C.J. Redwine Shares Her Defiance

Update: We have a winner!  This morning I drew a magic number from Random.org, and our lucky commenter Stacey Joy Netzel wins the signed copy of DEFIANCE.  Stacey, I’ll put you and C.J. in touch with each other so you can send her your address.  Huge thanks to everyone—especially the lovely C.J. herself!—for joining us for this post.  Obviously, there’s a lot of interest in this book!  –Amy

I’m so happy to welcome fellow Pixie Chick (2008 Golden Heart® finalist) C.J. Redwine today.  Her debut release, DEFIANCE hit the shelves at the end of August. If you’ve never met her, you’re in for a treat. C.J. loves stilettos, lemon bars, and any movie starring Johnny Depp. She lives in Nashville with her husband, four kids, two cats, and one long-suffering dog. To learn more, visit her website.  (Seriously, visit it. C.J. is one of the funniest and yet sincere bloggers I know—you’ll love her.)

Like today—C.J. is going to share about what she knows and what she doesn’t know. And why writing what she doesn’t know became the obvious choice. I defy you not to enjoy!  Oh, and just in case you’re thinking you’ll skip, C.J. is offering a signed copy of her book to one lucky commenter with a U.S. mailing address. Read on and leave a comment to enter!  Now, here’s C.J.!

Growing up, I read Little Women so often that my copy literally fell to pieces. I learned a lot of interesting things from that book, but the one that stuck with me was the advice given to Jo to “write what you know.” Those words unlocked the key to her success as an author. As a girl who already knew she wanted to write books for a living, I polished those words to a high shine and gave them a place of honor in my heart.

What do I know? I know how to play a mean game of Monopoly. I can sing almost any song I hear on the radio. I understand early childhood education and how to craft a lesson plan. I am adept at public speaking. I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, a volunteer. I know movies. I know lemon bars. I know cats.

Well, as much as anyone knows cats.

I know shoes. Cooking. How to conjugate verbs in Spanish. I know a great deal about all of those things.

So, when the time came to write the book that was close to my heart, the book that ended up finally landing me a contract for a trilogy, I took a long look at the bright, shiny “write what you know” advice and wrote a post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure with city-states, a wingless, fire-breathing dragon that tunnels up from beneath the earth, assassins, swords, and sonar technology that ends up starting a war.

If you look closely at that list, you’ll discover a noticeable lack of lemon bars, cats, and Spanish verbs. In fact, it looks like I wrote a book about all the stuff I know absolutely nothing about.

I’ll be honest. I added up the list of things I know and decided I didn’t want to read about them. They seemed kind of … boring.

Well, not cats. Cats are rarely boring. They’re too busy planning our eventual ruin to ever be boring.

Click cover to view description of book.

But the rest of it felt so mundane, and when I read a story, I want to escape the ordinary and live a life I could never live outside the pages of a book. I want adventure! Hot boys with swords! Monsters, assassins, and armies, oh my!

So, I wrote a book about all the things I didn’t know, but wanted to experience. I threw the shiny advice I learned from Little Women right out the window and it paid off.

Or did I?

It turns out, I know other things besides movies, mothering, and early childhood education. I know about loss. I know about being broken and having to fight tooth and nail to heal. I know what a first kiss feels like. I know that stomach-churning awkwardness that springs up between two people who don’t know how to feel about each other. I know what it means to be desperate for answers, and to make choices because you have to move forward even though you’re pretty sure those choices are wrong. I know regret. Joy. Passion.

And guess what? I wrote a book about hope, loss, brokenness and the cost of healing. I wrote romance, and first kisses, awkwardness and desperation. Bad choices and consequences, and the steep trek toward redemption.

It turns out I did write what I know. I just packaged it in an epic post-apocalyptic adventure. Maybe that’s the point of that precious advice after all.  Some write about war and treason. Some write about dukes and duchesses. Some write about a Texas oil tycoon and his reluctant bride. But beneath the packaging, writers all share one thing in common. Stories are a way to pull apart the pieces of the human experience, hold them up to the light, and try to make sense of them.

We write what we know.

Thanks, C.J.! Readers, tell us, do you love to read about things that are new and unfamiliar?  Got questions about her story or how she manages to write around a family life that is anything but mundane? She’ll stop in later today to reply.

And for a chance to win an autographed copy of DEFIANCE, leave a comment by midnight tonight. Tomorrow morning, we’ll randomly draw one lucky commenter with a U.S. mailing address as our winner. 


About Amy Atwell

Amy Atwell is a storyteller at heart. After fifteen years in professional theater, she turned from the stage to the page to write contemporary capers and historical tales that combine romance and adventure. Her books are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When not writing, she runs the online author communities WritingGIAM and Author E.M.S.
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60 Responses to C.J. Redwine Shares Her Defiance

  1. I love this, because while I tend to gravitate towards stories with impossible and fantastic elements, my favorites are the ones that feel real to me. Harry Potter and Hunger Games wouldn’t have been the phenomena they are if the characters and their responses to the situations they were in hadn’t felt so authentic. I know some people don’t like crazy stories like that, thinking “this wouldn’t happen,” but I think what makes them great is that if these events did happen, then this really is the way people would act.

    I loved Defiance, and this was a great guest post! Great giveaway too!
    Lauren@The Housework Can Wait`s last blog was …Throwback Thursday (September 13) – The Princess Bride

  2. Haylianne Murray says:

    Thank you for this giveaway! I hope I win! 🙂

  3. Edie Ramer says:

    C.J., what a great post! I real all over the place, and my favorite books have emotion in them. And cats. lol And dragons. I’m definitely going to check out your book – even without the cat.

  4. Dawn says:

    This is gorgeous. Great interview! Write what you “know” is truly write your passion and I can’t wait to get my hands on CJ’s DEFIANCE (even if I have to put down my beloved Johnny Depp biography or reposition one of my cats on the couch)!

  5. Jenea W says:

    I love this post. I tend to be drawn to books that are about brokeness, and hope. Makes you believe that things can always get better. I loved Defiance from start to finish. Thanks for the chance.

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

  6. Sabrena says:

    *wanders off after putting down a copy of the Black Pearl* 😉

  7. Hello Amy and CJ–great post! I really enjoyed it and have to say, I used to pretty much stick to just romance, not much else. Since beginning my indie journey last year, I met many friends like me and have branched out considerably. I love it! There are so many great books out there. Writing what you supposedly don’t know…I totally agree with Lauren about making things feel real and as long as the world building is complete, the rest fits in.

    These days I wouldn’t think twice about reading an epic post-apocalyptic adventure and I have to say I love, love, LOVE your cover!

    Congratulations on your debut release and I hope it does great!!

    • C.J. Redwine says:

      One of the reasons I started reading YA years ago was the wide-openness of the genre. So many fascinating ideas! I love reading broadly. I find I can connect with any book that has an excellent world and authentic characters will a fully realized emotional journey.
      C.J. Redwine`s last blog was …Fast Five with Jay Kristoff

  8. Shay says:

    This is very inspirational. I read a lot of different genres but the human element is in every book I read and can make it or break it for me. If the characters seem like someone who could live next door (no matter if they are vampire or a paranormal private investigator) following the story is a lot easier and more enjoyable.

  9. Stacey Bryan says:

    Wow, what excellent advice – and how true. I find myself writing a lot of historical fiction and those are things I have to research to ‘know’, but I also know about loss, first love, mysterious and magical moments. My writings are full of those things.
    Thanks CJ, for more great advice – all the better that it’s borrowed from Louisa May Alcott! 🙂

  10. Brianna says:

    I love this advice. It’s wonderful inspiration! My favorite thing about books is that I can live a life outside my home. My favorite books are all ones I felt a deep connection with the characters and the issues at hand. The ones I couldn’t even cry over because I was literally too choked up with emotions I couldn’t even explain. Or the ones that prevented me from picking up another book because I was just too devastated to have reached the end of my relationship with my new best friends. In writing, I think that’s important as well. Finding that deep emotional connection to the characters in my head and the situations they are in is what enables me to write in the first place. And when you have that deep of a connection, attachment, investment, etc., it becomes what you know, whether you’re a reader or a writer. 🙂

  11. This is so good! Anne of Green Gables learns a similar lesson by the end of her book series. ha ha! That’s where I got that writerly piece of advice when I was a kid determined to become a published writer someday! But you’re absolutely right. Our lives might seem boring on the surface but what we writers know about people and the way minds work and personalities blend and stress happens and love bites…. all that stuff is far from boring and it works in every world our imaginations want to create.

    Can’t wait to read your book and I hope hope hope I win! Thanks for the giveaway, Amy!
    Amy Sonnichsen`s last blog was …I Recommend: Belinda and the Glass Slipper

  12. Amy Atwell says:

    Thanks SO MUCH for joining us today, C.J. I know how busy you are–especially since last time I visited your blog, it appeared you were 106% complete with your next book. I love how you hone in on the core emotions of your story. THAT’s what draws readers!

  13. Eliza Daly says:

    C.J. this is so well put. So often when your told to write what you know you think you need to be familiar with your setting, character’s professions, etc. The big picture things. But really, a reader usually connects to a story on an emotional level, and precisely the elements you listed and included in your book. I LOVE your cover and wish you lots of luck with Defiance. 🙂

  14. Misty Evans says:

    Welcome to MM, CJ. Your cover is beatufiful – I’d buy the book just because of that! And a good post-apocylptic tale is right up my alley.

    Congrats on the book deal and keep writing all those things you know. 😉

  15. Wonderful post CJ. I read across genres and “a post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure with city-states, a wingless, fire-breathing dragon that tunnels up from beneath the earth, assassins, swords, and sonar technology that ends up starting a war” sounds pretty amazing.

    For me, it’s always the characters and the theme underlying the journey that draws me in and turns the book into a keeper

  16. Wow, what a wonderful post–and so true. The ability to truly capture emotion, the things we all experience or have experienced, are what make any story truly great. I can’t wait to read Defiance!! 🙂

  17. M.V. Freeman says:


    I loved this blog. I am going to favorite it–because when you spoke the truth. We write what we know–no matter the settings we place our books or plots that we twine in there–the heart of it. That is us.

    Bravo, and may you always write what is of your heart–and the words never ever stop.

    (And as a side note–I wish I could conjugate Spanish Verbs!)

  18. Amy R says:

    Reading for me is all about the unknown. I love getting lost in a story that is nothing like my life or what I know. I am really starting to like stories that are not reality – meaning the other worldly/paranormal stories. I do like to balance my reading with stories that could happen though and about happy things I have been through. I still like to read about how boy meets girl and they have ups and downs and then live happily ever after. Nice post- thanks for letting us know more about you. 🙂

  19. magan bagan says:

    Awesome! It’s those life experiences that change and shape us that we can all relate to. And when you write about them, I think that’s what draws readers to certain characters and makes them want to know about their story. And I love Little Women!

    Thanks so much for the giveaway 🙂
    magan bagan`s last blog was …Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

  20. I love big meaty emotional stories.

  21. Susan Mason says:

    Hi CJ,

    You’re so right! I never thought of it that way before – about knowing the emotional journey of your character. So what if you’re not a neurosurgeon! Wing it!

    I probably would never buy/read this type of book (post-apocalyptic fantasy), but because I know what a talented writer YOU are, I will definitely give it a go!!

    Wishing you many sales and good reviews!


  22. Ntzee says:

    Great post! For a reader to be able to connect emotionally and have had some similar experience to what some characters go through in a story, I think it truly shows how great of a writer the author is and how much she put into her writing. You’re awesome CJ! 🙂
    Ntzee`s last blog was …DreamWorks + Leigh Bardugo’s bestseller Shadow and Bone = movie!!!

  23. bn100 says:

    Congrats on the book! I like to read about new things.

  24. Liz Kreger says:

    Terrific post, C.J. Thanx for joining us here at MM today. Some great advice.

    I tend to read urban fantasies, so your book is no doubt right up my alley. I love it when an author can take a situation, whether its about vampires, werewolves, or whatever critter du jour and give it that special twist that makes it “their” supernatural story. I simply adore Ilone Andrews’ world building. It’s unique and so well done that I’m practically drooling in anticipation of their next book.

  25. Shelver506 says:

    Fantastic advice. Write what you know, but don’t JUST write what you know.
    Shelver506`s last blog was …Cover Love #11

  26. Coleen Joan Hill says:

    CJ your book Defiance was amazing. I could not put it down. It pulled me in from the first page and did not let up at all. All of your characters just drew me in. It is a must read for anyone who likes a fast paced, keep you on your toes story. I guarantee your readers will walk away from it with a crush on a fictional character… Loved, loved, loved Logan. At the time I was reading this book, I had to go in and have my wisdom teeth removed. This book was so good that it washed the pain away and gave me a great escape. . I literally worked my life around this book and read it in three days. I read it between making dinner for my family, doing laundry, walking the dogs, taking a break at work, and going to the dentist. It was definitely addicting and could be compared to chocolate or lemon bars! I can hardly wait for the next book CJ.

  27. Kassandra Fuentes says:

    I also love the quote C.J. mentioned in this post, and I have to agree that it is the best advice. It is better to write what you have experienced in your own life, or just what is on your mind. This allows us to create our own world without copying others. Also, it makes the story stand out from all the others.

    Thank you so much for this amazing giveaway :)!

  28. Donya P says:

    Is it hard for you to re-experience the things such as: loss, heart break, and the harder things life has dealt you, as you write?
    If so how do you handle those feelings and funnel them into your work?

    • C.J. Redwine says:

      It can be very hard. I have to push myself to a place of deep emotional vulnerability so I can recapture exactly how that moment felt. There were a few scenes in Defiance that just ruined me for days afterward.
      C.J. Redwine`s last blog was …Weekend Reading

  29. Barbara Elness says:

    I love reading about new and unfamiliar things, especially when an author brings their own spin on something that I’m familiar with to make it completely different. Defiance sounds like a fantastic story and I’m looking forward to reading it.

  30. Xia T. says:

    I love reading about new and unfamiliar things. It’s interesting. Reading about the same things can get pretty boring, so new spins and twists in stories are always good!

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