Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Doctor’s Appointment

What is it with the medical profession that has made many a fine novelist? I got into a conversation with Dr. C.J. Lyons when we met up at the first International Thriller Writers Conference back in 2006. We both discussed our own writing endeavors, made the more interesting due to both sharing a scientific discipline. When I heard that her first novel, Lifelines, would be released by Berkley on March 4th I was delighted for her and asked her to tell me more about her debut. As she has been a thriller reader for many years, she provided me with her take on villains.

However, I was curious about Lifelines’ journey to publication. Lyons kindly provided me this insightful piece which might give hope to those of you who are scribbling away, juggling life, family and day jobs with a passion for the written word.

In Lyons’ own words then:
You see, first I was a pediatric ER doc, then a rural community pediatrician, then I quit my day job with two publishing contracts in hand.

And then I found myself unemployed, my debut dream dashed when the publisher pulled the book because of cover art problems, and wondering how the heck a nice pediatrician like me got into this mess.

I shouldn’t have been too surprised -- I’ve never been known for playing by the rules.

So there I was, fall 2006, mere months into a relationship with my new agent, only weeks after buying back the rights for the book-that-never-was and parting company with my old publisher, and it’s days away from the winter holidays when “nothing ever happens in publishing.”

And my agent calls and says: You’re not going to believe this.

Then she says: Strangest thing -- this has never happened, not in all my years in the business, not to an unknown like you.

I’m thinking that these are not very encouraging words coming from someone at an A-list NYC agency, but I say nothing as I wonder if I’m somehow jinxed.

She continues: Berkley just called. They want you to create a new series for them. Actually it’s more like creating a new genre. Something that hasn’t been done before, a mix of women’s fiction/medical thriller/romance with an on-going cast of characters. Kind of Grey’s Anatomy-meets-ER.

Long pause as I process this. I know Berkley -- they publish some of the best women’s fiction, medical thriller, and romance writers out there.

“Are you sure they want me?” I ask. How stupid was that? Giving them time to think and change their minds?

“They’ve read your stuff, love your voice. What do you think?”

What did I think? The chance to make my own rules, to create something fresh, new that hadn’t been tried before? It was a huge, huge gamble... for both Berkley and me.

I thought it was great!

I dove into the project. My editor at Berkley was fantastic as we began a give and take, exploring this strange new cross-genre world we were creating. We sent a draft of the manuscript to wonderfully generous authors including David Morrell, Tess Gerritsen,
Heather Graham and Lisa Gardner to see what they thought.

They liked it! Several said Lifelines kept them up at night as they had to read it in one sitting!

Praise like that from writers of that caliber -- well, you can only imagine how it made a novice like me feel.

And then Berkley provided a fantastic cover, complete with real live models in a real live photo-shoot (to go with the real-life doctor-author, my editor said). Unheard of in these days of stock art!

This debut looks to be just the right tonic for raising the heart rate and a solution for insomnia sufferers.



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