Interview with author Tess Gerritsen

On July 21, 2011, in Author, Interview, by Milo
The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

Joining me today is the wonderful Tess Gerritsen, author of the Rizzoli & Isles series, The Silent Girl, released today, is the ninth book to feature the crime busting duo.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Did you get one of those pivotal moments in school or did it come later?

I knew when I was 7 years old. That’s when I wrote my first “book”, and the urge to write has never left me.  It took another two decades before I was able to return to writing (as I became a doctor in the interim) but I always knew I’d be a storyteller.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had while waiting for that breakthrough moment?

I don’t know if I’d call it the ”worst” job, but  it was certainly a stressful time, working as a doctor while being the mother of young sons.  The day I got the call that my book was going to be published counts as one of those high points in my life.

Having served your “apprentice” as a romantic thriller writer, what made you change genre and write your first medical thriller Harvest?

It was the premise that captured me.  I heard rumours of children vanishing from the streets of Moscow and sent to the Middle East as organ donors.  That so horrified me that I knew I had to write a novel about it. Clearly it wasn’t a romance novel, but it was the book I wanted to write.  HARVEST was a big bestseller in the US, and I’ve continued in the thriller genre ever since.

How do you feel TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles compares to the books and do you have any say in the production? I guess you couldn’t ask for a better lead than Angie Harmon – just perfect for the role!

The show is funnier than the books, certainly, and the characters far more glamorous than I ever imagined them.  But the show has been a huge success in the US and has led to far bigger book sales.  I’m listed as a “consultant”, but the show has its own fantastic team of writers so I have the pleasure of being a participant in its success without having to do any of the work!

What books/authors have most influenced you most and why?

The Nancy Drew YA mystery novels (written by the team known as Carolyn Keene) because they introduced me to the genre.  Stephen King, because of his spot-on character development.   And JRR Tolkien, for making me realize that there’s no limit to where the imagination can take you.

Do you relish the writing procedure or are you prone to distractions and when you finally sit down to write do you have some idyllic writing location to while away the hours?

I’m very prone to distractions. The writing is never easy – ironically it’s harder with each new success as you need to top your last book.  I’m always afraid I’ll disappoint my readers.  And since I don’t outline my stories ahead of time, the first draft is quite disorganized and full of blind ends.  But I like surprising myself in the course of writing, and I think that if I’m surprised by a plot twist, then my readers will be surprised as well.

Tess Gerritsen

Tess Gerritsen

I remember reading “The Killing Place” – my first introduction to Rizzoli & Isles – late in 2010 and when I came across the abandoned village I allowed my mind to wander thinking what it would be like to start fresh – no baggage – in a place like that, living off the land (similar to the housing complex in LOST!) However, slowly but surely you added fear to the mix with gruesome discoveries and unhinged personalities and my dreams were dashed! How did you come up with that idea? 

It was based on a true news story, about an incident that took place in a remote valley in Utah 40 years ago.  Overnight, massive numbers of sheep died in pastures and birds fell out of the sky.  Only later was the reason for the sheep kill (known today as the “Dugway Incident”) explained in a declassified US government file.  I thought: what if it had happened to an entire village of people instead?  What if all the bodies in the village suddenly vanished?  That’s where the idea of an abandoned town came from.

For those readers who haven’t discovered “Rizzoli & Isles” can you give us a little insight into the characters and the thinking behind the books?

Jane Rizzoli (introduced in THE SURGEON) is a brash, brilliant Boston homicide detective.  Dr. Maura Isles (introduced in THE APPRENTICE) is the cerebral and very logical medical examiner.  I never planned to write a series, but these two women fascinated me, and I wanted to return to them, again and again, just to see what had happened in their lives. Through their work together, they have become friends, but it’s an uneasy friendship marked by crisis and by periods of distrust.  The development of their relationship has proved a focal point of the series.

What book/s are on your bedside cabinet now?

I’ve just finished reading a book called TURN OF MIND, about an Alzheimer’s patient who’s a murder suspect.  And I’m reading a new galley by historical thriller writer Matthew Pearl.

And finally…If you could invite three people/characters from the past to a dinner party who would you invite and why?

Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth I, and Helen of Troy.  Needless to say, I’m fascinated by legendary women who’ve made history!

Find out more about Tess and her book by visiting the Tess Gerritsen website

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1 Response » to “Interview with author Tess Gerritsen”

  1. Ed Lynskey says:

    Great interview. I read Harvest a couple years ago. Blew me away. Thanks Tess and Milo.

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