Monday, March 13, 2006

Pro-File: Tess Gerritsen

Tess Gerritsen took an unusual route to a writing career. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, Tess went on to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, and was awarded her M.D. in 1979. After completing her internal medicine residency, Tess worked as a physician in Honolulu, Hawaii.

While on maternity leave, she began to write fiction. On a whim, she submitted a literary short story to HONOLULU MAGAZINE's statewide fiction contest -- and won first place!

In 1987, Tess's first novel was published. CALL AFTER MIDNIGHT, a romantic thriller, was soon followed by eight more romantic suspense novels. She also wrote a screenplay, "Adrift," which aired as a 1993 CBS Movie of the Week starring Kate Jackson.

It was a chance dinner conversation that inspired Tess to write her first medical thriller. The man sitting beside her at the restaurant was an ex-cop who ran a security service protecting American businessmen in Russia. On his last trip abroad, Moscow cops had told him that Russian orphans were vanishing from the streets. They believed the children were being kidnaped by the Russian mafia and shipped abroad as organ donors.

The story so horrified Tess, she immediately called her brother-in-law, a reporter for NEWSWEEK, suggesting he investigate. NEWSWEEK was unable to track down any proof. Weeks later, Tess was still unable to forget those missing Russian orphans. They became the inspiration for the plot of her first medical thriller, HARVEST. HARVEST was released in hardcover in 1996, and marked Tess's debut on the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller list. Film rights were sold to Paramount/Dreamworks, and the book was translated into twenty foreign languages.

Since then, Tess has written the medical thrillers LIFE SUPPORT (1997), BLOODSTREAM (1998), GRAVITY (1999), THE SURGEON (2001), THE APPRENTICE (2002), THE SINNER (2003), BODY DOUBLE (2004) and VANISH (2005.) Critics around the world have praised her novels as "Pulse-pounding fun" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER), "Weirdly terrific stuff with a steel grip" (KIRKUS REVIEWS), "Scary and brilliant" (TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL), "Like Michael Crichton in medical mode" (LONDON GUARDIAN), "Polished, riveting prose" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE), and "Delightfully scary" (PEOPLE MAGAZINE). USA TODAY says Tess is "tops in her genre" and the SAN JOSE MERCURY has declared her "The reigning champion of the medical thriller."

Now retired from medicine, Tess writes full time. She and her family live in Maine. In her free time she enjoys gardening and playing the fiddle.

Pro-File: Tess Gerritsen

1 What is your most recent book?

My most recent release is VANISH, which was just nominated for an Edgar Award. When a "corpse" suddenly stirs to life in the morgue, she's rushed to the hospital. And there the nameless woman does something entirely unexpected. She kills a security guard and takes hostages -- one of them a very pregnant Detective Jane Rizzoli. Who is this mysterious woman and why does the federal government suddenly show up on the scene, determined that she not survive the night?

2. What are you working on now?

The book I'm finishing up right now -- the one that's due next week (!)-- is called THE MEPHISTO CLUB. It's the sixth Jane Rizzoli book. When a murderer leaves mysterious ancient symbols at a crime scene, Boston police must turn for assistance to The Mephisto Foundation, a secret society obsessed with tracking down evil -- and proving that Satan Himself actually exists.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

The greatest pleasure of a writing career? There are too many to count. Getting paid for daydreaming and going to work in bedroom slippers are pretty high up there as reasons, though!

4. What is the greatest DIS-pleasure?

The greatest dis-pleasure? Having your work out there in full view, for attack, by the whole world. I'm the kind of person who absolutely hates the idea that someone out there doesn't like me. Conflict (in real life anyway) gives me ulcers. So it's very hard to be a public person -- because the result is that someone, somewhere, is going to decide they don't like me. Or my books.

5. Any advice for the publishing world?

My piece of advice for the publishing world? Stop it with the ghost-written celebrity books, already. Please.

6. Any writers you'd like to see back in print?

I don't know if she's really in the "forgotten" category, really -- but I really do miss the Fremont Jones series by Dianne Day. And I'd love to see Helen MacInnes back in print!

7. Do you remember selling your first novel?

The very first novel I sold was actually a romantic suspense novel, which sold to Harlequin Intrigue back in 1987. But it was sort of an Alice-in-wonderland moment when I found out about the sale, because my agent at the time (whom I've since fired) didn't even bother to call and tell me he'd sold my book. Instead, he WROTE ME A LETTER with the news, a letter that didn't get to me for a week. I heard it instead from some poor editorial assistant at Harlequin, who called to find out some details for the cover design. I didn't know why she was calling me. I didn't know my book had sold. When I finally figured out what was going on, I hung up the phone and just sort of wandered around in a daze.


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