Internationally known best-selling author Tess Gerritsen sat down and spoke about her accomplishments, interests, current affairs, and her Rizzoli & Isles series of books. She is acclaimed for her compelling characters and riveting plots.
Thank you for doing this.
Elise Cooper: You are a jack of all trades, having written books in multiple genres?
Tess Gerritsen: I like to try something different. I have written stand-alones and series. In writing stand-alones I am able to change the subject matter and the setting. Sometimes I leave the series to try something different and then return back to it. I have written romance, suspense, crime thrillers, medical thrillers, paranormal, historical, and science fiction. My last book, The Shape of Night, is a stand-alone. My next book will be book thirteen in the Rizzoli & Isles series, which brings back a happy familiarity to me.
EC: You are circling back to a Rizzoli & Isles book?
TG: Yes, as we speak. I am ready to go back to the girls again. It will probably come out in late 2021. The plot will highlight Jane’s mom, Angela, as a middle age sleuth. She is in her sixties and see things going on in her neighborhood, very much a busy body. Meanwhile, Jane and Maura are investigating a murder. It is still a Jane and Maura book, with 1/3 of it devoted to Angela. It will take place right after the pandemic, after a vaccine.
EC: Going back in time, how did you get the idea for these fabulous women crime fighters?
TG: I never expected it to turn into a series of twelve novels. It started off as a story about detective Jane Rizzoli. After I finished the first book, The Surgeon, I wanted to know more about her so I wrote the second book, The Apprentice, which introduced Dr. Maura Isles. Then I wanted to know more about Maura so I wrote the third book, The Sinner. It became a continuation of wanting to know more about my characters, where they would go next, and how their lives changed. Before I knew it, I had a series. The Apprentice was the book the TV series started off with.
EC: Did you have a major input with the TV series episodes?
TG: The producer was really nice and invited me to be part of the writing team. But I had book deadlines and I consider writing books as my primary job. Besides The Apprentice there was also a short story, John Doe, that an episode was also based upon. With all the other episodes they did the writing, coming up with certain changes from the novels.
EC: What are some of the changes?
TG: The biggest change was the relationship between Jane and Maura. In my books, they are colleagues that slowly become friends. In the TV show they start off right away being best friends. The producer, who happens to be a man, told me that the audience would want a female duo. In the books, Jane is married with a daughter, while the TV series focused entirely on the female friendship. There would be no getting married, because it would take away from the girls’ relationship. What I did in the books is to have them slowly become friends. By book thirteen, they would risk their lives for each other.
EC: Were you happy with the casting choices?
TG: Angie Harmon is perfectly matched to the book Jane. She is the kind of person I can imagine Jane to be, although Angie Harmon is beautiful and Jane Rizzoli is ordinary looking. Both book Jane and TV show Jane are hell raisers and risk takers. The big deviation is Maura Isles. In the novels I imagined Maura as a Goth-like character, looking more like Catherine Zeta-Jones. In the TV show they went with a beautiful blonde, Sasha Alexander. The other change is that “book Maura” is a bit Aspergerian in nature, more of a loner. Yet both book and TV show Maura are highly intelligent, very logical, and very much a scientist. The show runner told me I had written the female version of Captain Kirk, Jane, and Mr. Spock, Maura.
EC: Are you more like Maura or Jane?
TG: There is some of me in Maura. Jane is not me at all, but is like every female cop I interviewed, tough and smart. When I was writing Maura, I put a lot of myself in her. We believe in science and logic, drive the same car, drink the same wine, both play classical music on the piano, and are trivia experts.
EC: What about the secondary characters like Jane’s brother Frankie, and her partner, Korsak?
TG: In the book, Frankie is Jane’s brother, but is really annoying as he tries to boss her around. In the TV show he is really sweet. In the novels, Korsak is a retired cop who falls in love with Angela. I love his character.
EC: Since you write police procedurals can you weigh in on your feelings about the police?
TG: I tweeted about this issue not too long ago. I had a hard time writing for a couple of weeks right after the George Floyd murder. I write cops as heroes and wanted to reflect reality in the series. My cops are all good and do the right thing. In the upcoming book thirteen, Jane and her collogues are still good cops. But there will also be a scene that shows what it is like to be a suspect. Jane is questioning a black teenager as a person of interest. I hope to show what does the boy think, what does his mother think, and what are they afraid of. I know a lot of good cops and never had a bad experience with the police, but for a certain part of the population the police can be frightening. I think we need more Janes as cops, more professional and well trained.
EC: Can you give a shout out about your latest, The Shape of Night?
TG: It is a take-off on Gothic novels that I used to love when I was younger. They have a young innocent heroine, a scary secretive house, and a forbidden hero. I moved the elements around a bit. The heroine is not so innocent, the house is still scary, and the hero may or may not be alive. There is a little bit of the “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” with some murder.
EC: What do you do when you are not writing?
TG: I am an amateur fiddler. I love to garden and cook. In the new Rizzoli & Isles book I had Maura perform a Mozart Concerto in an amateur orchestra. I had to learn the piece myself, because I wanted to learn what complications she would face. I also made a documentary with my son. Why is pork a forbidden food for some religions? The film searches for the ancient roots of the pig taboo with numerous people interviewed. I love mysteries whether in history or on the page. The title is “Magnificent Beast” and the link is https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11289514/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1 .