Monday, August 16, 2010

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be...

Live From Arizona: Pamela Tracy checking in.

Okay, I am alive, but no, this blog is not going live. This past month, I’ve been on writer’s overload. Really, it’s like Christmas. There have been so many author events that my husband is starting to tally how many times I swish out the door (okay, I’m too tubby to switch, and , really, swish is a word my critique group would cut.) Last time I blogged, I wrote about Lisa Gardner. This time, you get to hear about Tess Gerritson.
Location: The Poison Pen Bookstorn in historic Scottsdale, Arizona.
Perched on a stool, Tess Gerritson took the microphone and held me spellbound for about an hour. Tess’s foray into writing started with Harlequin because she wrote what she read: she read Harlequin. Then, about book eight or nine, she got a call from her editor. The message? Did Tess know that in the first three chapters there were thirteen dead bodies?

Thirteen.

Not a Harlequin.

What happened next happened because of a number of events.
One: Tess was a doctor (her dad said being a doctor was a wise choice). This definitely helped when it came time to write thrillers with a medical background.
Two: She had small children, and was feeling torn about how many times both she and her husband (also a doctor) were on-call and neither could be with the children. She resigned from practice and wrote and mothered.

Switching from series to mainstream allowed Tess to deal with issues and story ideas that intrigued her. One, called the Dugway Incident, stood front and center. Tess said, “I remember reading about this farmer who was working in his front yard. He went inside after awhile because he had an earache. The next morning when he came outside, his front yard was littered with dead birds.” (This story, told by Tess, inspired me to google Dugway Incident. What a memory. Tess had all the details. She also had a story idea).

Tess also knew how to slant stories. She credits a third grade teacher for helping her with that. “Young children who want thrillers read about tigers and sharks. They are drawn to what can eat them.” Tess knew that adults were drawn to serial killers and that the main character (since most of the readership is female) needed to be a female because we’re drawn to who we identify with.

What made Tess’s talk even more interesting is that not only has she made it as a writer, but she’s also one of the few who’ve had their characters walk off the romance page and onto the television screen. The show Rizzoli and Isles is based on her characters and somewhat on her books. “Three years after the call that my book had been options came the pilot episode.”

Tess now has been on the road promoting both her books and the television series. A real perk is getting to actually see a television episode being filmed plus meeting the actors. No, at the end of the talk I didn’t ask if I could rub Tess’s head, but, yes, I wanted to.

6 comments:

Lisa Mondello said...

Great post, Pam. I heard Tess speak at our chapter about 10 years ago. Fantastic lady!

PamelaTracy said...

I could have made the post longer. She talked about seeing the house where one of the characters lived and how they cut down roses. She talked about how they had to use make-up so Angie Harmon wasn't quite so pretty. It was way cool.

Leann said...

I would've loved to hear Tess. I green with envy.

PamelaTracy said...

She was fabulous. I could have listened for another hour. Thanks for stopping by, Leann.

Terri Reed said...

I sure wish I could have been there. I love Tess' books. I have read them all, even her Harlequins. When I first decided I wanted to write suspense I had an editor tell me to read Tess' book Presumed Guilty. I have read this book many times. It is so good.

PamelaTracy said...

Terri,
I'll need to get that one.