On the road with the screening tour of “Rizzoli & Isles”

So far I’ve attended screenings of the pilot episode in Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago. Sunday night, the episode will play in Times Square, NYC — a venue so astonishingly legendary that I’m having trouble imagining how it will all work out.

In each of the screenings, we’ve had audiences of about 250, 85% of them women. And there’s a pattern I’m seeing in their responses, an enthusiasm based on themes that women really get. It’s not just about women as team players or women as competent human beings. It’s about women as people who can do diverse jobs such as homicide investigator or medical examiner, while still being women.

It’s a theme that I wasn’t consciously aware of when I was writing the books. Since I’m a woman, it was natural for me to write them from a woman’s point of view. I know that women aren’t automatons. We don’t go to work like good soldiers and tackle perps exactly like the guys. We have concerns that men don’t have and aren’t even aware of. Those of us who work in male-dominated fields (and I was one of them during my early days as a doctor) struggle to be “like the guys” in so many ways. Our mantra is: “don’t show weakness. Be strong. Work twice as hard.” But when we leave work and get home, we fall back into who we are: women. And that means families, troublesome moms and boyfriends, getting dinner on the table. And, yes, maybe drooling over a new pair of high heels. We live double lives, and our male colleagues get to see only one side of us.

That’s what “Rizzoli & Isles” stresses – the fact that a female homicide cop is not just a homicide cop. She’s a woman with her own issues. And maybe the only other person who understands her at work is another woman.

At the Philadelphia screening, a number of women who showed up happened to be police officers. And some of them were dressed quite elegantly — in fact, one of them asked why Jane Rizzoli couldn’t be better dressed on the show! What they loved was how Jane took charge and wasn’t afraid to tackle a suspect in a creek with no backup. They loved that she didn’t need a man to rescue her. They loved that in the end, SHE was the one who saved her own life.

And when she collapsed under the weight of fear and the struggle to look brave, she was able to turn to one colleague: Maura Isles, who wasn’t going to judge her weakness.

I know that the female buddy TV show was done — what, 20 years ago? — in Cagney and Lacey. But you have to look hard in this male-dominated TV industry to find another show with that theme of women standing up for each other, even when they may be romantic rivals. I love the fact that this show, from bottom to top, is female driven. I created the characters. The writer and executive producer of the series is Janet Tamaro, a firecracker of a woman who understands what it’s like to be a gal in a male-dominated field. And the stars are two women. It’s an unusual combination, and the women seem to be responding.

Let’s hope they all tune in Monday night.

a real American girl

There’ve been times when my country’s actions have irritated me, bewildered me, even angered me. But my country is like my own mother: not perfect, yet still my mother. She’s the one I love, the one who made me who I am. Since today’s the birthday of the United States of America, it’s a good day to remind myself how good this country has been to me.

My paternal grandfather came to the US from China. He was just a youth, and he sold newspapers to feed himself. Yet somehow he managed to scrape together enough money to eventually bring a wife over from China and establish a restaurant called Tom Lai’s, on the San Diego waterfront. His son (my dad) was born an American, during an era when Asian Americans couldn’t swim in the same pools or drink from the same water fountains as whites. During WWII, Dad enlisted in the Army, fought in Germany, and came home to work in Grandpa’s restaurant.

My dad with my sons

My mom immigrated from China as a young woman who could barely speak English. It was wartime in China, the iron curtain was about to fall, and she was soon cut off from everyone she loved. She never again saw her parents or sister. Stranded and penniless in America, she eventually married and went on to earn a master’s degree and became a social worker.

My mom and me

These are my roots. I’m the daughter of a cook and an immigrant.

Today, my books are sold around the world and my characters are about to become a TV show. It’s one of those improbable yet quintessentially American success stories. It might have happened had I been born instead in Sydney or London or Paris. But it just so happened that I was born in San Diego and raised an American, and today I’m feeling pretty darn grateful that I was.

Patriotism isn’t just an American thing. The French are exceedingly proud of France. And oh, how the Turkish love their country! But today, on July 4, I honor my own country, the country that took in my grandfather and my mother, the country that kept the doors open to my own hopes and dreams.

Happy birthday, USA.

fun on the road with “Rizzoli & Isles”

I just got home from the first leg of my “Rizzoli & Isles” tour for TNT. In some ways, it resembled a book tour with interviews during the day, followed by an evening event. But this was a book tour on steroids, with so many interviews packed in per day that I quickly lost track of how many radio stations and print journalists I spoke to. On book tour, I’m lucky to get one or two interviews per day. Just in Philadelphia, I had 12 different interviews with print, TV, and radio reporters. Clearly, touring for a TV show is a whole different ball game, where everything — including the level of interest from the media — is super-sized.

My first event was in Boston, the setting for “Rizzoli & Isles,” so we were hoping for a good reception, and we got one! At the Faneuil Hall venue, I was greeted by Jennifer Mathews and her colleagues from Allied Integrated Marketing.

About 200 guests turned out for the screening of the pilot episode. I gave a 5- minute intro, and then the show began.

At a scary moment in the show, I loved it when just about everyone let out a loud scream.

The next day, I was off to Philadelphia. My hubby (who usually takes the photos) didn’t come along, so I’m afraid I don’t have the photos of the event that night. The screening was held in the ballroom of the Sofitel Hotel, where another big crowd came to watch. This time we had a lot of women police officers, some of them really elegantly dressed — channeling Maura Isles more than Jane Rizzoli. We heard screams and gasps and laughter and cheers. These ladies loved the show!

While in Philly, I got the chance to meet some local personalities, including … Chubby Checkers. I also had lunch with Philly celeb Tony Luke, who introduced me to my very first cheese steak. (I ordered mine with beef, Provolone, onions, and peppers. Delicious.)

And here I am with WISX-FM radio personality Brian Socia:

I’m home now for a weekend of much-needed rest, before I head out to Atlanta, and the next leg of the “Rizzoli & Isles” screening tour.