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By Jeff Ayers

CJ Lyons delivers another outstanding thriller with her latest, BLACK SHEEP.  It’s the one mystery Supervisory Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney has never solved: her father’s unexplained suicide after arresting his best friend for murder. It drove Caitlyn to become one of the FBI’s best agents—and often the most unorthodox. Her latest case is no exception when the man she holds responsible for her father’s death asks for help in finding his missing daughter. Caitlyn’s search brings her back to her North Carolina hometown, now vibrant with new money, old lies, and an unknown enemy who will do anything to keep Caitlyn from the learning the truth—and who will kill to keep it buried…

She talked to the Big Thrill about her new book, and the state of the publishing industry.

What sparked the idea for BLACK SHEEP?

BLACK SHEEP actually was one of those books that was total serendipity. I was in an airport shuttle van on my way to a speaking engagement when my agent called and said that we had a bidding war going on for the rights to my NYT Bestseller, BLIND FAITH, and that several editors had asked if we could turn it into a series.

So on the phone between the airport and my hotel, we brainstormed a premise for BLACK SHEEP: what if FBI Supervisory Special Agent Caitlyn Tierney (a secondary character in BLIND FAITH) discovered that her father’s suicide, which shaped her entire life and career, wasn’t what it looked like?

We decided to really take Caitlyn out of her comfort zone, so we sent her to the one place where her FBI skills and prestige would be useless: back home to the small village in the North Carolina mountains that she’d left after her father’s death twenty-six years ago.

Out of that ten minute conversation BLACK SHEEP was born…it turned out to be a much darker and more suspenseful book than I’d anticipated, dealing with betrayals from loved ones, but that resonates with BLIND FAITH’s theme nicely so I think readers will be pleased that I ventured out of my own comfort zone and took a journey to the dark side.

Could you talk about the research into the police/FBI life?  How different is it from your medical background and does it clash?

It doesn’t clash at all—I used to teach police officers trauma life support and worked with them closely as an ER doctor, so having an excuse to go hang out with them is always fun!

The real life FBI is very, very different from pop culture portrayals on TV and in the movies, which makes it tough since readers think they “know” how the FBI works and they don’t. I try to bring as many facts as I can into the story, including the FBI’s real undercover protocols and their current investigative priorities, and have even created bonus material including a PDF of FBI Terms and Resources on my website if readers are interested in learning more.

What’s especially gratifying has been the number of letters I receive from real world FBI agents and law enforcement officers praising my work as getting it right, especially the psychology of the characters.

Just like with my medical thrillers, I try my best to keep things as real as they can be and still be entertaining.

You seem to go back and forth between the E-book world and traditional publishing.  What are your thoughts on the industry today?  

It’s not that I go back and forth so much as my readers clamoring for more books faster, so I use both avenues to get my books into their hands. I love the flexibility authors have today and the chance to develop strategic partnerships with publishers so that we can best please our readers.

That’s my guiding principle with every decision: What will excite and delight my readers?

If I were a newcomer to your writing, where would you recommend I start?

Most thriller lovers enjoy my Lucy Guardino FBI Thrillers (SNAKE SKIN, BLOOD STAINED and KILL ZONE) and the first of the new series that launches Caitlyn’s character, BLIND FAITH. I should also note that BLACK SHEEP stands alone so there are no worries about starting there!

What’s next?

This is an exciting year for me. In addition to BLACK SHEEP coming out 2/26, the third Caitlyn Tierney book, HOLLOW BONES, will be out 10/1/13, and my YA thriller debut, BROKEN, releases on 11/5/13. In between those three releases from NYC publishers, my fans have been begging me for another Lucy book, so I’m hard at work on AFTER SHOCK, the fourth Lucy Guardino FBI Thriller, and I’m working with a co-author to get the third in the Shadow Ops trilogy, EDGE OF SHADOWS, finished.

And then, if I have any time in between all that, I might just take my first vacation in seven years!


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of seventeen 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” (PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (NEWSDAY).

Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart on her website.

Jeff Ayers
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