Tess Gerritsen, a now-retired physician, is the New York Times Bestselling and multi-award-winning author of a dozen medical thrillers, including Harvest, Bloodstream, The Surgeon, The Apprentice, and The Keepsake. Her fiction career began while she was on maternity leave from her medical practice. Initially writing romantic suspense, she quickly transitioned to medical thrillers, her first, Harvest, hitting the bookstands in 1996. Since then her gritty, pulse-pounding stories have won her many fans around the world. Including me. So when she agreed to an interview, I was thrilled.
DPL: Your protagonists include a medical professional (Medical Examiner Maura Isles) and a cop (Detective Jane Rizzoli). Which do you find most enjoyable to work with? Easiest to write?
TG: I find Jane the most enjoyable to write, because she’s so unlike me. She’s aggressive, straightforward, and quick to express an opinion, which means it’s always easy to show, on the page, exactly what she’s thinking. Maura is far more introspective and reserved, and sometimes even I wonder what’s going through her mind!
DPL: As a physician you know medicine and even though medicine and forensic science share a common language they are in many ways very different. How do you research the forensic science you need for your stories? Any favorite sources or websites?
TG: I have a huge library of reference books, everything from medical textbooks on surgery, pathology, and infectious disease to forensic texts dealing with taphonomy, geology, and radiology. Since I already have a background in science and medicine, it’s much easier for me to do the research — and understand exactly what I’m reading. All those years of medical training have certainly come in handy. I also love to use the Journal of Forensic Sciences, where you can find some of the most recent research, as well as some fascinating case studies. Every so often, I’ll use one of those true cases in my books. That’s where “Airplane Man” came from in THE APPRENTICE.
DPL: What’s the coolest forensic detail you’ve used in your books?
TG: It was a detail that showed up in THE APPRENTICE. Suppose you’ve found a strand of a scalp hair — and that’s all you have. You know nothing about where it comes from, or who it belongs to. It turns out that by examining the root and hair shaft, you can tell whether that hair was pulled from a living person — or whether it came from a scalp that was already in the process of decomposition. Hair plucked from a living person looks different from hair plucked from a corpse.