Inside the mind of a crime writer
On 30 August 2017, I attended an evening with Tess Gerritsen of Rizzoli and Isles fame. Having watched most of the series, before my recent phase of not watching television, I was intrigued to hear what she had to say about writing. The Barn in Hillingdon was the venue – a slightly unusual room for events but very fitting and comfortable.
Tess spoke for nearly an hour giving insight into her writing process – one I can associate with having talked with numerous authors and read their stories.
Tess’ formula: 1+1=4 Wonderful!!
Hearing about her Ideas Book where she stores snippets – sometimes for as long as 15+ years was intriguing. And in particular, I was taken with her advice to struggling authors: ‘Listen to the voice. The character will speak to you.’ The result is 12 books in the Rizzoli and Isles series, something she had never envisaged. In fact, she said Jane was to be killed off in book 1, but curiosity over Warren led to book 2, and new character Moira Isles to book 3.
The historian in me could associate with her writing process – the reality of false memory and ideas germinating until a story forms which insists on being written. Plotting and planning have no place as the story takes its own path (in Tess’ case the characters revealing themselves as stories progress). In line with so many other successful authors, Tess reads. ‘I’m always reading’ and mostly non-fiction books to understand the science, scenarios and other factual necessities to ensure the story holds true.
I’m looking forward to reading her first book The Surgeon to see how much of it differs to the TV series – Tess has already hinted at humour as well as more ‘darkness’, and in particular how she’s used tension to keep the reader’s interest. Maintaining tension/conflict being the special ingredient to a well-written, captivating book. This was reiterated recently by Arnie Wilson who said a similar thing about the detective/mystery books written by Peter James – short chapters make you want to ‘just read the next chapter’. There must be something in it.