It is my pleasure to welcome medical suspense author CJ Lyons to The Conscious Cat today. (And yes, there is a cat connection – read on!)
CJ Lyons has lived most of her life on the edge. Trained in Pediatric Emergency Medicine, she has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide and Munchausen by Proxy. She has worked in numerous trauma centers, on the
Navajo reservation, as a crisis counselor, victim advocate, as well as a flight physician for Life Flight and Stat Medevac. A Golden Heart Finalist in Romantic Suspense and winner of the Golden Gateway, CJ is a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Her work has appeared in CrimeSpree, Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and Spinetingler. She has presented keynote speeches and workshops at numerous national conventions including MWA’s Sleuthfest, Romantic Times, Colorado Gold and RWA.
As a fan of medical drama tv shows and an avid reader, I was thrilled when I discovered Lifelines last year. I thought this would be the best of both worlds – a book that read like one of my favorite tv shows. Actually – it was better. CJ combines the best of ER and Grey’s Anatomy into a wonderful mix of romance, suspense, friendship and mystery in the form of a compelling medical thriller. Thankfully, Warning Signs, the second book in the series, was not too far behind. Meredith and McDreamy, eat your heart out! Meet the doctors and staff of Angels of Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. The third book in the series, Urgent Care , was published October 27, 2009. I picked up my copy yesterday and I can’t wait to read it!
CJ, you are a trained emergency physician. What made you decide to stop practicing emergency medicine and write about it instead?
Actually, the writing came first. I’ve been a story teller all my life—which, given that I had a problem telling truth from fiction as a child, led to lots of hours in time-out, which led to more stories….a vicious cycle. As soon as I could read, I began devouring books and writing my own stories down.
When published friends convinced me that my work was also good enough to be published, I realized I had a chance at a second career. So after selling my first book, and realizing that working 60 hours a week was going to burn me out sooner or later, I took a leap of faith and quit medicine to write full-time. So far (knock on wood!) it’s paying the bills and has been a wonderful adventure!
Do you miss practicing medicine?
I miss my patients a great deal. There’s just nothing like holding a newborn to remind you what’s really important in this world.
Please tell us about Urgent Care.
Urgent Care is a true book of my heart. In it, ER charge nurse Nora Halloran must face her greatest fear—that she may have caused a colleague’s death by not reporting a sexual assault two years ago. The man who attacked Nora back then has returned—only now he’s killing his victims.
As a woman and a medical professional, I was hard pressed to imagine a worse scenario. And having worked with victims, I know that over 60% never disclose their abuse to anyone—they’re overwhelmed with shame, fear that they’ll be labeled as victims, and a need to move on with their lives. How awful would it be for a strong woman like Nora to not only face her past but also the consequences of her actions? What would she do to stop the killer and make things right? Those questions drive the plot of URGENT CARE—it’s darker and edgier than the first two books, but it has to be. These are dark, serious, universal questions that there is no right answer to.
How much of the story line in the books is drawn from your own experience as a physician?
I try to keep all the medicine as real as possible, using real life cases from my own career or that are reported in the medical literature. But all the patients are totally fictional—I change everything except the medical details.
How much of yourself is reflected in your characters?
A lot! Lydia is who I aspire to be. She’s strong, determined, smart, fiercely passionate about her patients, and always knows the right thing to do. Amanda sometimes feels like a stranger in a strange land, just like I did as a Yankee in the South during medical school. Gina reflects my insecurities and self-doubts. And Nora has all the protective, mother-hen skills that I’ve been accused of having.
I was delighted to discover that you are a cat person. Meet Annie, CJ’s cat. Can you tell us a little bit about her?
Like all my pets, Annie (short for Orphan Annie) is a rescue animal. She’d been tied up into a plastic bag and thrown out of a car when she was young. I’ve had her for fourteen years now and other than an aversion to riding in cars, she’s the most friendly and sociable cat you’ll ever meet! I wish people were as resilient!
Lydia, one of the characters in the series, has a very unique cat. NoName, as she calls the cat, is almost panther like in his appearance and has a very unique personality. Is he based on Annie, and if not, how does Annie feel about having to share you with a fictional cat?
Good thing Annie’s napping right now (can you hear her snoring?), don’t tell her but No Name is not based on her. As you can see, Annie is a fat, happy calico. I needed a cunning, self-sufficient graveyard cat to be the perfect match for my character Lydia who is herself independent and not very trusting.
Both Lydia and No Name have intimacy issues, lol! But No Name gets over his first when he adopts Lydia as his human. And he does get a name.
He’s actually based on a cat adopted by friends of mine, David and Donna Morrell. David was telling me about their cat and its different shape, which is found throughout the breed. I did some research and found a relative of his cat, a species originally from Africa who enjoyed water and were fiercely loyal, known for protecting and herding their people like Border collies. The breed is called Sokoke Forest Cats.
Will NoName ever get a real name?
LOL! Of course! In the second book, Warning Signs, he is christened “Ginger Cat” because of his coloring, shades of brown and tan.
Many writers find that cats are the perfect writing companions. Does Annie assist you with your writing?
If you call sleeping on my laptop assisting, lol! No seriously, she’s great company and fairly low maintenance which makes her perfect. She’ll remind me when it’s mealtime, makes sure I’m out of bed early every morning, and makes sure I get some exercise when I play with her. And of course, I never have to worry about my legs getting cold as her two favorite perches when I’m writing (I write in a comfy rocking chair with my legs stretched out on an ottoman) are either in my lap or asleep on my legs.
What does a typical day of writing look like for you?
I have no typical day—which is exactly how I like it! After seventeen years of medicine (and before that all those years of school) when I needed to lead a very structured life, at the beck and call of patients and colleagues 24/7, I now do what I want when I want. It’s very freeing!
What do you love most about being a writer?
I love the idea that through my books I can reach out to tens of thousands of people and not only entertain them but also inspire and empower them. One of the main reasons why I’ve written all my life is a desire to try to change the world—one story at a time. Yes, even after all those years spent in the ER, I’m still a hopeless optimist. I truly believe that heroes are born everyday and that we all have the potential of becoming a hero.
What do you like least about being a writer?
That so much is out of my control—talk about the ultimate torture for a control-freak ER doc! I’m slowly learning patience (the publishing world embodies “hurry-up and wait”) as well as the fact that the only things I can control are my attitude and my work. Good life lessons, but oh-so-hard to learn!
Who or what inspires you?
Most of my inspiration has come from my patients, their families, and the wonderful medical professionals I’ve been privileged to work with. They’ve taught me the true meaning of courage.
What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?
Meeting readers, people who have been touched by my books or who love my characters like they’re real people is always exciting. But the most memorable experience was at a signing where a woman carrying a baby, maybe nine months old or so, waited in line to see me, then plopped the baby down, undid his diaper and asked me check his circumcision! Said she’d heard there was a doctor in the store signing books and wanted a second opinion on her grandson. The baby was fine, I assured her, and she left—without even buying a book, lol!
What are you reading at the moment?
I just finished re-reading Toni McGee Causey’s wonderful Bobbie Faye trilogy (Charmed and Dangerous, Girls Just Wanna Have Guns, and When a Man Loves a Weapon)—great reading if you want to laugh out loud and have a fun time with some memorable characters.
Will there be a fourth book in the Angels of Mercy series?
Yes! Isolation will pick up where Urgent Care leaves off—it takes place three days later, on Christmas Eve, and will be released next year. In it Gina faces her darkest fears and decides her own fate—I’ve just started it, so I’m not exactly sure where it will go, but I’m thinking of it as Die Hard in a hospital, so I’m sure there will be tons of mayhem and chaos! Sounds like a perfect Christmas for the women of Angels of Mercy, doesn’t it?
Thank you so much for visiting The Conscious Cat, CJ, and much success with Urgent Care!
For more information about CJ and her books, please visit her website at http://www.cjlyons.net.