Fanfic and Rizzles

I may live to eat these words someday, but I have to say, I’m amused by this.

Since the creation of the TV show “Rizzoli & Isles,” it seems there’s a whole universe of fan fiction writers who love my characters so much they want to write their own stories about them. Yes, I created Jane and Maura. They will always be my girls. But I’m also thrilled that, for so many fans, these characters are like real people. It’s almost as if Jane and Maura have become flesh and blood and walked out into the world, where they’re living in the heads of a multitude of readers and TV viewers. All because I dreamed them up.

I’ve also discovered “Rizzles”, another phenomenon that has me amused. This is a whole community of fans who really, really want Jane and Maura to be lesbian lovers. (Shades of the old Kirk and Spock gay fanfic.)

A decade ago, when Jane and Maura first walked into my head, I never imagined Rizzles and fanfic writers would someday discover them!

I must emphasize that I absolutely am not reading any of these fan fic stories, because I don’t want to ever be accused of stealing someone’s story idea!

GRAVITY and the two degrees of separation

I’ve been receiving a number of emails from readers, congratulating me on the new movie GRAVITY, which they believe is based on my book with the same title. The film is slated to go into production next year, to be director by Alfonso Cuaron from a script written by his son. Here’s a description of the Cuaron project:

“‘Gravity’ will highlight a female astronaut’s efforts to return home to Earth and her daughter as she is stranded on a space station after satellite debris slams into it and wipes out the rest of the crew.”

And here’s the description of my book, Gravity, which was published in 1999:

From Publishers Weekly
Gerritsen (Bloodstream) meshes medical suspense and the world of space travel in another nail-biting tale of genetic misadventure. Much of this scary thriller is set aboard the International Space Station, where a team of six astronauts suddenly find themselves threatened by a virulent biohazard… As astronaut Emma Watson, the station’s onboard doctor, struggles to fight the outbreak, her colleagues are dying one by one. .. (until) Watson is the only one left alive…

Two tales about a lone female astronaut trapped aboard a space station and struggling to get home. Both are titled GRAVITY.

But the movie has absolutely no connection to my book. At least, not that anyone’s told me about. (Mr. Cuaron, feel free to email me!)

I have to admit, these coincidences do happen sometimes. And here are some other coincidences:

When the film rights to my book GRAVITY were sold (they’re held by 20th Century Fox) the studio hired a fine screenwriter named Michael Goldenberg to adapt the book to film. Goldenberg was also the screenwriter who wrote “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.”

Alfonso Cuaron also has a Harry Potter connection. He directed “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

Finally, there’s David Heyman, who’s the producer of Cuaron’s “Gravity.” He was also the producer of BOTH “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” So he knows both Cuaron and Goldenberg.

It’s a small world out in Hollywood. I can’t help but wonder if the name “Gravity”, and “lone female astronaut trapped aboard space station” ever came up in conversation among the three of them!

Rizzoli & Isles on Canadian TV

Canadian viewers, Rizzoli & Isles will debut in Canada on October 5 at 10 PM! More details here.

Where I work

Visit Murderati for photos of my home office.

Dear Jodi and Jennifer

I’ve been following your so-called “literary feud” with Jonathan Franzen, which was blown way out of proportion by bloggers and columnists trying to stir up conflict during these summer doldrums. It’s really not a feud at all. It was simply two bestselling women novelists making note of how much review attention is lavished on certain authors, while other authors are pointedly ignored. Franzen, as far as I can tell, is an inadvertent combatant. All he did was write a book, and based on his previous work and the fact he hasn’t produced a book in a long, long time, it’s not surprising that his novel got reviewed. So we’ll leave Franzen out of it. (Besides, he can’t help the fact he’s a white male literary figure.)

The real issue you raised is worth talking about: why is commercial fiction, especially by women novelists, so seldom reviewed in the New York Times? No one disputes that fact. The discussion, unfortunately, hasn’t been about the topic itself. Instead it’s degenerated into attacks on the worth of popular fiction, on your books (derided as “chick lit,” whatever that is), and on you both, personally. Self-important critics, waving their MFA’s, claim that they, of course, recognize “good” writing, writing that “springs off the page“, and popular fiction just ain’t good enough to make that vaunted spring. Or hop. Or even twitch. Popular novelists just “churn out” their books every year or two anyway because, as we all know, popular fiction is so easy to write and sell, and anybody can do it. You just have to sit down, write a story that hits all the predictable populist buttons such as love, marriage, family, conflict, kids, etc., and presto, it will show up in Target. The words don’t even have to spring off the page, they can just crawl. Or lie there. And then you sit back and collect your million-dollar royalty checks. So girls, be grateful that you have such an easy time of it while those hardworking literary authors must struggle to make their words spring. And even with those words springing all over the place like little fleas, the books still can’t find their audience. They don’t get into Target. They struggle in obscurity.

That, they say, is why they need the New York Times. And you don’t.

You know what, Jodi and Jennifer? They’re absolutely right. You really don’t need the New York Times. You don’t need Michiko Kakutani or Janet Maslin or three whole fricking pages in the Book Review. Because you have something far, far better: readers who actually buy your books.

Readers are the most important critics of all, because they vote with their hard-earned dollars. Every time they buy a Jodi Picoult or Jennifer Weiner book (and judging by your positions on the bestseller lists, there’s a whole ton of these people) they are expressing their approval. And they keep on expressing their approval by repeatedly buying your books. Which means you must be touching something inside them, connecting with them, entertaining them. You’re doing this without some literary expert telling them they should feel these things; your words are enough to make it happen.

I happen to love the New York Times. I love the writing, the depth of its analysis, and the sometimes quirky subject matter. The only section I don’t read is Sports. As the years go by, I’m sorry to say, I’m also starting to skip past the Book Review. Why? Because I’m not really interested in reading another “glowing” memoir about alcoholism. Or yet another novel about white middle-aged male angst. Or the latest translation of War and Peace. I find their reviews of non-fiction useful, but their fiction reviews seldom tempt me into buying the books.

I wonder if other readers share my sense that the Book Review is less and less relevant to our lives. Sure, we may read the New York Times Book Review just to brag to others that we “know all about” the latest literary masterpiece. But then we go into the bookstore and buy Sandra Brown instead. We all think the Book Review is the undisputed arbiter of good taste, and without its approval, our books are doomed. That just isn’t true. Popular fiction sells just fine without being reviewed there.

We commercial authors don’t need the Book Review, but the Book Review needs us. It needs our publishers to buy ad space. Yet fewer and fewer publishers seem inclined to shell out the thirty thousand bucks to buy a full-page Book Review ad. When my publisher and I were discussing the promotional campaign for my latest book, Ice Cold, there was no discussion at all about buying ad space in the Times, even though they’d done it for my prior books. And I agreed with them that buying an ad in the Book Review is a waste of money. Why?

Because readers who buy commercial novels like mine don’t even read the Book Review any more. It’s become that irrelevant to their lives.

I absolutely agree that literary fiction should be reviewed there. But focusing only on fiction that few readers want to read just guarantees a death spiral for the Book Review. The more they limit their focus to esoteric fiction, the fewer readers will read their reviews. And fewer and fewer publishers will buy ads.

Recently, my UK publisher did a survey of my readership, and they came up with a figure that I found fascinating. Of all adult fiction purchased, 42% of books were bought because the customer had read the author before. But of those who bought my books, 62% purchased them because they had read me before. And 90% bought my books not to give away, but for themselves. That brand loyalty doesn’t come from a Times review; it comes from building your audience book by book. It comes from consistently satisfying your readers.

The way you, Jodi and Jennifer, have managed to do.

So ignore the slings and arrows from the literati crowd. Let them find their audience the good old-fashioned way: by writing books that people actually want to read.