Monday, February 2, 2009

Pesky Little Sisters

by KJ Howe

Please welcome regular Bandita guest, CJ Lyons, who share her family squabbles with us. So, for the inside scoop, read on!

Being multi-published is like living with sibling rivalry. And I was never good with sibling rivalry.
Why? Easy. Because my sister wins. Hands down. No contest. Every time.
You see, I'm the oldest. The responsible one. The one who always had the hand-me-downs until I learned to sew and make my own clothes and then started to work and buy them myself. The one who was expected to take care of everything (cooking dinner, babysitting, keeping my room clean) and follow the rules.

I'm not a very good oldest. I was a rebel and fiercely independent, resenting any attempt to force me to follow the rules or pigeon-hole me into a caretaker role before I'd even had a chance to figure out who I was. Left home at 17 and pretty much didn't look back for a few years.

You'd think I'd paid my dues. I earned scholarships to college, then worked all through medical school and became a doctor, taught at a prestigious academic medical center, almost died twice on helicopters flying out to get patients in bad conditions, saved lives, comforted the sick and dying….

Doesn't mean a thing. My little sister, the baby, the one handed everything on a silver platter including $100 designer jeans, the one who stayed close to home…..she wins.

Not only did she meet and marry a really, really great guy; not only is she a wonderful person who, despite all the stuff that happened when we were young (honest, sis, it wasn't me who shaved your Barbie's head, scout's honor), is now my best friend in the whole wide world; no, all that isn't enough.

My sister had kids. Two of them. Nope, no snotty nose brats for her. She had to go off and have the two nicest, smartest, most wonderful kids in the universe….really, they are!!!

Know what else my niece and nephew are? Grandkids for my mom.
Sigh. I'll never win.

Funny thing is, the same kind of rivalry plays into writing—at least writing a series like mine.

First born was LIFELINES (released March, 2008) Typical of the oldest, it's a bit more serious, the main character tries to take care of everyone and everything—which of course gets her into mega-trouble!

It had all my love and attention for a while, but now, bad mommy that I am (did I mention my sister also inherited ALL the maternal instincts in the family?) I can barely remember what it's all about. Poor baby. It needs some good family to buy it and take it home and give it some loving.

Next up was WARNING SIGNS, the sequel, just released last week. Typical of the baby of the family, it was squirmy and whiny, and a bit difficult at first, but then after I devoted all my time and attention to it, it shaped up. The main character in WARNING SIGNS has sibling problems of her own: she's the baby, the only girl in the bunch, and her older brothers are trying to run her life. She's a bit of a rebel (just like me!) and that both helps and hinders her as she tries to find her way.
Now I realize that WARNING SIGNS is the perfect middle child—approachable, accommodating, a natural born peace-maker. Especially compared to the baby of the family, the third book, URGENT CARE, due out in November.

Now, after pouring my blood, sweat, and tears laboring over how to deal with a sensitive subject and still provide entertainment, how to allow my characters to grow they way they need to but still do what I want to with the plot, how to keep the tension high without tipping over into melodrama…..well, after all that labor, it's done.

Although it definitely belongs to the same family, URGENT CARE is nothing like the first two. It's dark and edgy, delves into dark recesses of the human mind and heart. Thriller pacing, suspense intensity, it screams for attention
Hmmm….wonder how it will get along with its siblings?

If you read series books, what kind of changes do you enjoy seeing as the series progresses? What do you hate? And if you write a series, how do you keep it fresh and exciting?

Thanks for reading!


Thanks so much for joining us today, CJ. As someone who has written about fratricide, I'm quite intrigued with sibling rivalry! I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks....

About CJ:

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a National Bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller." The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, was released January, 2009. Contact her at


sarabelle said...

hello bandits

sarabelle said...

oooooooooooh I did get him?? Is he coming to my house. Im doing the happy dance with a rooster.

Virginia said...

Yes sarabelle,you did get that rooster! Have fun with him today. He will do a happy dance with you!!!

limecello said...

Oooo congrats on the GR, sarabelle! You're fast!
Thanks for visiting with us today, CJ! I love series with connected books - but ones where each stands alone. (So, loose series, I suppose.) I love seeing a character that was a bit bratty in an earlier book develop into a worthy human being - growth of character and all that. I'm a pretty forgiving reader, but if a character takes it *too* far, I'm going to have difficulty getting into his/her story later.

Anna Campbell said...

Sarabelle, you relinquish our numero uno cabana boy and get a rooster instead! Lucky you! Congratulations!

Gosh, Virginia, you were just behind Sarabelle! He'll be unbearable knowing he was so hotly fought over!

CJ! Great to have you back again! I've heard so much buzz about your books. Thanks for coming back to loiter in the lair again.

What a great post. And congratulations on the release of WARNING SIGNS. It sounds like another rollercoaster ride!

Virginia said...

Hi CJ thanks for coming to the lair today, we always love guest! Congrats on your new release. I am one that loves to watch medical shows on TV and also love to read the medical romance novals. Yours sound great.

I am a middle child, I have an older sister and a younger sister. I did have a brother between my older sister and I but he passed away a few years back. I was the one to get all hand me downs, until I learned to sew.

My younger sister was the brat of the family and also the baby and she did get more then any of the rest of us. She was also very mean to me, anything that happened she would blam it on me. Now that we are older we all get along great and we love each other dearly because that is all that is left of out close family.

Jane said...

Hi CJ,
Congrats on the release of "Warning Signs." I love reading series because we get to see how family and friends interact and how their relationships progress.

Congrats on the GR, Sarabelle.

flchen1 said...

Hi, CJ! Congrats on Warning Signs! I hadn't considered books in a series like siblings, although I do love a good series about siblings... Very cool! I guess each book has it's own "personality" just as each sib does!

Congrats on the GR, sarabelle!

Christine Wells said...

Hi CJ! Welcome to the lair. Loved your post about sibling rivalry and your books.LOL It's so interesting to look at series and the differences between ones that are planned, ones that evolved, ones that are about the same protagonist and ones that have different couples each time, but are loosely connected by place, family, friendship, etc.

I tend to enjoy loosely connected series in romance because I like to see the hero & heroine get their happily ever after at the end. I attended Susan Mallery's workshop on writing trilogies last year and I was interested that she recommends not saving the most intriguing hero for last, because if book 2 doesn't sell, who cares about book 3? Interesting, as most series I've seen saves the best for last. Or at least, they save the one most people want for last. I think writers tend not to play favourites with characters quite so much as readers do!

Thanks so much for being with us today, and I'm sure your parents are amazingly proud of you, despite your sister always 'winning'!

Hey, speaking of winning, congrats on snagging the rooster, Sarabelle!

Donna MacMeans said...

Hey - congratulations Sarabelle!!!

Welcome back to the lair, CJ. I'm a right-smack-in-the-middle child. Two older brothers and two younger sisters - that's why I'm so balanced and even-keeled (very big grin). However, as the oldest girl - I still carry that responsible gene. No hand-me-downs, had to babysit the younger sisters, had to test (and break) the house rules which seemed stricter for mr than my brothers.

I like the depth created by loosely connected series. Backstories may already be known, the basics of the world established, so it's easier to get into the story. The characters already feel like family.

Good to have you back!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Welcome back to the Lair, Doc! hehehehe, just a little nurse humor...we're glad you're back with us CJ! And I just love good medical books...enjoyed LIFELINES a lot. And will probably love WARNING SIGNS too, especially if the four brothers are on the hunky side!!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Ooooooooooo, Donna, you're the smack in the middle kid, too? Knew there was a reason I liked you! I have one older brother, one younger sister. BUT I was Daddy's favorite...yep, just ask anyone! hehehe But, sigh, didn't take away the being responsible for the younger sister or making sure the older brother remembered his school books when he skipped out early for basketball practice. Geesh!!

Helen said...

Congrats Sarabelle enjoy your day with him

Loved the post CJ I too am the eldest I have 3 younger sisters and yes it was always my job to help with everything and be the responsible one but as we have grown up we are all very close and had a total of 10 children between us and two of us are grandparents now I have 4 grandchildren and Cathy has 2. I do enjoy being part of a large noisy family it is so much fun when we all get together.

Congrats on the new release I haven't managed to get your books yet but they are on my must get list and I look forward to reading them I love books written in a series I love to see what heppens to all the characters and see how things change with everyone. Thanks KIM and CJ.

Have Fun

Anna Sugden said...

Hey CJ - welcome back to the Lair! I'm so excited about your series - can't wait until November to be able to sit down and read them all in one go *g*. Yes, I'm one of those!

I'm also an older sister - and know exactly how you feel! Though my little sis had her fair share of ups and downs, she too has the greatest kids and I love them all dearly.

I love series! I enjoy seeing how characters develop and how the dynamics of relationships change as new life-partners enter the mix - whether in a covert organisation or a family.

One of the best I've read for character growth recently was Susan Mallery's Sweet series. The angst and shadows of the past driving these three sisters apart was intense and Susan did her usual masterful job of making their growth believable and meaningful.

Lisa Gardner's series is another which shows the amazing character growth of her female FBI agent - Kimberley Quincy.

As for me, I love writing series for the same reason I love reading them. I enjoy revisiting families/teams/areas and seeing how the stories have moved on and what is now happening to a place I love.

Houston A.W. Knight said...


Love the had me LOL'ing when I read this. I'm the "reluctant" little sister who is the level headed one, always watching over the older sister (only by ten minutes BTW), who always seems to find trouble that I have to pull her out of...I base every heroine I have on her...Yes, she has that many moods and is that colorful...she's also TROUBLE, and I'm "mom" to her...she's kept me so busy I haven't had time for children of my own...but she had two good boys.
Ah, you've got to love 'em, huh. O.K., so I admit...I'd be lost without her.


Kim Howe said...


Congrats on nabbing the GR. Have fun with him today!

Great comments about series...I'm with Anna as a great fan of Lisa Gardner's novels. I'm also a fan of Jeffrey Deaver's novels. It's a real challenge for writers to keep series fresh and interesting.

I can promise you that WARNING SIGNS is a fabulous read! I'm lucky enough to gobble up CJ's stories before they go to print! :)

CJ Lyons said...

Hey Sarabelle, congrats on snagging the rooster!

Thanks for dropping by.

CJ Lyons said...

Hi Limecello,

I so totally agree--in fact my favorite character to write is Gina, the bratty ER resident who has a lot of growing up to do before she earns her happily-ever-after....

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Anna! I appreciate the kind words!

CJ Lyons said...

Hey Virginia, thanks for stopping by!

My brother was the middle child--so no handmedowns for him since he was the only boy, lol!

And my little sister always got brand new clothes.....but like you, I learned to sew and then I wore what I wanted!

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Jane! I know, I love seeing those relationships grow over time and evolve!

CJ Lyons said...

Interesting--you mean people actually plan this out????

I'm just winging it--as always! In fact, the book that is going to be #3 I originally proposed for #2 because the story was more compelling to me, but my editor specifically asked for something "lighter" for book#2, saving the "meatier" book for #3....go figure.....

CJ Lyons said...

Hey there, Donna! So you had the best and worst of all worlds!

BTW, there are some good books on family position and its influence on personality if anyone is interested in building characters....

CJ Lyons said...

Hi Suzanne!! So happy that you enjoyed LIFELINES!

The brothers in WARNING SIGNS aren't on page except via a bunch of phone calls, but if we ever see them in person, of course they'll be some hunky southern male specimens!

Hmmm...might be a way to branch out the series and set some stories down here in South Carolina....

CJ Lyons said...

Hi Helen! Wow! Ten sibs??? And I thought our family was big and loud and noisy!

This is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday--thirty some people gathered around good food finishing each others' sentences and never losing the thread of the conversation!

sarabelle said...

Good Morning Banditas and CJ. Great post thank you for joining us today. Thank you all for the GR. I snatched him and ran. We had to go take a nap after all of my happy dancing.
Yes Anna I am very fortunate to have the #1 Cabana Boy yesterday and the GR Today, makes me wonder what tomorrow with bring.
The books sound fabulous CJ I look forward to getting my hands on them.

CJ Lyons said...

Hi Anna!

Hope you enjoy the books--I actually think that although they do stand alone, reading them all in one swoop might reveal more subtleties in the character growth....hopefully the series won't stop at book #3, though!

CJ Lyons said...

Hey there Hawk! Wow, your sis sounds like most of my heroines as well, lol!

Must have been fun growing up!

CJ Lyons said...

Hi Kim! Yeah, what would I do without your keen editorial eye to keep me straight!

Thanks again for having me here today, you know how much fun I always have visiting the Banditas!!!

Terry Odell said...

Hi, CJ - just stopping by to wave and say hello.

Good luck with the new release.

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Terry! Appreciate your stopping by!

Christie Kelley said...

Welcome back to the lair, CJ!

I love the family order thing. Except my family is so big it's tough to figure out who's who.

As far as keeping a series fresh...ugh. I'm dealing with that right now. I'm writing book 3 and still have two more after this one. I do think because of the characters that book 4 and 5 will seem fresh but book 3 is feeling too much like the first two for me. So I'm up for all suggestions on keeping it fresh!

Christie Kelley said...

Sarabelle, congrats on the GR. Watch the dancing, he likes to dance but hates the chicken dance.

Oh come on, you all were thinking it.

I'm slinking back to the cave to write now.

CJ Lyons said...

Hi Christie!

I think one of the reasons why I so enjoy writing my Angels of Mercy series is that the lead characters are so very different from each other and face such different challenges that I can write different stories each time.

My first, LIFELINES, is like a old west movie, a stranger come to town, type of story. WARNING SIGNS is a coming of age, almost a sweet love story intertwined with a medical mystery.

The third, URGENT CARE, is more a dark suspense where everything comes down to the choices of one woman.

I'm working on the fourth now and it will be different from the first three--the main character sends it in that direction. It will be more intense, like a locked house mystery, I envision it having almost gothic type spooky elements.

I guess what I'm saying is to go in whatever direction your characters take you to keep things fresh.....

PJ said...

Morning CJ! Welcome to the lair. I was just talking about Lifelines and Warning Signs at a Super Bowl party Sunday night. Some friends were talking about wanting to read some good medical suspense books and I recommended yours. They, like me, prefer to read a series in order so they were all planning to order both books.

I'm a first-born with four younger brothers. Being the oldest as well as the only girl meant a lot of responsibility but also a lot of opportunity and a wee bit of spoiling.

I'm looking forward to Gina's story. You have your work cut out with that one!

CJ Lyons said...

Hi PJ! Wow, talking about my books instead of watching the Steelers? No, probably at the commercials--what a game that was!!!

Thanks so much for mentioning my books to your friends--be sure to tell them to email me and let me know what they think.

Gina's story is going to be sooooo much fun--she has a lot of work to do to earn her happily ever after!

Louisa Cornell said...

Good Morning, CJ ! Great interview! And I feel your pain as my baby brother has the two most perfect, wonderful, best behaved grandchildren on the planet. Damn him! The middle brother and I have been together at the bottom until he recently married his long-time girlfriend and acquired a stepson who ADORES my Mom. Now I am all alone at the top with only a cranky chihuahua granddog to offer. Actually, I have a number of Mom's granddogs and grandcats, but Frodo is the most vocal. (Think Cujo in a 12 pound short-haired body!)

Way to go Sarabelle on snatching the GR. You are glomming all the the handsome characters in the Lair these days.

I love connected series and I love to see how a minor character with all sorts of quirks grows to become hero or heroine material. Even better if a villain from the last book ends up being the hero of the next PROVIDING it is a believable transformation.

One of the "villains" of my first manuscript is the heroine's sister and everyone who has read it HATES her. ( I think she reminds many of them of their own sister!) I have outlined a series from this book and she is actually the heroine of the third book. (providing it ever gets written)

CJ Lyons said...

Good point--transformation of characters from "regular folks" into hero material has to be believable and well motivated.

And I love redemption of badguys! I try to give all my badguys similar character arcs as my heroes and give them every chance to change, but of course they make the wrong choice and fail in the end, sealing their own fate....

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Sarabelle! You got got rooster! Good for you. :>

Virginia, you missed him by a feather.

Hey CJ!! *Waving madly* Welcome back to the Lair. Good to see you. I loved the sibling rivalry example and how they relate to books. Its so true. My sister and I are best friends and I have to LOL about how our father never seems to get past our childhood "labels." Weird, huh? At least the four of us kids have become friends as well as sibs. (I'm terrifically lucky to LIKE as well as love my sibs! Ha!)

Can't wait for Warning Signs!

Hey KJ, you're a Deaver fan too? Should have known. Grins. My fav is still Coffin Dancer. *shiver* Oh, and his first one, A Maiden's Grave.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Grumble, grumble...Steelers...grumble, grumble.

I'd rather have been talking books too, PJ.

(But it was a heck of a game!)

CJ Lyons said...

yes, it was a great game!!! My Steelers about gave me a heartattack, almost beating themselves, but they pulled it out, yeah!

Speaking of Jeffery Deaver, I'm on a panel with him in a few days! Anyone in the Chicago area, swing by Love is Murder and say Hi!!!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Wow, CJ, lucky you! You'll have to let us know if he's a cool guy or not. :> Congrats on being on the panel. Go you.

I'm a Panthers and Browns fan. (Now you know why I'm grumbling about the Steelers.)

However, have to confess, I admire Big Ben. :>

CJ Lyons said...

Actually, I've met Jeff before--Margie Lawson and I hung out with him at ThrillerFest two years ago and had a blast listening to all his stories about life on tour in Italy!

I'm really looking forward to meeting him again, fascinating man!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Well, glad to help you expand the series, CJ! And you know we readers LOVE us some hunky heroes!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Jeanne....You suffered through that awful game with me, huh? As a die-hard Browns fan, (no matter how bad they are), I couldn't bring myself to root for the...coughsteelerscough. I'd much rather root for Kurt Warner anyways! :)

CJ Lyons said...

LOL, Suzanne! Not that the heroes already on the page aren't hunky--ummmm....that Trey, who can resist a firefighter-paramedic!

While I love my covers, it would be cool to maybe some day add the guys to the cover art--or even, gasp!, get into their pov's.....

BTW, Trey's a classic middle-child peacekeeper in case folks didn't notice. A perfect counterweight to Lydia's fierce, leap without looking, passion!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Yep, Suz. It was tough, tough, tough. And the Browns were pretty bad this year. (Thankfully not the worst...)

And have to confess, CJ, that as much as I can admire Big Ben's skill, he's not the looker Kurt Warner is. Talk about hunky...

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

CJ, had to LOL a bit about wanting to add the guys to the covers. They do sell books...slurp.

Susan Sey said...

Hi, CJ--Thanks for popping into the lair today! It's so funny you should talk about your books like they're children! Do you also find absolutely unique things to love about each one & could never pick a favorite if your life depended on it? :-)

I'm looking forward to Warning Signs--I picked up Life Lines at RWA Nationals last year & am looking forward to catching up with the ladies at Angels of Mercy.

CJ Lyons said...

LOL! Have to admit, Jeanne, you got me there! Ben isn't the looker Curt is....the only problem with the guys on the covers is that I personally like to imagine them anyway I want instead of being constrained to the photo on the cover.

Pros and cons either way!

CJ Lyons said...

Hi Susan, thanks for stopping by!

Have to say, I really don't have any one favorite--except the one I'm currently working on, lol! Even when it's giving me fits!

Beth said...

Welcome back to the lair, CJ! Congratulations on your newest release - all of your books sound so fabulous!

I love series! I think Suzanne Brockmann is doing a great job with her Troubleshooters series. It's grown and changed and keeps evolving with each new book which keeps it fresh and interesting :-)

Keira Soleore said...

Hello, CJ, Welcome to The Lair!! I just read your LIFELINES again before moving on to reading WARNING SIGNS. Loved both the stories so much!

I'm thrlled that Amanda's story was next. I don't think I could've borne the suspense if Nora or Gina were second.

So, whose story is URGENT CARE? And Woo Hoo, I'm glad to see that it's coming out sooner than the 12-13 months I thought it was going to be.

I'm a huge fan of British crime series by Dorothy Sayers, PD James, Ruth Rendell, Elizabeth George et al. What I enjoy best about their series is that without doing an information dump, each book manages to convey the pertinent details of its main characters for first-time readers, while not boring series readers out of their skulls. At the same time, it has something new about the main characters for us faithful readers. I find it fascinating how they do that.

I saw something similar happen with your two books. I learned more about the four women in the second book, while I'm sure first-timers wouldn't have to refer to LIFELINES to get to understand them. However, what you've also done, is give me the satisfaction of a romanctic arc in each. One couple gets their HEA in the end. I'm a puddle of satisfaction. :)

Thanks once again for your autographed copy of LIFELINES. Now I have to wait and wait and wait for November and URGENT CARE to come around. (sigh)

Sarabelle, good nab. Virginia, you were so close.

CJ Lyons said...

Keira, wow, I'm blushing!

I'm so thrilled that you enjoyed both books--and saw the character development in them!

URGENT CARE will be Nora's story--which is why it's darker than the first two. The tag line says it all:

Keeping secrets can be murder....

Thanks so much for the kind words!

CJ Lyons said...

Hi Beth! I also love the Troubleshooters series--for exactly the reason you mentioned. Each story is a little different, feels fresh, and there are characters (like Sam and Alesia) who are allowed to have time to develop their relationship instead of jamming everything into one book.

My Lydia and Trey are like that--it's going to take several books for them to fully, totally commit and achieve a HEA....and it will take Gina a long time before she's even ready for a HEA!

But I still try to have the relationships solid enough that readers are satisfied with each book on its own.

Fingers crossed that the readers agree!!!

Vicki said...

CJ, I'm the oldest too and totally understand what you're talking about.

I love reading and writing series. Reading them is great since I already have a world built as I go into the second and third book (or more)

Writing them to me is like always being home. The biggest challenge though is make sure that although it's a series, it's still a stand alone book. Which of course means just enought backstory from the other book, but not too much to make it truely backstory.

Congrats sarabelle on getting the rooster.

CJ Lyons said...

You are so right--I'm trying to figure out how to do that with the 4th book as we speak!

Thanks for stopping by!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi CJ, welcome back to the Lair! Wow, great analogy between your books and the birth order and sibling rivalry! I really love the sound of WARNING SIGNS and can't wait to pick it up!

Since I'm working on a series, I should probably pay more attention to this idea. All I know is that I screamed and cursed through months of labor to produce the little suckers and what gratitude do they show me??? I got nothing!! LOL!!

Congrats, Sarabelle!

CJ Lyons said...

Hey Kate! I know, I know, once they're out there, they never write, they never call.....oh well, there's always the next baby!

Tawny said...

Hi CJ and welcome back to the Lair. I love your comparison between the books and you and your sister *g* As another first born, you have my complete sympathy!! My youngest brother gets EVERYTHING! LOL.

I haven't written a series, but I do love reading them. I think its the evolving 'what happens next' aspect taht appeals to me so much. I love knowing how things go after I close the book, and picking up the next one in a series gives me that pleasure.

CJ Lyons said...

Tawny, thanks for stopping by! I like your feeling of wanting to know what happens after a book ends, that's one of the fun things about writing a series!

jo robertson said...

Hi, CJ, waving wildly and welcoming you back to the Lair. Your books are wonderful and I can't wait to read the third one, URGENT CARE. I love dark and edgy.

I curious about how you manage to keep up the busy life of a physician and write too! Amazing!

Hi, Sarabelle, congratulations on getting the rooster today.

jo robertson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CJ Lyons said...

Hi Jo! Thanks for the kind words--I'm thrilled that you enjoy my books.

I too am looking forward to URGENT CARE--it's the most complex book I've written and very dear to my heart...

sarabelle said...

Good Evening all. I see this place never sleeps. I just got home from work and thought I would drop in and say hi. After partying with Anna and Nicola ( and the cabana boys) last night and then getting jiggy with it with the rooster I am just plain tuckered out. I am fighting sleep but afraid that I wont be able to hold on the GR for a second day. I know how that must upset all of you :)