Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Author interview: The Color of Lies by C.J. Lyons

Book Summary
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author CJ Lyons comes The Color of Lies, a world drenched in color and mystery.

High school senior Ella Cleary has always been good at reading people. Her family has a rare medical condition called synesthesia that scrambles the senses—her Gram Helen sees every sound, and her uncle Joe can literally taste words. Ella’s own synesthesia manifests itself as the ability to see colors that reveal people’s true emotions…until she meets a guy she just can’t read.

Alec is a mystery to Ella, a handsome, enigmatic young journalist who makes her feel normal for the first time in her life. That is, until he reveals the real reason why he sought her out—he wants to learn the truth behind her parents’ deaths, the parents that Ella had always been told died in a fire. Alec turns Ella’s world upside down when he tells her their deaths were definitely not an accident.

After learning her entire life has been a lie, Ella doesn’t know who she can trust or even who she really is. With her adoptive family keeping secrets and the evidence mixing fact and fiction, the only way for Ella to learn the truth about her past is to find a killer.

Perfect for fans of Caroline B. Cooney, Ally Carter, and Jennifer Brown, The Color of Lies blurs the lines between black-and-white facts and the kaleidoscope of reality.

Flo's Note
Happy book birthday to The Color of Lies! To celebrate its release, we're sharing an exclusive interview with author C.J. Lyons! 

Author Interview
What was your inspiration for The Color of Lies?
 CJ: For The Color of Lies,my inspiration was the idea of a girl who saw everyone else’s truth … but was blind to her own.
I loved that conflict; the paradox of what we see and believe versus what is real and true. And how we deny reality, sacrifice it to our dreams by what we chooseto believe … It happens every day in the real world. Just look at the epidemic of fake news posing as reality.
What if someone’s entire life was colored by what they wanted to believe instead of what was real? Answering that question led to The Color of Lies.

How do you build your characters?
CJ: After writing so many dark thrillers, for The Color of LiesI wanted to work with a character who saw life in all its beauty and who truly felt as if she knew and understood her world. Someone with a loving family and friends, although her main problem in life stems from that loving family as she feels obligated to stay in her hometown to take care of them. 

Of course, my next job as a writer is to figure out how to totally destroy this character’s perfect life!

I needed a character strong enough to survive the chaos and turmoil I’d engulf her in, and so Ella was born. I always knew she was an artist but wanted her view of the world to be even more unique. A friend of mine plays the violin and one night was describing how she saw musical notes as colors and that gift helped her to quickly master complex pieces because she wasn’t memorizing them, she was visualizing them. Painting with music.

This kind of sensory crisscrossing is a well-recognized medical condition called synesthesia. Studies suggest it’s actually twice as common as the gene that causes red hair.

While synesthesia might sound like fun, there are forms that are very uncomfortable and actually end up isolating people from the outside world. For example, tasting words. You can’t unhear a word and can’t control a taste—so if the word “football” tastes like baby poop, your life might be a bit unbearable. Or if you feel sounds, then simply venturing into the outside world can feel like being swept up in a tsunami of noise pounding you from every direction.

For Ella, I wanted her synesthesia to be essential to her worldview—a sixth sense that she couldn’t live without. So I gave her the ability to “see” people’s emotions via colorful auras. Ella believes her synesthesia reveals the truth that people hide routinely from each other and trusts it to navigate her way through the world.

Until she meets a boy whose aura she can’t see. And he tells her that everything in her life is a lie.

Read more with CJ Lyons after the break.

As NaNoWriMo begins, I have to ask — pantser or plotter?
CJ: I’m a pantser and have never been able to plot or outline a book. But I think one of the things that can help pantsers tackle stories without knowing every little detail or plot twist is to start with the ending. That way you know where you’re going. Not necessarily the action of the plot at the end but the emotional payoff you’re promising the reader, where your character ends up.

To start any project, I usually know the theme (the “why” the story is happening and why it matters to readers), the main character’s emotional arc, and a scene at or near the final climax. These become my guideposts and my first draft is a journey of discovery as I explore all the many ways to reach that climax, choosing the most fun and twisty path to take. 

By focusing on what kind of overarching emotional journey I want the reader to share with me, instead of individual plot points, it gives the story an overall cohesiveness and hopefully helps to avoid that “episodic” feeling that some thrillers have.

How did your experiences as a doctor help you as you wrote this book? Did any of your experiences, lessons, or challenges make it into the book?
CJ: Other than experience in how early trauma can impact a child’s memory and understanding the loopholes in the child welfare system, The Color of Liesis really my first novel that doesn’t pull extensively from my medical background. It was actually quite fun researching topics foreign to me like synesthesia and how to move a bat colony out of an attic!

What are you currently reading?
CJ: I always have several books going at once. For research for a new thriller centered on an ER doctor whose husband is murdered, I’m reading In a Dark Wood by Joseph Luzzi, which is a memoir about a man who loses his wife but also gains his first child that same day after the doctors perform an emergency C-section.

And for fun, I got my hands on an early copy of The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, a debut novel by Ben Philippe.

What do you plan to do on release day? 
CJ: First, go vote! And then take the day off to do what I love most (after writing), read! Since writing a book is always such a marathon, to celebrate the release of The Color of LiesI’ll be treating myself to Laini Taylor’s Muse of Nightmares, the sequel to Strange, the Dreamer, which I simply adored.

About CJ:

New York Timesand USA Todaybestselling author of over forty novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart. 

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).

Her novels have twice won the International Thriller Writers’ prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Readers’ Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart at www.CJLyons.net.

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