BIO: C.J. Darlington is the winner of the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over a decade, scouting for stores similar to the one described in Thicker than Blood before cofounding her own online bookstore. She also cofounded the Christian entertainment Web site www.TitleTrakk.com. A homeschool graduate, she lives in Pennsylvania with her family. Visit her Web site at http://www.cjdarlington.com/.
In your book Thicker than Blood, you described the job of an antiquarian bookseller. Was that an accurate description? Leave any parts out? Since you had this job in the past I was just wondering.
Writing about Dawson’s Book Barn (my fictional bookstore) and being able to include lots of bookselling facts was a really fun part of writing Thicker than Blood. I tried to describe the business as accurately as possible. It’s a hard time economically to be a used bookdealer. The aspects of the antiquarian book trade I focused on in this story were those of a large bricks-and-mortar store. It can be a little different if you’re going solo as a book scout or small store owner, and I’m hoping to cover some more aspects of this profession in future books. Book scouting is hard work.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? If not, how did you make the leap to author?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was eleven or twelve. I had no idea how to make that happen, but the desire was there. As the years passed that desire never left. It’s been an amazing experience to have folks like you actually read some of the stories I’ve written. It’s really a dream come true.
Did you come up with the book title? If not, what was the working title of this story?
My mom actually came up with Thicker than Blood. My working title for several years was The City Girl and the Country Girl, but I knew that would have to be changed to something more marketable. When mom hit on Thicker than Blood, I liked it and purposely wove that theme into the story more than I’d originally planned. I’m really glad Tyndale decided to stay with it.
What did you love most about being an antiquarian bookseller? What did you like least?
I love holding old books in my hands, smelling the pages, and flipping through them. I also love the challenge of learning all the points of various first editions. You can never learn everything, and that keeps it interesting.
Can you give us a sneak peek into what you are working on next? When do you suspect it will be out?
Did you have any say in choosing the book cover? I love it!
I love it too! Tyndale surprised me with that cover on stage when they announced my book as the winner of the 2008 Operation First Novel contest. It so beautifully captures the story. I couldn’t be happier with it. The designer, Jennifer Ghionzoli, is brilliant. She actually took that picture of the books on the cover herself.
I looked at your pictures on facebook and ran across Jerry Jenkins holding this very book cover poster you are holding. Can you tell me the story behind that photo. I'm sure it's a good one?
The picture where Jerry B. Jenkins is holding a poster of the Thicker than Blood cover was taken moments after he announced my novel as the winner of the 2008 Christian Writer's Guild Operation First Novel contest at their annual Writing for the Soul writers conference. Part of the prize of the contest includespublication with Tyndale House. Operation First Novel is an annual contest the Christian Writers Guild holds in which writers can submit their complete manuscripts. The CWG selects approximately ten semi-finalists and then four or five finalists. Those finalists are sent to the acquisitions team at Tyndale who make the final selection of the winner. They surprised me on stage with the cover of Thicker than Blood that night too, and it was so awesome!
(second photo with Jerry Jenkins) L-R Karen Watson, C.J. Darlington, and Jerry Jenkins at the Writing for the Soul conference where C.J. found out she won the 2008 Operation First Novel contest.(photo credit: Cindi Koceich of Selah Photography Studios)
I noticed you mentioned real book titles and authors in your book of book treasures. Was it hard to choose what titles you were to put into your book?
That’s a great question. It was actually easier than I thought it would be. As I wrote the story, books would just come to my mind. Some of them I’ve actually seen or held myself, others I’ve only heard about. Then later during revisions I did go back and add in some other titles.
What was the most expensive book treasure you found? What did you find the most nerve racking about book auctions? What did you love most about it?
One of the cooler finds we had the priviledge of selling were several volumes in a set called The Botanical Register. These are books full of hand-colored plates of flowers and plants from the early 19th century. They were amazing. Some of the plates even folded out to become larger. When we got these books in we didn’t realize what we had at first because they were missing their covers and looked really ratty. But then when we opened them up and saw those beautiful plates we realized we had something special. Each volume was worth about a thousand dollars.
Book auctions were a lot of fun. It was especially nerve wracking when we had one of our own books up for sale in the auction. But it was a good kind of nerve wracking because we had no idea how much the books would go for. The auctions gave me the chance to hold so many treasures I might not otherwise have had the chance to see.
Do you have a passion for riding horses and ranches like May did? If so, when did you develop this passion?
I took horseback riding lessons when I was a kid, and my sister and I had our own pony for several years. Her name was Raisin and she was a cute Appaloosa. Then we stopped riding for awhile, but even as a teenager something about cowboys and ranching fascinated me. I have amassed a small library of books on the subject, never ceasing to be intrigued with that lifestyle. Within the last year or so I’ve started volunteering at a horse barn, and it’s been wonderful to be around horses again. The American West has always held me in awe, and I decided to set the book in Colorado, one of my favorite states.
QUESTIONS I KNEW YOU WANTED TO ASK C.J. BUT WERE AFRAID TO SO I DID!! :D
If you could pick two people to hang out with (not necessarily at the same time) in the history of the world, alive or dead (besides Jesus) who would you like to hang out with. What would you do?
Wow. I had to really think about this question.
I think the first person I’d like to hang around would be Albert Einstein. I’d love to pick his brain and try to understand the way he thought about the universe.
Second, I think I’d go with Frank Peretti. I’ve admired him as a writer for many, many years, and it would be fun to have coffee with him and talk about writing.
Name four of your favorite books of all time.
Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti - one of the first adult Christian novels I ever read. I think I re-read it at least five times.
Christy by Catherine Marshall – I read this around the same time as the Peretti, I think I was twelve.
What movie most impacted you as a kid? Why?
We watched a lot of old Disney movies growing up. I think I’ve seen Swiss Family Robinson at least ten times. I can’t think of any that impacted me hugely though. I enjoyed the BBC versions of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Black Stallion.
Name three things you would not want to live without?
Besides my family, of course . . .
My computer, because that’s what I write on. I could adapt to pen and paper, I suppose, but I think it would take me a lot longer.
Books. I love books! If I had to give them up life could be pretty miserable.
My dogs. They really are my children.
This is my first born~~
What was the last movie you saw in the theater? Did you like it and what kind of snacks are your favorite movie treats?
The Blind Side. Enjoyed that one a lot. It had some really funny parts and yet dealt with a serious subject as well. It was especially cool that it was based on real life events and people. I love to get a small bag of popcorn (so I don’t overeat!) and a cup of flavored coffee. Going to the movies (if it’s a good movie) is one of my favorite things to do.
You find yourself in a life threatening situation and you have to call on someone to save you (other than Jesus) who would you call for help? Why?
Other than Jesus? Yikes. Don’t know of anyone else I’d like to call, but if I had to . . . Thinking . . . Oh, I know. Lassie!
ANY FINAL COMMENTS TO MY READERS?
Thank you for reading Christian fiction! Without readers, writers would be a desperate bunch.
Thanks for stopping by C.J. It's been great fun to get to know you and your new book. All the best to you. Can't wait for you to stop by again. Blessings to you in the NEW YEAR!!
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CONGRATS MARLENE - you have won a copy of Thicker Than Blood!! THANKS to everyone for leaving your comments and encouraging this new author.
BLESSINGS to all --Thanks also to C.J. for this interview. IT was fun to get to know you and share your story with my readers.