Friday, January 30, 2009

Interview with CJ Lyons

I’d like to welcome our guest today, CJ Lyons. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us at Much Cheaper Than Therapy again, where chocolate is plentiful and advice is free. So grab some chocolate and a lounge chair. Your therapy session has begun.  

I understand you have a new release out called WARNING SIGNS. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

WARNING SIGNS is the sequel to my debut medical suspense novel, LIFELINES. It takes place at Pittsburgh's Angels of Mercy's Medical Center where medical student Amanda Mason suspects there is a connection in the mysterious deaths of her patients. But when she begins to experience the same deadly symptoms, she realizes they are warning signs of worse to come.

With the help of her friends—Gina, a roommate recovering from her own trauma; Lydia, a streetwise ER attending; and Nora, a by-the-book charge nurse—Amanda must solve this medical mystery before she becomes the next victim...

WARNING SIGNS is a very interesting title. How did you arrive at that name?

My original title for the story was Catalyst, but Berkley's marketing department was worried that it sounded too clinical, so they came up with WARNING SIGNS. WARNING SIGNS definitely also fits the story, so it works for me!

What made you decide to write in this genre?

My background as a pediatric ER doctor gives me a bit of an edge in the medical suspense genre, not to mention 17 years of stories to draw from.

Are you a plotter or a pantser and how did it affect the writing of this book?

Definite pantser! I don't think it affects any particular book—it's just the way my mind works. I had a pretty tight deadline for WARNING SIGNS and there were times when I wondered if things might be easier if I plotted ahead of time—especially with having to weave four major plotlines together.  

But in the end, I think going with my instincts is the way to go. It's kind of fun not knowing what's going to happen next and surprising myself!

Did you have to do a lot of research for the book? What are your favorite research books or sites?

I drew on several recent news events as the basis for one of the plotlines in WARNING SIGNS. But my most fun research came when I went to Pittsburgh and met the River Rescue guys as well as when I went to Toledo and actually entered a hyperbaric chamber.

I'll be posting photos about my Adventures in Research on my website, under the Extras page, at

As for my favorite research method, it's talking to people. I'm on several helpful groups, including the CrimeSceneWriters loop where I both ask questions of the other experts and share my own medical expertise with other writers.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

I had set up the plotline in LIFELINES but really without any good idea of what exactly was causing Amanda's mysterious symptoms. Then, as I researched them, I came up with a way to incorporate current events into the book and it worked out very nicely.
Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

I had a lot of fun writing Lydia and Gina in this book. Even though it's Amanda's story, kind of a coming of age tale, both Lydia and Gina have significant changes in their relationships that were interesting to explore and set up for future stories.

Tell us about how you develop your characters. Do you create character sheets, do interviews, that sort of thing? How does your research affect your character development?

Nothing so structured! Writing a series has allowed me to really get to know my main characters and I learn more about them with each book. I'm working on book 3 now, Nora's story, and they're still surprising me—but I love it when characters come to life like that!
A lot of my fan mail has been about the characters and how real they seem to readers—the best compliment a writer can get, in my opinion!

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Too many to list! Here's a short list: David Morrell, Ray Bradbury, Mark Helprin, Lisa Gardner, Lee Child, Dean Koontz, Tess Gerritsen, Stephen King….again there are so many more!

What do you feel is the most effective promotion you have done for your book?

I don't think I've really done any effective promotion, lol! But the one thing that seems to have helped is something that I was doing even before LIFELINES was released and that's teaching.
I've been lucky enough to have been invited to give keynote speeches, workshops, and master classes to groups such as the Colorado Fiction Writers, Oklahoma Writers Federation, the University of South Carolina at Beaufort, RWA National, MWA's Sleuthfest, Lowcountry RWA's Master Class, Left Coast Crime, and PennWriters, among others.

Getting great reviews (knock on wood, so far they've all been good!) from places such as Publishers' Weekly, Newsday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Romantic Times, and the Baltimore Sun has certainly helped as well, but I have no control over them other than writing the best book I can.

What do we have to look forward next?

Book 3 in the Angels of Mercy Series, URGENT CARE, will be released November, 2009. It follows ER charge nurse Nora Halloran as she must face her past as a survivor of a vicious sexual assault when the perpetrator returns, only this time he's killing his victims.

URGENT CARE has been my most difficult novel to write so far. Not only is the subject matter sensitive, but I've personally cared for many sexual assault victims so that I find myself working extra-hard trying to honor their courage.  

This book also marks the turning point for several of the main characters and is probably the novel most reflective of my tag line: No one is immune to danger.

Thanks, CJ!

To celebrate her book release, CJ is offering a free copy of LIFELINES to one lucky commenter on today's blog. She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

About CJ:
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a national bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller." The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, is due out January, 2009. Contact her at

Buy LIFELINES or WARNING SIGNS at any major bookstore or online at Barnes and Noble or


Anonymous said...

Good morning CJ. Thanks for joining us again on Much Cheaper Than Therapy. Medical thrillers are so intriguing. Glad I don't have to check into a hospital any time soon. Are there any scenes that you or your editor took out in the final draft that you hated to see go?

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks for having me, Kim! So far my editor hasn't asked me to cut any scenes.

There have been a few re-worked for continuity sake or to increase drama and tension. But that's all a normal part of the editing process--it's rare that your first vision is the most compelling.

liana laverentz said...

Hi, CJ, just a hello and have a great day from a Pennwriter. I love medical thrillers, too. Enjoy the calorie free chocolate here at Much Cheaper Than Therapy!

CJ Lyons said...

Hi Liana! I hope to see you at PennWriters in May--I'll be doing a few workshops for them. said...

It was fun seeing the inner workings of a medical thriller. And I love series where the same characters wander in and out of each others' books.

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Donna! I also love weaving the characters' lives together--such fun!

Carolyn Matkowsky said...

Great interview, CJ.I really enjoyed reading about you and your books. I love medical thrillers. I also love series. I'll definitely be reading your books.

Carolyn Matkowsky/Cara Marsi

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Carolyn! I hope you enjoy LIFELINES and WARNING SIGNS!
Have a great weekend!

Donna Del Grosso said...

Your series sounds intriguing and I n=might jsut give it a try. I'm also glad that I don't have to check into the hosptal. Shivers!!!!!!

Tina LaVon said...

I'm amazed you find time to write with such a challenging career.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Donna Hatch. You're the winner of CJ's book. Please contact Kim at kwatters21 (at) to claim your prize. Thanks for stopping by our blog.