September 30, 2011

Made It Moment: C.J. West

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 8:24 am

The End Of Marking Time

I’ve waited a long time to have C.J. to the blog because his visionary novel was one of the more unusual, intriguing ones I read last year, and it’s interesting that his reason for delay was a belief that he hadn’t made it yet. No one ever does! We’ve had international bestseller Sophie Hannah appear in this column, Edgar winner Stefanie Pintoff, Edgar nominee Tim Hallinan, and Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery winner Gerrie Ferris Finger, among many, many others–and none of them seem quite sure of the idea.

C.J.’s piece speaks to the reality that fans, movie options, and even being included in a school’s curriculum won’t be convincing. What then does constitute inarguable success? C.J. leaves us with a clue I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.

C.J. West

I’m an optimist. Since most of us can make more money mowing lawns than writing novels, it takes an optimist to keep churning out pages day after day. When asked to write this column a year ago my answer was, “But I haven’t made it.” I haven’t reached my writing goals yet, but I have had some great moments along my journey that encourage me to get up each morning and rush to the keyboard.

My first moment came three years after I released Sin & Vengeance. A screenwriter contacted me and in a few months we signed a contract for a film option. The owner of a small production company loved her screenplay and we optioned it into development. We were just $3.5 million away from a finished film. Sadly, we are still looking for an investor, but the project convinced me that my work had spark.

I’ve had many moments with fans, but one really stands out. I was invited to a Christmas party by a woman who read my books and shared them with friends. When I arrived a man I didn’t know grabbed me by the arm (literally) and raved to me for an hour about Sin & Vengeance. At my next book launch, he bought 16 books and mailed them to friends.

My latest moment came when a university criminal justice professor emailed to tell me he wanted to use The End of Marking Time as part of his curriculum. Having my work used by students was a tremendous honor and it left me feeling that my work had merit.

These three moments tell me my work is resonating with readers and it is only a matter of time before I reach enough of them to get where I’ll believe I’ve made it.

C.J. West is the author of the thrillers The End of Marking Time, Sin and Vengeance, A Demon Awaits, Gretchen Greene and Taking Stock. Sin and Vengeance, the first book in C.J.’s Randy Black series, is currently in development for film with Beantown Productions, LLC (screenplay by Marla Cukor). C.J. also hosts a Blog Talk Radio show which features interviews of contemporary thriller and suspense writers. Find C.J. at or at


  1. Great post. I haven’t quite traded in my lawnmower yet :)

    I love the Christmas party story. Even more than the fact that he later bought 16 books. Because the former is what we want as writers, to know that a complete stranger with no obligations to be nice has read and truly enjoyed our stories. Congratulations, C.J. A great piece and a good bit of inspiration.

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    Comment by Paul Dail — September 30, 2011 @ 8:29 am

  2. I can relate. When I was asked to speak to a class on Japanese history and culture via speakerphone, I felt my novel had been legitimized. Professors are a tough sell, and they rarely use novels in non-English courses. Hope you have many more moments like that!

    Comment by Sara — September 30, 2011 @ 8:37 am

  3. Those are three ‘made-it moments’ many writers will never achieve. But examples like these offer hope for all. Congratulations, C. J. and best wishes for continued success.

    Comment by J. R. Lindermuth — September 30, 2011 @ 9:16 am

  4. Sounds like you’re on your way.


    Comment by Arthur Levine — September 30, 2011 @ 9:21 am

  5. Thanks for this inspiring post CJ. It’s so true that the made it moment seems elusive. That being said, I love your three special moments. They are all affirm your skill as a writer and it sounds like you are well on your way to the big moment you’ve been waiting for!

    Comment by Johanna — September 30, 2011 @ 9:27 am

  6. I am always so surprised to read these moments. Seeing the things that make a person feel like they are on the right track in doing what they love is good for me, when I wonder if I should go back to work or not. It keeps me with my goals in front of me!

    Comment by Connie J Jasperson — September 30, 2011 @ 9:54 am

  7. Nice to know the lawnmower is still there for backup. I love that he’s made it farther than 99% of the authors I know, but still doesn’t believe he’s made it. In my book he’s already there. Good luck CJ!

    Thanks for another wonderful “moment” Jenny.

    Comment by mountainmama — September 30, 2011 @ 11:05 am

  8. Great inspiring story.

    Comment by Lisa Zhang Wharton — September 30, 2011 @ 11:20 am

  9. It’s always nice to hear of a success story, for it gives one hope. While we all should be realistic enough to realize that they are few and far in between, the fact that it’s happening sends home a powerful message. Work hard, tell a really good story, and it just might work! Wonderful post and Congratulations!

    Comment by Collette Scott — September 30, 2011 @ 11:32 am

  10. What a wonderful Made It Moment, CJ! Jenny, Thanks so much for sharing this with us.


    Comment by Sandy — September 30, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

  11. Fabulous! The idea of ‘made it’ is an odd one, no? But you are on your way in every way. Congratulations, my friend.

    Comment by Julie D. — September 30, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  12. Great post and inspiration for the rest of us. Thanks, Jenny and CJ.

    Comment by Steve Piacente — September 30, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

  13. Thank you all so much for your kind words.

    Few things have been more humbling or more joyful for me than writing and selling my novels. I can hear in many of your comments that we are walking along the same road, veering from sheer delight to dejection sometimes in a matter of hours. What a great idea Jenny had to create a place where we can share the highlights of our journey and visit to be inspired by others.

    Thank you Jenny and everyone for your encouragement!

    Comment by CJ West — September 30, 2011 @ 3:41 pm

  14. CJ is a tremendous writer who’s never content to stay inside the lines; he pushes the genre and the reader every time. I’ve always liked writers who work on tiptoe, and CJ does it all the time. Anyone who hasn’t read THE END OF MARKING TIME has a great time coming.

    Comment by Timothy Hallinan — September 30, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

  15. I definitely think CJ has made it as a writer! When readers rave about your novels, you have to feel vindication for all those hours of hard work spent on writing and rewriting. Congrats!

    Comment by Jacqueline Seewald — September 30, 2011 @ 7:14 pm

  16. CJ, I’ve always thought having a story made into film, or being used as part of the curriculum at at college the highest an author can reach. Congratulations! I’d say you’ve made it :)

    Comment by Susan — October 1, 2011 @ 12:54 am

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