Thursday, September 10, 2015

An Interview with Tess Gerritsen

An Interview with Tess Gerritsen
by Pamela James

MM2: Tess, the first question I have is this...What scares you? What makes you afraid? Because from your bio I can't imagine that you are afraid of anything. 

-- Like any mother, I'm afraid of anything happening to my kids or my grandchild.  That's a universal fear, and really it's about the only thing that really terrifies me.  I'm not too fond of heights either, but somehow that's not as visceral a fear. Which may be why I generally avoid writing stories in which young children get hurt.

MM2: Let's start with your medical and crime thrillers. How much research goes into your medical thrillers? I know you went to medical school. However I am sure there is still a ton of research? 

-- The amount of research varies with the book.  Some stories require minimal research -- only a few weeks or so.  Others (like GRAVITY and BONE GARDEN) required months

of research. If it's out of my sphere of knowledge, then I really have to work harder.  GRAVITY, for instance, required visits to NASA facilities as well as months of reading documents and books on space technology.

MM2: What about your crime thrillers? Tell us about them and some of the challenges that goes with writing in this genre?

-- The biggest challenge is that I'm not in law enforcement, so I'm not always confident about how a cop would do things.  I feel more comfortable writing from Maura Isles's point of view (she's the medical examiner) because I can fall back on my medical training for many of those details.  Another challenge is: how do I surprise the reader?  Mystery readers are a pretty clever group, and fooling them isn't easy.  They're quick to spot the real killer.

MM2: Romance novels is another genre that you have written. Tell us about writing romance?

-- I loved writing romance!  I started off in that genre because I was reading it while I was working as a doctor, and in need of something uplifting and optimistic at the end of a hard day.  But I quickly found out that writing romance has its own difficulties -- primarily, how do you take a story as old as time (boy meets and girl and they fall in love) and make it new and fresh?  I also had a tough time writing sex scenes.  Trying to write both erotically and tastefully was a tricky balance!

MM2: I have saved the core of this interview for last. Rozzoli and Isles books and now a television series. Take us thru the process of how the books and series came about and what comes next in the books?

-- It all started with my book, THE SURGEON.  It was intended as a one-off, about a female surgeon who's haunted by an earlier encounter with a serial killer.  I introduced a secondary character named Jane Rizzoli, a rather unlikeable homicide detective who's the partner of the hero.  She was brassy, aggressive, and bitter, and I had every intention of killing her off near the end of the story.  But during the writing of that book, Jane grew on me.  I began to understand why she was so bitter, and I began to respect her.  When it came time for her death scene, I couldn't kill her.  She fought back against her creator and survived!  That's when I knew Jane deserved her own book.  So I wrote THE APPRENTICE, where I introduced another minor
character named Dr. Maura Isles, the new medical examiner.  By the end of that story, I was intrigued by Maura and had to write a book about her -- THE SINNER.  By now, I realized
I had a series going, featuring two very strong women.  Throughout the writing of the series (I'm now working on #12) I never had anything planned out ahead of time.  Their lives have evolved organically, through the course of the stories.  Somewhere along the way I learned that Maura was adopted and her birth mother is a serial killer in prison.  I got to know Jane's family -- and watched Jane get pregnant and marry Gabriel Dean.  And little by little, Jane and Maura have become close friends.  As for what comes next -- um, I'm figuring it out!

MM2: Tess, you must have so much energy. Do you ever take a vacation? If so where do you like to vacation?

-- I love to travel -- I just wish I had more time to do it as recreation.  My favorite place of all is Italy.  I also love returning again and again to Istanbul.  But somehow deadlines keep me chained to my desk for most of the year.

MM2: Tell us about where you live? A little about your family life and your favorite place to write?

-- I live on the coast of Maine, and my office (over the garage) overlooks the sea.  It's a beautiful spot, and I particularly love the peace and quiet of this state.  My sons are both adults, and I'm extremely proud of them.  One teaches college biology in upstate New York.  The other lives only 5 miles down the road and he's a combination filmmaker and organic farmer.

MM2: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you about Jane and Maura? The women who play Jane and Maura? I can't imagine anyone else in these roles. Is there something you would like to share with us about these characters?

-- There's been a big change going to TV with these characters.  In the books, Jane isn't particularly attractive, but on TV, she's played by the lovely Angie Harmon. Personality wise, TV Jane is pretty close to Book Jane -- both of them are brassy and smart and aggressive.  Book Maura is quiet, cerebral, and with a deep, dark streak in her.  TV Maura is cheerful, happy, and fashion forward.  That's where the biggest change has been.  I understand why they made the change for television.  It gives us much more of a contrast between the two characters.

MM2: Your life seems pretty exciting and I can't imagine there is anything you haven't achieved. Still, I have to ask this question. Have you achieved all of your writing goals? What future writing plans do you have?

-- You can never achieve all your goals.  For instance, I'd love to write a YA novel, but don't know when I'd be able to fit it into my deadlines.  I'm very happy to say I did accomplish one goal, and that was to write a novel steeped in history and music.  PLAYING WITH FIRE comes out
October 27 in the US, and I also composed the music that forms the basis for the story.  That music will be recorded by violinist superstar Susanne Hou, and will be available on iTunes. The story is about a mysterious waltz which transforms a violinist's life, and causes her to search for the music's origins -- in wartime Venice.

MM2: They say it takes a village to write a book. Who is in your village? Do you have friends  or a writing group etc...that you trust to read over rough drafts?

-- My village is my agent and my editor.  I don't show my manuscript to anyone until I feel it's ready for them to look at.  Writing is a very solitary job for me, and I'm secretive about my work until it comes time to send it out.

MM2: Okay now for some fun questions. What is your favorite meal, movie/s, dessert, do you ever re-read your favorite books?

-- I'm such a huge foodie, I can't name a favorite meal.  I enjoy just about everything.  Favorite movie?  I'd have to say that rollicking SF comedy "Galaxy Quest."  I don't eat dessert -- just don't have a sweet tooth.  And as for re-reading favorite books, I always fall back on LORD OF THE RINGS.

MM2: Do you actually do lunch with your agent? I am sorry I just had to ask. 

-- Yes, whenever I'm in New York.  She's been my agent for twenty years now and she understands my quirks so well.  It doesn't really feel like business, more like girlfriends getting together.  

MM2: You are an amazing woman and a great role model for young women. What advice do you have young women everywhere?

-- Never undervalue yourself.  Never shy away from a challenge.  Things that seem scary at first will just make you try harder, and in the process you'll gain confidence and competence.  The projects I'm most proud of having accomplished were the projects that terrified me at the start.

MM2: What would your characters want us to know about you?

-- I'm really quite shy and solitary.  I don't think I'd have any problem being stranded alone on a desert island, as long as gourmet food would magically appear every day.

MM2: Lastly, leave us with a quote one of your characters might say?

-- "Just get it done."


  1. Tess- I really enjoyed the interview - and you hooked me with The Surgeon!

    On another note - Galaxy Quest is one of my favorite movies as well -- we were just talking about it in our group this past weekend!

  2. Tess,
    Thank you for allowing me to interview you.


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