CrimespreeTV is chats with authors Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver.
By Dawn Ius
Though Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver have been friends and writing colleagues for more than 25 years, it wasn’t until the two chatted at a Christmas party a few years back that they decided to collaborate on a novel.
It was the height of the #MeToo movement, and as Gerritsen says, “everyone was in trouble.” The idea for the novel was simple, but unique: Gerritsen would write the female chapter perspectives and Braver would write the male chapter perspectives of an illicit affair.
The result is CHOOSE ME, a sexy murder mystery about a reckless affair between a professor and his student—and the dangerous (and deadly) consequences of their secret.
For young professor Jack Dorian, Taryn is the ultimate fantasy—young, beautiful, and willing to provide the intimacy missing in Jack’s marriage. He doesn’t want to lose his wife, but she’s successful and busy. Too busy for him.
Unfortunately, not long after the affair starts, Taryn is killed, and Jack’s greatest fantasy quickly turns to his greatest nightmare—not only is his world starting to unravel, he’s the prime suspect in Taryn’s murder.
Braver’s task, Gerritsen says, was to drag Jack through the wringer, and Braver absolutely delivers.
“Gary had a tough job,” Gerritsen says. “He had to take this professor, who had done a terrible thing—had betrayed his wife, had crossed a line—and make him likeable. It would be so easy to make the man the villain in this story, especially since his lover ends up dead.”
At first blush, the death looks like suicide. But when Frankie Loomis shows up on the scene—a detective with college-aged children of her own—she knows something doesn’t quite feel right, and she works tirelessly to catch the killer.
Jack didn’t murder Taryn, of course—this is a thriller mystery, after all, and that would be far too obvious—but by the end of the book, Jack’s guilt is palpable. Not for killing Taryn, but for everything that led up to it.
“I wanted him to be contrite,” says Braver, who in addition to publishing eight novels (three under his real name, Gary Goshgarian), is an English professor at Northeastern University in Boston. “Without that, he would have been a hardcore hateful person.”
The fact that he isn’t is testament to not only the co-authors’ impressive combined skill, but also the balanced approach they took to plotting, characterization, and writing.
For Gerritsen, the book was an opportunity to further explore the differences between men and women when it comes to sexual attraction and relationships.
Not surprisingly, Gerritsen confirmed that the man’s perspective, at least in the character of Jack, was more physical, more sexualized than a woman’s. But she also learned a bit more about how a relationship can be viewed very differently by the two genders.
Braver also learned a lot. While they both passed material through their respective spouses for an “authenticity check,” Braver quickly realized that some of the vocabulary needed to be toned down so as not to offend their key readership group—women.
“Men and women do have different instincts,” he says. “I knew very clearly what our protagonist wanted. But I didn’t want him to be a womanizer, or irresponsibly having sex with all these attractive students. ”
Even still, the authors acknowledge that writing the book was risky.
“In a way it was dangerous because we are treading on sensitive ground and stirring up people because we dealt with this topic,” Gerritsen says. “But our goal from the beginning was to acknowledge that this happens. We wanted to look at human beings—who are never 100 percent perfect nor 100 percent bad—and understand why they make mistakes.”
“We really telescoped it out,” Braver says. “We examined from moment to moment what the consequences of their actions would be.”
The content will still make some readers uncomfortable, but Gerritsen says they couldn’t let that stop them from telling the story.
Indeed, there are enough publishing obstacles and follies without that added pressure. And that’s something Braver knows all too well. Fans of his previous work know that it’s been a few years since he’s published a book—Tunnel Vision came out in 2010. It wasn’t writer’s block that created the gap, but rather an unfortunate incident with his award-winning novel Flashback.
“I was at Barnes and Noble, about to do a signing, and when I opened the book, there was a marriage photo inside,” he says. “It didn’t have anything to do with my book. The first 44 pages or so of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls had inadvertently been stitched into my novel.”
A correction was made and the book re-released a few months later, but by that time, momentum was gone, his publisher terminated his contract, and Braver was unable to find placement for the two books he’d written.
Thankfully, CHOOSE ME helped him get back in the saddle. He’s currently working on a revenge thriller called Served Cold, and plans to shop the two books he wrote during his publishing hiatus.
Gerritsen also has a number of projects in the pipeline, including a new Rizzoli and Isles book slated for release next year, and she’s collaborating with a writer on some teleplays.
So does that mean the two won’t be working together on another novel? Probably not, they admit.
“It’s been fun,” Gerritsen says. “Challenging, but fun. And the book we ended up with is wonderful. We did what we set out to do—and that’s tell a good story.”
Spent a good part of the summer editing my first three novels written under Gary Goshgarian—ATLANTIS FIRE, THE STONE CIRCLE, and ROUGH BEAST. Took out the deadwood, clunky phrases, and excessive modifiers—all the stuff I now tell my writing students to avoid. They’re leaner, meaner, and now currently available for the first time under my pen name Gary Braver as eBooks through Amazon, Apple, Kobo and more—for only $2.99.
Hope you enjoy these old favorites!
ROUGH BEAST—my first biomedical thriller.
“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”
It is from these famous lines of William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming” that Gary Braver [Gary Goshgarian] derives his title for this provocative novel.
Rough Beast, set in a small town in Massachusetts, is a thriller in the tradition of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, combined with the scientific underpinnings of Michael Crichton. The elements of horror and suspense and intrigue reinforce one another in a many layered tale that ultimately brings the boundaries of nature into question. Gary Braver has crafted a novel that plumbs the depths of genetic engineering, a powerful force that can be used for good or evil. Rough Beast explores the consequences of a military experiment gone wrong and its effects on as normal, unsuspecting American family—especially on its twelve-year-old son, Matty.
Praise for Rough Beast:
“[Treads] territory staked out by John Saul and Dean Koontz. . . sharp characterizations. . . a solid and suspenseful cautionary tale that expertly blends political intrigue and domestic drama” —Publishers Weekly
“Watch out, Stephen King! Gary Goshgarian [Gary Braver] has taken your incredibly successful formula and made it work as skilfully for him as it does for you. Goshgarian is an excellent writer of suspense. . . Rough Beast is explosive, gripping and truly scary!” —The Roanoke Times
“Various mayhem, strange animal behaviors, a shadowy hit-man, and a secret Vietnam-era project are thrown into the cauldron. It’s all fun, and Goshgarian can propel the plot and reader forward.” —The Washington Post
“The prose here sings and the characters are multi-dimensional. . . This cunning, deft novel keeps the pages turning without sacrificing style for story.” —The Tab Community Newspapers
“The season’s scariest novel. . . Horror writer Stephen King could not have conceived a more chilling plot. . . The blending of political intrigue, the characterizations and the realistic drama reflect writing both original and masterful.” —The Cape Codder
“Rough Beast is full of nail-biting tension. The book is fascinating and sparks curiosity. You’ll want to read every word.” —The Tulsa World
I spent a good part of the summer editing my first three novels written under Gary Goshgarian—ATLANTIS FIRE, THE STONE CIRCLE, and ROUGH BEAST. Took out the deadwood, clunky phrases, and excessive modifiers—all the stuff I now tell my writing students to avoid. They’re leaner, meaner, and now currently available for the first time under my pen name Gary Braver as eBooks through Amazon, Apple, Kobo and more—for only $2.99.
Hope you enjoy these old favorites!
The Stone Circle–my only “ghost story”:
Trying to ease the pain of his wife’s tragic death, archaeologist Peter Van Zandt agrees to excavate a strange stone formation on a private Boston Harbor island, being converted to a millionaire’s casino resort. He is distracted from his grief by the unearthing of a Stonehenge-like site suggesting early Celtic immigrants. Yet he becomes haunted by horrific visions and consumed by obsession as he battles corporate greed to save the monumental discovery as well as an ancient menace, pushing him toward unspeakable acts that would destroy him and everything he loves.
Praise for The Stone Circle:
“Goshgarian [Braver] grabs his readers by the lapels and doesn’t let go until the last page is turned…a terrifying collision of minds and bodies that is spellbinding.” The Middlesex News
“A galvanizing new novel. . . a frightening tour de force.” The Providence Journal
“This is a story stripped for action, and action is what it delivers.” The Boston Globe
“A scary and entertaining take off on some favorite themes of H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King.” The Boston Herald
“A richly conceived work.” Kirkus Reviews
“A masterpiece of suspense. . . If you like Stephen King and Dean Koontz, then you’ll love The Stone Circle.” Robert B. Parker