BANGOR, Maine — If you see novelist Tess Gerritsen walking around a mall, observing passers-by, pay attention: She could be doing research for a book.
“I have to let a character into my head. I want to hear their voice. It may sound strange to let a serial killer into your mind, but I have to understand how they think,” said Gerritsen, who spoke Tuesday morning at Husson University’s Gracie Theatre. “Predators find people who are vulnerable. That’s what they do. That’s who I’m looking for, when I observe people.”
In her speech to Husson University students, faculty and staff, Gerritsen, a Camden resident and former physician, revealed some of the secrets of her writing: from her in-depth research to her investigations into the minds of criminals. She is the author of 21 crime and medical thrillers, which have sold a combined 20 million copies.
In her books, forensics analysis, criminal psychology, medical mysteries and her own personal experiences take center stage — perfect for the members of the Criminal Justice Club at Husson, who sponsored her talk along with the legal studies department.
“I saw her speak at The Owl & Turtle in Camden two years ago, and she was just phenomenal. I knew we had to bring her to speak to students,” said John Michaud, an assistant legal studies professor. “You don’t often get the chance to meet and interact with a world-famous writer, so it’s a really fantastic opportunity for our students.”
Before her speech, Gerritsen spoke with members of the Criminal Justice Club. Marie Hansen, associate dean of legal studies, is the adviser to the club, along with Michaud, and said the students were eager to ask questions of the physician-turned-novelist — ranging from why her characters are mostly females to how animal psychology plays into her writing.
“Some of our students have a background in psychology, so this was particularly interesting to them,” said Hansen.
Gerritsen is one of the most well-known speakers Husson has brought in. Her talk was free and open to the public, and the Gracie was near capacity for the event.
“We’ve wanted to bring speakers like this in for a while, and now, with the Gracie, we have an arena in which to do that,” said Hansen.
During her talk, Gerritsen touched on a variety of subjects. For her 1999 science fiction thriller “Gravity,” she spent two weeks working with scientists at NASA, learning the ins and outs of spaceflight. For her book “The Keepsake,” a best-seller released in 2008, she was able to watch a CT scan of an ancient Egyptian mummy.
Gerritsen also revealed details on two hotly anticipated projects: her latest novel, “Ice Cold,” due out on July 27, and the new TNT TV series “Rizzoli and Isles,” based on her two popular characters, criminal investigator Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles, which will debut July 12. The new book is another Rizzoli and Isles story, and is based on real-life experiences Gerritsen has had.
“Maura follows her GPS while on vacation in Wyoming, and it takes her into the middle of nowhere,” she said. “It takes her into this completely abandoned town, where meals are still on the table and there are dead pets. Of course, they’ve got to figure out what happened.”
At the conclusion of her talk, Husson presented Gerritsen with a painting by David Haskins, drawn from what was Gerritsen’s first novel: a story about a blue zebra called “Jungle Journey,” written when she was 7 years old.
For more information on Gerritsen’s books, visit www.tessgerritsen.com.