Interview with Tess Gerritsen

Author of The Shape of Night

Tess Gerritsen is a retired physician. A graduate of Stanford University and the University of California Medical School, Tess had a full-time career as a doctor until fiction writing intervened.

Her first novel, Call After Midnight, was published in 1987. Since then Tess has penned a string of bestsellers, including Harvest (1996), Life Support (1997), Bloodstream (1998), Gravity (1999), The Surgeon (2001), The Apprentice (2002), The Sinner (2003), Body Double (2004), Vanish (2005), The Mephisto Club (2006), The Bone Garden (2007), The Keepsake (2008; UK title: Keeping the Dead), Ice Cold (2010; UK title: The Killing Place), The Silent Girl (2011), Last To Die (August 2012), Die Again (2015), Playing With Fire (2015), I Know a Secret (2017) and – in October 2019 - The Shape of Night. Her books have been published in forty countries, and more than 30 million copies have been sold around the world.

Tess has won the Nero Wolfe Award (for Vanish) and the Rita Award (for The Surgeon). Critics around the world have praised her novels as “Pulse-pounding fun” (Philadelphia Inquirer), “Scary and brilliant” (Toronto Globe and Mail), and “Polished, riveting prose” (Chicago Tribune). Publisher Weekly has dubbed her the “medical suspense queen”.

Her series of novels featuring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles inspired the TNT television series “Rizzoli & Isles” starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander.

Now retired from medicine, she writes full time.

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Perhaps an unfair question to ask when you’ve gone to the trouble of writing an entire book, but: could you sum up the plot of The Shape of Night for our readers? Or at least give them a teaser to ignite their interest?
  • A troubled woman retreats to a seaside mansion which she’s rented for the summer. When she glimpses what she thinks is the ghost of the long-dead sea captain who once lived there, she wonders if the house is haunted — or if she’s going insane. At first she thinks Captain Jeremiah Brodie is the perfect lover — until she learns that every woman who’s ever lived in the house has died in that house. Is the ghost responsible for those deaths, or is a flesh-and blood killer at work?
Who’s your main character? How do we find them at the start of the story?
  • Ava Collette is a troubled cookbook author who’s haunted by a guilty secret and desperate to find solace. She tries to forget her sorrows by fleeing north to Maine, where she hopes to finish the book she’s been struggling to write. Her only companionship is her troublesome cat Hannibal — until she realizes she is not alone in Brodie’s Watch. Someone — or something — shares the house with her.
The book is set in your home state of Maine. You set Bloodstream in Maine, too, didn’t you? What do you look for in a location? How significant is place in your imaginative process?
  • I think of Maine as both a place and also a state of mind. It’s a place where you can find solitude and wildness and beauty, which is a plus for any story. When I write about the fictional town of Tucker Cove (where Ava is living) I also write about the psychology of small-town life. There’s an insular quality of a small town, where outsiders remain outsiders, and secrets are seldom shared.
Would you tell us a little about the combination of romance and suspense? This combination is familiar territory for you – does the whole become greater than the sum of the parts, do you think?
  • ong before I became a writer, romantic suspense was my favorite genre to read. I devoured novels by Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney, and later I got hooked on reading the Harlequin Intrigue line. The genre requires just the right balance between the mystery and the love story, and the challenge is to not let one overshadow the other. Rather, they should enhance each other, and what better way to bump up the intensity of a romance than to throw in some danger? When the hero and heroine are fighting for their lives, they need to trust each other. The threat of death ramps up the speed of their falling in love while also increasing the stakes of the mystery.
For any readers unfamiliar with your work, which authors do you feel closest to in style or approach?
  • Lisa Gardner, Tami Hoag, and Lisa Unger.
You’ve written a ridiculously large number of bestsellers. Which of your books are you most fond of?
  • My favorite books seem to be the titles that sold the fewest copies. Perhaps they’re my favorites because they were the most challenging to write, so they’re the stories I’m proudest of: GRAVITY and THE BONE GARDEN.
What do you think draws us to murder and crime? Crime fiction is such a large section in any bookshop – is that healthy for humanity?
  • A well-told crime novel makes the reader’s pulse race and the adrenaline pump, and as human beings, we seem to enjoy that safe bit of excitement. It’s the same reason we like to ride roller coasters and watch scary movies — the exhilarating thrill that comes from being just a bit scared — but not utterly terrified. I don’t know if it’s healthy for humanity, but it seems to be ingrained in our DNA. And perhaps it’s a good way of letting off pent-up tensions that might manifest in less healthy ways.
We look forward to the publication of The Shape of Night. Good luck with the launch. When is it out, and how can fans ensure they’re at the front of the queue?
  • It will go on sale October 1 in the US and October 3 in the UK.
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A woman trying to outrun her past is drawn to a coastal village in Maine—and to a string of unsolved murders—in this novel of romance and psychological suspense from New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen.

“Suspenseful, sexy, and soulful.”—J. R. Ward, bestselling author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series

After an unspeakable tragedy in Boston, Ava Collette flees to a remote village in Maine, where she rents an old house named Brodie’s Watch.

In that isolated seaside mansion, Ava finally feels at peace . . . until she glimpses the long-dead sea captain who still resides there.

Rumor has it that Captain Jeremiah Brodie has haunted the house for more than a century. One night, Ava confronts a ghost who feels all too real, and who welcomes her into his world—and into his arms. Even as Ava questions her own sanity, she eagerly looks forward to the captain’s ghostly visits. But she soon learns that the house she loves comes with a terrible secret, a secret that those in the village don’t want to reveal: every woman who has ever lived in Brodie’s Watch has also died there. Is the ghost of Captain Brodie responsible, or is a flesh-and-blood killer at work? A killer who is even now circling closer to Ava?

Advance praise for The Shape of Night

“This book reminds me why I love reading. I wish this were a series so I could spend more time in Tucker's Cove. Tess Gerritsen is a writer I look up to!”—J.R. Ward, bestselling author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series