Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tess Gerritsen on Writing, Archaeology and Donkeys

by Felicia Donovan

imageI'll never forget meeting best selling author, Tess Gerritsen, for the first time. She was on tour for THE BONE GARDEN. I watched with fascination as this petite and delicate former physician proceeded to describe Early American and mostly barbaric, methods of amputating limbs in all it's goriest detail to the assembled crowd. My kind of gal...

Tess (and if you're a real fan, you'll know that's not her real first name), graciously agreed to an interview for InkSpot amidst a whirlwind tour for her latest bestseller, THE KEEPSAKE.

FD: You began your writing career in the romance thriller genre. What made you switch and do you ever miss writing them?

TG: I wrote HARVEST simply because I had a great idea for a book that didn't fit into the romance genre, and I wanted to write it. I certainly never expected to make such a successful career as a thriller writer. But then, I've never planned out my career -- I just followed my instincts and wrote the books I wanted to write. After the success of HARVEST, I realized that I could carve out a much better living as a thriller writer than I ever could as a romance writer. Yes, I do sometimes miss writing romance, but also manage to work some romantic themes into the stories. So I haven't veered that far from the genre.

image FD: Can you tell us about your latest, THE KEEPSAKE and what kind of research you did for it?

TG: It was inspired by my long interest in archaeology. I was an anthropology major in college, and have always had a special fascination with Egyptology -- in particular, with the science of mummies. As part of my research, I was able to watch the CT scan of a mummy, and I thought: what if a museum discovers a shocking surprise when it scans a mummy in the collection -- a bullet in its leg? Suddenly, it's not an ancient artifact but a modern murder victim. And the killer is someone who has obscure archaeological knowledge, which he uses to preserve his victims.

FD: What's the most memorable moment you've had on book tour?

TG: It happened when I was on book tour for THE SURGEON, about a killer who slices open his victims and removes their organs while imagethey're alive and conscious. An ordinary-looking man came up to get his book signed, and he whispered into my ear: "Thank you for writing this book. You allowed me to enjoy my fantasies." And then he simply walked out of the store. I always wondered what happened to him .. . and what his fantasies may have led to.

FD: At times, you've ventured away from Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli. Do you ever feel pressured to write for your fans rather than write for yourself?

TG: Yes, that's certainly a pressure that weighs on me. Whenever I veer away from what my fans expect, I find that many of them don't necessarily appreciate my efforts. However, I also pick up quite a few new fans when I write something completely new and unexpected. GRAVITY (my book about the space program) pulled in many male fans who are still reading me. And THE BONE GARDEN (a stand-alone historical) also brought me many new readers.

FD: You recently acquired an Amazon Kindle. Can you share your thoughts on e-books? Where do you see them in the future of publishing?

TG: I think they'll be a growing segment of book sales, in particular sales of novels. I've found the Kindle easy to read and convenient for travel. But I must admit that when I'm home and have the choice, I'll always reach for a real book.

FD: How are the donkeys?

imageI have four of them (Spock, Scotty, Cassiopeia and Perseus). And they're doing very well, thank you. Donkeys are sweet, congenial animals, and they get along very well with everyone.

Many thanks to Tess for being so accommodating despite her very hectic schedule!


G.M. Malliet said...

Tess - thanks so much for being here. Reading your comments, I'm struck by how many different kinds of books you've been "allowed" to write. I think that's unusual in publishing, where writers are not often allowed to stray from a winning formula.

Also: You made me glad I'm more likely to attract readers who like tea & crumpets than, erm, body parts.

Anonymous said...

Bone Garden is my favorite.

Terri Thayer said...

Thanks Tess for stopping by. Your long and varied career is something we all aspire to!

Funny Kindle store. At a quilt convention this weekend, I mentioned to a woman that my stamping mystery was on Kindle. She whipped her device out of her backpack, opened it up and downloaded a sample chapter. In under two minutes. Quite exciting! Talk about instant gratification.

Jess Lourey said...

Fabulous interview, Felicia! I've always wanted to read Tess' books but have never made the time. This interview has inspired me...I'm off to Amazon.

p.s. What's her real name?

Felicia Donovan said...

What's Tess's real name? Come on, now, put on your amateur detective hats and start snooping! I'll leave that as a mystery for a bit unless one of you can figure it out before then.

Anonymous said...

Is it an anagram?

Sets doesn't work. Etss? Ests? Nope.

Give us a clue, please.

G.M. Malliet said...

I just googled and reached Tess's blog on this subject. I know the answer now but I'm reluctant to share it...I don't think any name but Tess Gerritsen fits the books, somehow.

Felicia Donovan said...

G.M., I agree. "Tess" it is and "Tess" it shall remain. If any of you want to deduce it yourselves, go right ahead, but it seems befitting to keep the Grand Dame's name a mystery unless she wants to share it.

Marilynne said...

I love Tess's writing and will buy anything with her name on it. So, don't let me down Tess.


Deborah Sharp said...

Four donkeys AND a pantheon of best-sellers? The woman is an inspiration to those of us starting out! Thanks for the interesting interview.

Linda Day said...

Great interview, FD !
(my nickname for a good friend
and talented writer herself)

Tess, I've read or listened (CD) to
all your books, and always am
on the lookout for the next one!
Especially enjoy the 'Boston'
locale, as I grew up there (Maura
Isles series)
Thank you for all your amazing talents !