Friday, December 20, 2013

CJ Lyons: Writing About Medical Conditions

Author CJ Lyons makes an electrifying YA debut with her new thriller, BROKEN, and I’m delighted to welcome her to Thoughts in Progress today as part of her BROKEN Blog Tour.

BROKEN (Sourcebooks Fire, November 2013, ISBN: 9-781-4022-8545-5, Hardcover/$16.99, Ages 12+) is a fast-paced thriller sure to keep readers guessing until the very last page!

For Scarlet Killian, every day is a game of Russian roulette—she has a 1 in 5 chance of dying

      Fifteen-year-old Scarlet Killian has one chance for a normal life. Only problem? It just might kill her. Diagnosed with a rare and untreatable heart condition, Scarlet has never taken the school bus. Or giggled with friends during lunch. Or spied on a crush out of the corner of her eye.
      Scarlet has come to terms with the fact that despite the best efforts of her doctors and parents, she's going to die. Literally of a broken heart.  So when her parents offer her a week to prove she can survive high school, Scarlet knows her time is now... or never.
      Scarlet can feel her heart beating out of control with every slammed locker and every sideways glance in the hallway. But for the first time in her life she makes real friends. She also makes new discoveries about the truth behind her illness... a truth that might just kill her before her heart does.
I was curious when it comes to writing about medical conditions so CJ answered the following question for me.

How do you write about a medical condition without making the information to technical for readers, but yet give them the information that is needed?

Great question! I’ve found the easiest way is to use the point of view of my characters. 

Broken cover If they understand the medical condition, then they can feed that knowledge to characters who know nothing about it through dialogue. That way the characters who wouldn’t be expected to have medical knowledge can make use of it and the reader learns at the same time without me resorting to “lectures.”

For instance, in BROKEN, Scarlet knows a lot about medicine — especially about the disease that’s killing her. She knows everything about dying but nothing about living, or being a normal high school sophomore. This makes her both very smart and very naïve. And it allows her friends the chance to help her learn how to be “normal” while she can teach them about medicine.

CJ, thanks for joining us today and explaining this. Learning about a medical condition in this manner makes it more understand and very realistic. As a reader, we’re not weighed down by too much medical descriptions.

Now let me share a bit of background on CJ. 

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart. 

Winner of the International Thriller Writers’ coveted Thriller Award, 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). The author of thrillers such as the Lucy Guardino FBI series, she has sold over 1 million books in the last year.

When not writing, she can be found walking the beaches near her South Carolina Low country home in Columbia, SC, listening to the voices in her head and plotting new and devious ways to create mayhem for her characters. 

To learn more about CJ and her writing, visit her online at

Thanks for stopping by today. Do you enjoy reading medical thrillers or do you find them too hard to get through due to too many medical terms?


  1. I love CJ Lyons' books. I enjoy medical thrillers in general, but I think hers stand out in the genre.

    1. Ingrid, I think you're right about CJ's books standing out in this genre.

  2. CJ, thanks again for joining us today. Writing about medical issues has to be difficult, but you handle it with ease and make it easy for readers to follow. Wishing you much success.

  3. Mason - Thanks for hosting CJ.

    CJ - What an interesting theme for a novel! I'm sure there are a lot of young people for whom this will really be a revelation. I wish you success.

  4. Sounds fascinating. I just worry that it might be a sad book.
    Book Dilettante: Friday Book Memes


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