Thanks to Joyce and the rest of the Working Stiffs for inviting me!
I love Pittsburgh. I loved living there, I love setting my books there.
After all, what crime writer could ask for more from a city? Three rivers, bridges, tunnels, hills, mountains, inclines, any kind of weather you could ever want…typical inner city urban crime mixed with suburban woes and even rural traditions…wonderful architecture, diverse ethnicity, and oh yeah, don't forget the food!
Every time I write a story set in Pittsburgh I usually include someone from outside wondering that no one swipes the chairs used to mark parking places—and that folks respect their authority! Or I'll have them ask what Pittsburghers have against the verb "to be" and usually shut them up with a Reuben from Primantis.
But all that isn't why I set most of my work in Pittsburgh. The reason is much closer to home. You see, while I lived in Pittsburgh, I was going through the most difficult challenge any doctor faces: my pediatric internship and residency.
There were twelve of us interns, bound together by our trial by fire.
But, more than the usual intern hell that you see dramatized on ER or Grey's Anatomy, more than the gut-wrenching fear that you'll make a mistake and end a life, more than the sleepless nights and endless days, we faced a much bigger challenge.
One of our own was killed. Murdered in a fashion so horrendous that no writer would ever be able to get it past an editor without being accused of being over the top.
Those of us left behind faced our greatest challenge—how to find the courage to keep on living.
How to face the tragedy, the daily reminders of our loss, and still go to work day after day, night after night, trying to save lives and offer comfort to the dying and their families when we had no comfort ourselves.
All my life I'd told stories. Silly stories of superheroes and super villains and rescues and hope. But never before had I truly understood despair.
Never before had I really understood what it takes to dare to dream.
Courage to dare to live with an attitude that dreams are as real and as important as the people who dream them.
After Jeff's death, my writing—always an addiction—changed. I finally understood my obsession with heroes, why I was so drawn to pediatrics.
Why I decided to further specialize in Pediatric ER medicine even though it meant working with victims of violence and sexual assault and neglect, the sickest patients, the poorest patients, the dying and those left for dead.
My dream, my passion had crystallized.
I wanted to change the world. To fight for the little guy, protect the victims.
In my writing I created a world where no one was immune to danger, but also where heroes were born everyday.
And where better to place that world than in the city where my heart had been broken and healed once again? The city where I learned that true evil does exist but that there are people strong enough to face it.
When Berkley asked me to create a new medical suspense series for them, there was only one place I could set it. Pittsburgh.
And so the world of LIFELINES, specifically the Angels of Mercy Medical Center (located suspiciously near where the new Childrens' Hospital is being built
When people read LIFELINES, I hope they fall in love with Pittsburgh as well as the characters. That they get a taste for the city and its richness, its sometimes bewildering extremes, its twisted and wry sense of humor.
So why do you love Pittsburgh? Why do you think it makes it such a great setting?
Thanks for reading!
PS: For some of the photos of Pittsburgh that inspired me while writing LIFELINES, go to my website http://www.cjlyons.net
Award-winning medical suspense author CJ Lyons is a physician trained in Pediatric Emergency Medicine. She has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide and Munchausen by Proxy and has worked in numerous trauma centers, as a crisis counselor, victim advocate, as well as a flight physician for Life Flight. Publisher's Weekly proclaimed her debut medical suspense novel, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), "a spot-on debut….a breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" and Romantic Times made it a Top Pick. Contact her at http://www.cjlyons.net
Be sure to visit with CJ on April 17th when she will be at Mystery Lovers Bookshop along with several other writers.