Welcome to another exciting tour with Novel Publicity. Today we're pleased to share an interview with our featured author, CJ Lyons! In this interview, we’d like to dive deeper into the world of FBI agent Lucy Guardino, and CJ's novel, LAST LIGHT. The characters, setting, and themes along with what makes them tick, and who was the loudest character that just wouldn’t shut up!
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For readers that are new to you, can you tell us a bit about this collection of books and introduce us to Lucy Guardino?
CJ: I created Lucy because I was tired of reading thrillers featuring female FBI agents who were driven by angst, fleeing demons, fighting addiction, stalked by serial killers, or with dark, forbidden secrets, etc–all things that would never allow them to do their job effectively in the real world. As a woman who has always worked in a male dominated field (Emergency Medicine), I wanted to create a main character I could relate to. Someone facing the same kind of struggles balancing work and family and who was “real.” So, I thought, why not go as real as it gets? How about a Pittsburgh soccer mom, who has a loving and supportive family? No angst, no dark past, no addictions or demons…Just the very real need to do her job the best she can while also giving her family as much love and attention as possible. Of course, I can’t go too easy on her, so during her early adventures with the FBI, I give her the worst possible job, tracking pedophiles and sex offenders. The fact that she happens to be good at it only makes her life more complicated because she fights a constant battle of protecting her family from her work.
Can these books be read out of order, or are they better read by publication date?
CJ: The first six Lucy books, the Lucy Guardino FBI Thrillers are best read in order: SNAKE SKIN, BLOOD STAINED, KILL ZONE, AFTER SHOCK, HARD FALL, BAD BREAK. I’m striving to design the new Lucy books, the Beacon Falls Mysteries, so that they can easily be read out of order.
Your website has lots of resources for writers, research links from stories you’ve done and extras. Research obviously plays a big role in your writing. Can you tell us about how you begin researching for writing a thriller?
CJ: All of the Lucy books center around true life crimes and criminals, so I read a ton of police newsletters, follow the FBI news stream, press releases, and their official Law Enforcement Bulletin to get an idea about the kinds of cases they’re focusing their efforts on and any strange twists that they’ve taken. I’ve also visited Quantico twice and have interviewed many FBI agents as well as other law enforcement professionals. For the Beacon Falls series, I have the luxury of using cold cases—and since they’re by definition unsolved, I can use my imagination to provide my own unique answer. I don’t go searching for the perfect crime to use in a Lucy story, it comes to me…guess it’s a good thing there are so many crazy criminals out there wreaking havoc! (something only a thriller writer could say!)
LAST LIGHT has a warning, is this more tongue in cheek, or have you had readers complain about the depiction of violence in your books?
CJ: I never include gratuitous violence in my books, but I do depict what violence there is in a very honest way, especially the emotional impact—all my years working as a victim’s advocate demand that. I began placing that warning on the first Lucy book, Snake Skin, years ago when it was a #1 on several Amazon bestseller lists, including Mystery. I’d noticed that despite its overwhelming popularity and rave reviews, including many from former FBI and law enforcement officers, I was getting strange one star reviews complaining that the reader had been expecting a cozy mystery and by gosh, there was blood and bodies and violence in this book, how could that be when it was the #1 Mystery? My one rule of writing is that I always strive to excite and delight my readers and obviously, for whatever reason, these readers were not my readers. I decided it was better to lose a sale than disappoint a reader. Snake Skin already had a snake lunging off the cover (a very large, scary snake, in fact!), its subtitle was: a Lucy Guardino Thriller, and the series name using the word “Thriller” was also already right there on the top of the product page in big, bold letters, so I was at a loss of how to prevent readers from buying a book that wasn’t what they expected. I crafted that warning and added it to the top of the product description. It has seemed to work…so far, at least.
In the latest Lucy Guardino novel LAST LIGHT, Lucy has left the FBI to work with a private consulting firm on cold cases. Are there really consulting firms like this operating in the US, or are private detectives more a figment of our imagination?
CJ: Yes. The Beacon Group is a fictionalized composite of several private and non-profit organizations that exist in real life. These groups, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, NAMUS, the Polaris Project, and the Vidocq Society among others, assist overworked and overwhelmed law enforcement agencies even though they have no police powers. They are the true unsung heroes and I hope that Lucy’s team serves to shine a light on their amazing work.
Lucy is a very strong female lead character, who are her supporting characters, and could you introduce us to a couple of your favorites to write?
CJ: Fan favorites of Lucy’s current cast of characters include Nick, her loving husband, and the closest thing Lucy has to a nemesis, teenaged-sociopath and daughter of a serial killer, Morgan Ames. Readers loved Morgan so much (she was introduced in BLOOD STAINED and reappeared in KILL ZONE) that I gave her her own spin-off story in FIGHT DIRTY. I’m hoping to find time to write more Morgan stories in the future as readers can’t seem to get enough of her quest to learn how to stop killing and live life as a “Norm.” In Lucy’s new Beacon Falls series, we get to meet new characters. I think readers will especially resonate with TK O’Connor, the brash, young former Marine MP who was embedded with front-line special ops troops in Iraq and Afghanistan—something that actually happened as the military recognized the utility of having women involved in these dangerous missions. TK has returned from the war with no home or family left and no mission to guide her, so her partnership with Lucy and the others at Beacon Falls becomes more than just a job, but a chance to finally find her place in the world.
If Lucy were in the boxing ring with one of your other series leads, which series would it be, who would win the match and why?
CJ: Cassandra Hart from the Hart and Drake Medical Suspense series is going for a black belt in Kempo and she’s younger than Lucy, so Lucy wouldn’t win a straight out boxing match—but Lucy, being older and wiser, would find a way to de-escalate things before it ever came to that.
What do you think makes a good thriller a great read? Is it lots of action, suspense, multiple plot lines, or something else?
CJ: Great thrillers have all of those, but the main thing is the ever-increasing stakes the characters face until their entire world is at risk and they must sacrifice everything to save it. A good thriller is more than escapism, it makes you think: what would I be willing to do if that was me? In a way, they can teach us how to be heroes, even if it’s only through the vicarious experience of enjoying a good story.
We don’t want to spoil the ending for anyone, but we do want to ask...when you were writing the story, did it always end the same way, or did you have alternate endings?
CJ: The killer was always the same person but that’s all I knew when I began writing. As a seat of the pants writer, I never know the ending when I begin, all I know is whether it will be a happy ending or a tragic one. After all, if I’m surprised by the twists that happen, then readers will be as well.
Thanks for joining us today CJ!
About the Books
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author CJ Lyons. For fans of Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, and Jeffery Deaver: "Everything a great thriller should be--action packed, authentic, and intense." ~#1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Child After leaving the FBI, life should be easy, right? Wrong--not if you're Lucy Guardino. Lucy has always seen herself as a normal Pittsburgh soccer mom who happened to have a job chasing the worst of the worst. But after a violent predator targets her family and she's injured, Lucy sacrifices her career with the FBI in order to keep her family safe. What is she now that she's no longer a FBI Special Agent? she wonders as she begins her new job with the Beacon Group, a private consulting firm that specializes in cold cases and bringing justice to forgotten victims.Lucy fears she's traded being a kick-ass law enforcement officer for being a civilian mother hen shepherding a team of amateurs. What is she now that she's no longer a FBI Special Agent? she wonders as she begins her new job with the Beacon Group, a private consulting firm that specializes in cold cases and bringing justice to forgotten victims.Lucy fears she's traded being a kick-ass law enforcement officer for being a civilian mother hen shepherding a team of amateurs. Her fears appear justified when she's partnered with TK O'Connor, a former Marine MP struggling with her transition to life back home, and sent to rural Texas to investigate a case that's more than cold, it's already been closed with the killers behind bars for the past twenty-nine years. But...who really killed Lily Martin, her infant daughter, and husband? Why was an entire family targeted for annihilation? What price will Lucy pay when she fights to expose a truth people will kill to keep buried? LAST LIGHT is the seventh Lucy Guardino novel, but they can be read out of order. If you enjoy captivating suspense, intelligent storytelling,strong and vulnerable characters, and a freight-train pace, then you'll love this adrenaline rush of a heart-pounding thriller. Join the millions of readers who've fallen for CJ's Thrillers with Heart and grab your copy of LAST LIGHT today!
Pediatric ER doctor turned New York Times bestselling thriller writer CJ Lyons has been a storyteller all her life—something that landed her in many time-outs as a kid. She writes her Thrillers with Heart for the same reason that she became a doctor: because she believes we all have the power to change our world. In the ER she witnessed many acts of courage by her patients and their families, learning that heroes truly are born every day. When not writing, she can be found walking the beaches near her Lowcountry home, listening to the voices in her head and plotting new and devious ways to create mayhem for her characters. To learn more about her Thrillers with Heart go to www.CJLyons.net Connect with CJ on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.
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