CAMDEN — It’s fitting that the first day of October 2019 should be dreary and rainy for it’s the perfect backdrop to introduce best-selling author Tess Gerritsen’s latest novel, The Shape of Night, which releases today.
The novel, based loosely in Midcoast Maine, is Gerritsen’s first in the classic horror/paranormal genre of the haunted house. The story revolves around Ava, a woman trying to outrun her past in Boston. She settles in to a isolated seaside mansion on a Maine peninsula. Brodie’s House once belonged to a Captain Jeremiah Brodie, and soon Ava realizes he has never left.
The rest of the description follows: “Even as Ava questions her own sanity, she eagerly looks forward to the captain’s ghostly visits. But she soon learns that the house she loves comes with a terrible secret, a secret that those in the village don’t want to reveal: Every woman who has ever lived in Brodie’s Watch has also died there.”
In 2016, Pen Bay Pilot spoke with her son, Josh Gerritsen, whom, along with Tess, wrote and filmed their first horror film together, Island Zero. See that story here.
Gerritsen, who is currently taking a holiday in Italy this week, allowed us a peek into the novel’s origins and influences via email. Here’s a Q&A with the Camden-based author.
Pilot: What horror movie genre did you always like and what movies were ones that stood out in your mind?
Gerritsen: My love for horror films goes across genres, from psychological thrillers like the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers to SF horror such as Alien, to classic haunted house stories. And I absolutely loved Jordan Peele’s recent film Us. The only films I shy away from are those that rely on sheer gore or are simply slasher films.
Pilot: Who or what inspired this particular tale?
Gerritsen: Decades ago, I wrote a horror screenplay about a woman who falls in lust with the demon-ghost inhabiting her house. The script sat in my closet all this time — until I happened to pull it out and read it again. There was a novel in this story, I thought, so I used it as the jumping- off place for The Shape of Night. Only this time, the heroine is a woman struggling with shame, the ghost may or may not be real, and the house has a disturbing history of women dying under its roof.
Pilot: Was Island Zero your first screenplay? Will you be working on a screenplay for this one?
Gerritsen: I had a screenplay produced as a TV movie of the week (Adrift) in 1993. I’m not working on a script for The Shape of Night,, but Josh and I plan to begin work on another horror film in 2021. My screenplay is based on my novel Bloodstream and it’s another story set in Maine.
Pilot: Did the experience of writing and working on that movie open up a whole new genre of storytelling for you?
Gerritsen: I’m at a stage in my career where I just want to have fun and experiment and write stories I’m passionate about. The Shape of Night, was a story that combined elements of genres I love: gothic romance, horror, and suspense. My next novel will be something entirely different.
Pilot: Islands and coasts of Maine are third characters in many people's atmospheric novels. What do you love most about Maine's “dark side” that comes out in your latest novel?
Gerritsen: The wild seacoast, the isolation, and the insular nature of small towns all contribute to a sense that Maine is somehow a scary place. Those of us who live here know it isn’t, of course, but Maine writers love milking our scary reputation.
Pilot: Whose house did you glean your details from in order to create Brodie's Watch?
Gerritsen: It’s a composite of any number of old houses I’ve visited in Maine, including Norumbega Inn in Camden and several other B&Bs.
Pilot: Your main character Ava is running away from some tragedy but the synopsis doesn’t mention her profession. Yet she is in full investigative mode at the end. What does she do? Is she a similar character to Jane Rizzoli?
Gerritsen: Ava is a very troubled woman who makes her living as a food writer. She’s forced to investigate the history of Brodie’s Watch because she fears for her sanity. Is the ghost real or not? Is she imagining him? She’s afraid others will think she’s crazy, so it becomes her personal (and private) mission to find the answers — and prove to herself that the ghost is real.
Pilot: Will you be back for a Maine book tour for this book in October?
Gerritsen: I’m on holiday now, but when I get home I will do a signing in Camden (Owl & Turtle) on October 19. Then, a week later I leave for book tour in the UK, Holland, and Turkey.
For more information visit The Shape of Night
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org