Monday, June 30, 2014

Interview Feature: CJ Darlington!

Today I have a fun feature for all of you . . . bringing a slice of Dystopian to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog, I give you C.J. Darlington, author of the exciting new YA novel, Jupiter Winds. She is offering a giveaway copy of this awesome novel to one lucky winner, so be certain to enter your name in the giveaway. And I hope you will enjoy getting to know C.J. via her interview!

First, here is a little about the book:

In 2160, a teenager becomes the bait to capture her missing revolutionary parents she thinks are long dead.

Grey Alexander has one goal—to keep herself and her younger sister Orinda alive. Not an easy feat living unconnected in the North American Wildlife Preserve, where they survive by smuggling contraband into the Mazdaar government's city zones. If the invisible electric border fence doesn't kill them, a human-like patrol drone could.

When her worst fear comes true, Grey questions everything she thought she knew about life, her missing parents, and God. Could another planet, whose sky swirls with orange vapors and where extinct-on-Earth creatures roam free, hold the key to reuniting her family?

A fast-paced, character-driven space adventure that's reminiscent of science fiction's golden age.
--KATHY TYERS, author of the Firebird series

 About the Author: C. J. is the award-winning author of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over fifteen years, scouting for stores similar to the ones described in her novels before cofounding her own online bookstore.
In 2006 C. J. started the Christian entertainment Web site with her sister, Tracy, and has been actively promoting Christian fiction ever since. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a Paint horse named Sky. For the latest info on C. J., visit her website:


Welcome to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog! First of all, would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee?

C.J. - Thank you so much for having me, Anne Elisabeth! It’s an honor. Well, let’s see . . . I’ve taken those personality tests online, and I always seem to end up with a different result each time. Ha! I do tend to be introverted, analytical, and too serious at times. But I do love to have fun! If I’m not home working on my own writing or the writing of others with our new publishing company, I am probably at the barn with our horse, Sky! When I’m at the barn, all of life’s concerns and worries fade away, and it’s so easy to lose track of time. I love nature and being outdoors and enjoying my critters. They are what make me smile the most! 

If I had to pick, tea would be my drink of choice. I love a good cup of English Breakfast with a little milk or cream. Irish Breakfast is also delicious. Here’s an interesting story--in my first novel I have a character drinking Bigelow English Breakfast tea. Months after its release, a big package came to my door. I opened it up and saw this gorgeous gift basket of tea assortments, honey sticks, and a mug. They were from Bigelow Tea! The company is family run, and Cindi Bigelow, the President and CEO wrote me a lovely note saying she appreciated that I included their family’s tea company in my book! I have no idea how she got the book, but that was awesome! Thank you, Cindi, if you’re reading this. 

What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller? How did you get into publishing?

C.J. - There’s something about stories. I have always loved them, first as a reader, but quite early on in my life, as a writer. When I was young I had great fun writing out silly stories about my dogs on my dad’s old word processor. Get this--I once said I would never write stories about humans, but only write about animals! God instilled the love of writing stories in my heart as a kid, and that carries me through the tougher days when the words don’t flow as easily as I’d like. I can rest assured that it’s His plan as he placed the dream in my heart. 

I dreamt about my words being read by others early too, but it wasn’t until I was in my late twenties that the dream became a reality. I had been writing and submitting my work for publication for many years with only an occasional short story accepted. My big dream was to publish a novel. I took every tidbit of insight from editors who rejected my first novel Thicker than Blood and kept revising it until eventually I entered it into the 2004 Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest. I was a semi-finalist that year, but I didn’t win. I kept submitting and entered the contest again in 2008. That year I was shocked to find out I had won. Tyndale House published the novel and my next book Bound by Guilt.

Tell us a little about your work! Jupiter Winds is your first spec fiction novel, right? What other genres have you written in the past?

C.J. - All three of my previous novels are contemporary stories that take place in Colorado. Each features a different rare book and fun book collecting tidbits. When Thicker than Blood and Bound by Guilt went out of print with Tyndale, I re-released them with my family’s publishing company, Mountainview Books, LLC. I also released a third book called Ties that Bind.

Jupiter Winds is indeed my first speculative novel. 

Now tell us a little about Jupiter Winds specifically. When did you begin to come up with the idea? What led to this switch in genres? 

C. J. - When it came time to write my fourth book, I was burned out. I was focusing so much on what I thought my readers would want that I forgot to ask myself what I wanted. That sounds selfish, but if an author doesn’t first write for herself, then it can show on the pages. I prayed and asked the Lord to show me what to write, and it wasn’t long before a little germ of an idea planted in my brain. What if . . . 

I’ve always enjoyed a good speculative tale, and it was a story along these lines that called to me. I gave myself permission to write an “out there” novel just for me, something I knew I would enjoy reading. Admittedly, I am newer to the spec genre than some. But I’ve been a fan of some of the secular dystopian novels of late too. However, one thing that usually disappoints me is their lack of hope. With Jupiter Winds I wanted to include that elusive and much-needed hope that so many YA stories lack. 

Since I am a relative newcomer to the genre, after I finished Jupiter Winds, I was so scared I was breaking unknown rules and readers would bombard by inbox with screams and laments. But thankfully my beta readers assured me that wasn’t the case, and Kathy Tyers actually gave me an endorsement. 

That said, I do realize I am sort of breaking modern science fiction’s rules about Jupiter. I know it isn’t a habitable planet due to scientific fact, but what if everything we thought we knew was a lie? 

Can you pick a favorite character from this new novel?

C.J. - I am usually most attached to my main characters, this time a seventeen-year-old girl named Grey Alexander. But Mrs. March, a spry eighty something woman, stole the show for me. She is so much more than first meets the eye.

 What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration?

C. J. - Sometimes watching a good movie will inspire me. I love going to the movie theater and sitting back and immersing myself in another world. I’ve been watching a lot of the super-hero Marvel movies of late, and I think they rubbed off on me as I wrote Jupiter Winds. Spending time outside away from the computer can be rejuvenating as well.

 If I really get in a funk, I find myself reaching out to the authors who have become my mentors for advice. They usually have just the right word—because they’ve been there—to inspire and encourage. Or they might recommend the perfect book to pick up for encouragement. That happened to me just the other day.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process? 

C.J. - I am not a big fan of brainstorming, but that comes from finding it difficult to turn off my inner editor. It’s something I need to work on for sure. I love the first moments of discovery as I’m just beginning to write a story, but I also find joy in the revision because I know that’s where I can sculpt the story.

Research is probably my least favorite part of the process. I’d prefer to make everything up! 

 If you were forced to pick a single favorite author, who would it be?

C.J. - I could read Sibella Giorello’s books every day. Her Raleigh Harmon mystery series has become a favorite of mine. But I also love James Scott Bell, M.K. Gilroy, Frank Peretti, Kathy Tyers . . . oh, the list goes on! How could you possibly expect me to pick just one? 

What are you actively writing right now? 

C.J. - I just started a new contemporary novel with some elements I’ve been wanting to write for awhile now. I also have the first scene of a second Jupiter novel written. So ask me this in a few months and I’ll be able to give a better answer. 

Can you share a short snippet from Jupiter Winds? 

C. J. - Since you can read the first three chapters or so on Amazon, I’ll pick something from further in the book. This is from Chapter 21 and shows Grey’s first glimpse of the planet’s surface:

 Excerpt from

Grey tensed as the ship decelerated, her face still throbbing. “Prepare to move!”
The soldiers gripped their stocky blueflares. They looked like they were capable of burning through walls. Or through a person. She didn’t realize she was barely breathing until the outline of the cargo door appeared in front of them. Grey exhaled, trying to calm herself. Touchdown came seconds later, a jolt to her feet. The drone assigned to her tightened its vice-like hold.
“Do not resist,” it spoke matter-of-factly.
The door slipped upward on a silent track, and Grey gawked at her first look at Jupiter. A rush of warm, dusty air swirled around them, and for a moment all the humans froze in awe, glancing from the sky to the ground and back. The drones stared straight ahead. 
The soil looked like colored marble—shades of yellow, red, and blue swirled together in a kaleidoscope of dust. Strange, twisted trees with iridescent leaves hulked in the distance. Beyond them were mountains unlike any she’d ever seen. With pointed, vertical rock formations, they looked like a row of massive medieval castles all stretching toward the heavens.
“Move out!”
As one, the Mazdaar army poured from the cosmoship. She labored to keep up while craning to see the sky. Far above the mountains, where on Earth you would expect to see blue, a roiling sea of red and orange clouds writhed and twisted.
“Holy cow,” someone muttered.
The skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Grey heard the words in her mother’s calm voice, and she could almost see Mom’s face and the way she’d stare at a desert sunset with a young Grey at her side. Mom had always loved sunsets.
The drone shoved Grey in the back, shaking away the memory. She focused on keeping her feet moving. Before them stood a massive domed building, very much like something they’d see on Earth. The soldiers rushed toward it, forcing Grey along with them.

Wow, thank you for that thrilling glimpse of your world, C.J.!

I hope all of you readers are ready to pick up a copy of Jupiter Winds and try a dose of space-adventure and Dystopian drama. Be certain to congratulate C.J. on this awesome release and feel free to ask her questions about her work as well. I'm sure she has plenty of tips and words of encouragement to aspiring novelists out there! a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sarah Pennington said...

Jupiter Winds sounds super cool!
Question for C.J.: where's your favorite place to write?

C.J. Darlington said...

Great question! You'd think that would be an easy one to answer, but... I have enjoyed writing in coffee shops, but I usually end up being too distracted by everything. I've been writing a lot at the dining room table, actually, but my chair isn't as comfortable as I like! I think my favorite place to write is just at a little folding table in my bedroom with limited distractions, maybe a little music playing, and a cup of that tea we were talking about!

Unknown said...

This is cool! Let me think - how long does it take you to write a book?

Anonymous said...

"Each features a different rare book and fun book collecting tidbits." Do you collect books or just like old books? What is a rare book that you have collected and where did you find it if you have one?


Hayden said...

Since you love old books, is there a particular classic novel that you find to be your favorite?

Unknown said...

How do you cure writer's block?

Ryebrynn said...

This book sounds awesome!
Do you find it easier to write in the presence of animals? :)


C.J. Darlington said...

Hi guys! Answers to your questions:

Q: Do you collect books or just like old books? What is a rare book that you have collected and where did you find it if you have one?

A: I don't collect really rare books, but I do love having full bookshelves. I have a collection of books on cattle ranching and cowboys that I enjoy reading. During my book scouting days, my sister and I were given a collection of books from a neighbor, and in those books were three or four books full of beautiful botanical color plates. We had no idea how much they were worth, but it ended up being several hundred dollars each!

Q: Since you love old books, is there a particular classic novel that you find to be your favorite?

A: Well, if classic is defined as before 1960, then the Chronicles of Narnia is my all time favorite classic series. Older than that though, I loved the Dr. Dolittle books (surprise!) as a kid, and I read Little Women several times.

Q: How do you cure writer's block?

A: I am still learning how to do this! But the advice I've received about this is to write through the block. Even if it feels like what you're writing is utter drivel. Write anyway. I also am finding that writing fast without worrying about editing has really helped me produce more.

Q: Do you find it easier to write in the presence of animals? :)

A: LOL! I'm writing this right now with one of my dogs curled up beside me. My dogs and our family's horse make me smile and laugh. That's gotta help the writing!

Georgina said...

Jupiter Winds sounds fascinating! I think it's neat how you wrote a spec fiction novel after writing contemporary fiction because that's what you wanted to write. :) Was it difficult to switch genres?

C.J. Darlington said...

Georgina, it was harder than I thought it would be. The world building was more difficult than I first pictured. Even though I was making a lot up, I still had to decide the rules and laws of this new storyworld. I have renewed respect for all fantasy and science fiction writers!

I still am writing my contemporary stories, too, so it's going to be fun to write in both.

Katie and Anna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie and Anna said...

How much time do you spend writing each day?
- Katie

Granny's Attic said...

I see that you are working on two books at the same time. Most writers are so involved in just one that they sometimes lose contact with the real world. How do you keep your works separate?

C.J. Darlington said...

Katie and Anna said...
Q: How much time do you spend writing each day?

A: If I'm being completely honest (which I am!) -- not enough. Seriously. I procrastinate like everyone. Some days I don't write at all. Other days it'll be for a couple hours.

Q: I see that you are working on two books at the same time. Most writers are so involved in just one that they sometimes lose contact with the real world. How do you keep your works separate?

A: Actually, I may have given that impression, but I usually don't work on two projects at once--at least not in the same process for each. I might be thinking about one and writing the other. I do find it best to concentrate on one novel at a time. It's always fun though when you look up and lose track of time!

C.J. Darlington said...

LOL - I just read the part in the interview where I said I was working on a contemporary and the Jupiter Winds sequel! I forgot I said that! It is true, but since I wrote that I have decided to work on one at a time. Sorry for the confusion!

Anonymous said...


Becca McCann said...

Hi C.J.! How many drafts of a novel do you have to do before you feel like it's really finished? And when it is, does it match the original vision you had for it?

Unknown said...

"Jupiter Winds" sounds fascinating! I love a good dystopian novel. ^_^ On that note, whilst writing this book how did you avoid adding things that other authors of dystopia have already put in their novels? I have a dystopia series in the works, and so many times I've had brilliant ideas.... only to discover somebody else had them first.

C.J. Darlington said...

Annie asked: How many drafts of a novel do you have to do before you feel like it's really finished? And when it is, does it match the original vision you had for it?

Answer: For Jupiter Winds, I ended up going through 10+ drafts, I think. The first draft is usually the messiest, but that's where the story first comes out since I don't outline. The next draft was trying to clean up that mess! And the consecutive drafts after that. As I get closer to completion, each draft needs less. I have a beta reader/editor (my mom!) who helps me a lot. She's great at seeing things I don't see. Sometimes there just comes a point when you have to say, "Stop! I can't possibly do another draft!) because I could fiddle with it forever sometimes. You know usually when you're really only finding small things like a comma change or something.

Question: Whilst writing this book how did you avoid adding things that other authors of dystopia have already put in their novels?

Answer: Sometimes you can't avoid having similarities. For example, my book features a girl and her younger sister (sound familiar?). Try to not use the very first idea that pops into your head (unless you're writing the first draft, and then just go for it to keep the flow). A few times I made conscious decisions. Like I purposely did NOT give my character Grey a skill like archery or even skill with a weapon as I felt that had been overdone of late. Does that answer your question?