Morristown Festival of Books – 2017

Another year of joyous reading!  What could be better?

I love to hear how an author creates his or her novel.  Some of these stories are as good as the book itself.  At the annual Morristown Festival of Books held on Friday, Oct. 13, and Saturday, Oct. 14, 2017, I got a chance to listen to Lincoln Child and Tess Gerritsen speak to a packed crowd at St. Peter’s in Morristown about their books and characters and about themselves. Gerritsen has been dubbed the “medical suspense queen,” by Publishers Weekly with 30 million books sold. Her 27 novels include the Rizzoli and Isles crime series, Gravity and her latest I Know a Secret. Child is also a New York Times bestselling author, both individually, and with his co-author, Douglas Preston, for the Pendergast series. His latest book is Full Wolf Moon.

Child began his career as an editor then switched tracks becoming a systems engineer at MetLife. After a few years of programming, Child began writing. He is a New York Times best-selling author of his own books as well as a co-author with Douglas Preston on the Pendergast series.

The series protagonist, Pendergast, is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes. With his quirky traits and a surreal quality that almost defies logic, Pendergast is my type of superhero – a smart one. Child and Preston first collaborated on Relic which became the first in the series of novels. In Relic, Pendergast is an FBI agent who works with a NY detective to find out who or what is killing people in the American Museum of Natural History.

“We wanted the two law enforcement individuals to be very different from each other,” said Child at the festival. Hence, Pendergast’s character took on all these odd traits and back history clearly differentiating him from the NY detective.

When asked how he like working with another writer Child said, “Working with Preston keeps us both grounded.” They rein each other in when one goes too far over the edge. Both Preston and Child write their own best-selling novels independently.

Tess Gerritsen also had another career before writing. As a young daughter of Chinese immigrants, she dreamed about writing her own Nancy Drew stories.  Her parents, however, didn’t think writing was a good career path. Gerritsen became a doctor.

She wrote nine romantic thrillers for Harlequin before her first hardcover novel, Harvest, a medical thriller hit the New York Times bestselling list. Gerritsen became a full-time writer.

Gerritsen told the audience she likes getting big checks from Hollywood for her novels. But Hollywood has a dark side.  Her novel Gravity was made into a movie and her contractual obligations were not honored under her New Line contract by Warner Bros. See her blog posts and  It’s complicated and an unfortunate side of the business.

When asked what it’s like to be a writer Child answered, “My mind is always in motion thinking what could happen in any situation. Like when I get into an elevator and instead of waiting for my floor, my mind starts thinking of all the things that can go wrong.  It can be distracting!”

As a funny anecdote, Gerristen told the audience that Child had sent her a rejection letter for one of her earliest books.  “It was the nicest rejection letter I ever received,” she said.


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