C.J. Darlington: Homeschool Graduate and Award-winning Christian Novelist
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C.J. is a homeschool graduate, novelist and freelance writer who lives in Pennsylvania with her family, their menagerie of dogs, and a paint horse named Sky. C.J. started writing her first novel, Thicker than Blood, when she was fifteen years old. She got her big break in publishing when that novel won the Christian Writers Guild 2008 Operation First Novel contest. The grand prize included $20,000 and publication by Tyndale House. C.J.'s second contemporary novel, Bound by Guilt, was also published by Tyndale. She had already written most of Bound by Guilt before signing the contract to publish Thicker than Blood.
C.J. looks at writing as an apprenticeship. "A silversmith doesn't show up at the shop and expect to craft a masterpiece their first day," she explains. "It's the same with novel writing." C.J.'s apprenticeship as a writer started when she was sixteen and discovered writing how-to books and magazines like Writer's Digest and The Writer at the library. "I devoured everything I could on the craft, says C.J. "I was so excited that you could actually learn to write. Being homeschooled taught me how to teach myself, so it was a no brainer to teach myself how to write better. I learned so much from those books, but I learned the most from reading other novels."
Besides writing novels, C.J. has written many articles and book reviews, and has conducted numerous author interviews. She has actively promoted Christian fiction ever since 2006 when she started the Christian entertainment website TitleTrakk.com with her sister, Tracy. C.J. is a contributing writer for NovelCrossing.com and is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital magazine, where she has a monthly column called "One Question" and occasionally writes additional features on assignment. She has also written for Christian Retailing magazine.
In 2013, C.J. started her own publishing company, Mountainview Books, LLC, with her mom and sister. Their goal is to bring quality inspirational fiction directly to readers through a vast network of online distributors. Each book they publish is hand selected, carefully edited and proofread. As an indie publisher, they are willing and able to partner with both new and established authors. C.J. published her third novel Ties that Bind through Mountainview Books, and then re-released Thicker than Blood and Bound by Guilt independently through her own publishing imprint as well. C.J.'s newest novel Jupiter Winds is a YA/dystopian/space adventure, published in June 2014.
C.J. views writing as a form of evangelism, since someone who wouldn't go to church and listen to a sermon might be more likely to pick up a novel. "That's my hope---that people would read my stories and understand how much God loves them," C.J. explains. Speaking of her book Bound by Guilt, for example, C.J. says, "The wonderful thing is, like the Scripture one of my characters shares... God can not only forgive our sins, but He can forgive the guilt of our sins too."
In addition to writing, C.J. buys and sells antiquarian books. She has been identifying first editions ever since she started book scouting as a young teen, before co-founding her own online bookstore. "Drop me in a used bookstore and I'm like a kid in a candy shop. I absolutely love used and rare books," she declares. So C.J. always likes to include fun facts about books and book collecting in her stories. "It's also very important to me that the rare books play an integral role to the plot," she adds. "If you take away the rare books, you take away the essence of the story, and that's exactly how I planned it.
"If it weren't for homeschooling, I wouldn't be where I am today," says C.J. "I hope my journey encourages homeschool parents to keep the faith and never give up," she concludes. "You're giving your kids an awesome gift by homeschooling them. I'm living proof that homeschooling works!" If you have written a promising Christian fiction novel, no matter the genre, consider sending a copy of your manuscript to Mountainview Books. As C.J. says, "I was homeschooled for all my schooling years--always good to connect with other homeschool authors!"
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