Bestselling Doctor / Author Tess Gerritsen (Extreme Interview)

by John Robert Marlow

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Tess Gerritsen is a Stanford-educated physician-turned-author whose last 18 books have hit the bestseller lists that matter. After winning first place in a fiction writing contest, she decided to try her hand at novels. Starting with romantic thrillers and romantic suspense, she switched to (mostly) medical and crime thrillers in 1996, and has sold more than 30 million books in 40 languages. Tess has received the Nero Wolfe Award, the Rita Award, and the Robert B. Parker Award. She’s also written screenplays and composed music.

Best known for her Rizzoli & Isles series (which became a TV series on TNT), she also wrote Gravity, and the screenplays for Adrift (a CBS Movie of the Week), Island Zero (a self-financed horror film to be released in 2018), and a documentary called “Pig” (still in production). Publishers Weekly calls her the “medical suspense queen,” while Stephen King says she’s “better than Palmer, better than Cook…yes, even better than Michael Crichton.”

(A more complete list of her works can be found below.)


JRM: You’ve written all your life, starting with stories about your pets when you were a child—but not for publication. What was the turning point for you?

Tess Gerritsen: Selling my first novel—Call After Midnight—to Harlequin Intrigue. It was published in 1987.

JRM: Why did you become a doctor?

Tess Gerritsen: As the child of immigrant Chinese, I was raised in a family where financial security was always uppermost in my parents’ minds. Although I’d wanted to be a writer since childhood, my father urged me to pursue a more secure career in the sciences. I was already interested in biology, so I went into medicine.

JRM: What persuaded you to stop practicing medicine and become a full-time writer?

Tess Gerritsen: After I sold my third novel to Harlequin, I realized that I really could make it as a writer. And since writing was what I’d always wanted to do, I decided to try my hand at it full time.

JRM: Apparently there was some family resistance to this career choice…?

Tess Gerritsen: My husband thought he’d married a fellow physician, not a novelist, and the income from writing novels couldn’t match the high salary of a doctor. So yes, there was some resistance on the home front…until my writing income caught up and surpassed his income.

JRM: You started with romances because you’d read them during your residency, as an escape from the grind. When did you decide to transition to medical thrillers—and did you know the switch would be permanent, or did you decide that after the first thriller’s success?

Tess Gerritsen: My advance for Harvest, my first medical thriller, was about 50X the advances I’d been earning for my romance novels. So yes, I decided the transition to thriller writer was definitely called for.

JRM: I understand the decision to write Harvest came about after a rather unusual conversation…

Tess Gerritsen: I had dinner with a retired homicide detective who’d been traveling in Russia. He said that Moscow cops told him children were vanishing from the streets, and they believed the kids were being kidnapped and sent abroad as organ donors. The idea horrified me—and became the premise of Harvest.

JRM: How does a romance writer wind up in a conversation like that?

Tess Gerritsen: I love to ask people about their occupations and to hear interesting tidbits about their work. This just happened to come up during dinner. Writers are by nature curious people, and I can’t help asking some pretty weird questions!

JRM: After four standalone thrillers, you—unknowingly, I gather—-kicked off the Rizzoli & Isles series with The Surgeon. Jane Rizzoli is a secondary character in that book, and Maura Isles doesn’t show up until The Apprentice, which is book two. Apparently you were planning to kill both of them, is that right?

Tess Gerritsen: Jane Rizzoli was supposed to die in The Surgeon. She was merely a secondary character, and at first she was an annoying one as well. But in the course of writing that story, her character grew on me. I could feel her angst, her struggles, and when it was time to write her death scene I just couldn’t do it. So she survived to star in The Apprentice, where Maura Isles was introduced. I never planned to kill Maura, but her aloof and somewhat mysterious character intrigued me. So I wrote a third book, The Sinner, in which we learn more about Maura’s past.

JRM: You used an interesting turn of phrase there, saying that Jane “starred in” The Apprentice. Do you see the events happening—roll the movie in your head, so to speak—while writing, or is this just a case of picking up the Hollywood lingo?

Tess Gerritsen: I think most thriller novelists see movies in their heads when they write. In the case of Jane, I meant that she went from secondary character in The Surgeon to main character in The Apprentice.

JRM: At what point did you realize that you’d be writing a series—and that Jane and Maura would be the main characters?

Tess Gerritsen: By The Sinner, which is book three, it was obvious these two women had more stories to tell! It’s now been twelve novels.

JRM: Are you planning more standalones at this point, or are you all-in with Rizzoli & Isles?

Tess Gerritsen: I’m giving R&I a break, and am now working on a standalone thriller about a haunted house.

JRM: At one point—after Gravity and the “serial killers and twisted sex” audience comment [when a reader at a book conference said she wanted to see more of both in your writing]—you did a reader survey that, I believe, first pointed you toward thrillers. How did you organize that survey, and what did you learn from it?

Tess Gerritsen: I spoke to other readers on that particular book tour, asking what they thought of that woman’s comment. And I took note of how many women nodded in agreement, sometimes with great enthusiasm!

JRM: What’s your sense of your reader demographic, and how important is it in general to be clued-up on this?

Tess Gerritsen: In the U.S., I would estimate that 80% of my readers are women, many of them over the age of 40. I think that number may be closer to 50/50 in other countries, based on the people who show up at my book events in the UK and Germany.

JRM: What do you do when you’re not writing, if there is such a time? Piano, composing, Celtic music…? I’ve read you play the violin, but other sources say it’s a fiddle.

Tess Gerritsen: When I’m not writing, my great joys are gardening (I grow some monster tomatoes!), traveling, and yes fiddling. It’s only called a fiddle when you’re playing fiddle music. Otherwise it’s the exact same instrument.


JRM: What are the most important things for an author or would-be author to keep in mind when sitting down to write?

Tess Gerritsen: Tension is key to making a scene interesting. It needn’t be flat-out conflict or an argument, but just a sense of something hanging in the balance, something that must be decided or resolved. As I start my story, and throughout the novel, I try to insert that bit of tension in every page I write.

JRM: You’ve said that readers keep reading because they want to know what happens to the characters. Having sold 30 million books, you know more than most about crafting characters that readers care about. How do you do it—literally? Are there questions you ask yourself, specific qualities you strive to imbue the characters with, or…?

Tess Gerritsen: I can’t create a character until I can hear his/her voice in my head. Is the voice young or old, male or female, white collar or blue collar, depressed or happy? If a character starts speaking to me, it’s so much easier to let that character tell the story. I often find that if the character is really different from me, it’s much easier for me to get out of their way and let that character take over.

I never write biographical sketches ahead of time, because too detailed a blueprint tends to stifle the character’s development. I let “the voice” tell me about himself. Also, I try to avoid biographical “dumps,” which are multiple paragraphs of background info that’s spoon-fed to the reader. That’s so boring. No, just throw your character into a situation and stand back and watch what he does, what he says. Those actions and words reveal more about character than long background narrative.

JRM: Back in 2005 and 2013, you said you more or less sit down to write and let the story take you where it takes you—and that this approach leads to problems like “horrific” plot block, blind alleys and frequent rewrites. Does this remain true today?

Tess Gerritsen: Yes. The downside of my method is that I must spend a lot of time rewriting to make all the little disparate pieces that I’ve thrown onto the pages finally fit together. But the upside is that the story really does evolve organically, rather than in a paint-by-the-numbers way. I’m working on a story now—a haunted house story— where I wrote the entire thing not really understanding the heroine’s deep-seated pain, until I’d gotten all the way to the end of the first draft. Suddenly the answer came to me, and now I’m on the second draft, re-writing almost every paragraph to reflect that new revelation.

JRM: Maybe it’s easier to do that when you write the first draft longhand, and expect to rewrite each paragraph anyway? Do you still write your first drafts with pad and paper?

Tess Gerritsen: Yes, I still write first drafts in longhand. I find that I’m far more willing to accept imperfection when the words aren’t glowing on a computer screen. If I see them in typed form, I feel the need to stop and edit, which is a true momentum killer.

JRM: How do you write–do you have a ritual of some kind, special time or place, daily word or hour target, etc.?

Tess Gerritsen: The only ritual I have is breakfast and coffee. And a quick check of my email. But that’s about it. If I’m working on a first draft, my goal is to write four pages (about 1,000 words) a day. And I always work in my home office, which has a killer view of the sea.

JRM: Do you outline a series arc, or do you take things strictly book-by-book?

Tess Gerritsen: I don’t outline. I go strictly book by book. In fact, one of the motivations for me to write the next book in a series is to find out what happens to the characters, because I really don’t know until I write it.

JRM: You’ve said that the secret to keeping a series going is to keep the characters’ lives in a state of flux or change—that the moment the characters become content and happy, the series is over. Are there any other series secrets?

Tess Gerritsen: It’s also important to have a large enough cast to form a universe of characters. One person cannot carry a series by himself; he needs to be surrounded by people whose lives are also constantly in flux. It’s those relationships that keep a series interesting and moving forward. In the case of “Rizzoli and Isles,” there’s not just Jane and Maura; there’s also Jane’s family, Maura’s love for Father Daniel Brophy, the ups and downs of Jane’s partner Barry Frost and her friend Vince Korsak, and all the attendant complications that come with multiple lives.


JRM: How many of your books have been optioned or sold to Hollywood—meaning feature, TV, or streaming rights?

Tess Gerritsen: I’ve sold film rights to Harvest, Gravity, and the entire Rizzoli and Isles series.

JRM: Other than the fact that you wrote them, and the level of quality that comes with that—are there any commonalities you find among those works?

Tess Gerritsen: Not much commonality, actually. Harvest was a straight-up medical thriller. Gravity was an SF thriller. And Rizzoli & Isles was primarily a character-based crime series.

JRM: In your opinion, what does Hollywood want when it comes to source material–what are they looking for?

Tess Gerritsen: For feature film, I think Hollywood is interested in compelling plots. For TV series, the focus is more on characters who can sustain multiple episodes.

JRM: How, if at all, does that differ from what publishers look for in manuscripts?

Tess Gerritsen: For feature films, I think that Hollywood is interested in something that’s easily translatable to short-form storytelling. Complex novels with multiple subplots are more difficult to adapt for feature films. Television, however, is able to be more flexible and can tell complex stories in the form of series. Game of Thrones, for example.

JRM: Given that you’ve written several original screenplays, have you considered adapting any of your own works, as opposed to selling film rights alone?

Tess Gerritsen: No. By the time I’m finished writing a novel, I’m tired of the story and have no interest in spending any more time trying to adapt it.

JRM: Rizzoli & Isles ran for, I believe, seven years and 105 episodes on TNT, all of those based on your book series of the same name—which is still going strong. How and when did that deal come about—was it really a call out of the blue?

Tess Gerritsen: Yes, it really was a call out of the blue. After reading a few of my books, producer Bill Haber approached me with the idea of a TV series based on my female-buddy theme. He signed me to a one-year option, and after I cashed his check, I forgot about it. But a year later, he had a terrific pilot episode script and he just kept pushing forward. I never really believed it would happen…and then it did. Bill Haber and series creator Janet Tamaro are owed all the praise for its development.

JRM: When did this happen—had the series already hit the bestseller lists when the call came? And if not, how did Bill find out about the books?

Tess Gerritsen: Yes, the books had already been on bestseller lists. I think Bill contacted me around the time Body Double came out, which means he’d had a chance to read two or three of them and had a sense of the main characters.

JRM: Given that you already had multiple books on the NYT and other bestseller lists—to what extent do you think the TV series influenced book sales?

Tess Gerritsen: I think it did help book sales to some extent, but the book series was already selling well. In my case, I don’t believe it had much effect on sales of my standalones.

JRM: That’s interesting. Every other adapted author I’ve spoken with—even those already selling well in dozens of countries—report a massive effect on sales. On the other hand, none of them had hit the NYT Bestseller List before the adaptation—which put the them there. You were already there, so maybe that accounts for the difference… Has the TV series influenced the book series in any way?

Tess Gerritsen: Yes, after the TV series started, I couldn’t help but hear Angie Harmon’s voice whenever I wrote a scene with Jane Rizzoli. I think it also led me to focus more on the relationship between Jane and Maura, which up ‘til then, in the books, had been more coolly professional.

JRM: Would you say that novelists in general can learn useful points of craft from movies and series, even if they don’t intend to write screenplays?

Tess Gerritsen: Being exposed to any form of storytelling is educational for a writer. I’ve learned a lot from being a lifelong film lover.

JRM: As to the TV series, the pilot was based on your second Rizzoli & Isles book—The Apprentice—because main character Maura Isles doesn’t appear in the first book. To what extent has material from the other books been incorporated into the TV series?

Tess Gerritsen: The character of Warren Hoyt—who first appeared in The Surgeon— was important in the TV series. Although they did kill him off on TV, in the books he lives on. The mystery of Maura’s birth parents, which was center stage in my Body Double book, is touched on in the TV series, but they chose to take it in a completely different direction. The plot of my Rizzoli & Isles short story John Doe was featured in one of the TV episodes. But by and large, the TV writers felt free to move the characters in directions that are somewhat different from the ones I pursue in the novels.

JRM: How would you say the TV series differs from your books—less dark and gritty, of course, but what else comes to mind?

Tess Gerritsen: The relationship between Jane and Maura receives a great deal more emphasis in the TV series. In fact, they’re portrayed more like gal pals who have sleepovers and go to yoga together. In my novels, they start off as primarily professional colleagues with very different views on life. Maura comes from a privileged background while Jane comes from a blue collar family, so there’s that distance between them. But over the course of the twelve novels, they’ve learned to trust each other through thick and thin—even when they disagree about the choices the other makes in her life.

JRM: Have you any advice to authors wanting to see their works adapted?

Tess Gerritsen: If you have a literary agent, it really helps if they have connections to good film agents. I’m very fortunate that my literary agent has an agreement with Creative Artists Agency in Hollywood, which can channel novels to production companies.

JRM: Do you retain all film and other non-publishing rights to your books, or does your publisher get a piece of that?

Tess Gerritsen: I retain all film and television rights to my novels.

JRM: Any advice on dealing with Hollywood?

Tess Gerritsen: Work with a Hollywood agent you can trust. And keep your expectations modest.

JRM: Still, the Gravity rights did sell for a rather immodest sum, and deservedly so. When you say modest expectations, I assume you are in general speaking about the sale of film rights to non-bestselling books, rather than adapted screenplay sales?

Tess Gerritsen: I’m talking about being realistic about the huge odds against a novelist seeing film rights to his work picked up by a major studio and actually making it into production. Many novels are optioned; very few end up on the screen.

[JRM NOTE: Completely true. On the other hand, and for reasons explained here, if you have an adapted screenplay to sell—as opposed to rights alone—the odds (and the money) change considerably. Non-studio buyers now account for the majority of screenplays purchased, and independent (non-studio) film budgets have reached the very respectable neighborhood of $180 million.]


JRM: There aren’t a lot of authors out there shooting their own films. You’re breaking the mold with Island Zero—written by you, directed by your son Josh and produced by longtime friend and commercial video producer Mariah Klapatch. How did you start down this path, where does the project stand now that it’s completed, and where do you hope things will go from here?

Tess Gerritsen: It started off as a lark, really. Josh and I were weeding the garden one day and I told him I’d always wanted to make a horror film. He said, “You write the script and let’s do it!” It grew from a fun family project to a real film production, cast with SAG actors and with crew pulled from Los Angeles and the east coast. We shot the film over eighteen frigid days in Maine. The whole process was an education in filmmaking, from pre-production to post-production, and we did it on a very low budget. We recently signed with a distributor, and Island Zero will be released in digital form in mid-May. It will also have a limited theatrical release in Maine. We so enjoyed the experience that Josh and I are now filming a documentary called “Pig.”

JRM: Where does the documentary stand now?

Tess Gerritsen: We’re about two thirds of the way through filming interviews with various experts around the world. The documentary explores the mystery of where and why the religious pork taboo arose, and we follow every theory from trichinosis to climate change to Egyptian mythology. We’ve interviewed archaeologists, Egyptologists, feral swine experts, geneticists, pig owners, and chefs. It’s one of those mysteries that may not have a clear answer, and about which everyone disagrees, which makes it all the more interesting. So far the production has taken us to the UK and Egypt, and we plan to visit Israel later this year.

JRM: Why did you choose these particular film projects?

Tess Gerritsen: We choose projects that interest us, and which have inherent tension and conflict. Pigs inspire a number of negative emotions in people, and we wondered why. While westerners have a range of reactions to pigs (Cute! Dirty! Greedy! Intelligent!), in the Middle East they are viewed with utter disgust. Very few people are completely neutral about pigs.

JRM: Do you see yourself doing more of these?

Tess Gerritsen: Yes! It’s been so much fun working with my son Josh, and I love digging into a topic and exploring obscure but fascinating questions, such as: how did ancient man first domesticate the pig? One archaeologist’s fun theory is that little girls did it by asking a universal question: “Daddy, can I keep it?” Perhaps that’s how the first orphaned piglet was tamed and became part of the family.

JRM: How would you characterize the differences between creating a book and making a movie?

Tess Gerritsen: With a book, I have everything under my personal control. If I don’t like the way a story is progressing, I can single-handedly change its direction. With filmmaking there are multiple moving parts, many people to manage and so many things that can go wrong. A rainstorm can kill your day’s shoot. An actor who gets sick can wreak havoc on a schedule. And then there’s the challenge of lining up just the right composer and the right post-production team. And if you’re the producer, you’re paying for all of that.

JRM: Were there any surprises—good or bad—along the way?

Tess Gerritsen: Bad surprises: making a film always costs more than you anticipate, so whatever you think your budget will be, increase it by at least 50%. The high cost of digital special effects also surprised me.
Good surprises: in narrative filmmaking, how much a good actor can truly elevate a script. I really learned to respect the actors’ craft, and the amount of emotional intelligence that goes into what they do. Another good surprise: how much fun it is to work with my son Josh. While we’ll disagree sometimes about things like camera set-up or locations, in the end we manage to get the job done and still be talking to each other.

JRM: If you had it to do over, knowing what you do now—are there things you’d do differently?

Tess Gerritsen: I’d spend way more pre-production time on location scouting and the development of practical effects. [JRM NOTE: “Practical effects” are non-computerized special effects—things like blood, wounds, monster suits etc.—things you can actually see when you’re standing on-set.] We got our first real look at our “creature” on the day it was supposed to be filmed, and it needed to go back to the creator’s workshop for a paint job! Never again will we do things just-in-time.

JRM: No doubt your leap into filmmaking will inspire other authors to explore this possibility. What advice or resources might you share with them?

Tess Gerritsen: First, write a low-budget script. The biggest barrier to indie filmmaking is financing, and with experience you’ll know how to tell your story without busting your bank account. Children, animals, and anything shot on the water will really cost you—the latter because of insurance rates. I would also highly recommend taking your time with casting. If the actors you audition aren’t quite right, don’t settle; cast the best person for the part. You may need to hire SAG [Screen Actors Guild] actors, which ensures a higher level of skill, but going SAG also adds complexity to your budgeting and accounting. Find ways to keep your costs down — film locally and make use of rental houses to put up your crew, things like that— and take advantage of any tax incentives your state offers for filmmakers. And finally, hire the best cinematographer you can afford. That will make or break how professional your film looks. For more detailed guidance, study books on indie filmmaking. There’s a lot of great information available about producing, financing, and contracts.

JRM: How did you get into screenwriting?

Tess Gerritsen: Through sheer ignorance of how difficult it is to break into the industry. “Why not write a script?” I thought, so I did. I found Syd Field’s book on screenwriting invaluable, and I was already a storyteller in novel form.

JRM: How did Adrift come about?

Tess Gerritsen: I had earlier submitted a script about a sailboat tragedy to a production company, which eventually turned it down. But years later, they called me asking if I’d be willing to write a spec script that later became the TV movie Adrift. It was my first experience working with a Hollywood production company, and while it was great to see my name in the credits, I realized that I much preferred the complete control of novel writing.


JRM: For many years now, the various bestseller lists have been populated by an inordinate number of physicians. Why do you think that is—what is it about doctors that seems to make them perhaps uniquely well-suited to writing popular fiction and nonfiction?

Tess Gerritsen: I’m not sure there’s an inordinate number of physician-writers—at least, compared with the huge number of lawyer-novelists! —but physicians do have great material to write about. We see people at their very best and their very worst, at times when they’re in pain or suffering tragedies, so we’re exposed to some powerful real-life emotions that we can turn into stories.

JRM: Is there a flipside to that—are there any missteps that doctors are particularly prone to?

Tess Gerritsen: Physicians aren’t always natural novelists. Medical training makes too many of us write in the passive voice. For example, writing “an incision was made” rather than “he cut the skin.” And we sometimes tend to over-explain, telling rather than showing. So physicians don’t necessarily make better storytellers; in fact, our medical training may be a handicap. But that can be overcome.

JRM: Obviously! How has your medical background influenced your own writing?

Tess Gerritsen: It’s given me the background to knowledgeably write about characters who are doctors. I understand how a physician approaches a problem, and I know the vocabulary that makes such a character believable. Since my Harvest novel, almost all of my stories have featured a doctor as a lead character.

JRM: Having taught writing to doctors for more than ten years, you’re in a unique position to address the physician-author’s journey. What are the most common writing-related questions you hear from doctors?

Tess Gerritsen: “How do I sell my novel to a publisher?” is what they really want to know. Physicians tend to be highly accomplished and intelligent people who have always excelled in school, so it’s hard for them to accept that some 30-year-old editor in New York doesn’t love their manuscript. Sometimes, it’s the first rejection they’ve ever experienced, and they tend to think there must be some inside trick to getting published, or that it’s all about connections.

“What’s wrong with my manuscript?” is another common question, and that one is not always easy to answer. The story may be grammatically perfect, but there’s something “missing.” Often the fatal flaw is the old problem of “telling, not showing.” Sometimes it’s too many biographical dumps. Sometimes it’s the lack of emotional resonance, or characters the reader can’t connect with.

JRM: What are the most common challenges, misconceptions, or mistakes that doctors make in their approach to writing?

Tess Gerritsen: They think storytelling is all about plot, and they don’t understand the importance of character. They don’t take the time to really develop one important narrator; instead, they throw in too many characters. Or they think that medical minutiae is interesting to the average reader.

JRM: What advice do you have for other physicians who want to become authors—what do they most need to know?

Tess Gerritsen: Read, read, read. You learn the craft by seeing how other authors do it. It always flummoxes me when an aspiring doctor-novelist tells me they haven’t read a novel in years.

JRM: What’s harder—writing, or being a doctor?

Tess Gerritsen: They’re hard in different ways. Doctors work long hours, suffer sleepless nights, and must live with the terror of making a mistake that might cause someone’s death. Writers must live with occupational uncertainty, never knowing if the hours they put into a project will end up in the trash can. But the professions have this in common: success in either field requires (it did for me, at least) about the same number of years to achieve. It took me eleven years to finish my medical training (I’m a board-certified internist). And it took me about eleven years of writing novels to hit the bestseller lists.

JRM: You and Michael Palmer used to teach an annual writing course for doctors. Are you aware of any recordings or transcripts from those workshops?

Tess Gerritsen: I’m afraid none of our workshops were ever recorded. They were such engaging, fun weekends and now that Michael’s passed away, I’d really love to be able to hear his voice again!

[JRM NOTE: If anyone out there has recordings or transcripts of Tess and Michael’s Writing for Physicians workshop, please send me an email at .]


JRM: You came into this at a time when self-publishing was difficult. Given your move into indie filmmaking–have you given any thought to self-publishing, now or in the future?

Tess Gerritsen: The publishing landscape has completely changed over the last ten years. When I started out, self-publishing was something you did out of desperation, and you’d spend a lot of money just to print and distribute your books. Now it’s very possible to actually make a living from self-publishing, and I know writers who are doing very well going the indie route. While I haven’t considered it for myself, I’m certainly intrigued by the possibilities, and I just might do it if I write a book that’s a little too strange or unexpected to be published in a traditional way.

JRM: Sounds like you have something specific in mind…

Tess Gerritsen: As a matter of fact, I’m now finishing up a novel that might be better suited to indie publishing, or to being published under a different pen name. We’ll see!

JRM: After working so long and hard to establish yourself, why consider publishing under another name? And is that something you’d announce, or more of a Richard Bachman situation?

Tess Gerritsen: I’d consider a pen name if the book is radically different from my others, since I don’t want to shock or surprise any unsuspecting readers when they pick it up and think it’s the usual Tess Gerritsen novel. In the case of my upcoming book, there are some shocking erotic elements to it, which is why I’m considering a different pen name. But of course I would share that info with my readers, just in case they’re willing to take a chance on this new project.

JRM: In what ways have you seen publishing change since you began—-and where do you see things going from here?

Tess Gerritsen: Along with the new rise of indie publishing, there’s also been more interest in multimedia storytelling, which is why I ventured into filmmaking. I don’t know that it’s a route most writers want to take, but it’s one way to reach a different audience. Now that Island Zero is about to hit the digital market, I’ll get an idea of whether it’s a financially viable avenue for me as a writer.

JRM: How do you—how does anyone—decide that? If it does well right out of the gate, that’s an easy decision. But what about a more modest showing? If you don’t keep going, you may never reach that place where the proceeds jump 50X—as they did for you with the Harvest novel. On the other hand, movies cost a wee bit more than books to produce…

Tess Gerritsen: If Island Zero simply makes back its budget, I’ll consider it a success, and would certainly consider making a second narrative film.


JRM: What’s next for you?

Tess Gerritsen: I’m working on that “Pig” documentary with my son. I’m finishing up my haunted-house thriller. And I’m helping to develop a possible new TV show featuring Maura Isles.

JRM: Are there any details you can share at this point?

Tess Gerritsen: Not yet. I hope there’s good news in the next few months!

JRM: What are the best places for readers to find you online?

Tess Gerritsen:


Twitter: @tessgerritsen

And facebook: Tess Gerritsen on facebook


Rizzoli & Isles Series (in order)

The Surgeon
The Apprentice
The Sinner
Body Double
The Mephisto Club
Freaks (short story)
The Keepsake
Ice Cold
The Silent Girl
Last to Die
John Doe (short story)
Die Again
I Know a Secret

Medical and Crime Thriller (standalones, in order)

Life Support
Gravity (science fiction)
The Bone Garden
Playing with Fire

Romantic Thrillers

In Their Footsteps (Tavistock Family Series)
Thief of Hearts (Tavistock Family Series)

Romantic Thrillers (standalones, in order)

Adventure’s Mistress
Call After Midnight
Under the Knife
Never Say Die
Presumed Guilty
Girl Missing
Keeper of the Bride

Screenplays (in order)

Adrift (TV movie)
Island Zero (feature)
Pig (documentary)



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