Tess Gerritsen: Mistress of Suspense

“The career of chart-topping mystery novelist takes a new twist with her first historical murder mystery,” says Jordan E. Rosenfeld of Writers Digest.

Tess Gerritsen has become my favorite author over the past few years, so I read the interview in Writers Digest with rapt attention. It is not just the way she weaves suspense that pulls me into her books, it is also her well developed characters. They have problems and hang ups like the people that I know (including me), but they are also complex.

Gerritsen touched on character development when asked this question:
DO YOU HAVE ADVICE FOR WRITERS TRYING TO GET PUBLISHED IN THE THRILLER OR MYSTERY GENRES?
Besides reading a lot of them? When you write any book you have to pay attention to your emotions. What makes a really salable book that people grab onto is one that tells a story that causes you to feel something. That’s what I base my ideas on. Does the premise evoke some really strong emotion in me? Intellectual mysteries are interesting but it has to have something that moves you. I find action on the page very boring. If I read about a car chase, it’s ho-hum for me. What gets me on the edge of my seat is an interrogation, in which you know the answer is around the corner and it’s just two people talking in a room. New writers don’t understand tension or suspense—they think it’s about gunplay.

Writing is a matter of trusting your heart and gut more than logic, because people aren’t logical. Characters should do crazy things because that’s real life and I think that’s what we should write about.

This interview inspired me not only to keep reading Gerritsen, but also to use her as an example to improve my own writing. Gerritsen has the same problem that I do, not wanting to stick with a book. Unlike me, however, she overcomes and finishes her books.

YOU’VE WRITTEN A NEW BOOK EVERY YEAR SINCE HARVEST WAS PUBLISHED. WHAT’S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF WRITING A NEW BOOK?
I don’t plot my books ahead of time. Like a lot of writers, I’m a plunger rather than a planner. I have an idea but somewhere in the middle I start to feel I’ve lost my way for the trees. Every single book has given me trouble and made me depressed because two-thirds of the way through, I think it’s a total disaster. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you stick with it. But it means that your second and third drafts will be pure drudgery.

I remembered reading something similar that Gerritsen had said in a previous interview, so I did a Google search and found this on Writers Write:

What was the greatest challenge in writing that first book?

Maintaining the drive to finish it. It’s a terrible temptation to give up on a book and start something new. Over the years, I’ve learned to persist through thick and thin, even when the book is not going well. Only after you’ve written “the end” can you truly evaluate whether you’ve been writing drivel or a masterpiece.

So, I am going to use Gerritsen as my motivator. I have resolved to finish my YA novel in progress. I want to write “the end.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: