Welcome to The FFBC’s blog tour of C.J. Lyons’s The Color of Lies! As one of the co-owners of The Fantastic Flying Book Club, I had the exciting privilege of organizing this blog tour (creating the tour banner was especially fun!) and am delighted to be hosting C.J.’s welcome interview here on my blog as well!
Author Interview with C.J. Lyons
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
1. Your bio on your website says you’ve been a storyteller all your life. Can you tell us about one of your earliest stories?
CJ: One of my first memories is when I was two or three, using my mom’s hair curlers as finger puppets to tell stories. But my earliest written story that was read by anyone other than myself was in third or fourth grade when I wrote a serial for our class newspaper.
It was set during the Civil War and featured a blind girl and her horse (a palomino, of course) as she made her way through the wilderness spying for the Union Army. She had a walking staff that she also used for kung fu, thus hitting all the major tropes that would appeal to eight-year-olds…
Thank goodness there are no known copies left in existence!
2. You’ve written multiple books for teens and adults. How is writing YA fiction different than writing adult fiction?
CJ: I love writing YA because I can actually be more honest than with my adult fiction. Adults read for escape but YA readers also want that deep emotional honesty and they hate being coddled or patronized, so I can be blunt and truthful with them, go deep and dark, revealing that there’s a cost to any happy ending. It’s really quite refreshing!
3. Your first career was as a doctor. What skills and knowledge did you bring with you to your writing career?
CJ: Being a writer actually turned out to be a very valuable skill that helped my success as a physician—because I understood the patterns behind storytelling, I was able to allow my patients to tell their own stories without interruptions and translate their words into the facts I needed to help treat them.
In turn, being a physician helped my career as a thriller writer. Although I’m known best for my FBI thrillers, my first published books were medical suspense, set in a Pittsburgh ER. And of course, having first hand medical knowledge is really helpful once you start blowing things up and the bullets begin to fly.
4. What are some of your favorite thrillers?
CJ: Wow, this is so hard! I love anything Lisa Gardner writes—she’s a master of using point of view and setting to bring her characters to life. Of course, there are the classics, like Silence of the Lambs and The Eight. And I also enjoy more quiet psychological suspense that creeps into your soul—I was a huge fan of Sharp Objects before HBO ever heard of it.
5. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
CJ: I am a avid reader—mainly YA, SF, some fantasy, poetry, and literary fiction. And I love movies, not just watching them for entertainment, but then breaking them down to see what works and what doesn’t. Now that there are so many great long-form TV series like Breaking Bad, The Handmaid’s Tale, etc, I really enjoy delving into that kind of storytelling as well.
I also love hiking—if a trail has waterfalls, I’m so there! And I enjoy traveling, immersing myself in different cultural experiences, although that always ends up being research for future books.
ABOUT THE BOOK
1. Describe your book in five words or less.
CJ: Girl’s life is a lie.
2. What inspired you to write a book about synesthesia?
CJ: As a physician, I’ve long been fascinated by unique medical oddities such as synesthesia. It’s not a disease, but rather the way the brain processes information is mistranslated into other senses. You may see letters as colors or smell words you read.
People with synesthesia experience the world differently, which is not only fascinating, it makes for an intriguing character—especially since we all base our idea of reality on what we see, hear, feel. For people with synesthesia, their reality is already very different than people who don’t have synesthesia, so if we upset that reliance on what is seen, felt, or heard, how do we know what’s real and what isn’t?
Start playing with people’s perception of reality, of their basic, essential truth, and you open up a world of possibilities for a story.
For The Color of Lies, I took that a step farther with the idea of a girl who saw everyone else’s truth … but was blind to her own.
I loved that conflict, the paradox of what we see and believe versus what is real. And how we deny reality, sacrifice it to our dreams by what we choose to believe … It happens every day in the real world. Just look at the epidemic of fake news posing as reality.
What if someone’s entire life was colored by what they wanted to believe instead of what was real? Answering that question led to The Color of Lies.
3. Does Ella see her medical condition as a blessing or a curse?
CJ: At the start of the story, Ella views it as mostly a blessing. Although her synesthesia has isolated her (she can’t bear to be in a crowd) and forced her to be the “adult” taking care of her grandmother and uncle who are more severely impacted by their own forms of synesthesia, it has also given Ella the gift of seeing the truth in people, which she has translated into her art.
By the end of the story, everything has changed—not only how Ella feels about her synesthesia, but also how she feels about the truths it reveals.
4. What’s your favorite quote from The Color of Lies?
CJ: “The world is filled with magic. You just have to look and listen.”
5. What kinds of things did you research while writing this book?
CJ: As a physician, I had access to a lot of research about the causes and types of synesthesia, but those weren’t helpful as I really wanted to learn more about how people experienced it and how it impacted their lives.
Luckily, there are several great books that go into depth about historical people who had synesthesia and there are a lot of YouTube videos with first hand accounts of how people live with it. I also have a friend who sees music as color and light and one who sees letters as colors, so it was great fun listening to their stories.
It’s more common than people realize—twice as common as having red hair (a fact that plays into The Color of Lies). I’m not sure, but I may have a form myself. Ever since I was a kid I could read a recipe and taste it—even if I’d never tasted that recipe or its ingredients before. Or maybe that’s just the over-active imagination of a storyteller at work!
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author CJ Lyons comes The Color of Lies, a world drenched in color and mystery.
High school senior Ella Cleary has always been good at reading people. Her family has a rare medical condition called synesthesia that scrambles the senses—her Gram Helen sees every sound, and her uncle Joe can literally taste words. Ella’s own synesthesia manifests itself as the ability to see colors that reveal people’s true emotions…until she meets a guy she just can’t read.
Alec is a mystery to Ella, a handsome, enigmatic young journalist who makes her feel normal for the first time in her life. That is, until he reveals the real reason why he sought her out—he wants to learn the truth behind her parents’ deaths, the parents that Ella had always been told died in a fire. Alec turns Ella’s world upside down when he tells her their deaths were definitely not an accident.
After learning her entire life has been a lie, Ella doesn’t know who she can trust or even who she really is. With her adoptive family keeping secrets and the evidence mixing fact and fiction, the only way for Ella to learn the truth about her past is to find a killer.
Perfect for fans of Caroline B. Cooney, Ally Carter, and Jennifer Brown, The Color of Lies blurs the lines between black-and-white facts and the kaleidoscope of reality.
About C.J. Lyons
CJ Lyons has lived most of her life on the edge.
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).
She 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.
A story-teller all her life, CJ has always created stories about people discovering the courage to make a difference. This led her to coin the term: Thrillers with Heart.
CJ has taught numerous live and online workshops as well as given keynote speeches to audiences around the world, including: The London Book Fair, The Frankfurt Book Fair, Mystery Writers of America’s Sleuthfest, RWA, Romantic Times, Oklahoma Writer Federation,Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and PennWriters among others. She was also the conference chairperson for the highly successful inaugural ITW ThrillerFest.
Her novels have twice won the International Thriller Writers prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Golden Gateway, Readers’ Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.
To learn more about CJ and her writing, check out these interviews with her.