I don’t know how I do it

How do I write books? As I tell you over at Murderati, the answer is: not so easy to explain.

And other news…

“Freaks,” my Rizzoli & Isles short story, is now available for free download at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Freebies for my US readers

The Silent Girl bookmarks are in! If you’d like autographed bookmarks, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:

Tess Gerritsen
PO Box G
Camden, ME 04843

If you are a library or bookseller and would like bookmarks in bulk for your patrons, just email me with your mailing address and I’ll send them to you free of charge. Available while the supply lasts.

Finally, if you’re a Kindle owner, a Rizzoli & Isles short story, “Freaks”, is available for free download. Check it out!

My first novel about who I am

THE SILENT GIRL will go on sale July 5, and those who’ve read the flap copy will see that it’s about a murder that takes place in Boston’s Chinatown. But that’s just a superficial glimpse of the plot; what you won’t know until you read the book is how deeply this book is about me, about my childhood, and my experience growing up as an Asian American. Yes, it is a Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles story, but it’s also a story where I introduce a new detective named Johnny Tam, a Chinese American man who’s struggling with the same issues I’ve struggled with all my life. Namely, what does it mean to be a non-white American? Can we ever be accepted as real Americans? How do we deal with the fact that people judge us just by our faces? Can we ever break out of the stereotypes that plague us all our lives?

The Chinese American experience isn’t one that’s explored much in genre fiction. For years I avoided tackling the issue, because I didn’t think readers cared what Asian Americans thought or felt. I was told that those books simply didn’t sell. Now I’m about to find out if that’s true.

Jacqueline Bisset joins the cast of “Rizzoli & Isles”!!

from TV Guide:

“Four-time Golden Globe nominee Jacqueline Bisset has signed on for a multi-episode arc on Rizzoli & Isles, TVGuide.com has learned exclusively.

The 66-year-old actress will play Constance Isles, Maura’s elegant adoptive mother who is, of course, impeccably styled. Her seemingly perfect mother also happens to be a brilliant art historian. Add that to the fact that her biological dad is a mob boss, and Maura really lucked out!

Rizzoli & Isles will return for Season 2 on Monday, July 11 at 10/9c on TNT. Bisset’s first episode will air in early August.”

On the hunt for an elusive quarry…

I have been known to drive four hours on the quest for a great meal. I collect photos of myself posing with various chefs, including Anthony Bourdain and Pierre Gangaire. My dad was a professional cook in San Diego, plus I’m Chinese-American to boot, which means that food is very important to me. Important enough that I get obsessed when it comes to tasting the new and exquisite. Over the course of my lifetime, I’ve eaten sea cucumbers and “thousand-year” eggs and fruit bats (cooked in coconut on the island of Palau).

Some years ago, I learned about “ramps,” otherwise known as wild leeks. I’d sampled them in a sauce in a local restaurant, and was intrigued by their strong, garlicky flavor. But because they are an ephemeral crop, harvested only by foragers, I didn’t have a way to purchase them either in the grocery store or in my local farmer’s market. Then they got more and more press, and were recently trumpeted in Time Magazine as the “new arugula” for foodies.

Which meant I just had to find a source for them.

Unfortunately, everyone else is looking for them too. Although wild ramps grow throughout the eastern US, all the way up to Canada, it seems you just can’t get them in your local grocery store. You have to know someone who knows the secret spot in the woods to find them. People guard their locations because they’re so valuable. I live in Maine, and you’d think I’d know one of those secret spots, but I don’t. I’ve never seen them growing in the wild, and even if I had, I wasn’t sure I’d recognize them.

Last week, I went to visit my son, who lives near Ithaca, NY. For weeks I’d been obsessing about ramps. I’d talked constantly about them and my husband was sick of hearing about it. Everywhere we went, I insisted on hiking into the woods looking for them — although I didn’t really know what they looked like. I just knew I wanted to find them.

When we got to Ithaca, the first thing I did after hugging my son and daughter-in-law was to check out their backyard. After all, they lived in just the sort of place where ramps would grow: a wet and forest-y area. I found lots of interesting plants including pretty little trout lillies:

and American mandrake

and even a whole forest floor of trillium:

You’d think these wonders alone would have made me happy. But no, I needed to locate my quarry. I was determined to find wild leeks, but I began to wonder if I’d ever find them. Then, during an afternoon touring a farm with my son’s family members, I mentioned my obsession. And lo and behold, my daughter-in-law’s cousin piped up: “I just dug some up for dinner a few days ago. They’re right behind my house.”

Half an hour later, she led me into the muddy woods and showed me a whole forest floor of them. She broke off a stalk and let me sniff their delicious garlicky, oniony flavor.

They look quite ordinary, don’t they? But they’re worth gold when it comes to a chef’s kitchen!

Now that I’ve seen them, and know what they look like, I’ll be hunting down my own secret source in Maine.

Writers Who Lie

(reprinted from my post over at Murderati)

Sadly, it’s happened again. Another memoir, another embarrassed publisher. Greg Mortenson, author of the mega-bestselling Three Cups of Tea, about his humanitarian efforts to build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been accused of fabricating key elements in his book. He’s also accused of misusing the donations to his charity, the Central Asia Institute, but it’s the book that I want to focus on. Because the writer who dreams up a dodgy memoir is such an old tale, I’m surprised that anyone’s surprised that another one has popped up.

Mortenson in particular has been on my radar for a while because all my close friends have raved about him. “He’s a saint, you must read his book!” they insisted, shoving the book at me. By the time the tenth person said that, I was irritated about the whole thing and never did read the book. Then, while I was in Dubai, I saw that Mortenson was one of the featured authors on the program. I tried to get into the session — held in a huge auditorium — but the place was packed so tight you could scarcely breathe. My brief impression of him, before I fled the overheated room, was that he was an immensely polished speaker who knew exactly how to work an audience. He had legions of adoring fans. I remember saying to my husband: “He reminds me of a fake TV evangelist.”

Maybe it was just the cynic in me. Maybe I was a wee bit jealous of the piles and piles of books he was selling at the festival. But now, a few months later, it turns out I may not have been so far off the mark.

It’s not the first time I got a whiff of uneasiness about a memoir writer. Some years ago, while waiting to go on the air at BBC in London, I was introduced to a writer named Norma Khouri who was scheduled to go on the air right after me. “Norma grew up in Jordan,” her publicist told me. Norma was getting a huge amount of press for her memoir Forbidden Love, about the horrendous honor killing of her best friend in Jordan. Norma was gorgeous, poised, and well-spoken. She also struck me as completely American. “Wow,” I told her. “Your English sounds like you grew up in the US!”

“In my school in Jordan, the teacher who taught us English was from the US,” Norma explained without an instant’s hesitation. “That’s why I sound American.”

It sounded plausible. Sort of. But I couldn’t get over the fact she just seemed so American. I think I even said that to my publicist. “She’s just like a gal from Brooklyn,” I said.

Fast-forward a few months, to the breaking news about memoir writer, Norma Khouri. Who, it turns out, had not grown up in Jordan, but in Chicago. (If you get a chance, watch the superb documentary Forbidden Lie$, about Norma and her astonishing fabrications.) As I’d guessed earlier, she was American, and I had detected that fact within a few sentences of talking to her. Yet for several years she’d managed to fool publishers, critics, journalists, and a gullible reading public. Part of the reason the fraud went on so long is that Norma was passionate about defending herself and skillful at covering up her inconsistencies. For every question, she had a ready answer. I think back to how quickly she responded to my observation that she sounded American, and how willing I was to believe her.

It didn’t occur to me that anyone would lie about such a thing. Or that anyone would be brazen enough to fake a story that any journalist, with just a few phone calls, could easily blast to smithereens. Yet it happens again and again. James Frey. Margaret Selzer. Forrest Carter. Every few years, there’s another fake memoir. And every time the truth is finally revealed, readers are outraged, publishers duck their heads in embarrassment, and everyone asks, “How could this happen?”

It happens because we want to believe uplifting stories of people who rise above their traumatic pasts. It happens because publishers don’t have the resources to check the facts. It happens because the writers are talented enough to create a reality that seems like truth. These writers are such darn good liars that we can’t help but believe them.

And it happens because there’s loads of money involved, money handed over by gullible readers who think they’re buying a thrilling true story of a man’s saintly deeds or a young girl’s survival on the streets. Many of these readers would turn up their literary noses at a mere novel. No made-up stuff for them; they want to be inspired by the truth. They want to enrich their minds with history. They’re above reading something as trivial as fiction.

How ironic that they were reading fiction after all.

ICE COLD now on sale in paperback!

The 8th book in the Rizzoli & Isles series is now on sale in paperback in the US. When Maura Isles goes missing in the wilds of Wyoming, Jane heads out west to find her friend … and receives the stunning news that Maura may be dead.

Pick up a copy today!