C.J. Darlington is the author of Heart of Belonging. Heart of Belonging is the sixth book in a series that travels alongside four friends as they deal with teen life in Riverbend, Indiana. The novel explores wanting to find love and being part of a real family. YEM was able to speak with C.J. about her journey to becoming an author, the process of writing a book, and advice for future writers.
Young Entertainment Magazine: When did you first know that you wanted to be an author?
C.J.: Darlington: I have always loved stories and reading, but when I was 12 years old, I distinctly remember determining I wanted to write a book and be an author and publish it someday. I didn’t know how long it would take, but I was determined to make it happen. It took many, many years.
YEM: What was your journey to becoming an author like for you?
C.J.: It was definitely a process. I learned through trial and error, reading many novels, devouring how to books on the craft, I wrote a few short stories first, but I actually started the story that would become my first published novel when I was 15 years old, I still have that notebook! I probably won’t be letting anyone read it anytime soon it was so bad. Lol when I was 18, I started to get more serious and then in my early 20s just kept going. There were a lot of down days as well, as I submitted things and was rejected.
I never fully gave up, but I definitely had down days like pretty much every author.
YEM: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
C.J.: Many authors will tell you they don’t always love the actual process of writing, but they love having written. I think I’m the same way. I do enjoy telling stories, but going through the process of writing the first draft can be hard, as can the editing, but ultimately as you sculpt that manuscript and get it where you want it, that is very satisfying.
YEM: What was your favorite part of writing Heart of Belonging?
C.J.: I enjoyed being able to include details about horses from my own personal experiences! When I first started writing I always loved animals and horses, but I didn’t know a ton about them so there was a lot of research, now at this stage of my life I have been involved with horses for many years, and it’s nice to be able to write with confidence about these beautiful creatures.
YEM: What is your process of writing a book?
C.J.: I’m the type of writer who writes what we call seat of the pants. I rarely have any sort of outline, sometimes I will plan ahead a few chapters, but for the most part I come up with the story as I go. Occasionally even I am surprised about a twist or turn that happens as my subconscious works on the story. Writing this way does mean there are often more editing drafts. But I have found it’s the best way for me to get the story out of my head. I still struggle with self-editing too much and not allowing myself to have the freedom to get out the story.
YEM: What is your favorite type of book to write?
C.J.: I don’t know that I could say I have any type of genre that I love the most, I really enjoy writing about real life people in real life circumstances, but that setting can be in our real world or it can be in a fantasy world.
YEM: How long is the typical writing process?
C.J.: I have taken years to write a novel, and I have written a novel in a couple months! The heart of belonging actually was written in the period of about two or three months! In the perfect world I probably need at least six months! But anything is possible if you set your mind to it, I guess.
YEM: What advice do you have for anyone who would want to be a writer in the future?
C.J.: I think one of the Best things an aspiring writer can do is read well! I have never understood how some authors say they don’t read a lot. You end up picking up on how to write a good story without even realizing it as you read.
YEM: What do you think readers will take away from Heart of Belonging?
C.J.: I hope they take away that we don’t have to be perfect for God to accept us And love us. Through Shay’s journey I want people to realize that we can’t do life alone either. We need friends who care about us to come alongside us in our journeys.
YEM: What is a must have skill you need as a writer?
C.J.: I think it’s important to have determination because you’re going to have days where you feel like throwing your manuscript in the trash. And you have to be willing to push through those times. It’s not easy writing sometimes, but if it’s in your heart it’s worth it. You can learn how to write better, but it takes a little bit of determination to keep going on the hard days.
YEM: Who is another author that inspires you?
C.J.: Two authors I have always enjoyed and been inspired by are James Scott Bell and Sibella Giorello. Terrific wordsmiths who are awesome people.
YEM: Are you able to share with us what you are writing now?
C.J.: I’m actually in between projects! I have a bunch of people clamoring for a sequel to my novel Allison Henry and the creatures of Torone though!