Mistress of Suspense
My interview with one of my all time favorite suspense writers, Tess Gerritsen, is online now at Writer's Digest. The interview is also still on stands in the February, 2008 issue of the magazine.
Here's a teaser:
"I catch Tess Gerritsen in a particularly good mood. She's between tours and has just finished printing the final page of her last draft of The Bone Garden—her newest stand-alone thriller. She considers this book a departure from the traditional thrillers her fans have come to expect. It stars the real-life doctor Oliver Wendell Holmes and is her first attempt at a serious historical murder mystery—set predominantly in the 1830s—in which she indulges some of her deepest fascinations, namely the history of medicine, grave robbers and archaeology.
Gerritsen claims to be a lot like her reserved, aloof protagonist of five of her 19 published books, Maura Isles, a New England medical examiner whose work constantly puts her at the center of compelling (and often gruesome) murder investigations. But Gerritsen is gregarious, forthcoming and candid.
What Isles and her creator share most in common is their experience in the medical field. Gerritsen earned her medical degree from Stanford in 1979 and practiced in Hawaii before her two children were born. Married to another doctor, she realized that one of them would have to take time off to stay home, so she used the opportunity to pursue her writing.
While researching Holmes for The Bone Garden, Gerritsen discovered she identified with him as well. "He started off wanting to be a writer and gained some notoriety as a poet, and then his dad said he wouldn't make a living at it so he went to medical school, and right there I knew exactly what his life was like," Gerritsen says. "I wanted to be a writer since I was seven and my dad said, 'You'll never make money at it.' There were such parallels in our lives. In later years, he went on to be a writer, though I knew about him as a doctor." Read on to learn what Gerritsen has to say about leaving her medical career and writing compelling, recurring characters.
DID YOU EVER THINK—WHEN YOU WERE IN MEDICAL SCHOOL—THAT YOU'D BE A BESTSELLING AUTHOR?
No. Never! It's one of those things you think like, 'One of these days I'm going to direct movies,' that you never actually do. It was really a surprise. You start off at the bottom, where your goal is just to get published or to get an editor to read your book.
Also, I had published nine novels before a book hit the bestseller chart. The best way of predicting a book's success is how much money the publisher pays for it. If they pay you a big deal they're going to put their money behind promoting it.
OTHER THAN GIVING YOU MATERIAL, WAS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT BEING A DOCTOR THAT YOU BROUGHT TO WRITING?
Discipline, definitely—that goes hand-in-hand with both fields. You just can't be a multi-published novelist without being ready to sit in your seat and do your job. Maybe there were a few stories I brought with me, but otherwise they're two very different kinds of jobs that use different parts of your brain. I teach a course for doctors who want to be writers and it's hard for them. They're used to being objective and it's very hard for them to make things up.
WAS IT A DIFFICULT DECISION TO LEAVE YOUR MEDICAL CAREER? WAS THERE ANY FEAR THAT WRITING WOULDN'T PAN OUT?
It was a matter of convenience. I had two small kids and my husband is a doctor, too, so it was born out of a desperate plea for childcare. Sometimes we'd be on call the same night, and when you both get called in to the hospital you have to drag your kids along. When we accepted that someone had to stay home, I was thrilled to do so.
YOUR FIRST NINE BOOKS ARE DESCRIBED AS "ROMANTIC THRILLERS" AND EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE GOTTEN LESS ROMANTIC OVER TIME, YOU'RE STILL WRITING THRILLERS. WHAT DRAWS YOU TO THE GENRE?
Maybe it gets back to my childhood. My mother took me to a lot of horror films when I was growing up. She's an immigrant and didn't understand English very well, so she liked these. I had a steady diet of these movies and I got accustomed to believing a thrill was part of a good story. If a situation doesn't scare me, I figure it won't scare my reader, either. I always try for the thing that's going to frighten me.
Read the rest HERE