Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Author Interview ... C.J. Darlington

Please join me today in welcoming author C.J. Darlington to Write About Now. As you may be aware, a blog tour featuring her latest release, Bound by Guilt, is currently underway. (See previous post). Knowing how busy she must be, I appreciate her taking time out of her busy schedule to join us here.
Welcome, C.J.!  Why don't  you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about yourself before we leap into the Question and Answer  portion of the interview?

I’ve been writing for over fifteen years. It’s been an exciting journey and one I’m very thankful to be on. My family’s my biggest support. If you read the acknowledgments in one of my novels, you’ll see why. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I started writing my first novel Thicker than Blood when I was fifteen, but it wasn’t published for another fifteen years. I consider that time my apprenticeship. I learned so much and continue to learn things every day. My background in antiquarian bookselling is something I have fun writing about in my books. One of the main settings of both Thicker than Blood and Bound by Guilt is a used and rare bookstore that’s based on the very first one I scouted for as a teenager.

That bookselling background certainly made Bound by Guilt  fascinating to read! What is your least favorite part of the writing process?

Plotting has always been a bit of a challenge, but it’s the kind of challenge that can be enjoyable too because you know there’s an answer. It’s just a matter of discovering it.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

The days when the words flow like water from my fingers and the picture I have in my head of a scene comes to fruition on the page exactly like I imagined it. These moments don’t usually happen everyday, so when they do it makes them extra special. I also love hearing from readers.

Tell us a bit about your typical (if there is such a thing as typical) day.

There really isn’t a typical day for me. I’m usually a night and weekend novelist due to my day job and other obligations, but it’s worked well for me. Ideally I will be at my writing desk five days a week at 7 pm writing until right before bed.

That sounds like a pretty rigorous schedule! Pretend you just finished your book several days before your deadline. How will you celebrate or reward yourself?

By picking up a good novel! I love to read. Or I might go out to the movies, something I really enjoy (if it’s a good movie). But really, I find the most satisfaction in writing. If I’m not writing I usually don’t know what to do with myself.

Lucky for us since that means another book will be on the shelves soon! What’s up next for your readers?

My novel Bound by Guilt has just released, so I’m very excited to begin hearing what folks think of it. I just finished the rough draft of a new novel, and I’m starting the next draft shortly. I can’t share much about the story yet, but if you liked Thicker than Blood and/or Bound by Guilt I think you’ll enjoy the next one too.

I'll be eagerly waiting for it! Do you focus on one project at a time or do you have multiple projects going simultaneously?

Usually only one book project, though sometimes while I’m writing one book I will be mulling ideas for another. However, generally I stick to one big project at a time. I do write articles, reviews and the like while I’m working on a manuscript.

What was your favorite subject(s) in school?

I loved creative writing! Surprise, surprise. Reading was huge for me as well. I also enjoyed science and astronomy. Surprisingly though, I hated grammar and was a horrible speller for many years.

Do you tend to turn to comfort food when on a deadline? Are you a nervous eater or do you become so engrossed in writing that you forget to eat? What would be your first choice of comfort food?

I can often be found with a cup of tea or a cappuccino by my side while I’m writing, but I don’t usually get the munchies when writing. I love to eat---just not while at my computer. That said, I love homemade macaroni and cheese, pasta, and junk food like chips and ice cream. I can chow down with the best of them but try to be good most of the time. My mom’s a personal fitness trainer, so she inspires me to be healthy!

What is your favorite meal?

A big, juicy hamburger with bacon, cheese, tomato and lettuce. French fries or home fries on the side. And a huge salad. I also love Italian food.

Ummm... my mouth is watering thinking about that hamburger! Do you have a favorite Bible verse?

Romans 5:6-8: You see, at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this---while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

Amen, we are so unworthy of His love! Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? And why?

I’m intrigued with Deborah, the Israeli judge. I sometimes wonder how she got there in a society where men were usually the ones in places of prominence. And yet she was an anointed judge who God used. She’s an inspiring role model for Christian women. 

I've alwyas wondered about a female judge too, especially in that era. Can you briefly describe your approach to beginning a new book?

I’m smiling here to myself at this question because I’m only now figuring out what process works for me in starting a new book, and it will probably change next time we talk! The past two books I’ve written have followed a similar pattern. I mull about the story for months, labor over the first few chapters and plot directions . . . only to write a fast rough draft and discover the story I wanted to tell was the original idea I’d thought of months before. So next book I want to cut out some of the mulling and get right down to business writing a fast first draft. It’s usually during that writing process where I find the important elements of the story I want to tell.

Sometimes I think I mull to much too; by the time I finally get it written down, it often seems to lose something in the process. Do you like music or some other form of white noise when you are writing or do you prefer solitude?

Usually I’ll listen to music. Sometimes a CD or the radio. Right now I’m listening to a Pandora station I’ve been tweaking for the past few weeks. But there are times when I need quiet to really get into a scene. That’s when everything goes off, I close the door, and basically become the characters I’m writing.

Where is your favorite place to write? Do you have a space that is all yours just for your writing? Can you describe your work area for us? If you don’t have a place of your own, can you describe what you would consider to be an ideal work area?

My work area is anywhere I can find the space! I have a fold-up laptop table I slip beside my dresser. Often you’ll find me in the corner of my bedroom working. Or at the dining room table. Ideally, I’d love to have a small room with a permanent desk, lots of bookshelves, inspiring art on the walls, and no internet access! Maybe a cabin in the woods would be nice too . . .

It never hurts to dream, does it? What methods do you employ to overcome writer’s block? Or is that a foreign concept to you?

Early on in my writing I asked my writing mentor James Scott Bell what to do when the words got stuck. I was having a particularly challenging time comparing myself to others, and that made me feel blocked. He told me the best cure to the writing blues was to write. Wise advice. It takes pushing through more often than not to prime the pump. Sometimes getting out and doing something completely unrelated to writing helps as well. Then when I get back to the keyboard I actually have a full well to draw from. Writers need to live full lives to write well.

Sounds like you have had some excellent mentors and advice along the way. Who (or what) inspires you?

Going to a good movie, reading an exciting novel, going camping. There are so many things that have the potential to inspire. Sometimes it’ll just be a person I see driving down the road. Or a thought I have while out walking in my back yard. The inspiration for part of the main character in my novel Bound by Guilt came to me this way.

It's surprising how the least little thing can become an entire novel, isn't it? I watched a little guy standing in the breakfast line at school one morning and suddenly my entire book flashed before me. Now if I can only get it written! If not writing, what would you rather be doing?

Playing with my dogs, or playing with horses! I’ve recently taken up horseback riding again, and I’m loving how learning to ride better and communicate with horses is something you can never stop learning about. Kinda like writing.

Now you're taking me back to the days when I owned a horse. Nothing can compare to that sense of freedom as you gallop across the fields! If you could choose when you were born, in what era would you prefer to live and why?

I’m happy to live in this era!

That makes two of us! I don't think I would have done well in the days of the early settlers. If you could pick your own name, would you keep your name or would you change it? If you changed it, what would you change to?

I like my own name, but the fun thing about writing is I get to name people all the time. I always pick names for my characters, even the bad guys, that I personally like.

How did you come to be a writer? Was this something that you always knew you were destined to be or did you arrive at this point via another path?

Growing up I did not know writing was something I’d pursue professionally. But looking back now I can see the seeds of it early in my life. I always loved to write stories, and I always loved to read. I believe God often plants dreams in our hearts at an early age to lead us into our callings. That’s what I feel He’s done for me. When I’m writing I’m the happiest, so I also use that to gauge where I’m supposed to be. Why am I happy? I think it’s because when I’m writing I’m in God’s will for my life.

What is your favorite genre to read?

Character-driven suspense. Though I also enjoy a good YA novel or contemporary read.

Where would be your favorite place to live?

Colorado! I’m a Western girl in an Eastern girl’s body. Since for now I’m living in the East, I decided on the next best thing---setting my books in the West!

The West is my first choice too, but perhaps a little further south where the winters aren't quite as severe. What place(s) have you not been that you would like to visit?

Alaska, Australia, New Zealand. Any place with big mountains (that’s not in a war zone!) is a place I’d like to see.

Do you have an words of wisdom for those who are just starting out on the path?

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.

That sounds like some very sound advice. Thank your for sharing that with us. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thanks so much for having me here!

Thanks so much for joining us here today, C.J.! It has been my pleasure to have you here on my blog. May God richly bless you and your continued endeavors! 

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