Life has been moving fast for New York Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs ever since she wrote her first thriller novel, “Deja Dead.” It sparked the 14-book series centered around Temperance Brennan, the character who would come to life on the Fox TV show “Bones.” Reichs, who lives in Charlotte and is on faculty at UNC Charlotte, is also a forensic anthropologist and a mom. This fall, she is joining a USO tour of the Middle East along with a group of the nation’s most renowned thriller writers. They will visit five bases in eight days and meet many troops who read their novels. She spoke with SouthPark Magazine recently about the TV show, her new books and the tour.More information: www.kathyreichs.com
Q. What made you want to become a forensic anthropologist?
Actually, I didn’t. I wanted to be a bioarcheologist and I trained to do that. I planned to work with ancient skeletons. Then police started bringing me cases. So I went back and retrained, and I’ve been doing forensics ever since. I think what really grabbed me was the relevance of it. Archeology is fascinating, but you aren’t going to impact someone’s life if you’re wrong. Where as with forensics you are, whether it’s identifying a dead family member or sending someone to jail.
Q. How did you start writing novels?
A number of things came together. In 1994 I made full professor at UNC Charlotte, so I was free to basically do whatever I wanted and I didn’t feel like doing another textbook. I had just worked on a serial murder case in Montreal. I had the basis for a good story and the freedom to try something new. So I just decided it would be fun and it would bring my science to a broader audience.
Q. How involved are you with the TV show ‘Bones’?
I’m a producer on the show so mainly I work with the writers. They will send me questions about what clue could be used to show if a body had gone through a wood chipper or if a body fell out of an airplane at 1,200 feet. I read every script and I give them feedback, mainly on the science – although they’ve gotten so savvy with the terminology and all the jargon. There are much fewer corrections than in the early days. Periodically I go out there on the set and answer questions. In season five I actually wrote an episode, and it was the first screenplay I had written. I hope to do another one.
Q. Are you happy with the direction of the show since it started?
I am. From the beginning we wanted to do a character-based show. We didn’t want to do just another police procedural. We wanted to have a show that brought some humor into it and we were the first crime type show to do that. They actually made up a term for it – they call it a “crim-edy.” I’ve been very happy with the way that turned out. My Temperance character on the show is younger than in the books, so I think of it as kind of a prequel. Then when I sit down to write a novel I’m not impacted by what’s going on with the TV character.On TV, Temperance Brennan is a professional forensic anthropologist full-time by day and at night she writes novels and the fictional anthropologist in her novels in named Kathy Reichs. So that’s kind of a fun thing for the readers.
Q. Why do you think people are so captivated by these types of TV shows?
My colleagues and I talk about that. We worked in our lab for three years and nobody paid any attention to us. And all of a sudden, I think beginning in the mid-90s, we became hot. All of a sudden we’re rock stars and there are forensics scientists everywhere on television. We’re puzzled. I don’t know what started it all. I suspect maybe the O.J. Simpson trial. The timing seemed about right and the American public was exposed 24/7 to talk about blood splatter patterns and stab wound trajectories. Maybe that’s when that whole interest began.
Q. Can you tell me a little bit about the upcoming USO tour and how you got involved?
We aren’t allowed to say when we are going or where we’re going other than it will be in the fall and in the Middle East. I was invited by International Thriller Writers. There are five authors they are sending. We’ll be doing small venues and hospitals. We’ll be staying on military bases and I’m told we’re going to be handed 40 pounds of flak jacket and a helmet that we have to keep up with.
Q. What do you think the troops will get out of the tour?
I think they chose the group of authors that they did because we are popular on military bases. Just as readers enjoy coming to regular book signings and readings, I think the troops are going to enjoy meeting the authors they read and talking to them up close and personal.
Q. What are you most looking forward to on the tour?
I think interacting with the troops. Just meeting the troops and getting to talk to them and lightening their burden.
Q. What are your latest projects?
“Flash and Bones" was released in August, and that’s the new Temperance Brennan book and it takes place entirely in Charlotte. And it takes Temperance into the world of NASCAR. A body is discovered in a landfill next to the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Also on October 18, the second book in my young adult series will be released. It’s called “Seizure” and it features Temperance Brennan’s 14-year-old niece, so it’s kids doing forensic work.
Q. Do you like being busy?
I do like being busy. (An ideal day for me) would be a day when I’m down at the beach. We go to Isle of Palms a lot. I could write a few hours in the morning and then relax and go to the beach with the family. That is my perfect day, and then someone else would cook me dinner!