20 Questions with… CJ Lyons

From New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons comes a new installment in her fast-paced Beacon Falls Mysteries. Lucy Guardino is back in Bitter Truth, which tells the next chapter for this mother and former FBI special agent as she faces her greatest challenge yet: turning forty! But when an old friend, the sheriff of a remote region in Idaho, goes missing and is presumed dead, Lucy journeys into the wilderness in search of her friend and to solve the mystery of his disappearance. Except there is more to this rustic town and mountainous terrain than Lucy anticipated… a cunning killer hidden in the forest, if only Lucy could see through the trees before it’s too late.

With the new book out today (!), discover a new side to CJ Lyons as she answers 20 questions and reveals a few secrets of her own.


1.Your best virtue as an author.

CJ: An ability to bring out the emotional truth of my characters, so that instead of solely focusing on the police procedure or medicine/forensics, readers get a chance to experience the catharsis of “real” people who must fight to not only survive, but also to rekindle their faith in humanity and themselves.

2. Your most quirky author habit.

CJ: I often write out of order—in fact, many times the final scene is the first thing I write. I once wrote an entire book backwards! It was the finale of a four book series and I knew who lived and died, so I wrote the ending and then worked backwards in time scene by scene to see exactly how they got there. It was tons of fun to write.

3. Your favorite quality in a protagonist.

CJ: Secrets they keep even from themselves. It gives me tons to explore and allows me to surprise readers (and often myself!) in a way that is true to the character’s essential nature.

4. Your favorite quality in an antagonist.

CJ: A fervent belief that they are doing the right thing; that they are actually the hero of the story.

5. If you could ask any other author, past or present, a question who would it be and what would you ask?

CJ: Arthur Conan Doyle—I’d ask him why he hated Sherlock Holmes so much and was so desperate to kill off his own creation.

6. When you aren’t writing, you are____

CJ: Reading…

7. Your easiest book to write.

CJ: My first published book, Lifelines. I’d sold it based on a phone call with the publisher where we brainstormed ideas for a potential series, so those characters and the plot were spun from the creative ether during a twenty-minute conversation! Thankfully, they didn’t abandon me, but stuck around as I feverishly wrote the first book. It’s one of my longest novels but also one that I wrote faster than just about any other book since then—it won awards, garnered great reviews, became a bestseller, and is a perennial readers’ favorite. I only wish they were all that easy!




8. Your hardest book to write.

CJ: Usually that’s whatever project I’m currently immersed in! Sometimes the weeds feel so thick you can’t see the sky! But of my published books, Farewell to Dreams (the entire Fatal Insomnia Trilogy, in fact) was the most difficult. It’s told from the point of view of an ER doctor with fatal insomnia (a real disease, universally fatal—except in my fictional universe!) I honestly didn’t sleep for weeks while writing it.

9. Your ideal writing place.

CJ: Cozy chair in my living room by the window—I don’t own a real desk, never have used one.

10. Your favorite childhood book.

CJ: Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. His stories first taught me the value of world building, the magic poetry of language, and the need to create characters that readers could relate to.

11. The book you’ve reread the most.

CJ: see above! I re-read it almost every Halloween, just to keep me humble.

12. Your favorite hero from literature.

CJ: Penelope from The Odyssey. Although Homer doesn’t spend much time with her, what little he does reveals her to be a smart, capable leader who will do whatever it takes to keep her people safe while her husband is off traipsing around the world.

13. Your favorite villain from literature.

CJ: Hannibal Lecter. I love how he has his own moral code (even if it’s not one we share!) and will do whatever it takes to live with honor—on his terms, of course. He truly believes he’s the good guy and, as deranged as he is, there’s something to be said for a character who is smart, cunning, relentless, and not afraid to take action.

14. The name of your autobiography.

CJ: No Rules, Just Write!

15. You favorite comfort food.

CJ: Dark, dark chocolate…the darker the better.

16. First thing you do when you finish writing a novel.

CJ: Start the next. My books take months of research, which I do during my down time while writing my current book, so by the time I finish one story I’m ready to dive into the next.

17. A secret talent you have.

CJ: Brainstorming—I have friends—writers as well as other professionals—who call me up just to work through a problem. It could be anything; a book plot or character psychology or architectural design or a business I know nothing about, but after a few minutes of their talking I can usually pick up on the big picture and help them to see what they’re missing. For me it’s fun, but it is draining so I only do it for close friends.

18. Where have you always wanted to travel?

CJ: I’ve been lucky to have able to travel all over the world (I’ve had the travel bug since I was a little girl and papered the walls of my bedroom with big, colorful NOAA maps) but one place I’ve yet to visit that’s been on my list for years is New Zealand.

19. One tip for aspiring authors.

CJ: This is from an agent friend: write 2k, read 2k every day. Do that and you’ll not only finish writing your book, you’ll be well read enough to take your writing to the next level.

20. Puppies or kittens?

CJ: While I’m more of a cat person as far as a full time pet (we share an attitude of stubborn independence, me and my cat) for cuddling you can’t beat puppies. Something about that puppy smell, it triggers every endorphin!


About CJ:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over forty novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

CJ has 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).

Her novels have twice won the International Thriller Writers’ prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Readers’ Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart at www.CJLyons.net

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