Today I’m very pleased to welcome Tess Gerritsen to the blog. Tess is the creator of the Rizzoli and Isles series which started with The Surgeon and was recently immortalised in the TV series Rizzoli and Isles featuring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander. The twelfth book in the series, I know A Secret, was published by Bantam on 10 August 2017.
Tess kindly answered some of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about I Know A Secret.
Jane and Maura investigate the death of a horror film producer, whose dead body has been mutilated in a shocking way: her eyes were removed and placed in the palm of her hand. Maura can’t determine how the young woman was killed. A second murder, this time of a young man, proves equally as baffling for Maura. Again, there was post-mortem mutilation. Again, Maura can’t determine the cause of death. What ties these two deaths, and is there a secret message behind the staged crime scenes?
2. What inspired the book?
While touring art museums in Italy, I became fascinated by the symbolism of sacred paintings. Medieval painters often included visual clues that tell a deeper story than what first seems apparent in the image. For instance, if a woman holds a palm branch, it means she died a martyr. Martyred saints are often portrayed with the instruments of their deaths. I thought: what if a murderer did something similar? What if he inserted symbols in his crime scenes to send a message to one person in particular?
The book is also inspired by a horror film that my son Josh and I made called “Island Zero.” Horror films play a big part in the story, and may in fact hold the vital clue.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?
I’m a little of both. Once I have a premise in mind, I just run with it. I can usually see ahead for about five chapters, but after that, it’s the characters who determine what happens next. I’m surprised almost every single time, and often don’t know who the villain is until about halfway or even three quarters of the way through the novel.
4. Is there still anything that surprises you about the creative process of writing a novel?
I’m always surprised how the story inevitably comes together by the end. While I’m writing the first draft, I often get depressed by what a mess it seems. I’ll come down with writer’s block because I don’t know where the story is going and I don’t know the solution to the mystery. Then magically, all those disparate story strands come together. I credit the power of my subconscious, which is always working on the story even while I’m not aware I’m doing it. It hasn’t failed me yet.
5. I Know A Secret is the 12th book in the Rizzoli and Isles series. What do you find are the benefits and downsides to writing a series? Is the fear there that you know the characters too well or can they still surprise you?
The upside: I know these characters inside and out, and I know how they’ll react to a given situation. Yes, they can still surprise me. For instance, Maura has had an on-again, off-again romance with Daniel Brophy, and until the latest book, I didn’t know how that relationship would turn out. Well, she’s finally made a choice. And it was indeed a bit of a surprise to me.
The downside of knowing these characters: even though I know them, new readers to the series may not, so I’m always forced to include a little backstory in each book so these readers will know who Jane and Maura are. But I never get tired of my characters because they are always evolving and growing. In the course of twelve books, Jane has married, had a child, and watched her parents’ marriage disintegrate. Her partner Barry Frost has had his own marital woes, which take another turn in the latest book. And Jane’s mother Angela makes a life-changing decision in this book as well.
6. The successful TV series Rizzoli and Isles was based on your characters. TV shows often tend to deviate from novels and readers and viewers can often disagree as to how characters are envisaged. Do you think the characters and the show honoured the integrity of your books? Did you hear from any readers as to how they perceived the transition from page to screen?
Although the TV show certainly altered the appearance of Jane and Maura (on TV, they’re both staggeringly beautiful women!) the show did honor the core partnership of Jane and Maura. What I wanted to portray were two professional women who rely on and trust each other. Over the course of twelve books, they’ve also become friends. Some readers have a problem with the mismatch in their appearance between TV and the books, and can only enjoy one or the other. But that’s what sometimes happens when you move between books and screen.
7. Do you have any plans or ideas as to how the characters will progress in future stories or do you not think that far ahead?
I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’m not even sure there will be another book in the series. I’m working on a completely different sort of novel now, and letting Jane and Maura take a rest.
8. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?
I’m actually not relaxing all that much. My son and I are working on a feature documentary film about pigs, and it involves a lot of travel and interviews with some experts around the world. This project has turned into a fascinating deep dive into the centuries-old relationship between pigs and humans.
9. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
It would have to be a very long book. Can I choose the Encyclopaedia Britannica?
10. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
I think I’ve been asked pretty much everything!
About the book
I have a secret.
And someone wants to make sure I never tell . . .
In a house decorated with horror movie posters, a young woman’s body is found. She lies on her bed, two bloodied objects clutched in her palm. Detective Jane Rizzoli and Forensic Pathologist Maura Isles are called to the murder scene, but even faced with this gruesome sight they are unable to identify the immediate cause of death.
Their investigation leads them to a high-profile murder case that was seemingly solved years before. But when another body is found in horrific circumstances, the link between the two victims is clear. Was the wrong person sent to prison? Is the real killer out there right now, picking off new targets?
One woman knows the killer is coming for her next. She’s the only one who can help Rizzoli and Isles catch him.
But she has a secret that she has to keep . . .
Read more on the Penguin website.
About the author
Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen is also a physician, and she brings to her novels her first-hand knowledge of emergency and autopsy rooms. Her thrillers starring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles inspired the hit TV series Rizzoli & Isles.
But Tess’s interests span far more than medicine and crime. As an anthropology student at Stanford University, she catalogued centuries-old human remains, and she continues to travel the world, driven by her fascination with ancient cultures and bizarre natural phenomena.
For more information on Tess Gerritsen and her novels, visit her website: http://www.tessgerritsen.com