Toni here — I’m winging my way home from the wonderful Left Coast Crime and had interviewed the wonderful CJ Lyons for today’s blog. Please give her a warm welcome!
First off, CJ, congratulations on the wonderful debut this week
of LIFELINES—which I not only read and loved, but I see a lot of people agreed
Publisher’s Weekly describes it as a “spot-on debut….a
breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller,” Lisa Gardner called it a
“pulse-pounding adrenaline rush” and our own friend of ‘Rati Allison Brennan
said that LIFELINES is “A fantastic and wild journey through the fast-paced
world of a big-city ER…an all-around great read.”
Let’s start off with a little about the book – can you tell
us the premise? What was the inspiration for the story? Is LIFELINES a
stand-alone or will there be more books in this fantastic world you’ve built?
>>LIFELINES is the first book in a series centering on
the women of Pittsburgh’s Angels of Mercy’s ER. It deals with the most dangerous day of the year: July 1st—Transition
You see, for teaching hospitals, our calendar starts on July
1st. That’s when the new interns—yes,
the bumbling fools who were mere medical students on June 30th—hit the
hospitals and start taking care of patients.
Add to that the age-old American traditions of drinking
yourself stupid and blowing up explosives and/or guns while celebrating
Independence Day and you have a sure-fire recipe for disaster.
I remember my own Transition Day. Brand new, still not unpacked or moved in,
barely finding the hospital parking lot (it was two blocks away in a
gang-riddled, not-so-nice neighborhood) much less figuring out my way around
the hospital and I’m suddenly on call, responsible for three floors worth of
very sick kids!
No one died that night, not on my watch….for which I’ve
forever been eternally grateful. I don’t
take credit for it—I think it was more likely because of the always-excellent
nurses who were well aware of the dangers July 1st posed their tiny patients.
Of course, in my novel, things don’t go quite so well for my
main character. She loses a patient—the
wrong patient, the Chief of Surgery’s son. And she has no idea why he died….
I know that you are an ER doctor as well as a writer – and
clearly, you capture the entirety of that world so crisply, that anyone who
wants a behind-the-scenes look would dearly love. If there’s anything you miss
about medicine, what is it? We can see how the world of medicine has influenced
you as a writer… but how has the world of writing influenced you as a doctor?
>>I miss my patients—there’s something pretty
fulfilling about working with kids. They’re so resilient! Leaving my
practice to make the leap of faith and follow my dream of becoming a writer was
probably the most difficult decision I’ve made.
Medicine has been very good for my writing. Despite working three jobs (I put myself
through med school) and the crazy hours, I really got serious about my writing during
medical school, joining my first writer’s group and attending my first writing
workshop. I was actually able to finish
a science-fiction novel during medical school—now safely tucked away until I
have the strength to read it and see just how bad it is!
But writing was also been wonderful for my practice of
medicine. Knowing the importance of
asking why, of understanding the motivations behind patients’ actions, how to
tell a story—and listen to a story—all made me a better doctor.
Tell us a little bit about how you started writing? Do you
write fiction, non-fiction… both? And if both, tell us a little bit about the
other writing projects you’ve done.
>>I’ve been writing pretty much all my life. It’s an addiction and I’d need a 12 step
program to stop <g> Being a
doctor, I’ve had to write a lot of non-fiction, everything from peer-reviewed
research articles to paramedic protocols to grant proposals and textbook
Right now, in addition to my fiction, I’m writing a lot of
patient education articles and have even done several patient education
DVD’s. It’s a nice way to stay up to
date on current research and give something back now that I’m not practicing
medicine right now.
Tell us a little about your writing world and habits – what
kind of schedule do you keep? How do you handle juggling more than one project
at a time? What inspires you?
>>I’m totally undisciplined as a writer—rebelling
against all those years of carrying a beeper and being forced to follow a
strict schedule as a physician, I guess! But those years also taught me how to write quickly when I do have time
to write, so it all evens out.
As for juggling things—multi-tasking and taking control of
chaos is the definition of emergency medicine <g> I get bored easily and so, always have
several projects going at once. For me,
it helps me maintain my focus—for others doing that might be distracting and
overwhelming. You need to figure out
what works for you.
What inspires me? Waste. Injustice. People taking the gifts they’re given in life
As much as I enjoy writing about relationships and falling
in love and nice things like overcoming great obstacles, most of my work is
about wanting to fix things, to change the world.
So when I get angry about something, that sparks my passion
and inspires my work.
And finally, what’s the best life advice you’ve been given
or that you like to pass along?
>> To paraphrase Tim Allen and Winston Churchill:
Never surrender, never give up!
Whatever your dream is, believe in yourself and go for it!
If you’re a writer, forget about what other people tell you
to write or what’s selling. Find your
passion and follow your heart—that’s the story readers want. One filled with passion, one that reveals