Nobody combines the world of rare book with murder better than C.J. Darlington. That’s why I’m so thrilled to have C.J. here today for this interview. What a treat. Now, on to the questions…
Nike: BOUND BY GUILT has a rare book subtheme, just like your first book, THICKER THAN BLOOD. I’m interested to find out how rare books got to be a passion of yours.
C.J.: For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to read. One of my favorite pastimes was going to the library. So it only made sense I’d start to haunt used bookstores as I got older. There is this amazing bookstore in West Chester, Pennsylvania called Baldwin’s Book Barn. It’s five stories tall and contains over 300,000 used and rare books. You can literally get lost in it. One day I was perusing the shelves and saw a book for $20 or $30, and something clicked. I’d seen the book before. Only it was $1 or $2 at a different used bookstore down the road from us. My sister and I asked ourselves, could we buy the cheaper book, sell it to them wholesale and make a profit? It all started from there. We were seventeen years old, and we didn’t know our little idea was called book scouting. Soon we were scouting for several bookstores in our area and turning a small profit. But it was a lot of work. Within a year we realized we needed to cut out the middle man and sell the books directly to consumers ourselves. The internet was just taking off for used book dealers, and we jumped into the foray with both feet and started our own online bookstore. We began traveling to used book sales all across the country, and the business quickly grew into something we couldn’t handle on our own. Mom was the first to join us, and then our dad followed suit. Now that little book business started by two ambitious teenagers is our entire family’s business. I was able to incorporate a lot of what I learned about rare books and the book business in my novels.
Nike: And you wound the action around the rare books theme. You have a murder take place in a rare books store. How do you decide where to start the suspense? Are you a seat of your pants writer, or do you have a detailed outline you write by?
C.J.: Yes, and a rare first edition of The Great Gatsby takes center stage! I am definitely a seat of the pants writer. I do like to know a little bit about a story before I start writing, but I find that for me if I worry too much about plot too early in the process it has the potential to get me stuck. I usually know my main characters, a few key scenes and hopefully the ending, but sometimes I know less than this. And it works. My rough drafts often require many rewrites, but I’m often discovering the story I want to tell as I write that initial draft.
Nike: It seems you like to put your characters through harrowing experiences, but then you always lead them toward God’s grace. Isn’t it right that your characters also learn lessons in human forgiveness, not only God’s forgiveness?
C.J.: Totally. Forgiveness is a big part of the story in BOUND BY GUILT, both human and Divine. There are characters in the story who desperately need to forgive, and there are those who desperately need to receive forgiveness, both from God and their fellow man.
Nike: My husband and I were foster parents and then much later adopted children out of the foster care system. We’ve seen how these children have had their childhoods ripped from them. You show the reality of a child who comes from this system, a child. Was it hard to write about a child who had been so disillusioned?
C.J.: Roxi’s story is definitely a sad one, but I think it’s important to shine the light on this issue. It’s so easy to forget there are hurting kids like her all around us. Through this story I hope to show, rather than tell, what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ. There were definitely times during the writing where I felt Roxi’s sadness and the desperation of her plight. For me, to write about a character effectively I have to put myself in their shoes, and that’s hard when they’ve faced so many troubles at such a young age. But by truly experiencing her pain, it enables us to truly experience the emotion she feels when someone reaches out to her with genuine love.
Nike: What is it you would like your readers to get out of this book?
C.J.: I hope they’ll be challenged to look past outward appearances and see people, especially teens, the way God sees them. Love them for who they are with no strings attached. Love them even when they make mistakes. Love truly does cover over a multitude of wrongs.
BOUND BY GUILT can be purchased at Tyndale House. http://www.tyndale.com/C-J-Darlington/bio
And at Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_sc_0_15?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=c.j.+darlington&sprefix=c.j.+darlington#/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_14?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=bound+by+guilt&sprefix=bound+by+guilt&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Abound+by+guilt