Art By Bella Raine >

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Hello!! Welcome to my blog! My name is Bella Raine, and I am a Christ following, creative, outgoing teenager. This blog is about all things art, books, and writing!

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Bella Raine

Bella Raine

Author Interview- CJ Milacci


I told you to stay tuned for my next post and here it is as promised!!! I have for you an interview with the award-winning author of the Talionis series (yup the same one I just did a review of, here!)… CJ Milacci!!

I’ve gotten the honor to chat with CJ a bit over the last few months, and can I just say, she is a joy! Her personality is so fun, her writing is superb, and her heart for her readers and Christ is beautiful! I’m so excited to share this with you today!!


Bella Raine: “Hello CJ! I’m so honored to have you here! Can you introduce yourself?”

CJ Milacci: “Bella, I’m thrilled to be here! Thanks for having me. My name is CJ Milacci and I’m the award-winning author of the Talionis Series (Recruit of Talionis and Fugitive of Talionis) and the host for the Read Clean YA with CJ podcast. I write stories for teens and young adults with heart-pounding action and true hope.”

BR: “How did you first get into writing? Do you remember what your first story was?”

CJM: “For many years I worked in youth and young adult ministries, and I loved talking to the girls about books. I would ask them about the books they were reading and what they loved, and then go and read the stories for myself. The stories were great, and I quickly discovered why they were well-loved books. But one thing I found time and time again was that they were void of any hope.

“I knew a lot of these girls had incredibly difficult things going on in their lives and I also knew how important it was for them to understand that hope could be found even in the darkest of places. So I went on a hunt to find books that were as exciting and well-written as the books the girls loved, but also had hope in them. At the time, I couldn’t find anything. I remember praying about it and asking God what to do, and He put it on my heart to begin writing the stories I was looking for. It seemed like an impossible task at the time. I’d never written a book before and I had no clue where to begin, but that prompting continued. So I asked the Lord to give me the story to write and show me how to do this, and that kicked off this incredible journey.

“My first story was actually a (very bad) version of Recruit of Talionis. I quickly realized I needed to learn a LOT more about writing, so I set it aside and spent several years honing my craft, going to writers conferences, and writing other stories before I came back and totally rewrote and reworked Recruit.”

BR: “Where did the idea for the Talionis series come from?”

CJM: “This is a great question! I really believe the seed of the idea was something God put in my heart and then watered and grew through my life experiences, study of the Bible, and love of different kinds of stories. I also find “what if” questions to be quite fascinating, so asking some of those questions helped develop the Talionis Series. Like, What if America fell like the Roman Empire fell and the rest of the world moved on and forgot all about the survivors? Or what if a girl was kidnapped and forced to become a soldier, while also wrestling through darkness from her own past? The questions help push the story forward, and some questions completely change the trajectory of the series—which is both fun and a little terrifying when I’m writing. :)”

BR: “What made you decide to publish independently vs traditionally?”

CJM: “I love the freedom and information that comes with publishing independently. It allows me to have control over when and how I publish my books (which means I don’t have to wait years for a traditional publisher), gives me the freedom to run different types of campaigns (like Kickstarter pre-releases for my books), provides me with access to data (so I can see what marketing techniques are working and which ones are not working), and it gives me the opportunity to work with some incredible professionals to produce my books (like my insanely talented cover designer, Emilie Haney).

“Once I decided to pursue indie publishing, the one thing I wanted to ensure was that my books were as professionally produced as a traditional book, which meant hiring a cover designer, editors, etc. And I’ve loved the experience of working with so many amazing people to produce my books!”

BR: “I know this might be difficult to answer, but what is your favorite part of writing?”

CJM: “Oh that is hard to answer! I love drafting, because, even though I now plot things out more than I ever did before, there’s always something that happens in the drafting stage that shocks me. Characters show up that I’d never even thought of. Someone does something I didn’t plan on. There’s a twist I didn’t see coming. It’s both fun and nerve-wracking at the same time! But I love seeing how God will take my stories and do with them more than I ever anticipated, and it’s a lot of fun creating the story with Him.”

BR: “When you’re not writing, what other hobbies do you enjoy?”

CJM: “I love roller blading, bike rides and walking. And I love creating in different ways, like cooking, photography, water coloring, or learning a new craft. I also really enjoy spending time with my family, whether it’s sharing a meal, playing games, watching a movie, or cheering on the Philadelphia Eagles (whether they’re doing good…or terrible. I’m from Philly, so I’ll always be an Eagles fan 😉 ).”

BR: “Do you have a favorite fictional book you read for fun?”

CJM: “Okay, I get this question a lot, and I’m TERRIBLE at answering it! I tend to be bad at picking favorites in general, but I will say I love The Calculated Series by Nova McBee, and everything Nadine Brandes writes.”

BR: “Who are some of your favorite authors or your author role-models?”

CJM: “Oh this ties in nicely with the last question! I love Nadine Brandes, and had the privilege of interviewing her on my podcast and getting to know her a bit—she’s fabulous. And Nova McBee is also great and one of my favorites. As far as author role models, I really look up to S.D. Smith and Tricia Goyer, among many others, and think both Nova and Nadine fit in that category too. :)”

BR: “This is a big question but an important one. Why do you write?”

CJM: “In my bio I say that with each story I write, I seek to take my readers on a grand adventure, where good overcomes evil, hope pierces the darkest of places, and unlikely heroes emerge as they embrace who God created them to be. And that’s why I write. I’m passionate about letting the next generation know they were created for a purpose and that, in Jesus, there can be healing from the pain they’ve faced in their lives. I believe stories can say these truths in a powerful way because stories can sneak past our normal walls and defenses and reveal truth to our hearts in a way that changes us forever.”

BR: “And finally, I feel like I have to ask this one… what is your number one tip for writers?”

CJM: “My number one tip for writers is to invite God into your stories. Let Him be part of the creative process and ask Him to lead you as you write. He is the ultimate Creator, and it’s incredible to watch Him work both in and through us as we create—if we will let Him. I can honestly say that my stories are the way they are because God has shown up and taken these stories to a place I could never have brought them on my own.

“And I know you asked for my number one tip, but here’s my bonus tip: the best stories are created in community. Invite others into the process, and your books with become stronger and better as a result.”


You guys… was that a bonkers amazing interview or what?! Man, I learned a ton, and was amazed by the passion and joy for writing that just exudes from CJ!!

CJ has a new book coming out soon!! The third installment in the Talionis series and I for one cannot WAIT to get my hands on it! She will be launching her Kickstarter really soon, but you can pre-save it now and be the first to know when it goes live!! I highly encourage you do that! 😉 You can find that link here!!


If you want to stay in touch with CJ, you can find her here!!
Website ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

You can find CJ’s first dystopian novel here, and her second novel here, Please be sure to check her books out, they come highly recommended by me!


Thank again so much CJ, for letting me interview you, and thank you, friends, for reading!

What was your favorite thing CJ shared here? Do you read dystopian? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!!

Until next time,

Bella ♥

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17 Responses

  1. Bella this was a wonderful interview. Well done! I feel like I know the author so much better now and can’t wait to look at her website and read her books. We need more writers like her! CJ’s testimony is clear and God-honoring! I’m passing your interview over to my Granddaughters who are voracious readers! They need to meet her! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! I wholeheartedly agree with you there- this world needs more authors like her! I hope that my books will someday bless people as much as her books have! Aw thank you! I hope they enjoy! 🙂
      Thanks for reading and commenting!! 🙂

  2. I liked what CJ said about indie publishing- that’s some of my thoughts behind it as well, and also that she does Kickstarter, which is something I want to keep in mind for the future.

    1. Yes! You should check out her office hours in the ydubs CL, Abby! She talks a lot about Kickstarter and her tips on how to run one since her campaigns have been so successful!!
      Thanks for reading!

    1. Right?? Yes! That’s originally how I found CJ and her books was through her OH on Ydubs!! 😀 Oh she talked on Novel Marketing? I must listen to that!
      Thanks for reading Molly!! <3

    2. I’m so happy you enjoyed the interview, Molly! And thanks for listening in on my episode for the Novel Marketing Podcast and the Young Writer’s Workshop. If you read the books, I hope you enjoy them! ☺️

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