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With its complex and fascinating history, hospitable people, and beautiful scenery, Turkey has always been one of my favorite countries to visit. So when I got an invitation from the Marti Publising Group to come to the Istanbul Book Fair, I was thrilled to accept. Marti, which means “seagull” in Turkish, has published a number of my thriller novels, and has the rights to my earlier romantic suspense novels as well. The Book Fair coincided with the Turkish release of “Under The Knife,” (a romantic thriller originally published by Harlequin Intrigue). With a new book in the shops, I was hoping that at least a few of my Turkish readers would come to the signings.
Way more than “a few” showed up!
And that was just the first day. Every day that followed was equally as surprising, with larger crowds of readers (several times in the hundreds) than I’ve ever seen at any U.S. event. The Istanbul Book Fair is a huge event, drawing crowds of 500,000 during its one-week run.
And believe it or not, here’s the line waiting for my SECOND signing day at the book fair. We had thought the crowd would be smaller, since I’d already signed there once. But it was even larger, and I signed for three straight hours:
These were wonderfully welcoming readers, who brought gifts and hugs and heartfelt joy. Even when they had to wait hours in line. Some of my most ardent fans were invited by Marti to a special dinner at the lovely Papalina fish restaurant, where I found out that many of them are aspiring authors, including one young man who’s already written 600 pages of his first novel. Afterwards, we posed for a photo with the Marti team:
And I had a fun chat with the Marti president Atif Ermis (directly on my right), and his very good friend Firat. Atif started the company after working for many years in the cruise ship business, and he’s a hands-on publisher who manned his own company’s booth at the fair, selling books and offering reader recommendations.
The book business in Turkey seems to be fueled by female readers, as it is in most other countries. Most of my fans everywhere are women, but what’s strikingly different about my Turkish readers is how young they are. Many were high school or college students or young women in their twenties. And they buy real books. E-readers haven’t yet made inroads in Turkey, and Turks will probably sample e-books by reading on their iPhones or iPads. Amazon is expected to arrive in Turkey about three years from now, so online bookselling will certainly boom. Already there is a Turkish online bookseller called Okuoku (owned by Marti) and its sales are growing.
Along with booksignings, there were also media events. I was interviewed by two Turkish television stations, and had a really fun photo shoot and interview with journalist Ozlem Yurtcu, who conceived this cool photographic theme around Agatha Christie, who lived for a while in Istanbul. So we met at the historic Pera Palace, where I rode the first elevator ever installed in the city:
The city of Istanbul itself, as always, amazed me. With close to twenty million inhabitants, it’s quickly outgrown its highway system, so we spent a great deal of time in the car, stuck in traffic. But that gave me a chance to look at the scenery, which is always fascinating — from the moment when I got up in my hotel room and saw this view of the Marmara Sea from my window…
I visited the Dolmabahce Palace on the Bosporus, home of the old sultans, where you can see the apartments of the Sultan’s wives and favorites.
Here too is the room where the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, died. The clock over the bed is frozen at 9:05, the time of his death. I noticed that several clocks in Istanbul are frozen at that precise time, to honor Ataturk. When you enter the palace, you may see guards marching past, and I managed to sneak in front of them for a photo:
On my free day, my publicist Kerem took me to the spice market, where I of course purchased some Turkish Delight for my husband, plus a powder called “Sahlep”, made from the ground bulbs of orchids. You add it to hot milk and sprinkle with cinnamon, and it’s the most luscious and warming drink on a winter’s day. Better than hot chocolate!
And of course there was the food. I was treated to a series of delicious meals by Marti, by my Turkish literary agents, and by my other publisher, Dogan. Turkish meals often start with an array of mezes. Here I am at the Cumhuriyet Restaurant in Beyoglu, with my translator Cumhur, trying to pick which delicacies to eat.
But the best part about Turkey is the people. Whatever your vision of what a “Turk” looks like, there’s no way to stereotype them. Some are blonde and blue-eyed, some are dark or Asian. Some wear head scarves, some wear mini-skirts and high heels. Walk through an Istanbul shopping mall, and you’ll feel like you’re seeing the whole world’s variety under one roof. And you’ll see astonishingly gorgeous women and strikingly handsome men. I had conversations with Muslims, Christians, and agnostics. What Turks do have in common is they are friendly, welcoming, and very, very proud of their country.
Calling all Jane & Maura Fans-
It’s been an amazing year so far! I’ve been thrilled by the release of The Silent Girl, the continued success of Rizzoli & Isles on television, and getting to travel and see so many wonderful people around the world! I’ve also had the pleasure of ‘meeting’ some great readers and fans of ‘my girls’ online through my Twitter account at @TessGerritsen and by comments and replies posted to my Facebook page.
To celebrate all of this, and to continue the fun as the show returns in the US on November 28th, I’m excited to announce the Fall Rizzoli & Isles Fan Event, an online trivia-style competition. The event will run for several weeks from November 13th until December 11th, and there will be plenty of chances to win some fun prizes!
I hope lots of you participate and have fun! Good luck!
(And donate to a great cause while you’re at it.)
Ten of the world’s best crime writers are competing to have a state-of-the-art morgue named after them – and you can vote for me!
The morgue is going to be a centre for scientific research and training, helping the next generation of scientists, doctors and dentists to become better at saving lives and at developing cures for a huge range of illnesses. The morgue will also be instrumental for Prof Sue Black’s work with the police in the UK; in smashing paedophile networks, in understanding how crimes were committed, as well as her endeavours overseas – she’s travelled the world, helping identify bodies that are decomposed, burned, mutilated or otherwise unrecognisable, including the victims of natural disasters, such as the 2004 tsunami. Sue’s highest profile project was identifying the bodies of Slobodan Milosevic’s victims in mass graves in the Balkans – both for public record, and for burial. The new morgue will help Sue and her team be at the forefront of new technology as well as being the training ground for a new generation, people who can carry on Sue’s work across the globe.
To vote online for Tess, go to http://www.millionforamorgue.com/the-authors/Tess-Gerritsen
To vote by text, use the code TESG10
All codes should be sent to 70070 along with the amount in pounds. So, if I wanted to donate £10 for Tess, I would type:
and send it to 70070.
(You get one vote per pound donation. 1 pound = $1.60)