Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why I spend my vacations in the Rust Belt: a guest post by CJ Lyons

Why I spend my vacations in the Rust Belt…
CJ Lyons

So many of my thriller writing friends get to travel to exotic locales to research their books. Egypt, Paris, St. Petersburg, Monte Carlo…

Me? My research trips are to Pittsburgh, PA, Ansted, West Virginia, Blowing Rock, NC and other towns so small they don't even show up on Google Earth…

You see, my Thrillers with Heart aren't set in locales James Bond would frequent. Instead they're set in the heart of America, small towns with ordinary people facing the worst day of their lives.

The same kind of small town, rural setting that I grew up in, surrounded by mountains, the best trout streams in the world, and strip mines. And they feature the same kind of people. Men and women that could easily be your neighbor (or mine).

My thrillers are about what it takes to find the courage to make a difference, to learn how to be your own hero.

While I love exploring the gray ares between right and wrong, good and evil, I can't help but think…wouldn't it be neat to set a book someplace exotic?

So when St Martins Press bought my NYT Bestseller BLIND FAITH as the start of a new series featuring FBI Supervisory Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney, I thought, wow, here's my chance. Caitlyn could go anywhere…or could she?

You see, Caitlyn may be a kick ass federal agent who's tenacious and smart, but she's still learning how to be a hero.

Being a hero means more than closing cases and keeping the bosses happy. It means making the tough choices, understanding that justice has little to do with the law, knowing when to do the wrong thing for all the right reasons.

Which means she's always in trouble with her bosses…and very unlikely to get any plum assignments such as FBI legat in Paris or counter-terrorism liasion to Interpol in Brussels.

So instead of policing international gambling syndicates on the French Rivera, Caitlyn will be going where right and wrong are muddied together. Places where it's hard to know what a hero should do. Situations where the only thing she can trust is her heart.

Keep an eye out…there's a good chance she'll be coming to a town just like yours!

In the meantime, if you had a chance to set a novel anywhere in the world, where would you set it and why?

Thanks for reading!

About CJ:
As a pediatric ER doctor, New York Times Bestseller 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).

Learn more about CJ's Thrillers with Heart at www.cjlyons.net and look for the first Caitlyn Tierney FBI thriller, BLIND FAITH, coming in July, 2012.


  1. I love your medical thrillers, CJ, and look forward to reading the new series.

    I might want to set a book in Japan. I lived there as a transplanted foreigner for two years, and remember lots of opportunity for mystery and suspense. The initial research trip would be pretty expensive, though, so maybe it's a good think I settled for the coast north of Boston. It's also full of opportunity in its small towns, taciturn Yankees, clam flats, and (formerly) cold winters.


  2. Hi, CJ! Happy to see on on Jungle Red. Someone asked me the other day about how 'glamorous' (meaning UNglamorous) the writing life turns out to be -- and I confess a vacation/research trip to Blowing Rock, NC beats anything I could come up with. You must meet really interesting people on these forays - do they end up as characters in your books?

  3. Hi Edith! I think setting a book in Japan would be amazing!!! But New England definitely has its fair share of charm as well...

    Thanks for stopping by,

  4. Hi Hallie! Because of my medical background, I am actually very careful not to use real people in my books (unless they've won an auction to be a character--great way to raise money for charity!)

    I grew up in a small town, so traveling to other towns and discovering how much the folks there are just like my neighbor, uncle, cousin, best friend...fill in the blank...has been eye-opening.

    We're really all much more alike than we'd sometimes care to admit. Especially when it comes to breaking the rules and the law, lol.

  5. Hi CJ! A fun post! And you've got good marketing going. I hadn't read any of the Hart books, but was interested. I went to your website and read the excerpt from Nerves of Steel. I was an ER junkie. One of my best friends was a flight nurse. My brother-in-law is a flight medic. Hooked. Bought it on Kindle:-) Can't wait to read.

    As to where I would set my books if it could be anywhere? England, of course:-)

  6. Thanks Deb! What you call marketing I call my life, lol! Hope you enjoy the books.

    And England--that's a wonderful place to set a book...definitely on my places to visit someday.

  7. Wait--we can't let the day go by without CJ letting us in on her marketing stratgies. CJ is EVERYWHERE!

    99 cents on Kindle? HOw did you decide to do that? How did it work?

    Tell us how you manage it all! And what have you discovered that's made the most difference? Clearly you're doing something right..

  8. Hi CJ,

    I have to get started reading your books!

    One of the things I enjoy most about the fiction I read is the location. I like the feel of place and the understanding it can bring to the story, whether it might be viewed as suburban sameness or charming village.

    I agree we are more alike than we might want to think, perhaps even know. I also believe that behavior has much to do with the way we feel about life as it plays out in culture. Because the common myth is that the US is a melting pot, while really we are a tossed salad, behavioral differences here are often seen as problems rather than what they sometimes are, cultural dissonance.

    This is a very roundabout way for me to say that I like to set my writing within the not so visible cultural structure of my hometown of Salem and Marblehead, Massachusetts.

  9. Hi Reine, actually that's a great location to use--right now Salem based novels are rather hot commodities.

    And taking a different approach to cultural differences? Brilliant!

  10. Hey Hank! Good to see you again!

    My secret? No secret at all--in fact, I give away everything I know about being a bestseller for free on my No Rules, Just Write! blog.

    But what changed everything for me (and this is sooo simple that no one believes me, but it's the truth) was when Jeffery Deaver gave me a fantastic piece of advice. He told me that the Reader is God.

    Now, every decision I make is driven by what would be best for my readers. Would my readers rather I spend time blogging or giving them new books? New books it is....Do they want more books in print in addition to the ebooks? Then I'll sign with St. Martins and partner with them for a series.

    Seriously, keeping that as my focus has totally transformed my business...everything is so much easier and I have more time to give my readers what they really want: more books, faster.

  11. CJ, your advice. Stunning. Must stop commenting. Right now. Bye! xo

  12. LOL! Glad to help!
    Happy writing,

  13. I have to agree 100% with CJ about setting stories with real people in real places - but I'm still kicking myself that I didn't think to explore the mean streets of Key West like Lucy.

  14. Oh, yeah, Julia, I so totally agree! Hmm...what kind of shenanigans could folks be getting up to in, say, Maui???

  15. C.J., I'm going to order all your books right away. I can't believe I've been missing something that sounds so much up my alley.

    I'd love to set my books in England, preferably Oxford where I love to visit. Or in the Scottish Highlands or in Ireland. Instead, I've set one series in a fictional town right outside Kansas City and am pitching another set in KC itself. The next one will have to be in Prague!

  16. Linda, I love Oxford, too. I haven't set anything there - yet. Still hope one of my characters will have a good reason to be there! I originally went there to research church history and discovered a past there I'd never known existed. Now that I'm dedicated to my fictional characters I hope they find their way back there.

  17. Linda, Prague???? OMG, that sounds wonderful!

    Have fun!

  18. Reine, yes, I love Oxford. I've spent time there when husband was presenting at academic conferences. This meant visits for weeks at a time. And of course, from Oxford you can get almost anywhere in England quickly.

    CJ, Prague is supposed to be so beautiful! I think that's definitely where I should set any next series.

  19. I could relate better to your thrillers because they take place in "Rust Belt" settings. Keep on doing what you're doing because your readers love it! I personally prefer renting Phuket villas and lazing on the beach for a vacation, though.