PW: Is Maura Isles, the character in your new book, The Sinner, based on an actual medical examiner?
Tess Gerritsen: No, she isn't. It is the real name of a doctor who won the right to name a character in one of my books, so I introduced her as a minor character in an earlier book, and she sort of became her own character as the series went on.
PW: Who is your main audience?
TG: Mystery readers, primarily women who are fascinated by the scientific aspects of crime investigation.
PW: The genre of romantically tinged suspense fiction seems to be getting increasingly crowded, with authors like Iris Johansen, Tami Hoag, Sandra Brown and Nora Roberts. How do you distinguish your work from what's already out there?
TG: [I use] my own scientific and medical background. I've seen aspects of medicine and emergency medicine that nobody else has, because I'm a physician. Before I did crime thrillers, I was doing medical suspense. So there's always been a great deal of inside information from the point of view of physicians.
PW: How important would you say it is to come from a background in or relating to law enforcement, forensics or psychology to be able to write fiction competitively in this field?
TG: Somebody who's very good at research can certainly do it. I think what I bring to it are the sensuous details I recall as a doctor. It's sort of the inside way of how a physician thinks. It's very hard to research your way into that mindset. I think I also bring textural details, like the smell of what it's like to do an autopsy or the way it feels to puncture a vein. I think [that] would be hard to do if you haven't done it yourself.
PW: Once one of your books has gone off the bestseller lists, do you continue to promote that title before the paperback (or the next hardcover) is published?
TG: I'm happy to promote all my titles. Do I actually go out and do a book signing? Not necessarily. But I just feel that I'm always promoting the body of work as opposed to any particular title.
PW: Do you tour overseas? How does the U.K. market differ from the U.S.?
TG: I was just in the U.K. in February, and I'll be promoting in Australia this coming August. It does seem to be quite different. It seems to me that U.K. readers are much more interested in literary reads. They like their mysteries to be quite complex and more character-based—this is a generalization, from looking at the books that sell well in the U.K. I've also noticed that they're really not interested in romantic elements in their plots. They really love straight crime there. I'd also say that crime fiction is even stronger in the U.K. than it is in the U.S. Their bestseller list is even more dominated by crime fiction than the U.S. one.
PW: Do you plan to write any stand-alone novels or are you continuing with the series?
TG: [I'll be sticking with the series] for the moment, because I feel I haven't finished with these characters. Prior to The Surgeon I was writing all stand-alones. I feel there's so much more to say about [the characters in the series] and what's happening in their lives. I'm not quite ready to let them go yet.