Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of the Rizzoli & Isles series, shares her long list of accomplishments, successes, and struggles on being an author.
Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of the Rizzoli & Isles series, shares her long list of accomplishments, successes, and struggles on being an author.
Fear and danger are vital elements to great crime fiction. Anthropologists have theorized that we gravitate toward dangerous stories because of the deeper chemical need in our brains to feel the rush and exuberance of the chase. These stories allow us to access the primal parts of ourselves without actually -as civilized members of society- intentionally placing our bodies in danger.
As heart-pounding and frightening as it is to read about, or see characters in dire situations, it’s equally exhilarating when they win. The suspense is its own unique reward.
Women react, both as readers and characters, to this kind of fear differently than men. From a young age, women are warned to be more cautious, more aware, more afraid, and as we get older our life experiences compound this idea that obstacles and peril for women, are all around us. Some of it is real, some of it is overblown, but we can all agree that there is something unique and compelling about the danger of a fictional woman who has chosen (or chooses during the course of a narrative) to live beyond the constraints of that fear.
She goes, she fights, and she wins. And when she wins, it’s gratifying in a different way.
We asked our editors, some authors, and friends to name their favorite crime fiction series featuring this kind of woman, and here are the top results:
Reflections upon what makes a hero “hot!”
I’ve given a great deal of thought over the years to this topic, having dreamed up twenty-five romance heroes in all. The bottom line is, I have to fall in love with him myself. He has to be smart, intense, brave, creative, and emotionally alive. He can be flawed almost to the point of ruin, like Seth in Behind Closed Doors, Nick, in Extreme Danger, Val in Ultimate Weapon, or Aaron in One Wrong Move, but not quite—he must be redeemable. He has to be courageous, because apart from the mortal peril he will face in the story, he will have a painful journey of self-discovery to become a viable romance hero. Usually, volcanic sexual lust is the catalyst. True love takes my heroes by surprise, completely, and for all time. I love it when love brings a difficult hero to his knees inside, melts his barriers, sweeps away his emotional blocks. It takes him apart, tears him open to make space for the new reality, the new paradigm. Then he can finally bond, grow, take root in his own life, become a lover, a husband, or a father. That moment of sweet surrender is such a huge turn-on. It’s the true payoff for his valor.
As far as I’m concerned, heroes can have huge range of personality types, from the reluctant, difficult ones I mentioned above, to the more tender, romantic ones, like Connor in Standing in the Shadows, or Kev in Fade To Midnight, or Bruno in Blood and Fire. The latter guys fell fast and hard, and were willing to commit immediately—they knew what they liked when they found it. They trusted their own instincts and wasted no time in claiming it, putting a ring on it, hanging onto it with white-knuckled hands. Davy McCloud from Out of Control was a tougher nut to crack, but once he cracked, oh, boy.
Then there was Miles, who took me by surprise. I never expected him to evolve into a romance hero back in Standing in the Shadows, when he shuffled out of his parents’ basement. He fell into the clutches of the McCloud brothers, who took him on as their personal project. Fast forward twelve years: he learns martial arts and gets buff, then its laser surgery to lose the glasses, he learns the sacred art of male grooming from Sean McCloud, but still, most of those changes were just cosmetic. Miles was still unsure of himself and pining for the wrong girl. But mortal combat sharpens him, being held to the McCloud’s high standard toughens him, and his adventures at the end of One Wrong Move temper him. By the time he gets to his own adventure, Fatal Strike, he’s ready to fight to protect his new, true love.
Sam Petrie of In for the Kill is the last of the McCloud & Friends Series heroes, and one of my favorites. He came relatively late to the McCloud crowd, and only to follow the elusive Sveti around, though she spurned him for years. Sam wouldn’t give up—and when he’s given a chance to protect her, defend her, and stick to her like glue, he takes it, no matter the danger. He’s not ashamed to offer his heart, held nothing back, and he’ll put everything on the line for his chosen lady.
Ah, romance. I can never get enough of it. Here’s to the unflinching valor of all the hot and daring heroes out there, both fictional and real!
Former Harvard lawyer Angela Claire, author of Tempting the CEO, discusses how golden handcuffs and unbreakable glass ceilings led to Boardroom daydreaming and a career in romance.
When people ask me how I got into romance writing, I say “golden handcuffs and glass ceilings.” And I’m not talking about BDSM for rich folks or mirrors above the bed. No, I’m talking corporate. Golden handcuffs are where they’ll pay you a ridiculous amount of money if they fire you, in order to incentivize you to stay. You never want to quit because you “lose” your illusory severance. The glass ceiling is when you’ve gone as far as you can in a company because of invisible barriers. The two combined can keep you in a job that’s both boring and stressful for years on end.
In my case, they led to romance.
I never wanted to be a lawyer. Not really. From a very early age, all I ever really wanted to do was to be taken by a handsome—and I mean, like, super handsome—pirate and whisked away to his cabin to be seduced. I studied hard in high school and college and kept my true aspirations under wraps…because after all, there wasn’t much of a future in being the love mate of a pirate on the high seas. But I made somebody a small fortune reading about those types of adventures if I couldn’t live them.
By the time I graduated from Harvard Law School, my romance-reading tendencies took a backseat to the sheer amount of legal minutia I had to master in my new profession. I headed off to Wall Street to get a return on my educational investment (i.e., pay back my student loans) and then later out into corporate America.
Over the years, I sat through endless meetings—golden handcuffs firmly in place and that glass ceiling not even tested by me anymore—until finally something funny happened. The part of my brain I needed to stay on my feet legal-wise got smaller and smaller as corporate law became second nature to me and the part of my brain that wasn’t otherwise occupied…well…it sought out that pirate ship again. I’d find myself in a boardroom listening to a fascinating presentation on the metrics of inventory turnover and I’d be drifting off to a tropical island. Tall, dark and handsome definitely involved.
The pirate ship gave way to a more familiar venue, the corporate setting, and instead of the gray haired men all around me, I’d imagine hot alpha CEOs. Instead of me, a forty-something—well, never mind how old I am—I’d imagine a young feisty heroine, smart, gorgeous, fit for a pirate ship but savvy enough to command a company if she chose, no glass ceiling in sight. I’d plot out snappy dialogue and intense emotions. And yes, blush, blush, passion…although I usually waited until I got home for that part of the daydream.
I took to writing my stories down and eventually got brave enough to submit them for publication. I was still undercover at my day job, giving no clue that I was anything other than your average corporate lawyer. But by this time, I wanted to be something else, something very different. No, not a pirate captain’s wench (though that would have been nice), but a romance writer.
It took a few years of my dual identity to work up my courage, and those long boring meetings helped a lot, but one day I managed to break out of the golden handcuffs and turn my back on the glass ceiling forever. Now I daydream and write at home, not sorry I lost my illusory severance. I’ve never been happier.
And I don’t miss inventory turnover at all.
Small Towns, Starting Over and Finding Love Again
Nothing takes me away from the disorder of real life quite like a story about love and starting over in a small town. Something about close-knit communities where everyone knows everyone else’s business appeals to me. Maybe because I grew up in a small town. We even had a party telephone line, where my sister and I would listen in to our neighbor’s conversations (I know, terrible). Now I live in a big city, where most of the time I don’t even know my neighbor’s name. So when I want to return to the quirky characters of my youth or disappear into a gorgeous setting, where everyone looks out for one another and the magic of love is in every page this is where I go:
Virgin River by Robyn Carr: This was my gateway drug to small-town romance. After reading this book, the first in the Virgin River series, about a small community in Northern California and the relationship between a former Marine and a midwife who has recently relocated to Virgin River after tragedy has struck, I was hooked. I read every book in the series and went looking for other contemporary small-town romances. Carr is the quintessential storyteller and a great influence on my work.
Sugar’s Twice as Sweet by Marina Adair: This is a new series by Adair about Sugar, Georgia and a socialite who falls for the local bad-boy golf champion. The story is delicious and sexy and reminded me a little of the great Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Wynette Texas series with her eccentric, but truly credible characters. But Adair has her own distinct voice and Sugar is a place I will be visiting often.
Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis: This is the first book in Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor series and boy can this woman write. She’s fun, snappy and at times poignant and this small Washington town is a great escape. In Simply Irresistible a big city girl who has just been fired from her Hollywood job comes to Lucky Harbor to claim her inheritance, a ramshackle inn which she shares with the two sisters she hardly knows. They hire the hottest contractor in town to fix the place . . . Well, you get the picture.
The Best Man by Kristan Higgins: This is the first in her Blue Heron Series about a small town in New York’s Finger Lakes district where Faith Holland has decided to return to her family’s winery and deal with her past—a very public jilting by her former fiancé. Then she reunites with the best man and things get interesting. Higgins is a beautiful writer, who can make me laugh and cry at the same time. I’ll read anything she writes.
Marissa Meyer, New York Times best-selling author of The Lunar Chronicles, shares personal insights on touring, meeting fans, and writing. Meyer's fourth book in the series, "Fairest: The Lunar Chronicles: Levana's Story," has just been released.
You've been on tour for all of your books so far -- CINDER, SCARLET, CRESS and now FAIREST. In fact, your tour never seems to end! What is your favorite thing about touring? What is the most difficult part of touring?
The best part of touring is meeting fans, and seeing how excited some of them are to meet ME! It never stops being surreal. Also, hotel room service is a nice perk. The most difficult part is being away from my family, though, especially on this tour. You can feel like you're missing out on a lot of stuff at home after a while.
I am constantly SO impressed by the enthusiasm and creativity that my fans show! Since the very beginning, when CINDER came out, I've had fans coming to the events in cosplay and bringing me totally awesome fanart and gifts. One of my all-time favorites was from a southern California fan who made an AMAZING stained glass art piece of the Cinder shoe. I couldn't believe she gave it to me!
I try to maintain some sort of schedule when I'm at home, writing about 4-6 hours a day, though it can vary. I do a fair amount of work on my treadmill desk at home, and I also love to write at cafes and restaurants. I spend many afternoons with local writing friends - it adds a nice social aspect to an otherwise solitary job! What I'm particularly excited for, though, is that my husband is building me a writing studio in our backyard, which will be like a little dream cottage. I can't wait.
C. T. Wente, author of the new release Ice Man Cometh, shares his feelings on the importance of place in his writing.
A chorus of screams tears me from my sleep.
I shoot up from bed, wholly disoriented, hands grasping at the darkness as I fumble to locate its source. Within moments I am lost. Everything is wrong here–the windows have been stolen, the walls arranged in some incoherent manner. I shuffle my feet across a floor of cold tile. The screams grow louder and a tinge of panic sharpens my movements. Finally my fingers meet with plaster, trace the edges of a sill. I grapple with a window blind until SNAP! it recoils and a dull tepid light fills the room. Framed through a whitewashed window, the outside world is a revelation. Vacant-looking houses, foreign in their prim austerity, line the narrow street. Beyond them, a wisp of sandy beach. And then the sea–a placid sheet of mercury shimmering in the dawn. The screams draw my eyes upward. A murder of hooded crows is rioting by the thousands, their collective calls echoing against a steel gray sky. I turn and look back at the room, now comfortable and understood, and remember where I am.
No, this isn’t an excerpt from a working manuscript, but rather an entry from my daily journal dated 01/13/15–the first day my wife and I would wake up in our new house on the southern coast of Sweden. After more than ninety days of nomadic living, waiting for resident visas and shipping containers and a myriad of stress-inducing issues to be resolved, we were finally here–in our chosen place–turning a quiet, stove-heated house on the Baltic coast into our home.
It’s nearly impossible to overstate the importance of place in the context of both my life and my storytelling. From the first moment I gazed out the window of this old house by the sea, I knew this was where I wanted to live. It was a simple gut-based certainty, the same kind of immediate and overwhelming emotional affirmation to a newly discovered setting that has turned my wife and me into habitual travelers. And it’s this same visceral connection to my surroundings that largely drives my writing process.
Truth be told, when conceptualizing a story, I almost always develop the settings before the characters. My reason for this is simple – with a place firmly in mind, I now have a framework for developing the tone of the storyline and the nature of the characters that will dwell within it. A vast empty desert? Perhaps I see emotionally threadbare characters that reflect the raw, hardscrabble landscape, revealing their qualities in more subtle, muted tones. The fringes of a large third-world city? I can’t help but fill this setting with rich, colorful characters with complex, intersecting lives.
Of course, like any worthwhile character, the settings themselves should evolve to reveal surprises. How many times have you walked the same stretch of shoreline or passed the same landmark and found yourself noticing a certain quality of light or variation in color that makes it seem remarkably different? A playground can be terrifying at night just as surely as a nuclear fallout zone might be beautifully peaceful. For me, revelations in the nature of a place are a key element to providing the emotional backdrop–and often the impetus–of my characters’ development.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to writing. Outside my window, the Baltic waters are mirror calm. A light wind is rousing the copper schooner weathervane on the empty summerhouse next door, and the fishermen are slowly making their way back to shore. It’s a perfect place for a crime, and a cast of new characters is already beginning to reveal themselves in this wonderfully quiet, desolate place I call home.
A sinister force is awakened beneath the plantation soil when a wealthy heiress discovers her husband's betrayal. Christopher Rice shares an overview of his book, The Vines, in a 15 second video.
S.G. Redling, author of the new release Ourselves, shares her thoughts on vampires and how they apply to her new book.
I love vampires.
There, I’ve said it. Judge if you must, but I know I’m not alone. And as a kid who grew up in the 1970s and ‘80s, I got to witness some of the finest reinventions of this ancient myth ever imagined. Anne Rice, Near Dark, Lost Boys, and George Romero’s Martin all added new life to the undead, and I devoured every bite.
But something always bothered me – the guilt. Being a vampire was so cool; why did the vampires hate it so much? While this absence of predator-guilt might speak more to my questionable interpersonal ethics, it also drove me to ask “What if?”
What if being a vampire wasn’t a curse?
What if it wasn’t even supernatural?
What if there were a biological imperative to drink living human blood? Not some undead, gnawing-on-throats imperative, but rather a "Let’s do breakfast" thing.
Who would these people be? To us they’d be predators and thus, as nature dictates, they’d be fewer in number. It would make sense that since they drink blood from living people, they wouldn’t be able to eat dead meat. What if they looked at our steaks the way we look at a crow’s road-kill dinner? Perspective really is everything.
It would be impossible to keep their existence a secret forever, so what better way to hide in plain sight than to create a parallel monster myth? Throw in just enough truth among the outrageous lies to remain safe? Traces of their presence could be hidden among rumors and fear. “Give them a monster to hunt and they’ll never look for you.”
Then the fun really began. Here are a few examples of manipulating the myth. Vampires fear garlic! (As vegetarians incapable of digesting meat, they’d shy away from the heavy spices historically used to preserve meat.) Vampires cannot go out in the light of day! (They have pale skin that heals quickly. Sunburns fade in a day.) Vampires create vampires with bites from their magically appearing fangs! (No fangs, nobody turning into anything. Nothing to see here! Vampires – who us?)
Who would they be to themselves? What’s their mythology? How to do they remain hidden among rising technology, surveillance, and globalism? As always, they adapt. They are proactive, creating a Council, centralizing information and resources. But they’re still human; they love and fight and fear just like we do. They have cliques and biases.
In Ourselves, we drop into their world via Tomas, a young man raised within the comfortable and insular Council. His life is laid out for him – he should marry, have kids, and do his part for his people while maintaining his identity in the outside world. But Tomas feels compelled to seek a different life, and we learn that the most secretive people on earth are keeping secrets from each other.
They are the Nahan and they have always been among us. Ourselves is our first peek into their world.
Author Tony Wolf describes the interplay of fiction and strange-but-true history in his graphic novel trilogy, Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons. Inspired by a true story. No - really.
I was sitting in a sound booth deep within National Public Radio’s Navy Pier studio in Chicago, being interviewed by a journalist from the BBC’s World Service. Our subject was the “hidden history” of the suffragette Amazons; the most radical of Edwardian England’s women’s rights activists, who served as a secret society of martial arts-trained bodyguards and commando agents for Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst and other suffragette leaders.
After several minutes of conversation, the interviewer asked:
“Did - did they actually engage in physical combat?”
And I replied:
“Oh yes. Yes, frequently. That was, sort of, what they were for.”
Then came a pregnant pause as the interviewer attempted to reconcile his notion of Edwardian English ladies with street fighting riot grrrls. After the pause, most people tend to ask either “Why do I not know about this!?” or “When’s the movie coming out!?”, but he stuck gamely to his script.
(As it happens, there actually is a movie coming out – Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette, starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham-Carter and Meryl Streep, is due to be released in September of 2015.)
When I start to describe my graphic novel trilogy Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons as a work of “alternative history”, people often assume that the core idea – an undercover team of suffragette ninjas – is the product of artistic license. No, no … that bit really happened!
Although the American suffrage movement was largely led by pacifists, England’s radical suffragettes engaged in acts of protest by mass vandalism and even bombing and arson attacks on unoccupied buildings. They went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that no-one was physically hurt in their protest actions, but they were also committed to the ideals of self-defense. Since their leaders were effectively outlaws and fugitives, the Amazons employed all manner of defensive tactics, including disguise and decoy strategies as well as brawling with police constables when necessary.
Kitty Marshall, the author of a sadly still-unpublished 1947 memoir called Suffragette Escapes and Adventures, is the only member of the real-life Amazon team about whom we have any real detail (they were a secret society, after all). We know about their exploits, but not much about the women themselves.
The Suffrajitsu trilogy, however, takes place in the Foreworld – the alternative history established by writers Neal Stephenson, Mark Teppo and their collaborators, who have produced an impressive shared-world of novels, short stories and graphic novels. For that reason, I was free to exercise some artistic license and to populate the Foreworld version of the team with my favorite Edwardian-era femmes fatale.
Florence “Flossie” Le Mar, for example, was a New Zealand-born athlete and entertainer whose specialty act was called The Hooligan and the Lady. A passionate advocate for women’s self-defense, Flossie toured vaudeville theatres with her husband Joe (who played the role of the Hooligan on stage), demonstrating and lecturing on the virtues of martial arts training for girls and women.
Flossie also produced a book – The Life and Adventures of Miss Florence Le Mar, the World’s Famous Jujitsu Girl – which is one of the rarest and, frankly, strangest self-defense manuals ever written. It includes polemic essays, illustrated lessons and a series of very tall tales describing her adventures as a globe-trotting dispenser of jujitsu justice, bringing down opium-smugglers in Sydney, crooked gamblers in New York City and an English “lunatic” who believed that he was a bear.
Not too great a stretch of the imagination, then, to make Flossie Le Mar one of the Amazons of the Foreworld.