As we look forward to the soft cover release of The Color of Lies by CJ Lyons this week, we wanted to take a moment to revisit this fantastic title!
I am excited to introduce you to a new YA novel, The Color of Lies, that will have you racing through the pages. In this book, high school senior Ella Cleary’s world is tipped sideways when a young man named Alec shows up on her birthday, claiming he not only once met her, he knows her parents’ deaths over a decade ago were no accident. What is even more disconcerting is that Ella can’t read him: her synesthesia usually gives her insight into the emotions of those around her, but Alec’s aura is completely clear. As Ella and Alec dig into the past, and explore the growing feelings between them, Ella must decide what shades of truth she can really believe.
Intrigued? For more information on the story, and exactly what synesthesia is, I spoke with the author, CJ Lyons.
JA: CJ, nice to see you! I can’t wait to hear more about this book. What inspired you to write The Color of Lies?
CJ: I start all of my books with character. What do they want and why? Then I dig deeper … what do they need most in their lives, something they aren’t even aware of? And of course, being a thriller writer, I focus a lot on what will totally disrupt their life, force them to choose between their greatest desire and what they really need but never even knew.
For The Color of Lies, my first 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 how we deny reality, sacrifice it to our dreams by what we choose to 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.
JA: Ella’s synesthesia plays a huge role in the plot. What is this rare medical condition, and what led you to include it as part of Ella’s character?
CJ: As a physician, I’ve long been fascinated by unique medical oddities such as synesthesia. It’s not a disease, but rather the way the brain processes information is mistranslated into other senses. You may see letters as colors or smell words you read.
I have friends who have it—one is a musician who sees the notes she plays as color and light, another hears colors … I myself have what may be a mild form (or maybe it’s just a symptom of my overactive imagination!). I can taste recipes for food I’ve never eaten before just by reading them.
People with synesthesia experience the world differently, which is not only fascinating, it makes for an intriguing character—especially since we all base our idea of reality on what we see, hear, feel. For people with synesthesia, their reality is already very different than people who don’t have synesthesia, so if we upset that reliance on what is seen, felt, or heard, how do we know what’s real and what isn’t?
Start playing with people’s perception of reality, of their basic, essential truth, and you open up a world of possibilities for a story.
JA: While Ella literally sees the world through a colorful lens of shifting hues and truths, Alec is much more straight-forward and black and white in how he approaches the mystery of what really happened to Ella’s parents. What was it like to create such different characters? And which point of view did you find easier to write?
CJ: Alec was definitely easier to write as he’s a stand-in for the reader—always questioning, observing, wondering why things happened and what might happen next.
But in many ways Ella’s point of view was a lot more fun (despite also being a lot of work). Not only her synesthesia but also the fact she’s simply a basically good, normal, even naïve kid. Her wants are simple: to keep her family safe. But her dreams go so far past that, to the point where she denies them even to herself.
Upsetting her warm, safe world was a bit cruel (thank goodness she’s only fictional!) but also a ton of fun, because once you begin to doubt reality, the path back to the truth is a twisted corkscrew that leads to chaos and suffering.
JA: Ella’s synesthesia also comes through in her artwork—she’s a gifted painter and artist in general. How artistic do you consider yourself? And if you could “borrow” any artist’s skills, which one would you choose?
CJ: My best friend is a talented painter and photographer. While I have no skills myself, I am entranced by light and rich, vivid color, and love to explore her artistic process. I’m honored that she’ll show me works in progress and ask my take on them—and even use my feedback when it resonates with her vision.
I love so many artists’ works that it’s hard to answer who I would choose to emulate. Among my favorites are Chagall, Van Gogh, Cassatt, Hopper, Monet, the list goes on … Really, anyone who uses color to create a deeper understanding of the world and uses art to forge an intimate connection with the viewer.
JA: I’m always curious when I talk to authors: What is your favorite part of this story?
CJ: My favorite is a scene that is almost exactly in the middle of the story and really reveals both Ella’s essential nature as portrayed by her art and Alec’s deeper understanding of her truth—in some ways he knows more about her than she does.
To me, that scene says everything about an artist’s struggle to reveal the truth as well as how we each must define our own sacred truth: who we really are and the kind of person we want to be—no matter the sacrifice.
JA: I was drawn to that scene too! And let’s talk about the beautiful cover as well. What did you think when you first saw it?
CJ: I loved it! The painterly drips and vivid colors! I adore rich, vibrant, pure colors, and to see them pop in the title like that was so much fun.
JA: Finally, I know you are a HUGE reader. If you could only choose five books to last you the rest of your life, which five would you pick?
CJ: Argh! I can give you five, but to be honest whenever I’m asked questions like this my answer is always different.
In no particular order, I’d pick that big fat high school textbook that had all of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets—something in there for every mood, right?
I’d also choose a Ray Bradbury book, probably one of my childhood favs like Something Wicked This Way Comes or Dandelion Wine. He was the first author who showed me that you can create entire worlds with words.
Next, I’d take Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale. I’ve read that book at least twenty times, always finding something new each time since it first grabbed me when I was in college. And I’d be sure to take another childhood favorite, Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time as well as a copy of Perrault’s Fairy Tales. My aunt and uncle gave me a copy of Perrault’s when I was eleven and I still have it—it’s one of my most precious treasures.
If I had space to sneak in one more, it’d be JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
And if that combination isn’t enough to transport me and keep me entertained, I don’t know what would!
Thanks so much, CJ! Readers, stay tuned for more on CJ and The Color of Lies, including a quiz and more information on CJ herself. And be sure to preorder the book using one of the links below!
About the book: 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.
About the author: Pediatric ER doctor turned New York Times bestselling thriller writer CJ Lyons has been a storyteller all her life—something that landed her in many time-outs as a kid. She writes her Thrillers with Heart for the same reason that she became a doctor: because she believes we each have the power to change our world.
In the ER, she witnessed many acts of courage by her patients and their families, learning that heroes truly are born every day. When not writing, she can be found walking the beaches near her Lowcountry home, listening to the voices in her head, and plotting new and devious ways to create mayhem for her characters.
To learn more about her Thrillers with Heart, go to www.CJLyons.net