Friday, December 17, 2010

Interview with CJ Lyons

I’d like to welcome our guest today, CJ Lyons. It’s a pleasure having you come visit us again at Much Cheaper Than Therapy, 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 CRITICAL CONDITION. Can you tell us a little bit about your fabulous new book?

CRITICAL CONDITION is the finale of the Angels of Mercy series, so it wraps up all four characters' storylines in a whiz-bang of a thriller ride...think Die Hard in a hospital.

The action takes place in real time, everything happens in less than five hours, which made it so tightly plotted (with four main characters and stories to tell) that I literally wrote the book backwards, starting with who was left alive at the end.

Followers of the series will be amply rewarded but newcomers should also enjoy the thrills and twists...can you tell, I had a great time writing this one?

What made you decide to write in this genre?

All of my books fall squarely in the thriller/suspense genre, with one exception, my second, WARNING SIGNS, which just won the Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery. My editor, whose specialty is mysteries (and who is much, much more logical and more patient about plot-points, red herrings, etc than I am!) asked me to re-work it as a mystery to give readers a change of pace since LIFELINES was such a fast-paced thriller and the third in the series, URGENT CARE, was such a dark, intense suspense.

Writing a mystery was much harder for me than the thriller/suspense novels--I had to pay so much more attention to the plot rather than simply letting the characters drive everything.

My new series, co-written with Erin Brockovich, also has a touch of mystery in it, but it's really more of a women's fiction/ that even a genre? Now you can see why I invented the label "Thriller with Heart," I love focusing on the characters rather than plot.

Where did you get your idea for this particular book?

After the psychological intensity of URGENT CARE, the third book in the series, I knew I needed a finale that would not only answer all the questions but also let the reader vicariously experience the final growth of the characters. So I decided to write CRITICAL CONDITION in real-time, having the events unfold the same time the reader is reading about them. That meant finding a way to keep the action encapsulated, so what better than a hospital cut off from the outside world by a blizzard?

Funny thing was (well, maybe not so funny, depending on your point of view, lol!) is that the week after I turned in the manuscript, Pittsburgh actually did have a blizzard. And a lot of the events of my story, like the hospital losing power, ambulances and emergency vehicles being unable to respond, patients and staff huddling together in the hospital auditorium--all that really happened!

Do you have all the key suspense/mystery elements thought out before you begin writing?

Gosh, no! I'm a seat of the pants writer. In fact, all I knew when I started with CRITICAL CONDITION was who was alive at the end, so I wrote it scene by scene backwards, every scene asking myself how they got there. It was different than any book I've written before--and quite fun!

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

Since I was a pediatric ER doc for seventeen years, the only research I did involved fun facts about Galapagos penguins and clever ways to kill people inside a hospital...not sure I want to divulge my sources on that last subject, lol!

Which character did you like writing about the most, and why?

Lydia is always fun to write because she's just so black and white--she's all about doing, not a whole lot of angst or thinking. But Gina's character is the one I'm most proud of, she's come so very far over the course of the series. I think readers will be excited to see her finally earn her happy-ever-after.

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?

None of that. I start with character, try to understand why they do what they do, then just let them take off running....I usually don't do a lot of research until after the first draft, that way the real world doesn't impact my fictional one more than it absolutely must.

Do you have any authors that inspired you?

Too many to count! But one of my favorites who I still turn to and have read since I was a kid is Ray Bradbury. A true poet!

What do we have to look forward next?

CRITICAL CONDITION came out November 30th, followed by the first in my new series co-written with Erin Brockovich, ROCK BOTTOM, due out March 1, 2011. I'm hard at work on the second in that series.

I've also released electronic versions of several works that I've gotten my rights back to, available on Kindle, Sony, and Nook. The latest of these is another women's fiction/thriller blend called BLIND FAITH.

My writing students have asked me to arrange my lectures into books, so I'm also working on those as my spare time, lol!

Anyone who wants info on my books, feel free to check out my website at

Thanks, CJ!

To celebrate her book release, CJ is offering a free copy of the first three books in the Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, and URGENT CARE) to one lucky commenter on today's blog. (please check the blog Monday night to see if you won. Chances of winning determined by the number of entries.)

She will be around all day today. I'm sure some of you have questions or comments for her, so please ask away...

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. She has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide and Munchausen by Proxy and has worked in numerous trauma centers, as a crisis counselor, victim advocate, as well as a flight physician for Life Flight. CJ credits her patients and their families for teaching her the art of medicine and giving her the courage to pursue her dream of becoming a novelist.

Her first novel, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), received praise as a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" from Publishers Weekly, was reviewed favorably by the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, named a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and became a National Bestseller. LIFELINES also won a Readers' Choice Award for Best First Novel.

Her award-winning, critically acclaimed Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, URGENT CARE, and CRITICAL CONDITION) is available now. Her newest project as co-author of a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich, starts with the release of ROCK BOTTOM in March, 2011. To learn more about CJ and her work, go to


Anonymous said...

Good morning CJ. Thanks for joining us again here at Much Cheaper Than Therapy. How about some hot chocolate with a peppermint stick? I'm boiling the water right now. Critical Condition sounds like another wonderful read. Having read the others, I can't wait to see how everything ends. Enjoy your day with us. Happy Holidays!

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Kim! Always great to visit MCCT!!! You read my mind about the hot cocoa--got some in the microwave as we speak!

Laurie Schnebly Campbell said...

CJ, what a treat to find you here -- I can't wait to see more of your mysteries!

And back on the medical front, I'm delighted to hear that Gina finally gets her happy ending...that'll be a wonderful Christmas-vacation read. :)

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Laurie! Yeah, Gina had to go through a lot to earn that happy-ever-after, but it was worth it!

liana laverentz said...

Hello from a fellow Pennwriter! I very much enjoyed one of your conference workshops a couple of years ago. I love medical suspense thrillers, and found the ups and downs story of how yours 'came to be' fascinating.

All the best,

CJ Lyons said...

Hi Liana! Good to "see" you again!
Thanks for stopping by!

Estella said...

I love your books CJ!
Can't wait to read Urgent Care.

Cara Marsi said...

Hi, CJ.

I love the Die Hard in a hospital. What a great description that makes me want to read this book. You have such a fantastic bio too.

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Estella!

CJ Lyons said...

Aw shucks, thanks, Cara!!! Appreciate your stopping by!

catslady said...

This sounds like a great series - and afterall they say write what you know and this sounds perfect for you and sounds exciting for me:)

CJ Lyons said...


robynl said...

I really enjoy reading Medical stories but it's been awhile since I read one.
That is some accomplishment to have written the book backwards. That is how I read the newspaper and magazines.