Guest blogger Dr. Cynthia Paulis: Dr. Tess Gerritsen is a very busy woman. Along with being a physician, mother of two boys and wife, she is also a New York Times best-selling author who has sold more than 20 million copies of her 22 books around the world, which have been translated into 37 languages. She is known for her pulse-pounding medical thrillers, which have recently been turned into the TNT television series "Rizzoli & Isles," starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander. Her newest book, "Ice Cold," was released in June. I recently had the chance to visit with her when
she was teaching a two-day writing course. Read on!
Cynthia Paulis: You started writing when you were on maternity leave. How did you find the time to write? Tess Gerritsen:
I had the great good fortune of having kids who were really good nappers. The instant they fell asleep, I started writing. I began writing with my first son, who would sleep three hours at a time -- although once he got up it was hell and screaming for a good few hours.
CP: How old are your children now?
TG: My sons are now 28 and 26, which is so hard for me to believe, because I still think of them as babies.
CP: What is the most challenging part about raising teenagers?
TG: Their complete inability to accept common-sense advice from their parents. They are ruled by impulse, emotions and anger. It was hard to reason with them. No matter what we said, they thought of it as our way of trying to "control" them. And yet, I knew that deep down, they were good human beings. I just wanted them to maintain that inner core of humanity. I remember specifically telling my sons, "What I really want is for you both to be decent human beings." And that was absolutely true. I'm happy to report that they did manage to fulfill my hopes.
CP: How did you manage to balance being a physician, writer, mother and wife?
TG: It was really hard. I couldn't have done it without my husband, who after some doubts realized how important my writing was to me. It probably seemed illogical to him at the time. I had the education to pursue a high-earning profession, but my passion was my writing, and he considered it a "hobby." But I wouldn't give it up, and in the end I was able to combine a part-time job as a doctor with my writing time. I won't deny there were some tough times in the marriage.
CP: How was your upbringing different from the way you raise your children today?
TG: I'm much more likely to say, "Follow your passions" than my father would have [been]. I'm of the philosophy that if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. I want my kids to do what they love. We have only one life to live. First priority is to be able to feed yourself and your family, but beyond that, you should try to do what you love.
CP: What difficulties do you feel teenagers face today that you did not have to deal with when you were a teen?
TG: There are so many other temptations that can suck up your time and energy, the primary time-suckers being online temptations. I see kids being completely obsessed with games and Internet social media, to the exclusion of real friendships and interests. I must cut off my own Internet time after a certain point, because I see it taking away from my reading time and my quiet time. The Web turns out to be both a blessing and a curse, and the younger generation may not know how to address their own Internet addictions.
CP: What is the key to a successful and happy family life?
TG: The family meal. That was the one thing my husband -- who comes from an old-fashioned Dutch family -- always insisted on: We eat dinner together, and it's homemade, and we talk about things. Just THINGS. What they did in school, what they think of the state of the world, what Mom and Dad are thinking. That time together, every single evening, reinforced that we were a family and we had things to say to each other.
CP: Do you think your children will follow in your footsteps and be doctors or writers or both?
TG: I know that neither one wants to go into medicine or writing. They just don't have those inclinations. Instead, my older son wants to be a teacher, which I'm thrilled about, because I know he's great at it. My younger son has worked as a photographer and now expresses an interest in organic farming. I am delighted by these choices, because I
understand them and can see them fitting in perfectly.
CP: What is the one wish you have for your children's future?
TG: That they stay happy in love, that they choose the right life partner for them and that they experience the same joy I did in having children. Honestly, the best days of my life were the days my sons were born. Although they may not realize it, they are the light of my life and always will be. Even when I don't hear from them for weeks on end. Even when they do things that leave me shaking my head in bewilderment. I will go to my grave knowing that I gave birth to, and raised, two wonderful human beings who fulfilled every dream I ever had for them.