Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guest Blogger - CJ Lyons

Unleash Your Inner Chaos!
by CJ Lyons

Chaos is good! Chaos is our friend--at least it is, if you're a thriller writer. 

As a pediatric ER doc who practiced for seventeen years before becoming a full-time thriller writer, you'd think I'd be used to chaos, thrive on it.

Usually I do, I love nothing more than to embrace my inner chaos and unleash it on my poor unsuspecting characters.  But this new book, the fourth in my Angels of Mercy series, is quite frankly kicking my butt!

Here's the premise: Die Hard in a hospital on New Year's Eve.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it?  And believe me, it is--this book has everything!

Which is part of the problem--because my series centers on four main characters, every book is a juggling act with four complete stories in one book, all converging together at the climax (or during the multi-climaxes, lol).  Plus, I'm known for my "breathtakingly fast-paced" plots.

So, with each book, I've upped the bar as far as intensity and giving the reader an adrenalin rush of a thrill ride.  Book #1, LIFELINES, was pretty much pure thriller with increasing stakes until the entire city of Pittsburgh was at risk.

Book #2, WARNING SIGNS,  was a different kind of challenge: combining a coming of age story about a medical student suffering from mysterious symptoms with the whodunnit mystery behind the deadly symptoms.

URGENT CARE, book #3, was a true book of my heart and the toughest to write--in it, I explore the psychological effects of surviving a trauma.  It's a dark, gritty suspense, very emotionally honest.

So for book #4, the finale of the Angels' quadrilogy, I wanted to go back to the intense pacing of the first book.  Only I set myself an even bigger challenge--instead of taking place over 4 days, this book takes place over four HOURS!

Yep, you got it--you'll pretty much read this book in real time--which means juggling not only four characters and their story arcs but down to the second timing between each scene.

Plus, after the dark intensity of URGENT CARE, I wanted to give readers a bit of a smile, so there are all sorts of unexpected happenings (unexpected even to me, lol!  Don't you love it when that happens, you're just writing along and you surprise even yourself?  Talk about chaos!) and fun twists and turns.

The only way I could figure out how to perform this juggling act was to....write the book backwards!

I've always been a seat of the pants writer, often writing out of order, but never have I pushed it this far.

I've done more than embracing my inner chaos, I'm eating, sleeping, drinking, breathing it every second...and you know what?  It's been a hell of a ride.

Not just because it's been a fun book to write and I'm so excited to see these characters come into their own and earn their happily-ever-afters, but also because I know I pushed myself not just to the limits, but past them.....

Of course, my main worry is, how the heck am I going to raise the bar even higher for the next book?!?

Oh well, whatever I come up with, it will be tons of fun!!! 

So go for it, embrace your inner chaos today! 

Thanks for reading!

About CJ:
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, in October, 2009.  Contact her at http://www.cjlyons.net


  1. CJ,
    I love hearing about the journey and thrill ride it's given you. I'm wondering if you can speak a little bit more about how you actually wrote it backwards.

    I'm asking because I am in the process of learning to write again because of a TBI and I'm trying all different methods. I was a panster, but having issues with that and still don't like plotting. I'm wondering if maybe working backwards might work.


  2. Hi Donna! Great question--actually since I knew where these characters were going (emotionally and which would end up alive and dead, etc) I imagined the climax scenes first, then worked back from there asking myself: how did they get here?

    The tough part was juggling four story lines, so writing backwards actually helped me to make sure not only did everyone have a reason to be where they were, they also weren't two places at once!

    Once I finished my first draft and "knew" the story details, I went back and reworked it from the beginning to end to make sure that I had all the action set up correctly.

    It actually made for more fun in the revision stage than usual as well! I might just start writing everything backwards, lol!

    Hope that helps!
    PS: one of the main characters in book #4 has a TBI and is still having problems/struggling when all this goes down and he's forced to take action...I tried to reveal his frustrations and struggles that he's not back to "normal" (he was a police detective) and also show his new reality and some unexpected rewards it offered, hope I pulled it off!

  3. 4 Hours? Even Jack Bauer couldnt do it! LOL

  4. LOL! I know--I've written other novels that took place in 24 hours (two romantic thrillers in my Shadow Ops series--BTW, all proceeds from their kindle sales go to Doctors Without Borders right now!) and those were a lot of fun, so of course I just had to raise the bar!

  5. Doctors without Borders is a fabulous cause

  6. Your characters definitely have a more exciting life than I do and kuddos for writing backwards. I have been writing my cozy backwards this time around and it seems to be working for me. I'm all for writing backwards and it helps to keep scenes straight and like you said sure you do not have your characters two places at once.

  7. Hi Pamela, glad I'm not the only one who writes backwards--you should see the looks my plotter friends give me when I tell them I write out of order!!!

  8. I know, Teri, they do fantastic work! I used to be on a Disaster Action Team, but now that I write full time, this was the best way I could think to help out.

    I'm calling the program Buy a Book, Make a Difference and you can learn more at my website: http://www.cjlyons.net

    It's only been going for a week and we've already raised $400 as of last night!!!

  9. Holy cow. You've unleashed your inner chaos in your blog, or at least that's the way I read it. I've just added you to my "must buy" list. It was a great blog to read.

  10. Thanks, Mare!!! Hope you enjoy the books!
    CJ, who's loving the word verification she got: gogably...sounds like a description of how I feel many days!

  11. CJ,

    Thanks for the information. I'm going to give writing backwards a try. I'm game for anything that gets the writing working again. I'm looking forward to reading about the cop with TBI.


  12. Donna,
    Just remember--have fun with it!!!
    Happy writing,

  13. Wow cool idea. I'm a panster but I have two stories I have the basic idea for them and I'm still writing them sort of fly by night. Things dropped into a warp drive for NaNo and I ended the story without much of a middle lol. I figure I'll go back to it later right now I'm working on one I started in September for Unleash Your Story. I shuffled it under some things and let it simmer.

  14. Sounds cool, Kathy! Have fun with them!

  15. CJ,
    You might want to stop in over the next couple of weeks as members somtimes leave messages when they have time to blog. Oh heck just join our blog then you won't miss a thing. LOL
    Anyway...Thank You for spending the day with us and I can't wait to read more of your books.

  16. I'll try! Thanks, Pamela, you all are a fun bunch to hang out with!

  17. Writing a book backward insures you'll know where those characters end up. That's exactly what wound up happening to me, lol. Problem was a character who started out in flashbacks jumped up and demanded his own book. The good part is, that story became my first published novel! I wrote a sequel that was meant to bridge the way to the original story but played wtih the ending and doubt I'm going where I started out. All ties into that pantster mentality, too. Guess we'll see where we 'end up'!

    Joanna Aislinn
    NO MATTER WHY (available now!)
    The Wild Rose Press


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