Monday, July 12, 2010

Guest Blogger - Tess Gerritsen

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!

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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Kay July 12, 2010 at 8:31 AM  

Jen, I'm really excited to see that you have one of my very favorite authors, Tess Gerritsen, here today. I have a been a big, big fan for a long time.

I was excited and nervous when I heard that a TV series would be made about Jane and Maura. I'm still nervous, but will definitely be watching. I've loved seeing both of those characters develop as the series has continued.

I've got a copy of ICE COLD and will be reading it soon. Loved the guest post here. I really talked up Ms. Gerritsen's books and the TV show at my mystery book group meeting last week.

Jenn's Bookshelves July 12, 2010 at 8:41 AM  

How exciting! I'll agree with Kay and say that Tess is one of my favorite authors. I discovered her a while back and have been a loyal fan since.

I completely forgot that the show was starting last night! I hope they will air it again...need to get that pesky DVR scheduled!

Jen Forbus July 12, 2010 at 8:50 AM  

Jenn, it's starting tonight...on TNT at 10, I believe.

Serena July 13, 2010 at 9:50 AM  

What a fantastic story about a character that developed on her own and became real enough to prevent Tess from killing her off! My mom is reading Ice Cold, which I picked up a signed copy of for her at BEA. I cannot wait to read her review and get it posted for everyone.

Dorte H July 13, 2010 at 2:09 PM  

What a fascinating post about a fictional character who refused to die :D

To me, a character´s name means a lot. Right now I have begun writing a cozy mystery but I am still at a stage where I toy with their names. It is quite difficult, because when I have baptized a woman Jesmona Rowntree she quickly *becomes* a Jesmona - and I am not at all sure I can undo that. She is charming when you humour her but stubborn as a mule when she meets with opposition.

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