Book Talk: Tess Gerritsen turns to her Asian-American roots

Thu Jul 14, 2011 6:23am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - For 22 books, through romances and thrillers and bestsellers, including the hit series with homicide cop Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles, Tess Gerritsen hid the fact that she was Asian-American.

But for "The Silent Girl," released this month, Gerritsen turned to her Chinese roots, weaving Chinese lore, a mysterious female wushu grandmaster, and the myth of the Monkey King into a tale of murder set in Boston's Chinatown.

Working with Rizzoli and Isles for the first time is Johnny Tam, an ambitious Chinese-American detective with a chip on his shoulder and a secret of his own.

Gerritsen spoke with Reuters about Asian-Americans in fiction and writing a series so successful it has inspired its own TV show, the second series of which has just started.

Q: In this book, the interesting character is Johnny Tam.

A: Yes. You know, I have hidden my race for 22 books. I have hidden behind my married name, which is very Caucasian, because I didn't feel safe coming out with it. I didn't feel that the market would really accept me. I think I felt it's time to start bringing in an Asian-American point of view.

Q: Why did you feel you had to hide your background?

A: Mostly it was the marketplace. I did not feel there was a big market for the Asian-American voice. The other thing that happened was that years ago, when I started writing romantic thrillers, I had an editor tell me that every time they had an Asian-American major character in the book, it didn't do well.   Continued...