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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mistresses of the Thriller: Part I: Tess Gerritsen

A while ago, a post on, a social networking site for writers and readers of crime fiction, asked for readers’ favorite female thriller writers. Tess Gerritsen's name came up more than once.

Gerritsen, a Chinese-American writer well-known for her medical thrillers, received her M.D. from the University of California at San Francisco. She began writing while on maternity leave from her practice as an internist. Her first book, a romantic suspense novel, was published in 1987. It was followed by eight others in that genre.

Her first medical thriller, Harvest, was published in 1996. It made the New York Times Best Seller List. It has been followed by 10 popular novels, the latest is The Keepsake published in 2008. Her books have been published in 33 languages and 30 million copies have been sold worldwide.

Gerritsen lives in Maine with her husband, a retired physician. Interviewed in the Portland Press Herald in 2007, the author admitted that she writes her first drafts by hand – four pages a day – and then moves to a computer for the final editing.

She thanked a local library director for the idea for her book The Bone Garden (2007), a historical thriller, because he invited her to speak on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein a few years ago and during her research discovered that Shelley’s mother had died of childbed fever, spread by the doctors’ bad hygiene in hospitals at the time. She placed Oliver Wendell Holmes in the novel and read Nathaniel Hawthorne to get the cadence of the language.

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