This weekend, I’m at the most amazing writer’s retreat with a group of friends; we’re overlooking a gorgeous bay with cerulean blue skies, giant white cranes lazily circling the docks as competent white motorboats slide past in the bay. The weather has been stunning—low 80s, clear, light breezes—and the food has been wonderful. And in spite of all of that beauty, we managed an amazing amount of work done. This is the first time I’ve done this sort of a gathering of writers with a goal of workshopping (brainstorming) and it’s been one of the best weekends, ever.
What made it even more of a joy was that the writers I got to spend time with are women I respect and admire, whose writing styles span several genres and who have a great enthusiasm for storytelling at its finest. One of those women happens to also be a friend, CJ Lyons, who has a terrific new book out this week called URGENT CARE
I asked CJ a few fun questions that I’d like to share with you today, because it’s always a kick to me to ask questions of long-time friends and still be surprised by their answers.
Question: If you were to go to the great Coffee Shop in the sky, which five authors would you love to meet for conversations?
CJ: Hemingway, Dumas, Rilke, E. E. “Doc” Smith, and Shakespeare.
The reason for those five is that they know how to tell a damned good story and captivate your imagination. Hemingway could use very few words to evoke large emotions. Dumas understood the complexities of people as well as their society. Rilke for his ability to paint with words. Doc Smith for his ability to imagine new worlds and Shakespeare because he understood that it was as important to laugh as to cry.
Question: Who inspired you?
He was the first author that I read that understood that adult themes were not out of bounds for kids and didn’t talk down to children. He also introduced me to the idea of words, other than poetry, being able to portray emotion more than just creating action on the page.
Question: How long have you been writing and how did you know you wanted to write fiction?
Actually, I guess I’ve been writing fiction all my life, because I’ve been telling stories all my life. I had a hard time telling the difference between reality and not-quite-so-truthful reality, which ended up giving me a lot of time in “time out”… which, of course, meant I had more time to create new stories.
I was an early reader and an early writer. In grade school I created a Civil War saga about a blind orphan girl and her horse—because there always has to be a horse—who rescued other orphans from Confederate marauders. I didn’t write for publication until 2003 when I joined RWA and entered the Golden Heart contest (where I finaled) and I sold that book six months later.
Question: Tell me a little bit about your background which helps to give your current series so much verisimilitude?
My background includes 17 years of practicing pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine in some of the east coast’s busiest trauma centers. Also, I lived in Pittsburg, where the series is set. But the most important thing is understanding the emotional costs of practicing medicine while working in an urban ER, because the stories are not just about the medicine, they’re about the people and their relationships. The idea for the series was that it wasn’t medicine that saves lives, but people who save lives.
Question: Your newest book hit the bookstands last Tuesday. Tell me about URGENT CARE.
URGENT CARE is darker and more emotional than the first two books. In it, ER Charge Nurse Nora Halloran must face her greatest fear when the man who attacked her two years ago returned and is now killing his victims.
Question: What is the funniest thing (non-X-rated) that you’ve ever seen in the ER.
Well, I was amazed to learn just how many men changed their light bulbs while naked and where the light bulb ends up. Note to the wise: wear jeans.
Here’s the summary of URGENT CARE, which I know is a terrific read because I had the great fortune of getting to read this in an earlier draft and was wowed by it:
URGENT CARE (Berkley/Jove, October 2009) by CJ Lyons. An ER charge nurse must face her deepest fears when the man who sexually assaulted her returns…only now he’s killing his victims. CJ Lyons’ novels give readers “a powerful and dramatic look into the frenzied world of emergency medicine…Lyons’ characters are dynamic and genuine.” ~Suspense Magazine
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, was released January, 2009 and the third, URGENT CARE, on October 27, 2009. Contact her at http://www.cjlyons.net
So even though CJ’s story is a very dark tale, I’d love to know what’s the funniest / silliest / craziest thing you (or a relative or friend) managed to do that called for a visit to the ER.