I am beyond thrilled to be welcoming one of crime fiction's great writers today as my guest blogger. She's here to talk about one of my favorite elements of fiction, character. Tess Gerritsen came to crime fiction via medicine. She began writing while on a maternity leave and hasn't looked back. For that, we are extremely grateful. She has contributed an incredible amount to the genre and has given millions of devoted fans hours of thrilling entertainment. Her newest Isles and Rizzoli book, ICE COLD, is now available, and I will be reviewing it for you tomorrow. Today is also special for Tess because the television show RIZZOLI & ISLES premieres tonight on TNT. Please help me welcome, international bestselling author, Tess Gerritsen!
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I'm often asked: "Where did you get the idea for this book?" But I'm seldom asked where my characters come from. Some authors write up extensive biographical pages for their characters. Before they write a single line of dialogue, they know every detail about that character, from where he went to school to what he had for breakfast. I've tried that method, and it's never worked for me. Instead, I've learned that the most vivid characters are the ones who walk on the page and just start talking.
Ten years ago, while I was writing THE SURGEON, that's exactly what happened. The story was about a female surgeon named Catherine Cordell who had survived an attack by a serial killer two years earlier; now a copycat killer is stalking her, and he knows shocking details that were never revealed to the public. While I was focused on telling Catherine's story, another character sneaked in ... and took over. Her name was Jane Rizzoli.
Jane was only a secondary character, a brash and bitchy homicide detective who was so unpleasant that I had every intention of killing her off by the story's end. I scarcely paid attention to Jane's development yet somehow, she emerged on the pages fully formed. It's as if I was channeling her spirit, without having to think about it. When I was writing her dialogue, the words effortlessly popped out of her mouth. She swaggered, she glowered, she caused headaches for her colleagues, and she seemed to do it all on her own. I was just taking dictation.
A cruel and bloody end was coming for her. I had planned it, hadn't I? An attack in a dark cellar, a slash to the throat. But when I finally reached that scene in the book where Jane was supposed to die, I found that I couldn't do it. I had come to know Jane as a real person. She wasn't just a troublesome cop; she was a woman who'd struggled all her life to be heard. Despite her flaws, she'd proven herself both brilliant and courageous. She had the heart of a lion, and she deserved to live.
So she survived her creator's intentions and lived to star in the next book, THE APPRENTICE.
Now, eight books later, Jane's still alive and kicking -- and about to become a TV personality! "Rizzoli & Isles" is a new TV series based on my characters, and it stars Angie Harmon as Jane and Sasha Alexander as medical examiner Maura Isles. I've seen the pilot episode, and Jane's spirit is perfectly captured in the series, even if Angie Harmon is far more gorgeous than the Jane I'd imagined. An able team of writers will be coming up with the weekly episodes while I, like every other TV viewer, will just have to sit back and watch what happens to her next.
Jane's now out in the world and on her own, the gal who walked onto my pages one day ... and refused to die.
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