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Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen to share her writing journey at Winchester library

Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen will be at the Winchester Public Library on May 16, beginning at 7 p.m., as part of the Speaker's Series. COURTESY PHOTO

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If you are an aspiring writer, the Winchester Public Library is where you want to be on Thursday when author Tess Gerritsen will be on hand to talk about her life as a bestselling author.

The May 16 talk is part of The Friends of the Winchester Public Library’s Speaker’s Series.

“I’ll talk about where my ideas come from and how I turn an idea into a book, what my process is,” said Gerritsen from her home in Maine.

The author of over 30 suspense novels said she wanted to be a writer since she was 7 years old, but her route was not a traditional one.

“I took a little detour through medical school,” she said, with a laugh.

Gerritsen was on maternity leave when she finally began to scratch that itch to write and started writing fiction. Her first book, “Call After Midnight” was published in 1987. She juggled writing, medicine and motherhood for about eight years before finally making the leap to full-time writer when she moved to Maine in 1990.

“It wasn't a hard decision, because I was finally able to pursue the passion I'd had since I was 7,” she said.

And she likes to share that passion.

Gerritsen said she likes to do talks like the one planned for WPL, when her schedule allows, because she likes meeting people and talking about what is often a mutual love —  writing.

“A lot of people in the audience at these events are aspiring writers,” she said. “I like to talk about the process of getting that idea to a finished story.”

The totally self-taught writer said she finds a lot of teaching can be accomplished at events like WPL and she likes to share her experiences.

“I never took any formal writing courses,” she said.

Instead, her path to authorship was all trial and error and trying to figure out a process that worked for her.

“A lot of it is just that,” she said. “Trying to figure out your own process.”

Much of her learning process came from simply reading, Gerritsen said. As a kid, she read sci-fi, fantasy and Sherlock Holmes, but she said it’s not the genre that draws her in as much as it is the characters.

“You want characters that you love,” she said. “That’s what keeps pulling you along.”

Speaking of characters

Even if you’ve yet to read one of Gerritsen’s novels, you might still recognize two of her characters, Rizzoli and Isles from the TNT series that ran for seven seasons, featuring Angie Harmon as homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and Sasha Alexander as Dr. Maura Isles.

“I’ve watched every episode,” Gerritsen admitted, adding that, “It’s very different from the books.”

On paper, Rizzoli and Isles are much grittier; they're not exactly girlfriends.

“Their relationship develops much more slowly in the books,” she added. “It’s not until book four that they really become friends, uneasy friends.”

But Gerritsen said when she was first approached about selling the rights for TV, they told her the focus would be on the two women and it would be lighter, more fun than the print version, which she was fine with. In fact, she was so fine with the way the series went, she actually appears in episode six of the final season. Aspiring writer Maura Isles attends a crime author’s convention, where Gerritsen in a cameo, offers her some encouragement and advice.

Now the question is — will Maggie Bird become a book series like Rizzoli and Isles?

Gerritsen said she just turned in the sequel to “Spy Coast” and is already toying with whether Maggie Bird and friends will be back for a third novel.

“I didn’t intend for it to be a series,” she said, adding her editor thought differently.

Upon reading “Spy Coast,” her editor said, “I want another book.”

So Gerritsen brought back the Martini Club and everyone else for a new adventure that will be released in March 2025.

Now on an emotional break between novels, Gerritsen said she’ll take some long walks, think about Maggie and the others and see if she can find a way into a third book.

“That’s kind of how I do it,” she said.

But crafting a story such as “Spy Coast” also includes a lot of research. How does one write about something they know nothing about?

“I go right to memoirs,” Gerritsen said. “There are a lot of CIA memoirs.”

But the nitty gritty of spycraft wasn’t exactly what Gerritsen was after. She said she was more interested in the psychological impact.

“I really wanted to focus on how you feel when you can’t tell the truth or have to lie to your spouse all the time,” she said.

Likewise, when she wrote “Gravity,” about a young NASA doctor in outer space, she said she read a lot of astronaut memoirs.

You can find out about the rest of Gerritsen’s writing process and what might come on Thursday, May 16, at 7 p.m. at the Winchester Public Library’s Friends Speakers Series. And you can learn more about her and her books at www.tessgerritsen.com.

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