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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Stories born in the ER: best-selling author CJ Lyons talks about writing and her decision to self-publish

She's been called a "master within the genre" (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as "breathtakingly fast-paced" and "riveting" (Publishers Weekly) with "characters with beating hearts and three dimensions" (Newsday). New York Times Bestseller CJ Lyons is the author of many cutting edge thrillers, including the award-winning, critically acclaimed Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, URGENT CARE, and CRITICAL CONDITION). Where does she get the inspiration for all these stories? In the ER, of course! Quoting from her bio:
A trained in Pediatric Emergency Medicine, CJ 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.
I'm so excited to have CJ as my guest today!

EEG: How much of your fiction was inspired by your work in the ER?

CJ: All of the characters in my work are fictional, but the medical cases and the emotions surrounding trauma, violence, and loss are real. Well, as real as you can get and still be entertaining. It always surprises me when an editor cuts something because no one would believe it but it's something that really happened. I guess truth really is stranger than fiction.

EEG: Can you share more about what happened when, during your residency, a fellow intern was murdered and how this inspired you to turn to crime fiction? (You hint to it in your bio).

CJ: Halfway through my internship year at Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh one of my fellow interns was killed in a very horrendous way. The police apprehended the killer, thanks to good forensic work and cooperation of several agencies. But we interns were still traumatized and left to mourn and make sense of this terrible thing while simultaneously caring for infants and children entrusted to our care and trying to help families cope.

For me, writing helped me to heal. I wrote my first crime fiction novel, a romantic thriller called BORROWED TIME (which recently hit the USA TODAY Bestseller list). Before I'd always written SF/F, but after Jeff died I needed to explore good/evil, justice/truth more than I needed the escapism my previous novels provided me.

EEG: Wow, that's chilling. I noticed that many of your recent titles are self-published. I'm curious as to what prompted you to turn to self-publication and how it's turning out for you.

CJ: After signing with a NYC publisher I thought I had it made. But after my first book came out I realized my readers wanted more books faster than NYC could publish them. So late 2009 I began to self-publish via Kindle and then Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.

At first it was a way to use those e-books as promotional tools. It was easier to give them away than print books and I could adjust the price. Then a year later, everything changed. E-books grew exponentially, my fans were loving the new books, and I was on track to make more money than I was making from my NYC published books, despite their being bestsellers.

A win/win for all… in fact, I believe the future of publishing will be a partnership between traditional publishers creating books that are events, keepers that readers treasure and display on their bookshelves, agents selling subrights, booksellers handselling both print and e-books, and writers giving their fans what they want and making a living wage. It's a true Renaissance for writers and book-lovers everywhere!

EEG: That is so interesting! The publishing world is indeed changing, and faster than we realize. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. And yes, it's absolutely fantastic to be able to click and one second later read. Makes you want more!

To find out more about CJ and her "Thrillers with a Heart," check out her website at

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