Q&A with Lisa Carney

"Cowboy in the City" is a fast-paced fiction novel that appeals to readers who love action/adventure stories splashed with a bit of humor. The book is based on author Lisa Carney's 15 years as a paramedic in the Springfield, Massachusetts, area and...


Cowboy in the City is a fast-paced fiction novel that appeals to readers who love action/adventure stories splashed with a bit of humor. The book is based on author Lisa Carney's 15 years as a paramedic in the Springfield, Massachusetts, area and has been well-received by the local EMS community. Now a retired firefighter/paramedic, Carney hopes her stories will engender new respect for her friends and colleagues who are still working in EMS. At the very least, she says, maybe people will at least be more diligent about pulling over when they see an emergency vehicle approaching with lights and siren. Cowboy in the City is available on Amazon.com and in soft cover in Kindle format. Lisa Carney can be reached at tenspeed99@comcast.net.

Where did you get the idea for this book?

The idea came just from working in EMS, which is like a story every day. You sit in the back of an ambulance and watch the world go by, and you think to yourself, "Somebody should be writing this down." So working in EMS is what motivated me. I've had people say it's like having me tell them about a day at work.

You compare EMS to religion, and the chapter headings, which are written like Bible verses, are very funny and clever. Why do you think of EMS as a religion?

EMS is not just a regular job. You get into it and think you're just starting a job where you'll work hard and work lots of hours without getting paid a lot, and you suddenly realize you've become absorbed by it. It starts to not only affect your work life, but it takes over your everyday life. It begins to change the way you think about the world, which is what religion is supposed to do. It makes you open your eyes and say, "Oh, everything isn't what I was taught. Now that I've started to make my own observations on life, things are suddenly a bit different than I was told in the beginning." EMS changes your philosophy and how you see people, and I think it affects how people see their own religion and their spirituality. There's a lot of life and death in EMS and lots of emotion, and that adds to the religious feel of it. It's hard to come home from work, take off your uniform and be done with it. It stays with you; it infiltrates your dreams and personal relationships and completely takes you over.

The book is fiction with some pretty strong language and unflattering portrayals. Is that a picture of EMS you really wanted people to see?

My original inspiration for writing the book was that so many authors don't get it right when they portray us. In fictional books we walk around and cry a lot. On TV, you see someone who had a bad call sitting in the hospital parking lot crying and saying "I can't believe how awful things are." What I found when I got into EMS was that it's more about "Here I am at work. This is the stuff I know is going to happen, and I'll do the best I can to live with it and just keep going." We tend to do things that provide a mechanism for dealing with the bad calls, and I wanted to present the different ways we "deal." Some of the characters in the book use illicit drugs and some of them drink to get past a bad call. In the book, I did a 50/50 split, where half of the characters do things like getting drunk or stoned to avoid dealing with their emotions, and the other half aren't the least bit interested in those ways of coping. But I wanted to show that we are not perfect human beings and we don't always deal well with the things that affect us. If anything, I wanted to give talking points. It was my hope that the book can be used not only for entertainment, but for teaching new EMTs just coming into the field. To let them know nobody can prepare you for exactly what your experience will be, but this is a general overview and these are your choices. You can learn to deal with the stuff you see, or you can push it down inside yourself and it's probably not going to go well. What I'm really hoping for is that people will talk about it--get conversations going. If the book can do anything for people in EMS it's to say, "Let's start talking about things. Let's start dealing with things positively."

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