CJ Lyons agreed to let me interview her, being a nice lady and all. I think it went pretty well, for my first interview. Enjoy!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I'm trained in both pediatrics and pediatric emergency medicine, working everywhere from major inner city trauma centers to a rural community pediatric practice (we made housecalls!) to the Navajo Indian reservation.
Pediatric ER medicine combined the best of all worlds for me. It gave me the skills I needed to stabilize and keep critically ill patients alive when I worked in a rural setting and there were no children's hospitals close by. It also gave me an appreciation for life in the big city—I dealt with a lot of violence, even partnered with a SWAT lieutenant to prepare a presentation to first responders on how to stay safe in the midst of gang wars.
I've also flown with LifeFlight and Stat Medevac, including two "hard landings". I've worked with police and prosecutors, testifying as an expert witness in child abuse, sexual assaults, homicide, and Munchausen's by Proxy cases.
Despite witnessing all this pain and suffering, what constantly amazes me are the children and their families who rise above, finding the strength to get involved and make a difference helping others. I guess that's what has colored my writing the most, the idea that heroes are indeed born everyday….
When did you know you wanted to be an author as well as a pediatric ER doctor?
The writing came first—I've been writing and telling stories all my life, would honestly need a 12 step program to stop. Writing sustained me through all the chaos and stress of becoming a doctor.
A few years ago, while practicing community pediatrics, I decided to pursue publication. When it became clear that my writing was good enough to sell, I made the leap of faith and left my practice to pursue this second dream come true of becoming an author.
It was quite scary—the first time I'd been unemployed since I was 15—but well worth it. And hey, if you're gonna dream, you gotta dream big!
Were any of the emergencies in LIFELINES based on personal experience?
Most of LIFELINES comes from experiences that occurred in medical school, before I was a full-fledged physician. Although I did draw on a lot of the Pittsburgh atmosphere since I lived there as an intern and resident.
All the medicine is real—but of course none of the patients are.
LIFELINES begins on July 1st, "the most dangerous day of the year" because newly graduated medical students begin their internships on this day. Is this true? Is there a safest day of the year?
LOL! If there is, I don't know what day it is!
In shows such as ER and Grey's Anatomy, which mistakes annoy you most? Which do you not mind?
I don't mind the technical mistakes—medicine changes so quickly that it's natural for a script or novel to lag behind.
What I do mind are the mistakes with the characters and who they are. For instance, in Grey's Anatomy, Addison's character is portrayed as being in her 30's (I guess to make her seduction of a 25 year old intern seem less yucky) yet she's supposed to be a "world renown" OB-Gyn surgeon, perinatologist, neonatologist, pediatric surgeon, genetic specialist, and infertility expert. Oh yeah, and in one show they mentioned she has a PhD in something.
Well, to do all that training she'd be in her late fifties at the very least—and then it would take decades to become "world renown."
I understand their interest in wanting their docs to be jacks of all trades so they can have a variety of cases, but hey, if they want that, they should just add an Emergency Medicine doc to the mix! It could a resident, they do surgery rotations all the time—and think what a wise-ass ER guy or gal could add to the sexual tension!
I haven't watched ER since George Clooney left, but those early years really got the characters and their emotions spot-on. Which is why I think it captivated so many. Seeing doctors on an emotional roller-coaster as they deal with the reality of an urban trauma center is very dramatic!
With which medical or legal procedure did you take the greatest liberty?
Just like on the TV shows and movies, my biggest liberty was in time compression. If I portrayed a real resuscitation the way it draws out in real life, readers would fall asleep.
And, if it were a resuscitation run by any doc worth their salt, there'd be little drama. Instead it would be low-key, no shouting, everyone knowing their jobs and getting it done.
In other words, boring….
LIFELINES has a large cast. Was it difficult to make each character distinct?
No, because they're all reflections of myself. Like Amanda, I was the outsider in med school, only a Yankee down South. Like Gina, I was seen as a rebel during residency and my fellowship. I once thought following the rules was the best way to save lives, like Nora, and I now, like Lydia, have learned to live by a different set of my own "rules."
Which of the characters do you sympathize with the most? the least?
Wow, that's so hard to answer! I enjoy writing Lydia, the main character in LIFELINES, because she's who I want to be when I grow up *g*
But I also love writing Gina, the emergency medicine resident, because I share so many of her insecurities and I love working through her issues and watching her grow and change. She's going to go through hell before she gets her happy-ever-after, but it will be well deserved!
How did you manage to get a cover where the models look reasonably like the characters?
Doesn't that cover rock? Thank the art director at Berkley. She asked me to supply descriptions of the characters and she hired models to match them.
Of course, it now freaks me out when I look at the cover because those are the people inside my head come to life!
Please tell me you're contracted for sequels to LIFELINES. If you are, will the next one continue to have Lydia as the lead, or will it focus on one of the other women?
Yes, there are more! The next one, due out early 2009, will focus on Amanda's story as she investigates the mysterious illness that is killing her patients—the same illness she has symptoms of.
Hopefully, Nora's story will follow. All the women will have significant roles in each book, but will take turns being in the spotlight.
My concept was an ensemble cast with new people coming on board as needed—a lot like a TV show, with the emphasis on different stories along the way, but with inter-connecting story threads as well.
For updates on new books, be sure to sign up for my quarterly newsletter or check in at http://www.cjlyons.net.
Don't forget to leave a comment to thank CJ for stopping by!
EDIT: CJ's flying to Pittsburg today, but she may stop by and answer any comments/questions. In other words . . . leave some for her!