Photo by Jeremy Schwartz
For the first five weeks of his life, Gregory Leigh Lyons lived a predictable American lifestyle in Glendale, California. Then his parents took him to Venezuela and his world became one of contrasts, risks and unparalleled adventures.
For 10 years Lyons’ backyard was a jungly savannah bordering the Orinoco River. Then it was on to Ecuador for high school, culminating with graduation in Iran.
The common denominator of his childhood was oil – Lyons is the son of an international petroleum engineer, and he became a petroleum geologist. With a degree in earth science from the University of California, he pursued a successful 20-year career in the South American oil patches. In 2004 he completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School and became a consultant for venture capital groups in Vancouver, B.C., resulting in his move to Blaine. And today he’s sitting in his office overlooking the marina, writing books and getting published.
After growing up in far-flung places, it was no surprise Lyons wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, but when the economy went south several years ago, so did his work as a consultant. Lyons struck out on a new path as a writer. It’s worked out well for him – the first book in Lyons’ Avery McShane series will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books on March 1. Lyons’ talent landed him a legendary team – agent Sterling Lord of New York City and Emma Matthewson, who was the editor for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
His memories of the Venezuelan jungle are the inspiration for his Avery McShane series, aimed at 8- to 12-year-old boys.
“There is a huge vacuum of boys who don’t read,” Lyons says, and if these adventure stories don’t lure them in, nothing will.
“By the end of chapter one, the kids are going to find a dead body.” Even without dead bodies, Lyons’ life was bold. A young Indiana Jones in the jungles of Venezuela, he was fishing in rivers inhabited by anaconda, alligators and piranhas. The success of his stories lies in the plotting and a fast pace. And while the plot moves at a healthy speed, so does his writing process.
“An idea is like a ripe tomato. Throw it against the canvas and you just write,” he says. He also works on more than one story at a time. “I keep three books going ... if you get stuck with one, move on.”
There’s definitely no grass growing under this man’s feet, so what’s next?
“I want to refine my craft and move my writing into a more literary genre,” he says. And he has the chops for it. His self-awareness and perception reveal an understanding of the human condition – an obvious prerequisite for any writer.
He followed his father’s path as an oil man, but it’s full circle now. His mother was an artist, and it’s her strengths that shine in him today. “I am easily struck down and easily buoyed,” Lyons says of his creative, mercurial and resilient nature.
The isolation of a writer can be frustrating, and the discipline of writing often lies in living with uncertainty. Lyons finds great support in his wife, Jeanie. They’ve been married since Lyons was 22, and he describes her as, “Just a dream ... a wonderful girl.” They have three sons: Kieran, 22; Avery, 19; and Liam, 12, all of whom played an obvious role in inspiring their father’s writing. Around the house in Point Whitehorn, Lyons enjoys cooking and when he needs to get away from it all, he might go out and catch dinner, casting a fly rod, back in his private world of adventure. Lyons and Jeanie both share a passion for travel, with goals of visiting Mount Kilimanjaro, Bhutan, New Zealand and The Cape of Good Hope.
But he’s nowhere near ready for the bucket list. After several years of real dedication to his writing, Lyons is considering going back to consulting in the bio-resources community. The work is there, and though he says he’d prefer writing to geology, he feels he is ready to do both. It will be a loss if he doesn’t.
For more information visit Lyons’ website at www.gleighlyons.com.