This week on the Here’s What We Know Podcast, our special guest is the renowned Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist turned bestselling author of Temperance Brennan novels. With a career that’s as remarkable as her literary acclaim creations, Kathy shares insights from her life journey. She went from being a curious child fascinated by science to becoming one of only 100 forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology.
Whether handling crime scenes or weaving humor into dark narratives, Kathy offers listeners an intimate portrait of a life rich with stories. So, stay tuned for a captivating conversation that traverses death investigations, literature’s imaginative realms, and everything that ties them together through the eyes of a master storyteller.
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In this Episode:
- The early signs of drive and curiosity in young Kathy.
- The rigorous path to becoming a board-certified forensic anthropologist.
- Transitioning from academic writing to crafting thrilling novels based on real-life experiences.
- Insights into Temperance Brennan’s character evolution—from books to the hit TV show “Bones.”
- Behind-the-scenes look at scriptwriting for “Bones” and how it differs from novel writing.
- The importance of setting in storytelling and why Kathy never writes about places she hasn’t visited.
- How personal preferences sometimes make their way into characters’ quirks.
- Hear about Kathy’s latest novel, “The Bone Hacker.”
- Kathy also touches upon family influences, with two out of three children following in her footsteps in writing.
“I do put in detail. I never put in anything just for grisly sensationalism. It has to inform the reader and move the story forward.” ~ Kathy Reichs
“I don’t shy away from because I think my readers want to know what it’s like at a crime scene or what it’s like in an autopsy room. So I do give them detail.” ~ Kathy Reichs
“You have to maintain your objectivity, your scientific distance, without getting emotionally involved with each victim, because you wouldn’t be of any good to them. But you have to still keep in mind that it’s a human being, treat that set of remains respectfully and hopefully get a name for that dead person, figure out what happened to them, and get them back to their family.” ~ Kathy Reichs
“Bones is, we were all on the same page. I had other offers and they just weren’t right. But one of the things we agreed on was that we wanted humor in the show. I put humor in the books.” ~ Kathy Reichs
“We had brilliant writers. You know, I’m not one of these authors who’s going to say they took my work and destroyed it. I had a wonderful experience. Everybody from the on-camera talent to the producers, to the crew, to the writers, everybody just was delightful. And we didn’t have a lot of drama. We didn’t have a lot of tension on the set like some shows do. And I think that’s partly why we lasted as long as we did.” ~ Kathy Reichs
“That’s the definition of a thriller: that your protagonist or those close to your protagonist have to come under threat. One of the components of a thriller versus just a mystery.” ~ Kathy Reichs
“Setting is a really strong component of my books. It’s almost like another character in my books. So I’ll never write about a place I haven’t been.” ~ Kathy Reichs
“I think you have to go to a place to absorb. You could Google Earth it, but you’re not going to get the smells and the sounds and, you know, the tastes, the flavor of the food, and yeah.” ~ Kathy Reichs
“I started out in academics and then I started doing forensic anthropology casework and then based on that, I wrote commercial fiction and then went into the world of TV production. So I kept taking side paths.” ~ Kathy Reichs
“I’ll never run out of ideas. I’ve worked on so many cases when I was still actively doing forensic work. But also I’ve constantly got my antenna out for things, for whatever I’m reading, talking to colleagues, reading forensic journals, attending forensic meetings, and listening to presentations. I’m always on the lookout for ideas, story ideas.” ~ Kathy Reichs
“If I can get through one or two pages in a day, that’s a really good day.”
“French is hard. It’s really hard. Spanish is easy. If it’s written, you pronounce it. French, they’re all these letters in the words. They have no purpose. You don’t pronounce them.” ~ Kathy Reich
“I try to make things up. I try not to use cliches ever. There may be a few that sneak in, but I do try to not use cliches.” ~ Kathy Reichs
Kathy Reichs’s first novel, Déjà Dead, catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her other Temperance Brennan books include Death du Jour, Deadly Decisions, Fatal Voyage, Grave Secrets, Bare Bones, Monday Mourning, Cross Bones, Break No Bones, Bones to Ashes, Devil Bones, 206 Bones, Spider Bones, Flash and Bones, Bones Are Forever, Bones of the Lost, Bones Never Lie, Speaking in Bones, and the Temperance Brennan short story collection, The Bone Collection. In addition, Kathy co-authored the Virals young adult series with her son, Brendan Reichs. The best-selling titles are Virals, Seizure, Code, Exposure, Terminal, and the novella collection Trace Evidence. The series follows the adventures of Temperance Brennan’s great-niece, Tory Brennan. Dr. Reichs’ latest novel, Two Nights, was released on July 11 and features Sunday Night, a tough-talking, scarred heroine. Dr. Reichs was also a producer of the hit Fox TV series Bones, which is based on her work and her novels.
From teaching FBI agents how to detect and recover human remains to separating and identifying commingled body parts in her Montreal lab, as a forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs has brought her own dramatic work experience to her mesmerizing forensic thrillers. For years, she consulted with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina and with the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Québec. Dr. Reichs has traveled to Rwanda to testify at the UN Tribunal on Genocide and helped exhume a mass grave in Guatemala. As part of her work at JPAC (Formerly CILHI), she aided in the identification of war dead from World War II, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Dr. Reichs also assisted in the recovery of remains at the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Dr. Reichs is one of only 100 forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology. She served on the Board of Directors and as Vice President of both the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and is currently a member of the National Police Services Advisory Council in Canada. She is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.
Dr. Reichs is a native of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D. at Northwestern. She now divides her time between Charlotte, NC, and Montreal, Québec.
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