Friday, September 13, 2013

(Interviews) Tess Gerritsen: Up Close

Hey readers, The Carnage Report was lucky enough to catch up with best selling author and creator of the Rizzoli and Isles book series(Which is now a TV series) Tess Gerritsen and below was the result, enjoy! Connect with Tess on twittter @tessgerritsen or visit for more information. Purchase your copy of Tess's latest release and new addition to the Rizzoli and Isles series, Last to die, at Amazon here

What got you into writing?

I wanted to be a writer since about the age of seven.  That seems to be a universal age for many writers, when they discover their passion for telling stories.  But since I come from Chinese-American parents who were anxious about financial security, I went into a far more reliable field, medicine.  I practiced medicine for about five years, but never gave up my love of storytelling.  Then, while on maternity leave from my medical job, I sat down and wrote my first book.  Within a few years, I'd sold a novel.  I never went back to medicine.

Do you have any influences over your writing?

Every book I read is an influence, in one way or another.  When I was young, I loved science fiction and mystery.  Now that I'm a writer, I've chosen to write what I love to read -- and that includes mystery and science.  As for specific writers, I'd say that Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) was a big influence, as well as the Nancy Drew mystery series.

Hunter S. Thompson once retyped The Great Gatsby just to get the feel of great writing, what books, if any, have you come across that have made you want to do the same?

It happens quite often that I'll read a book and feel pangs of both envy and admiration.  A great paragraph by Stephen King will make me want to study every sentence to see how he makes storytelling seem so effortless, when I know it isn't.  Larry McMurtry can do that to me too.  So can Elmore Leonard.  They're all quite different writers, yet they all have something to teach us about writing.

Why did you decide to write thrillers instead of another genre?

Actually, I have written several genres.  I started off in romance, then moved on to medical thrillers, then crime thrillers, and have also done science fiction and a historical.  I've focused on crime thrillers lately because that's the brand I now seem to have acquired.  The "Rizzoli & Isles" series is such a strong seller that I continue to focus on those two characters.  Even though I do think it'd be fun to explore other genres.

Do you have a writing process?

My writing process is:  1. Get excited by a premise.  2. Figure out who my main character is, and what makes him/her fascinating.  3. Figure out the major conflict.  4. Start writing to see where the story goes.  And that's about it.  I seldom know the whole plot, although I will know bits and pieces of where the story's going.  I often don't know who the villains is.  I often don't know who's going to survive and who's going to die.  The first draft is a journey of discovery for me, and I'll just hammer my way through it until the end.  Only after the first draft do I know what the story's about.

My process is unusual in a few ways.  First, I write first drafts with pen and paper.  Second, I never stop to edit during the first draft -- I just keep writing, even though I know it's terribly flawed, because I know I'll fix things in the next drafts.  So my first drafts are pretty awful.  I have my own ideal page quota of about 4 new pages a day -- if I can stick to it, then I know I'll be able to finish the story by deadline.

Of all the books you have written, which one have you found most difficult to write?

They're ALL difficult to write!  I've had writer's block with every single one.  I've questioned my ability with every single one.  And I invariably hate the book after the first draft.  Each one presents its own difficulties.  GRAVITY was difficult because of the research challenge (it was set aboard the International Space Station and I needed to know the ins and outs of the shuttle program.)  THE BONE GARDEN was difficult because it was set in 1830's Boston.  As far as actual writing, I'd have to say that THE SINNER was a tough one, as it didn't have a lot of slam-bam action, but was far more "interior", with internal conflicts dominating.

Most thrillers fail because of bad pacing, how do you avoid this pitfall?

I think there are two flaws that can make a book seem like it has bad pacing.  First, not enough conflict.  And by this, I mean believable conflict, not manufactured conflict.  I want characters to always be pushing against something, and if you don't present enough challenges for your characters -- including the minor characters -- then the writing can seem flat.  Second, you must have characters who are interesting just in their own right.  A character with a quirky point of view or an amusing voice can make the pages fly by, even in the absence of conflict.  

Given that you are somebody who has found success in a profession where it’s notoriously hard to come by, what advice would you give to the young writers out there?

Find the right character for your protagonist.  A beginner's mistake is to think that a good plot is all you need to make a story readable.  While a good plot is essential, what really makes a story stand out, what really makes me want to keep reading, is a character I want to follow.  When I start off to write a story, I'll take the time to find just the right character voice.  I want to hear that person in my head.  I want to know if she's sassy or whiny, if she's gung-ho or if she's beaten down.  I need to know exactly who they are.

Many writers attest to their hate for writing, are you among them?

Oh, yes!  There are days when I dread sitting at my desk, because I anticipate a long, hard struggle.  Writing is hard.  If it were easy, everybody would be a bestselling author.  Maybe what makes it especially hard for the accomplished writer is our sense of perfectionism.  I see all the flaws while I'm writing and it discourages me.  I feel like I'm trying to drill through stone to get at the story.  I wince at every bad sentence.  It's certainly not all joy and light ... and then you reach the end of the final, final draft, and you think: "oh, that turned out OK."  But you've already forgotten what a pain it was to get there.

Last question, do you have any projects lined up?

I'm working on #11 in the Rizzoli and Isles series.  And yes, I'm in the middle of the first-draft slog.  Grrrr.

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