by Lorie Lewis Ham
Today at KRL we have the incredible honor of interviewing bestselling mystery/suspense author Tess Gerritsen, creator of the popular Rizzoli & Isles book series that has been made info a successful TV show on TNT. I was excited to get the chance to interview her and hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did. We also have a review of her latest book, The Silent Girl, and at the end of this article there is a chance to enter to win a copy of the book!
Lorie: Can you tell us a little about The Silent Girl?
Tess: It’s the ninth book in the series featuring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and M.E. Dr. Maura Isles. When a murdered woman is found in Boston’s Chinatown, and the only clues are monkey hairs on her clothes and a sliver from a 15-th century sword, Rizzoli and Isles wonder if they’re dealing with the ancient Chinese legend of the Monkey King, come to life.
Lorie: How long have you been writing?
Tess: Since I was seven years old.
Lorie: When did your first novel come out and can you tell us a little about it?
Tess: My first published novel was Call After Midnight, in 1987. It was a romantic suspense novel about a just-widowed young woman who, on the day of her husband’s funeral, gets a phone call with his voice on the other end. She has to track down whether her husband is really dead — or alive.
Lorie: Have you always written mysteries? If not what else have you written?
Tess: I’ve always had mystery in my novels, but my first nine novels also had romance in them as well.
Lorie: What brought you to choose the setting and characters for the Rizzoli & Isles series and can you tell us a little more about the setting and main characters’ from your most recent book.
Tess: The series is set in Boston. It’s the closest large city to where I live in Maine, and I chose to place it there because we just don’t have enough violent crime, or enough serial killers, to make Maine a believable setting for a large homicide unit. In my most recent book (The Silent Girl) the story is set largely in Boston’s Chinatown, and among the new characters I introduce is Iris Fang, a middle-aged female martial arts master who may be the secret force behind the murders. I also introduce a new detective, Johnny Tam, an Asian American with ambitions to be on the homicide unit.
Lorie: How long do you foresee this series going on? Do you have other books/ideas you are working on?
Tess: As long as I feel the stories remain fresh and the characters remain interesting. I’m working on the tenth in the series now, which brings both Jane and Maura to a mysterious private school in Maine.
Lorie: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Tess: My primary objective is to entertain, because without achieving that, I’ve failed. But I also like to introduce other elements to the story, sometimes political, sometimes ethical, and sometimes cultural. The Silent Girl looks at the Asian American experience, and the challenges that ethnic minorities face in the U.S. And it introduces some of the fascinating mythology from ancient China.
Lorie: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Tess: I try to write in the morning, five days a week. My goal is to produce three or four first-draft pages every day.
Lorie: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Tess: I’ve tried outlining but never managed to make it work for me, because I’d always deviate from the plan. I think the best surprises are those that happen on the spur of the moment, so I try to surprise myself as I write, introducing twists as they occur to me. The hard part is figuring out the explanation for all those twists.
Lorie: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Tess: In the morning. Not always possible, but that’s when I’m at my best.
Lorie: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Tess: It took me two unpublished manuscripts before I sold my third. And that was several years into it.
Lorie: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Tess: Not my story, but a friend’s. Her first seven manuscripts were rejected, but she persisted — and sold her eighth. Sometimes it’s persistence that weeds out the successes from the failures.
Lorie: Most interesting or odd book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Tess: I once had a man thank me for writing a gory serial killer story “because it allowed him to enjoy his fantasies.”
Lorie: Yikes! What have you not written that you would really like to?
Tess: A YA book. I’ve been thinking about it for some time.
Lorie: Writing heroes?
Tess: Stephen King for his flesh and blood characters.
Lorie: What kind of research do you do?
Tess: Depends on the book. For Gravity, I spent a week at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and a week at Cape Canaveral. For Ice Cold, I went to Wyoming. The research is often the fun part.
Lorie: What do you read?
Tess: All genres. Mystery, romance, fantasy, historical.
Lorie: Favorite TV or movies?
Tess: Favorite movies would have to include the Lord of the Rings trilogy and that hilarious SF send-up, Galaxy Quest. Favorite TV includes Mad Men and Curb Your Enthusiasm. (And Rizzoli & Isles, of course.)
Lorie: How did it come about that the Rizzoli & Isles books were made into a TV show?
Tess: It happened without my chasing it. A producer called, said he loved the characters, and wanted to option the books. A year and a half later, they had a finished script, they cast Angie Harmon, and the show came together. It’s one of those fairy dust moments where I just happened to be the lucky anointed one.
Lorie: Do you have any input?
Lorie: Do they follow the books fairly well as far as the characters? Do they use any of the stories from the books?
Tess: They use the books as the starting framework, but then their own team of writers takes it from there. The only episode that was based on my books was the premiere, which took its story from my book The Apprentice.
Lorie: Anything else you’d like to say about the TV show?
Tess: It’s been loads of fun to watch, and it’s funnier than my books. I’m not smart enough to have that wonderfully wicked sense of humor that the TV writers manage to convey.
Lorie: What is one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Tess: That I avoid gory films!
Lorie: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Tess: Read a lot, don’t give up, and choose an interesting point of view for your main character.
Lorie: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Tess: It’s all good for authors. It increases the chance that someone will discover our books.
Lorie: Do you read e-books yourself?
Tess: Yes. I have a Kindle.
Lorie: Anything you would like to add?
Tess: Writers need to indulge their curiosity. Pursue your interests in every direction. You never know when it will be a great idea for a book.
The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen
The Silent Girl is the ninth book in Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series on which the TV show is based, however this is the first book I’ve read in the series. I am a huge fan of the TV show so when I got the opportunity to review Silent Girl I was excited to see how the books compare, though prepared for them to be different as is almost always the case.
This book takes the team to a mysterious murder in Boston’s Chinatown where a young girl is found on a rooftop with her throat slashed and her hand cut off with such a clean cut that it appears to have been done with a sword. As Jane Rizzoli and the team investigate, they find that this murder appears to have a connection with one that happened at a Chinatown restaurant 19 years ago and the disappearance of two young girls, although Jane can’t quite figure out how. To confuse things even more, something that moves lightening fast and appears to be a human sized monkey from a Chinese legend, starts appearing at some of the murder scenes.
This book introduces a young Asian American detective named Johnny Tam that I hope readers get to know more about as the series continues and would love to see show up in the TV show. The look into Chinese culture, the murders being committed with a sword, the edge of your seat suspense and action, and the interesting characters that Rizzoli’s team encounters, makes for a great read. The complicated plot raises some questions about whether it is ever okay to take justice into your own hands.
While I missed the fact that there weren’t a lot of scenes with Rizzoli and Isles together, which I feel is the foundation of the TV show, I enjoyed the differences from the show including seeing Rizzoli as a wife and mother and her dealing with her mother’s possible second marriage. While Maura Isles discoveries are vital to the case as always, a lot of her storyline involved her personal struggles as many in the police department are angry with her for testifying against one of their own, leaving her feeling very alone—even Rizzoli is a little cold to her in the beginning.
I look forward to finding the time to go back and read the other eight books in the series so far and highly recommend this book to mystery/suspense fans.
Check out KRL’s review of the TV show Rizzoli & Isles and watch for new episodes beginning November 28 on TNT.
To enter to win a copy of The Silent Girl, simply email KRL at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Silent”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 19, 2011. U.S. and Canadian residents only.
If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.