Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Interview w/CJ Lyons about co-authoring Rock Bottom w/Erin Brockovich

Writing is a lonely, rocky business, especially if you're unpublished. But sometimes you meet a professional who's survived the potholes, turned the dream into reality. You look at this person, read her story and are inspired to keep on writing. More than that, this professional writer takes time to encourage and advise you. Not only is that uber cool, suddenly there's a bit of sanity in the unpredictable world of pursuing a writing career. I met CJ Lyons at a masterclass workshop at the Pen to Press Writers' Retreat last year and she's been that professional who kept me from walking away from my dream.

Today is the release day of CJ's latest work, ROCK BOTTOM, written with famed activist Erin Brockovich (yes, the one who inspired the movie). To celebrate my friend's hard work I'm presenting an interview about the new book and the collaboration. I figured as writers, we'd all be curious and interested to learn. Obviously, she's one busy chick today, but CJ said she'll drop by later in the day. Enjoy!

1.What is Rock Bottom about?

ROCK BOTTOM is about a woman who returns to her small-town West Virginia home after leaving ten years ago as a pregnant teenager and joins the crusade against mountain top removal mining that is destroying her hometown.. At its heart, the story centers on an adult child returning home and discovering the true meaning of family.

2. What inspired you to write the story? How did you go about researching it?

I was flying to Toronto to teach one of my master classes in writing and we flew over West Virginia. I'm from Pennsylvania and spent a lot of time in West Virginia but this was the first time I'd actually seen it from the air. When I saw the ravages of the mountain top removal mining I was moved to tears--it was just so very wrong, so unnatural, that I felt vertigo as if I'd been transported to some alternative universe where nothing made sense.

The research was actually fairly easy because there is so much overwhelming evidence of the damage done by this form of mining that it's impossible to ignore--in fact, I worried that it was all too obvious, how could anyone in their right mind support this practice?

3. What was it like working with an internationally renowned activist and personal hero Erin Brockovich?

Great fun! Erin has always been a hero of mine, so this was a total fan-girl experience for me!

4. So how did the collaboration come about?

Her publisher called and asked if I'd be interested. Turns out, Erin enjoyed the strong women I populated my recently concluded Angels of Mercy series with, and liked the fact that they weren't "superwomen" and perfect, but rather human and flawed.

After an initial squee of delight, of course I said yes!

5. What are some special challenges of a co-authored project?

Erin is so very busy and always on the road--I'm not sure we were ever even in the same time zone while we worked on ROCK BOTTOM. Thank goodness for cell phones and email!

6. What did you enjoy the most?

The challenge of trying something new. This is my first book that had no medical elements and my first attempt at first person point of view.

7. How did you develop AJ's character?

We knew we couldn't take Erin's character from the end of the movie so we decided to make AJ a younger version of Erin, someone who had tasted success but then lost it all and had to start over. Both Erin and I have had the experience of returning to our hometowns after some success in the "real" world, so we thought that was an interesting dynamic to explore in AJ's character, since it is so universal.

8. Given your medical background, the Angels of Mercy medical suspense series seemed like a natural fit. What was it like creating a whole new world?

I love trying new things and challenging myself in my writing, so this was actually exciting. While it was hard to say good-bye to the Angels world in my last book, CRITICAL CONDITION, it was fun to have a whole new world to play "god" in.

9.Tell us a bit about your writing process?

I don't have one! I'm a seat of the pants writer, don't really have a schedule or plot any of the story ahead of time, so I'm as surprised by the twists and turns as I hope the reader will be.

10.What are you working on now?

I just finished the sequel to ROCK BOTTOM, titled HOT WATER. It was also great fun to write because there was a ton of research I needed to do and because half of the book is set in South Carolina close to where I now live. HOT WATER will be available October, 2011.

About CJ:
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about. In addition to being an award-winning medical suspense author, CJ is a nationally known presenter and keynote speaker.

Her first novel, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), received praise as a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" from Publishers Weekly, was reviewed favorably by the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, named a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and became a National Bestseller.

Her award-winning, critically acclaimed Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, URGENT CARE and CRITICAL CONDITION) is available now. Her newest project is as co-author of a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich. You can learn more at http://www.cjlyons.net
and for free reads, "Like" her at http://www.facebook.com/CJLyonsBestsellingThrillerAuthor


Jennie Bentley said...

Congrats on the release, darling! xoxo

Rashda said...

Thanks for visiting Jennie & yes, Congrats on the release CJ! :P

Kat Jones said...

Great interview! This sounds like a good read.

CJ Lyons said...

Hey Jennie! Thanks, sweetie!!!

CJ Lyons said...

Rashda, thanks so much for having me!

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Kat! Hope you enjoy it!

Louisa Cornell said...

Wow CJ !! A book by two women my Mom and I really admire! We both LOVE your books and we both love Erin Brockovich and her work on behalf of those wronged by big business and industry.

As the granddaughter of Pennsylvania coal miners this book will definitely be close to my heart.

Great interview, Rashda!!

CJ Lyons said...

Wow, thanks, Louisa! What a nice thing to say--you made my day!
Hope you and your mom enjoy ROCK BOTTOM!

Rashda said...

Glad you enjoyed the interview Louisa! CJ's always a good read :)