Tess Gerritsen Still Prefers Reading the Old-Fashioned Way

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Do you distinguish between “commercial” and “literary” fiction? Where is that line for you?

I’m not sure I know how to draw this line. I’ve read complex commercial fiction with great writing, and “literary” fiction with pedestrian events. Sometimes it’s just the publisher’s decision how to label a book. If they give an abstract cover and adorned pages, they give the message “This book is literary and important” to the readers. And if a literary novel becomes a bestseller, wouldn’t that make it commercial?

How do you organize your books?

My collection of books is completely disorganized, except for my medical and forensic books that I keep in a certain library. If I read a book and think it’s a keeper, I put it wherever there is room on any of the shelves scattered around my house. Yet, oddly enough, if I have to find that book years later, I know. exactly where. I also know if someone is carrying it.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I am an agnostic, but I still keep the Bible, the Koran, and a book on Jewish literacy on my shelf.

What is the best book you have ever received as a gift?

“Chinese Cuisine: Wei Chuan’s Cookbook” by Huang Su-Huei. I got it as a wedding gift decades ago, and that oiled copy that I love so much still sits on my kitchen shelf.

What kind of reader were you as a child? What childhood books and authors are you most attached to?

I was obsessed with the Nancy Drew mystery series, not just because it was the genre I loved, but because Nancy was the ultimate role model for a young girl. He was smart, fearless and drove his own car! Then, as a teenager, I read and reread Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

If you were to write anything other than mysteries, what would you write?

If I have a burning desire to write something, I will write it—whether there is a market for it or not. I’ve written science fiction (“Gravity”), historical fiction (“Garden of Bones” and “Playing with Fire”) and am now working on an espionage novel. I would hate to come to the end of my life and think, “I wish I had written that book I dreamed of…”

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: Which book did you feel like you were supposed to like and didn’t like? Do you remember the last book you left unfinished?

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