall . . .
I have also on occasion pretended to interview myself in preparation for questions like this, but apparently I didn’t prepare enough.
Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
Vaccuming the house. Writing book reviews (which is odd because when I actually write them they usually aren’t as hard as I imagine they’re going to be). Clipping my dog’s toenails.
What would a perfect day for you look like?
I’d wake up slowly, cuddling with my dogs in bed. Then I’d head to the kitchen and eat my cereal. After that I’d take my morning cup of Irish Breakfast and sit in front of the computer checking my e-mail. Then I’d turn the computer off so I wouldn’t be distracted to check it again later in the day. I try to do my devotions before checking the e-mail, but I’m sorry to admit I sometimes don’t put the Lord first when I should.
I’d have a brand new novel to read, and I’d spend several lazy hours doing just that. Then around noon I’d have cereal again (just kidding!). With cappuccino in hand, I’d actually head to my laptop to do some writing. I get cranky if I’m not writing.
In the afternoon I’d head to Barnes and Noble and spend some time browsing (and sipping another cappuccino). I’d eat dinner in the café or at the Olive Garden. Then I’d head on over to the movie theater to watch a much anticipated flick (a family-friendly thriller would be ideal), with buttered popcorn and something hot to drink.
Once I was back home my teeth would magically brush themselves, and I’d curl up in bed with my dogs again and crack open that novel for just a few more pages . . .
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read almost exclusively CBA fiction. Not that there’s not some great stuff in the ABA too, but I don’t have time to possibly exhaust the CBA, and I love it so much. My favorite genre is suspense, preferably character driven. I also still enjoy a good YA book.
Nonfiction-wise, I’ll have books on my bed stand researching whatever subject I’m featuring in my latest book. For Thicker than Blood I amassed quite a library of books on cattle ranching and modern day cowboy life.
Are there certain foods or snacks which keeps the words flowing for you?
I love a good cup of strong tea, and a triple cappuccino doesn’t hurt the word count either. I don’t really snack on food much when I’m writing, which is probably a good thing. Though those Chili & Lime chips are calling my name . . . Unfortunately, I do sometimes find myself in the kitchen when the words don’t come.
Are there spiritual themes you like to write about?
A theme I’m seeing crop up in all my books is that no one’s ever too far gone for God to love. I’m really passionate about that theme. Another one I’m addressing in my current novel is Christians judging people by what’s on the outside instead of what’s in their hearts.
What lesson is the Lord teaching you right now or recently taught you?
Every day I have to choose whether I’m going to trust the Lord or trust myself. So often I fail. At times I wonder how God can even use my writing because of how inadequate I feel. But the thing is, thankfully, it’s not about me. It’s about Him. That quote about God not calling the equipped but equipping those He calls is so true.
When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Innocent Blood is a sequel to Thicker than Blood in that some of the main characters of Thicker become minor characters in Innocent. I’m really, really excited about this book. The main character is a sixteen-year-old girl named Roxi who’s been in and out of foster care since she was eight. A strong supporting character is Abby Dawson, bookstore manager Hunter Dawson’s older sister. Rare books also play a big part in this story, especially a first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
I don’t have a contract for this book yet, but hopefully I’ll have good news on that front to share with you soon.
You can visit CJ's web site at www.cjdarlington.com and her blog.
CJ is giving away a copy of Thicker Than Blood. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment and check back on Sunday, January 31st to see if you've won. You can enter twice--once on each post in this spotlight. If you want to guarantee that you're notified if you win, then leave your email address in the comment, otherwise, you can just check back and email me through the button in my sidebar.
**Annoying little disclaimer: This giveaway is open only to U.S. addresses. By clicking on the Amazon link above or in the sidebar, and purchasing, I will receive a very small percentage of the sale.