Novelist “birth mother” Tess Gerritsen weighs on the TNT TV version of “Rizzoli & Isles”

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Last week’s advance screening of the new TNT drama, “Rizzoli & Isles” was especially gratifying for novelist Tess Gerritsen, who first brought the crime-busting characters to life a dozen years ago.

“It was an audience of mostly all women who were laughing, cheering and gasping in all the right places!” Gerritsen tells Intel.

The gritty crime drama starring Angie Harmon as the tough, by the book Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and Sasha Alexander as fashion conscious medical examiner Maura Isles  debuts tonight at 10 p.m. on TNT.

The new series has perhaps the cushiest lead-in currently on television. It follows the season premiere of the huge TNT hit, “The Closer.”

Hard core fans of Gerritsen’s “Rizzoli & Isles” crime thrillers, however, initially voiced some misgivings about a few liberties taken with their fave female characters for the TV series.

“In the series, Maura is much more girly,” Gerritsen concedes, laughing. “As I write her in the books, she’s very dark and moody with a shocking family history. But you can’t have two dark, moody women on one TV show. Who would watch that? And in the books, Jane isn’t nearly as gorgeous as Angie Harmon. In the books, Jane is frequently overlooked and has to fight for attention. Can you imagine anyone overlooking Angie Harmon? But Angie does a wonderful job. She embodies Jane’s spunk.”

Despite the tonal tweaks, Gerritsen says she has every confidence in “Rizzoli & Isles” executive producer Janet Tamaro (“Bones,” “Lost”).

“Janet gets these women and so I feel that Jane and Maura are in very competent hands,” says Gerritsen. “We joke that I’m their birth mother and Janet is their stepmother. The kids are living in her house now. She’s in charge. Janet clearly loves these characters and understands that woman-to-woman dynamic. She understands that you can compete professionally and even for the same man but retain that friendship bond that’s unique between women.”

And Gerritsen’s fans will be pleased to know that tonight’s occasionally grisly pilot incorporates many of the chilling plot points of Gerritsen’s first two Rizzoli-centric books.

“I feel very lucky,” she says. “What novelist wouldn’t want to see their characters become the basis for a drama series on TNT?”

Aside from monitoring reader feedback about the new TV series, Gerritsen is also currently dealing with some unfavorable blowback from her brand-new Rizzoli & Isles novel, “Ice Cold” (Ballantine, $26).

For starters, as the book opens, it appears that Gerritsen has knocked off her medical examiner heroine.

“Readers have been in total disbelief that I would even contemplate killing Maura,” says Gerritsen. “To be honest, that was half the fun of writing the book!”

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