Tess Gerritsen, M.D., (born June 12, 1953) is a Chinese-American novelist and retired physician. She has confessed in her blog that her first name is really Terry and that she had to feminize that name when she was a writer of romance novels. She makes no comment about her maiden name.
Tess Gerritsen was the child of a Chinese immigrant and a Chinese American seafood chef in San Diego, California. While growing up, Gerritsen often dreamt of writing her own Nancy Drew novels. Although she longed to be a writer, her family had reservations about the sustainability of a writing career, prompting Gerritsen to choose a career in medicine. In 1975, Gerritsen graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in Anthropology, intrigued by the ranges of human behavior. She went on to study medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She received her medical degree in 1979 and started work as a physician in Honolulu, Hawai'i.
While on maternity leave, she submitted a short story to Honolulu Magazine’s statewide fiction contest. Her story, "On Choosing the Right Crack Seed," won first prize and she received $500. The story focused on a young male reflecting on a difficult relationship with his mother. Gerritsen claimed the story allowed her to deal with her own childhood turmoil, including the repeated suicide attempts by her mother.
Early writing career
Inspired by the romance novels she enjoyed reading while working as a doctor, Gerritsen’s first novels were romantic thrillers. After two unpublished 'practice novels', Call After Midnight was bought by publisher Harlequin Intrigue in 1986 and published a year later. Gerritsen continued on to write another eight romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue and Harper Paperbacks.
In 1996, Gerritsen published her first medical thriller novel, Harvest. Having already decided to pursue the medical thriller genre, the plot was inspired by a conversation with a retired homicide detective who had recently been travelling in Russia. He told her that young orphans were vanishing from the streets of Moscow, and police believed the kidnapped children were being shipped abroad as organ donors. Harvest was Gerritsen’s first novel to be published in hardcover, and it marked her debut on the New York Times bestseller list at #13. Following Harvest, Gerritsen wrote three subsequent bestselling medical thrillers, Life Support, Bloodstream, and Gravity.
In 2001, Gerritsen's first crime thriller, The Surgeon, was released introducing homicide detective Jane Rizzoli. Although Rizzoli was only a secondary character in The Surgeon, the character has been a central focus of a series of seven books and the Rizzoli & Isles television series with Angie Harmon portraying the character.
Although most recent publications have been in the Rizzoli/Isles series, Gerritsen wrote a stand-alone historical thriller, The Bone Garden in 2007. The Bone Garden, a tale of gruesome murders, takes place primarily in 1830s Boston and includes a character based upon Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes.Gerritsen's books have been published in thirty-one countries and have sold 15 million copies.
Gerritsen co-wrote the story and screenplay, Adrift, which aired on CBS as Movie of the Week in 1993, and starred Kate Jackson and Bruce Greenwood.
She has contributed essays in volumes published by Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She also blogs regularly about the writing business, both on her own website and on a mystery writers site, Murderati.com.
Gerritsen is married and the mother of two sons. She enjoys gardening and playing the fiddle, and lives in Camden, Maine.
The Surgeon received a RITA award Romance Writers of America in 2002 for Best Romantic Suspense Novel.
In 2006, Vanish received the Nero Award for best mystery novel, and was nominated for both an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America and a Macavity Award. She has also won approval from several of her contemporaries, including James Patterson and Stephen King, the latter of whom described her as being "even better than [Michael] Crichton".