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00:00:08>>From the Center for the Study and Teaching of
00:00:09Writing at The Ohio State University, this is
00:00:11Writers Walk.
00:00:12I'm Doug Dangler.
00:00:14Tess Gerritsen is the internationally
00:00:16best-selling author of medical thrillers.
00:00:18Her books have been translated into thirty-seven
00:00:20languages and sold over twenty million copies.
00:00:23The Silent Girl is the ninth novel in the series
00:00:25that pairs homicide detective Jane Rizzoli with
00:00:28medical examiner Maura Isles.
00:00:31The series inspired the Rizzoli and Isles
00:00:33television show that recently began its second
00:00:35season on the TNT network.
00:00:37Welcome to Writers Talk.
00:00:39>>Thank you.
00:00:40>>Well, on your Facebook page you claim multiple
00:00:45abilities: "I'm a thriller writer, a fiddle
00:00:47player, a doctor, a mom, and a French fry lover."
00:00:50So let's start with the most obviously
00:00:53important...French fries.
00:00:54>>I'm addicted to them, everywhere
00:00:56I go I try new ones.
00:00:57And I'm always cultivating new recipes.
00:00:59>>So you don't make them yourself though, you
00:01:01have to go out for this?
00:01:03>>I eat and make them.
00:01:05>>OK, good.
00:01:06Does that make you popular at home,
00:01:07making the fries?
00:01:07>>Yeah. When the kids come over.
00:01:09>>Ok. Cool.
00:01:11Now am I correct that the fiddle playing is
00:01:13related to your having a tiger mom and dad?
00:01:15You've mentioned this in a recent interview with
00:01:17the Columbus Dispatch, that you had "tiger
00:01:19parents" - the Asian parents that
00:01:21pushed you to excel.
00:01:23>>I think it's very common among
00:01:25Chinese-American children that their parents
00:01:27expect them to play either the piano or the
00:01:29violin or some sort of a
00:01:30classical musical instrument.
00:01:34In my case I learned the piano and the violin
00:01:36classically, but as I got older and got exposed
00:01:38to Irish music I became a fiddle player.
00:01:42>>Okay, I was going to say, you're moving away
00:01:43from the classical training by
00:01:44calling it a fiddle.
00:01:46>>Right. It's all in the music you play.
00:01:49>>Right. Ok. Good deal.
00:01:50You know I confess when I read that I pictured
00:01:52you mulling over a plot point and playing the
00:01:54fiddle like Sherlock Holmes does.
00:01:56Right when he's stuck he'll play the fiddle.
00:01:58He's in your genre of thrillers.
00:02:01So you began writing when you were on maternity
00:02:03leave, right?
00:02:05>>Not quite.
00:02:06>>Not quite? Before then?
00:02:07>>I started writing when I was seven years old,
00:02:08that was my first book.
00:02:11I guess that doesn't count.
00:02:12>>Well, no, we'll count it.
00:02:13What was it about?
00:02:14>>It was about my dead cat.
00:02:16>>I'm sorry, your...?
00:02:18>>My poor cat that had just died and I wrote a
00:02:19whole novel, I think it was more of a like a
00:02:21biography of my dead cat.
00:02:24>>Oh ok.
00:02:26>>But I told my father then that I wanted to be
00:02:27a writer.
00:02:28And he said there is no career to be made in the
00:02:30arts, you had better choose something much more
00:02:33practical - being the Chinese-American
00:02:35father that he was.
00:02:37And that's how I got steered into medical school.
00:02:40>>You're the second person today
00:02:41that has said that.
00:02:43I was asked earlier by someone on a radio show
00:02:45that I was a guest on "Is there a career in the
00:02:48arts?" And with a PhD and a Masters in English,
00:02:52which is I guess is part of the arts, I had to
00:02:55say I really don't know.
00:02:56I don't know what to tell you
00:02:57about the humanities.
00:02:58I may do the same thing with my children that
00:03:01you're doing with yours and say maybe you should
00:03:02consider something outside the
00:03:03humanities and the arts.
00:03:07So you started off at seven, you wrote about your
00:03:08dead cat - which wasn't a medical thriller...
00:03:11>>No, but it wasn't too far from
00:03:12the genre, was it?
00:03:16>>You didn't dissect the cat or anything before
00:03:17you wrote it?
00:03:18>>No, I didn't but I did dissect a lot of dead
00:03:20animals that I found in the nearby canyon.
00:03:22I was already cutting things open and looking
00:03:25inside and trying to understand
00:03:26what made them tick.
00:03:29And I think that that part of my personality
00:03:30persists.
00:03:32It probably expresses itself in one of my
00:03:36characters, Dr.
00:03:37Maura Isles, and I like to think that there's a
00:03:38logical explanation for everything.
00:03:44My room probably wasn't very nice to visit cause
00:03:47I had a lot of sliced open dead animals in it...
00:03:50>>Did you preserve these animals or was this an
00:03:52abattoir, I mean, what was going on in this room?
00:03:55>>They were already dead.
00:03:56>>They were already dead?
00:03:57But they do rot at some point.
00:03:59>>Well they do rot yes, and I think I probably
00:04:00kept them till the point they were unpleasant
00:04:02then finally went and buried them.
00:04:04>>Awesome, that's...for all you listening
00:04:06outside, this is going to be
00:04:08that kind of interview.
00:04:10Well I mean that's actually true in your books
00:04:12though, I mean there's some
00:04:14gruesome detail in the books.
00:04:15In the most recent one, The Silent Girl, for
00:04:17example, there's some dismemberment.
00:04:20But you've got the background
00:04:22to get this medically accurate.
00:04:24>>Yes, as I say, they are anatomically correct.
00:04:28And there is some gruesomeness involved but I do
00:04:32draw a line and I try not to show
00:04:33violence on the page very often.
00:04:35I don't like it myself and most of the time the
00:04:38gore that you see will be in the process of
00:04:42either the police or the medical
00:04:43examiner doing their jobs.
00:04:45To me that's a lot less upsetting because you're
00:04:47seeing somebody coming in and having a
00:04:48responsibility and doing the right thing and
00:04:51trying to do the right thing.
00:04:52You don't see the suffering on the page.
00:04:55>>So do you keep up with that?
00:04:56Do you keep up with medical journals now to see
00:04:59if there are any new forensic techniques?
00:05:01You talk about, I think it's called luminal in
00:05:03the book, which seems to have been a new
00:05:04technique from the time that one murder occurred
00:05:07to the time that it's reinvestigated.
00:05:10>>Yes, I'm a subscriber to the
00:05:12Journal of Forensic Sciences.
00:05:14I do attend forensic pathology meetings.
00:05:19We have a very good one up in Maine.
00:05:22And I have a huge library of textbooks.
00:05:25Plus I have friends that I can always call.
00:05:27>>So this is just the adult version
00:05:29of the room with the decaying cats.
00:05:31>>Yes, it smells much better.
00:05:36>>So how long did you go that your
00:05:38writing...that you're a practicing physician?
00:05:43Were you a medical examiner in the
00:05:44same way that Isles is?
00:05:46>>No my specialty was internal medicine.
00:05:47So I was dealing with living patients.
00:05:50>>One hopes.
00:05:51>>One hopes yes.
00:05:53But as a medical student, I mean just learning
00:05:55when you get to your medical degree you have
00:05:57probably witnessed about a dozen
00:05:58or more autopsies during your training.
00:06:00So the autopsy room is not unfamiliar to me.
00:06:04I can say that cutting open dead animals who you
00:06:06don't know is one thing, but watching an autopsy
00:06:11of say one of your patients who you failed, who
00:06:14died, that's a very, very upsetting
00:06:16experience that's quite different.
00:06:19It's one of the things that made me think I don't
00:06:21think I have the heart to be a forensic
00:06:24pathologist.
00:06:27>>Ok, well that's interesting.
00:06:29I didn't know that physicians would
00:06:31attend the autopsies of their own patients.
00:06:33>>Well we were encouraged to because we were
00:06:35told that if your patient dies, you
00:06:37want to know what happened.
00:06:38You want to know what you missed.
00:06:40>>But you could get that from the report.
00:06:42>>You can, but we were always encouraged to see
00:06:45first hand the pathology?the disease process.
00:06:47>>That's a tough medical school right there.
00:06:49>>I think it's very tough because you may have
00:06:51been talking to that person 24 hours earlier.
00:06:56>>Yeah. Well, do you miss that?
00:06:57Do you miss the hands on medical...
00:06:59>>I miss that part of it, what I don't miss are
00:07:01the hours, incredible sense of responsibility,
00:07:05the feeling that if you make a mistake
00:07:06someone's life will be lost.
00:07:09That is not easy to deal with.
00:07:12A lot of people cannot handle that.
00:07:14>>So tell me about the switch then.
00:07:16Is that when you were then on maternity
00:07:18leave and started writing more?
00:07:21Less about the dead cats, more about people?
00:07:23>>Well I went on maternity leave because I was a
00:07:27new, you know, newly married
00:07:29and we wanted children.
00:07:30My children, my two sons, to my great
00:07:31delight were both very good nappers.
00:07:35So I would put them down and they would
00:07:36sleep for three hours straight.
00:07:38And I thought, now's my chance to go back to do
00:07:40what I really wanted to do, which was tell
00:07:41stories.
00:07:43>>How long did you do that before you decided to
00:07:45make the break and become the author?
00:07:48And then I guess my follow-up is going to be did
00:07:50you have to tell your parents that?
00:07:52>>Well as far as my parents knew,
00:07:54I was just on maternity leave.
00:07:56But I think it was after I sold my first book and
00:07:58I realized I can make some money at this.
00:08:01I can stay home for a while.
00:08:03The other issue was that it was very
00:08:05hard juggling two careers.
00:08:08My husband is a doctor as well, and there were
00:08:11times we would both be called into the hospital
00:08:12late at night.
00:08:13What do you do with your sleeping 2-year-old?
00:08:15>>What do you do with your sleeping 2-year-old?
00:08:16>>You bring them to the hospital with you.
00:08:18You pull them out of their cribs, you bring them,
00:08:21you hand them hopefully to a nurse and say "will
00:08:23you watch my son while I go in and see this
00:08:25patient?" That after a while became so anxiety
00:08:28provoking that we made a family decision that I
00:08:31would stay home for a while until the kids
00:08:34got to kindergarten at least.
00:08:35>>You said "after a while," I would think that
00:08:37would be immediately anxiety provoking.
00:08:39>>There were about two years there where we were
00:08:41still juggling things and I understand completely
00:08:43the stresses of working women.
00:08:47>>Then did you have to actually inform your
00:08:49parents at some point you decided to do
00:08:51what they didn't want you to do?
00:08:54>>It's funny, I think my parents both felt it
00:08:56was okay because I had the degree, and I had the
00:08:58job, and I could go back to it at any time.
00:09:01>>So that's the point at which you said "I'm now
00:09:03a writer, I'm not a physician I'm a writer." How
00:09:05long did that switch take or was it immediately
00:09:07upon the sale of the first book?
00:09:09>>It was when I got my first
00:09:10advance check I think.
00:09:12>>Signing your name, comma "writer" and that
00:09:15replaces "MD." Before your best-selling medical
00:09:20thriller Harvest you wrote romantic
00:09:21suspense novels, right?
00:09:24Tell me about writing in that genre because I'd
00:09:26like to contrast that to writing into the sort of
00:09:30murder genre, the medical thriller genre.
00:09:33>>All genres are difficult.
00:09:34And it annoys me sometimes when people sort of
00:09:37laugh scornfully at romance novels.
00:09:39My books were fifty percent romance
00:09:40and fifty percent mystery.
00:09:43So it was that balance that you were always
00:09:46trying to keep exciting.
00:09:48The wonderful thing about romance writing is that
00:09:50it teaches you immediately to focus on character.
00:09:52That is really where romance is all about.
00:09:54And who is this man, and who is this woman, and
00:09:57why do they fall in love?
00:09:58So you need to know who these people are.
00:10:02That I think gave me a very good foundation for
00:10:03the genres that I would write later.
00:10:05>>You say who is this man and who is this
00:10:06woman, so it's the explanation/
00:10:07exploration of character.
00:10:11But what as a writer did you...how did you have
00:10:13to change?
00:10:14Is it just, "okay, I'm going to write about the
00:10:16character" and imagine why this character
00:10:18has this background?
00:10:20How did that play out for you?
00:10:22>>You know, developing characters is a very
00:10:24mysterious process for me and it's difficult no
00:10:25matter what I write.
00:10:28And I still have the issue of trying to
00:10:30understand who these people are.
00:10:32Very often I...well I think of it the way I do
00:10:36meeting somebody I've never met before.
00:10:37For instance I'm meeting you now.
00:10:39And what do I know about you beyond your general
00:10:42physical appearance, your gender, your race, your
00:10:48approximate age?
00:10:50>>He's twenty-six, I'm pretty sure. Go on.
00:10:52>>But if I were to spend time with you months
00:10:54and months and months with you and have more
00:10:55conversations I would get to know you
00:10:56eventually as a person.
00:10:57As who you really are, who you present
00:10:59yourself to be anyway.
00:11:01That's the way it is with a book character.
00:11:04I know the basics about them and it's only after
00:11:06I've written that first draft that I ever really
00:11:08get to know them.
00:11:10So the first draft is my exploration of
00:11:12who these people are.
00:11:15>>So let's walk through, say, Rizzoli.
00:11:17You have somebody here, the character, who is a
00:11:19policewoman, and in the books I think you've said
00:11:22that you take sort of pains to not have
00:11:24made her a beautiful person.
00:11:27And then she gets cast with Angie Harmon.
00:11:32Which you said in a recent interview, how
00:11:33do you not make her beautiful?
00:11:36But you went to these pains to say this character
00:11:38is defined in part by her physicality,
00:11:39by who she is.
00:11:42And she's also defined by her gender because she
00:11:43talks in this book about being a female in a
00:11:46largely male-dominated area.
00:11:49And I think actually both characters go through
00:11:51that if I'm not mistaken in this book.
00:11:54So how did you write into that in the beginning?
00:11:56What were the traits that you said "this is what
00:11:59I'm going to hang my hat on" and say
00:12:01that's what defines her?
00:12:03>>My first impression of Jane Rizzoli, and I
00:12:05have to admit I didn't spend a lot of time
00:12:07thinking about her because I've thought of her as
00:12:09a sacrificial victim.
00:12:10She was going to die before the end of that first
00:12:12book, that was my plan for her.
00:12:15And I think my short hand for Jane when she
00:12:18walked on was "outsider." She's the outsider.
00:12:22And she's struggling and she's been
00:12:23struggling all her life to be accepted.
00:12:25Number one because she isn't attractive, and for
00:12:29women I think physical attractiveness, how we
00:12:31look to the world, is very important to us.
00:12:34So that would be an integral part of her
00:12:36personality that she feels unattractive.
00:12:38And the other part is that she's
00:12:39working in a boy's profession.
00:12:41She's the only woman in the homicide unit.
00:12:43That's what I thought about Jane from the
00:12:44beginning and I thought an outsider and
00:12:46probably angry.
00:12:48She has a lot of anger in her in that first book,
00:12:50which comes out as bitchiness.
00:12:53A lot of people don't like Jane, a lot of readers
00:12:55don't like Jane, but I understood
00:12:57where that came from.
00:12:59It was all anger.
00:13:00>>You say you understood where that came from
00:13:02because being in a medical field, a lot of times
00:13:05that's a male-dominated...was that something that
00:13:08you had experienced or is that a difference of...
00:13:11>>No I think the outsider status that I
00:13:13understand comes more from my race.
00:13:15>>Okay, from being, as you said,
00:13:16the only Chinese student?
00:13:18>>The only Chinese kid in my elementary school
00:13:20and not being what was considered the classically
00:13:22beautiful, or what was accepted as beauty in
00:13:24American culture, which is, you know,
00:13:26Caucasian features.
00:13:29So I've always felt the outsider in terms
00:13:32of what Jane feels.
00:13:33Um, physically maybe overlooked.
00:13:35And maybe not considered the girl that you would
00:13:37ask out for a date because I wasn't like
00:13:39everybody else.
00:13:40So I was just tapping into my own childhood
00:13:44experiences when I wrote her and maybe that's why
00:13:47she came across so vividly and so easily for me.
00:13:52>>It's funny that you say that because a couple
00:13:53times as I was reading this I thought, boy this
00:13:55is a really spikey character.
00:13:58There are some of the exchanges where they're
00:13:59just really spikey and I thought that's an
00:14:02interesting take because a lot of times in the
00:14:03books the...in some genre novels, and I don't
00:14:09mean that in a dismissive way I just mean that
00:14:10there are certain things you sort of expect in
00:14:15this, um, that they're going to be a little bit
00:14:16more likeable as a character and they're going to
00:14:18be a little bit more playful or fun, which no
00:14:22disrespect intended to the TNT, but they've
00:14:25lightened up the characters I think.
00:14:26>>Yes, they have.
00:14:28>>And, you know, which is probably
00:14:30necessary for television.
00:14:32>>Yes, I think so.
00:14:34>>So tell me then about your reaction to that as
00:14:38an author.
00:14:39On the one hand you sit back and say it's going
00:14:42in a different medium, let it do what it does.
00:14:44And on the other hand you say these are my
00:14:46babies.
00:14:47>>Yes.
00:14:49Well my babies are very dark.
00:14:51In the books they're very dark.
00:14:52One is Jane, who is a bitch, or at least has a
00:14:54chip on her shoulder, and the other is Mora who
00:14:56has some very deep, dark secrets and is quite a
00:14:59gloomy character.
00:15:02So the change into television, well it
00:15:04took me a while to get used to it.
00:15:05First of all, Angie Harmon's beauty goes against
00:15:09the outsider status but what they have done with
00:15:12her though, is I think they chose Angie partially
00:15:14because she has the right personality
00:15:16for that part.
00:15:18She captures that grittiness of Jane Rizzoli
00:15:21perfectly, we just have to overlook the
00:15:22fact that she's beautiful.
00:15:25What they've done most in changing
00:15:28the story is more Isles.
00:15:31They have made her much more innocent, certainly
00:15:33a lot sunnier character, a lot softer character
00:15:35because their intention from the beginning, and I
00:15:38was told this by the producers, they
00:15:41wanted to focus on this friendship.
00:15:43They wanted these two women to bond.
00:15:45They do bond in the books, but it takes them a
00:15:47good four or five books before they
00:15:48become friends.
00:15:50>>And even in this book...
00:15:53I walked into this having heard about Rizzoli and
00:15:54Isles the TV series first and I thought oh cool,
00:15:56I'll read the book.
00:16:00I was surprised, I've got to say.
00:16:04I had more like a buddy picture in mind
00:16:06when I went into the books.
00:16:09I went, oh you know, they get along,
00:16:11but they also you know, fight.
00:16:13There are problems.
00:16:15Of course these characters seem to fight quite a
00:16:17bit with most people around them.
00:16:19As you say they're a little bit dark, with the
00:16:20exception of maybe Rat, for example, although
00:16:22he's not a particularly soft character,
00:16:25he softens up Dr. Isles.
00:16:28>>Yes, I think that the friendship that you see
00:16:32in the book is very layered and very complex
00:16:36because these two women are so different.
00:16:39Jane is a blue-collared cop person and Maura
00:16:42comes from a wealthier family, she comes from a
00:16:44higher educated family.
00:16:49Her educational CV comes from mine.
00:16:51We're both anthropology students in Stanford who
00:16:54went on to medical school in San Francisco.
00:16:56You would not expect these two women to be
00:16:58friends normally.
00:17:00They are thrown together because of their jobs,
00:17:02because of the stresses that they
00:17:04have to deal with.
00:17:06Their friendship grows out of mutual respect for
00:17:08each other's skills.
00:17:11It does not come out of instantaneous chemistry,
00:17:14which makes their friendship very raw at some
00:17:17times because it's easy to split that apart.
00:17:20It doesn't take much.
00:17:21In The Silent Girl, there is a conflict that
00:17:24arises because of professional issues.
00:17:27I can see these two women flying off
00:17:29in different directions, possibly.
00:17:32>>When you say something like that to your
00:17:36publisher do they flinch in their chair?
00:17:40Do they say wait, they're going off in different
00:17:42directions?
00:17:44What, are we going to just have a
00:17:46Rizzoli book and an Isles?
00:17:49How are you going to do that?
00:17:50>>No I don't mean that they'll go off in
00:17:51different directions and just have
00:17:53one or the other.
00:17:54They may have a falling out for a while but I
00:17:56think that the fact that they respect each other
00:17:57as coworkers is always going to bring them together.
00:18:00>>So that suggests to me that, unlike some
00:18:02authors who have this arc, they know the
00:18:04beginning, the middle, the end.
00:18:06You don't necessarily have that
00:18:08arc for these characters.
00:18:09>>I never had an arc.
00:18:11I never had a plan.
00:18:12I never know what's going to happen to them until
00:18:14I sit down and write the book.
00:18:16As I said, Jane was supposed to
00:18:17die in that first book.
00:18:19>>Now what happened?
00:18:20What was the reprieve?
00:18:22>>The reprieve was that I got to know her.
00:18:24By the end of the book I understood
00:18:25why she was a bitch.
00:18:27>>Did you kill somebody else to make up for it?
00:18:29>>No I actually just didn't kill her.
00:18:31She survived to the scene where
00:18:32she was supposed to die.
00:18:34It was towards the end and I think that most
00:18:35people will know when they read it.
00:18:37>>Right because she carries on with the scars..
00:18:43>>Right, and I found that I identified with her.
00:18:48Maybe it was more on a conscious level.
00:18:51I realized who she was. She was a version of me.
00:18:54She had some of my characteristics and I liked
00:18:56her.
00:18:59>>How many characters have you had that where
00:19:01you thought, okay this is a version of me or this
00:19:04is a splinter of my personality
00:19:06that I'm going to amplify.
00:19:09Is that how characters arise?
00:19:10>>It's funny, these two women are probably two
00:19:13aspects of my character; probably
00:19:16much more like me than Jane.
00:19:18Jane encapsulates some of the anger I had when I
00:19:20was a child, or certainly growing up as an
00:19:22adolescent and Mora is the logical scientific
00:19:25side of me that I think is in control right now.
00:19:28When you're writing you never know what part of
00:19:31your id is going to come out laughs.
00:19:33>>When you showed the books to people you knew
00:19:35after you wrote them did they comment on them?
00:19:37>>No, nobody has.
00:19:41Although people do guess that I am Maura Isles.
00:19:43>>Right.
00:19:44That one seems obvious.
00:19:48I'm curious to follow that down some more.
00:19:51She's working class, you say you don't identify
00:19:54with that aspect, you identify
00:19:56with the anger aspect.
00:19:58How long do you think that continues to resonate
00:19:59for you as you still working through it?
00:20:01>>I'm still working through this and if people
00:20:03read the series they'll notice that once Jane
00:20:09gets married [in the books] and
00:20:12has a child she becomes happier.
00:20:16That anger that started her off, that promoted
00:20:19her to the stratosphere of her career has
00:20:22dissipated somewhat but it's always
00:20:24going to be a little engine in there.
00:20:25In certain situations it's going to come out.
00:20:27>>Now in the new book, you introduce a
00:20:29Chinese-American detective, Johnny Tam.
00:20:32You've said that this is more personal for you
00:20:35because it reflects your Asian American heritage.
00:20:37This is a character with secrets that are hinted
00:20:43
00:20:44pretty heavily at the end.
00:20:47Is this a character that you're
00:20:49going to be exploring?
00:20:51>>I would like to.
00:20:52Johnny Tam says the things that I think.
00:20:54There are a couple of conversations that he has
00:20:55with Jane which reveal that he
00:20:57feels the same way I do.
00:20:59He feels like the outsider.
00:21:00He feels like he's stereotyped.
00:21:02He gets tired of being called a geek.
00:21:05I can hear Johnny Tam saying, "You know, we're
00:21:07not all geeks. Some of us are stupid!"
00:21:10So I think that he is able to express the
00:21:14experiences of being a very visible minority.
00:21:17The sense of collective guilt, of collective
00:21:20shame we have when somebody of our community
00:21:23commits a crime; we all feel like we're guilty...
00:21:27which is completely unreasonable but there it is
00:21:31>>I was reflecting on that as I read the book
00:21:34because there's a Chinese character that commits
00:21:38a crime and the whole community feels shame for
00:21:40it and I thought that was really fascinating
00:21:43because that doesn't translate
00:21:45to many other cultures.
00:21:47Say if there was a white character that commits a
00:21:49crime the white community
00:21:52doesn't take on that mantle.
00:21:54What it makes me think of is that you're being
00:21:56translated into 37 languages, you know?
00:21:59>>How is that going to play in China?
00:22:00>>How does this play in other places?
00:22:02Do you have discussions with your readers to say,
00:22:05what did you think of this?
00:22:07>>I don't know, it hasn't been
00:22:08translated yet, still just in English.
00:22:11But I am curious about how Chinese will feel.
00:22:14I think it has more to do not with the Asian
00:22:15culture, but with the minority culture.
00:22:18I have talked to African Americans who say when a
00:22:22terrible crime is committed they will all squint
00:22:24their eyes and say, "please don't let him be
00:22:25black." We all feel that something that one of us
00:22:30does reflects on the rest of us.
00:22:34>>In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch you
00:22:40said, [of aligning yourself with yourself with
00:22:42medical examiner Isles]
00:22:45"We're both pretty reserved.
00:22:47I would be happy sitting in my office never
00:22:49talking to anybody." Now I see that
00:22:52as a useful trait for an author.
00:22:54I also see that as a problem for an author
00:22:56because when you develop these characters they
00:22:58can't all be splinters of yourself.
00:23:00For example there's an alcoholic cop that they go
00:23:03to every now and then for, sort of guidance.
00:23:05I'm not sure if you can call it that,
00:23:07but at least for information.
00:23:10For that sort of reticence to be in public in
00:23:14some way seems to be at odds for being a writer.
00:23:17>>I think that there's a difference between real
00:23:20interactions with real people and sitting in your
00:23:22office having interactions with imaginary people.
00:23:25That's comfortable.
00:23:28I think that a lot of writers, deep down are
00:23:31actors in some ways.
00:23:33We are able to crawl into the
00:23:35minds of our characters.
00:23:37It's fun to explore and meet people who don't
00:23:38exist but who are completely different from us.
00:23:40>>So are you the kind of author that you write
00:23:44and then you perform it back to the screen?
00:23:45>>I do. I perform it back to myself.
00:23:51>>So when you go into the room of one's own it
00:23:53has to be soundproofed?
00:23:55Or are they used to it in your family?
00:23:56>>I don't want people nearby because they will
00:23:58hear me talking to myself.
00:24:01>>Okay, what are you working on now?
00:24:03>>I'm working on the next series of the Rizzoli
00:24:05& Isles series.
00:24:07It takes place at a very weird
00:24:09private school in Maine.
00:24:12>>Are there any normal private schools?
00:24:14There was the private school here that wasn't
00:24:16necessarily weird but it was kind of the locus,
00:24:19in some ways, of problems.
00:24:21>>Yes.
00:24:22>>So private schools are a problem for you.
00:24:25>>Well this one is going to be where the teenage
00:24:27boy Rat is attending and Mora goes to visit him.
00:24:30She feels almost like his adoptive mother.
00:24:34When she gets there she realizes that things are
00:24:38bad that are happening up there in the Eden Zone
00:24:40school.
00:24:43>>So it's going to be Rizzoli and Isles and Rat?
00:24:44>>[laughs] and Rat.
00:24:46And a crew of adolescents.
00:24:49>>Now you got a blurb on this
00:24:51one from Lee Child.
00:24:53It says, "Suspense doesn't get any
00:24:54smarter than this.
00:24:56Not just recommended but mandatory,"
00:24:58which is very nice.
00:24:59He's a former Writers Talk guest,
00:25:01by the way.... Writers Talk.
00:25:04Is he somebody you follow?
00:25:07Is Lee Child somebody who you read his book as
00:25:09soon as they come out and say, "okay here's an
00:25:11interesting thing he did here, I might..."
00:25:13>>You know there are such a large number of writers.
00:25:17I think that all of us writers follow
00:25:19each other very closely.
00:25:21We know each other very well because we see each
00:25:22other at the same conferences or we
00:25:24have the same editor or agent.
00:25:26Lee is one of those people.
00:25:29I know you've had some other authors here who I
00:25:31also follow, Kristen Hannah, Lisa Gardner.
00:25:34Not only are we friends, we are professional
00:25:35admirers of each other.
00:25:38>>Not professional jealousy to say, oh that one
00:25:40went pretty well, how do I...
00:25:42>>Well you know it's not jealousy so much as to
00:25:44say, whoa, I am really admiring of that.
00:25:47I wish I could have done that.
00:25:49I find myself saying that quite a bit when I read
00:25:51something exceptionally good.
00:25:53>>Okay.
00:25:55So what's on your nightstand right now?
00:25:56>>On my nightstand right now?
00:25:58I'm reading a book that's called Turn of Mind.
00:26:01I'm sorry, I forget the name of the author.
00:26:04It was handed to me by a bookstore owner who
00:26:06said, "Here, you have to read this." It's about a
00:26:08woman who may have committed a murder, but she
00:26:11has Alzheimer's and can't remember.
00:26:15>>Okay, so that might show up later on.
00:26:17Is it a medical thriller?
00:26:19>>I think I would call it more literary.
00:26:21It's the most terrifying book I've ever read
00:26:23because of the Alzheimer's issue.
00:26:24I think we're all terrified of losing our
00:26:26capacity and that plays into every fear.
00:26:28>>The last question is, you've published a new
00:26:31book every year.
00:26:33What constitutes a good day of writing for you,
00:26:38besides talking back to the screen?
00:26:40>>A good day of writing is four
00:26:42pages of brand new prose.
00:26:47I think what makes me a little different from
00:26:50other authors is the process.
00:26:52I don't outline, I don't know where
00:26:54the story is going.
00:26:58I know where it starts.
00:26:59I write my first drafts always
00:27:01with pen and paper.
00:27:02>>I was going to ask longhand or computer.
00:27:04Four pages longhand?
00:27:05>>And it must be on unlined typing paper.
00:27:07>>Why unlined typing paper?
00:27:09>>I find the lines distract me.
00:27:11It's really funny but process is so important and
00:27:14once you get something that works stick with it.
00:27:16I like the unlined typing paper because I can
00:27:19write big or small or sideways...
00:27:21>>Now wait a minute, if you write big, you get
00:27:23out four pages and write very large and say, I'm
00:27:25done for the day.
00:27:28>>I know I'm sort of making that
00:27:29calculation in my head.
00:27:33It almost as if when the writing's going really
00:27:36well and really fast I'm writing bigger because
00:27:39it's just so flamboyant when
00:27:41things are working well.
00:27:45When you're writing small it seems to be more
00:27:47thoughtful, something that takes me a while.
00:27:50>>I think we need to have examples of your
00:27:52drafts to follow this through.
00:27:55You know, say "Oh, she's writing small here, must
00:27:56have been difficult."
00:27:58>>I know, luckily no one
00:28:00can read my handwriting.
00:28:01>>Well you're a doctor, right?
00:28:03So it's like prescription pads everywhere.
00:28:06When you do that, though do you have
00:28:08to hand it off to somebody?
00:28:10>>I type it myself.
00:28:12>>You type it yourself?
00:28:13>>Because nobody can read my handwriting.
00:28:15>>It seems...
00:28:17somewhat inefficient.
00:28:18>>Absolutely!
00:28:20It's totally inefficient and
00:28:21I wouldn't recommend it to anybody.
00:28:23After 23 books I've tried typing first drafts.
00:28:25>>Clearly successful.
00:28:27>>I find that putting the first draft on a
00:28:29computer screen compels me to rewrite and rewrite
00:28:32and rewrite the first paragraph
00:28:35and I never get past that.
00:28:38It's important to not see the flaws of your
00:28:40manuscript until you've finished
00:28:42the entire first draft.
00:28:45Only then do I know what the story's about.
00:28:46>>Excellent advice.
00:28:48Tess Gerritsen, thank you very much
00:28:51for being here on Writers Talk.
00:28:52>>Thank you.
00:28:53>>And for the Center for the Study and
00:28:54Teaching of Writing, this is Doug Dangler.
00:28:55Keep Writing.
Note : Transcripts are compiled from uncorrected captions