Tess Gerritsen knew she always wanted to be a storyteller. She just happened to have a career in medicine first.
The bestselling author of the Rizzoli and Isles series of crime novels will be one of the featured speakers during Creighton University's Women and Health Lecture on Thursday at the Joslyn Art Museum's Witherspoon Concert Hall.
Gerritsen is best-known for the 10-book Rizzoli and Isles series about two women, one a homicide detective (Rizzoli) and the other a medical examiner (Isles), who solve crimes together. She has also written other medical thrillers. In total, she has written more than 20 works, including a screenplay, “Adrift,” which aired in 1993 on CBS.
We recently spoke to her by phone about what she thinks of her books being translated into a hit TV show, TNT's “Rizzoli & Isles” starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander and what it's like to go from one career to another that is so radically different.
Q. Did you always want to write fiction?
I wrote my first book when I was seven. I always knew that I wanted to be a storyteller, but I took a detour through medical school first.
Q. What types of books are you a fan of?
I love historical novels and I read a lot of nonfiction. Right now I'm devouring all of the works of Philippa Gregory. She writes historical fiction during the time of Henry VIII.
Q. What are you reading now?
I just finished “The Boleyn Inheritance” by Gregory.
Q. The medical profession is very analytical and the writing profession is very creative. How did you reconcile the two?
It is hard, you have to use a different part of your brain for each. When you're writing a novel you're flying by the seat of your pants, which is the opposite of what you should be doing as a doctor.
Q. What was your inspiration for the characters of Rizzoli and Isles? Are they based on real people?
Rizzoli is modeled after female cops that I met who were tough and and have to fight for respect in a male-dominated field. In the first book, she was a secondary character and was supposed to die. But in the course of writing the book I got to like her and she developed into a larger character. Isles is more like me, she wants to find an explanation for what is unexplainable.
Q. How did you research the Rizzoli character?
I visited the Boston Police Department where I met patrol people on the streets, women working their way up the ranks, which was the personality I was looking for. The women were open to the process and loved to talk about their jobs.
Q. What are your thoughts on how doctors are portrayed on television? True to life?
Not really. What I like about “Rizzoli & Isles” is that they make science look fun, but I don't know many medical examiners that show up in high heels. It's a lot more glamorous than reality
Q. Is the TV show “Rizzoli & Isles” true to the series of books?
It's diverged quite a bit. On the show, Rizzoli is quite a beauty, but in the book she's ordinary. Isles isn't as troubled as she is in the book, she's happier on the show. But it works to have more contrast between the actresses. The characters are much more different, which works for visual entertainment. The show has a lot more humor, which is why it's popular.
Q. What are you working on now?
I'm taking a hiatus between books and doing mental work for the 11th book in the Rizzoli & Isles series, which is coming out in the next year or two.
Q. You're speaking at the Women and Health Lecture at Creighton. What will you be speaking about?
I'll mostly talk about how to make science dramatic and how you can translate it for the layperson. The tough part is taking dry scientific facts and spinning them to be entertaining.
Q. Your husband is a graduate of Creighton University. Have you been to Omaha before?
I'm looking forward to visiting Omaha. We've visited before, but it was years ago. It will be fun to see the city.