Friday, January 30, 2009
Meet Medical Thriller Author CJ Lyons by Vivian Zabel
I first met CJ Lyons on two Yahoo email lists: Crime Writers and Sisters in Crime. Soon after I discovered that she would be one of the presenters at the OWFI (Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc.) writing conference May 1-2, 2008.
Not only did I attend CJ's sessions and have her autograph my copy of her debut medical thriller LIFELINES, but she also joined me at my writing group's table at both banquets.
When I heard about her new novel being released this month, and which I have pre-ordered, I asked her if I could interview her. She agreed, and the following is the result.
Vivian: How did/does your history and home background affect your writing?
CJ: My mom was a voracious reader, so I grew up surrounded by books. I began reading at a very early age and skipped the whole "see Dick run" stage, going right to books like Agatha Christie.
And fairy tales—lots of fairy tales. But not the sanitized Disney version, my mom had lots of the "real" ones—Perraults, Grimm Brothers, etc. I think they helped me to learn the value of a good story, how the hero's journey works on a subliminal level, and also that no happy ending comes without paying a price.
Vivian: Tell us something about your background that has made you a better, or more caring, writer.
CJ: Being a pediatrician definitely has given me insight into how real heroes are born. Watching children and their families respond to tragedy and triumph has both inspired and humbled me.
Since I spent a lot of my career working in urban trauma centers and as a victim's advocate, I also witnessed occasions of true evil—and saw how insidious it is, how easily it can hide in plain sight. And I saw how so many of us live our lives in a gray area between good and evil.
That's the reality of our world. In my fictional world, I try to address this cosmic ambiguity, with many of my characters doing all the right things for all the wrong reasons—or all the wrong things for all the right reasons. I love stories of redemption, of triumph over one's own self.
Vivian: Please fill us in on your hobbies, interests, or activities you participate in during your leisure time. *laugh* If you have any.
CJ: Great question — strange to say, but I used to have a lot more free time when I was practicing medicine! Now that I write full time, it seems that almost everything is tied to the writing. Either getting the current book done, researching the next, or marketing the one hitting the stores now.
But that's all good!. When you do something you love, it doesn't seem like work. And I've been able to expand my writing career to include a busy teaching schedule. Now I get to combine my love of travel with trips to give master classes, workshops and keynotes. This way I'm always meeting new people who share my love of storytelling!
Vivian: Authors are often asked when they started writing or what triggered their interest in writing. I like to know that, also, but I would especially like to know what keeps you writing.
CJ: I've been telling stories all my life—took me a looooong time to figure out the difference between fiction and reality when I was a kid. This led to many hours in time out—which led to more stories fermenting in my imagination…..a vicious cycle.
I honestly don't think I could stop writing if I tried. It's an addiction for me. There are so many stories to tell and so little time.
Vivian: You have so many projects going all the time: working on books, traveling, etc.; how do you manage?
CJ: I'm a lousy housekeeper. Seriously, you should see my place—my Christmas gift to myself was investing in a Dirt Dog robot vacuum cleaner so at least the floors would get done. Now, if I could just teach it to dust and do the laundry….
Vivian: What is your most recent book, and what inspired you to write it?
CJ: WARNING SIGNS is due out on January 27th. It's a coming of age tale, featuring a medical student who is investigating a mysterious illness killing her patients. Then she begins to exhibit the same deadly symptoms herself….
I was inspired by my own experiences as a student. None of us were immune from "medicalstudentitis"—a form of hypochondriasis brought on by exposure to arcane knowledge about rare and mysterious ailments.
I swear at one point we all thought we had Leishmaniasis, Q-fever, Kawasaki's, and Sjorgens—simultaneously! Working 100+ hours a week, plus non-stop studying, poor diet, no sleep, no exercise all combined to produce in us symptoms that we were sure were deadly….only to be reassured by our patient clinical instructors that we would indeed live until tomorrow.
Of course things are never so easy in the fictional world of Angels of Mercy Medical Center and my medical student has something a lot more devastating to face.
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 http://www.cjlyons.net
Lifelines by CJ Lyons
Warning Signs by CJ Lyons
Jove, Feb 2009, $7.99
Brain Cells & Bubble Wrap