‘In the dock’ with author Kathy Reichs
Internationally bestselling author and Forensic Anthropologist Dr Kathy Reichs is in our dock this week – talking exclusively to dead good about her writing, forensics and a little TV show called Bones…
You’ve been writing books since 1997 and could rightly be called ‘Crime Fiction Royalty’. Does the process of writing a novel get easier or more difficult? How has it changed since your very first novel Deja Dead?
The basic mechanics get easier but some things get harder. For example, with a continuing character like Temperance Brennan one must grapple with the question of ageing. Do you keep your character frozen in time? If ageing them, how much with each book? Also, for any given book, it may be a reader’s first introduction to Temperance and her world. The essentials must be covered. For others, that same book may be their tenth or fifteenth encounter with our heroine and her associates. Consequently, with each story the basic premises and the core cast of characters must be introduced, or re-introduced, in a new and creative way. Can’t puzzle the newcomers. Can’t bore the veterans.
When you visit locations for research for your novels, how do you make notes? High Tech or Low-Tech?
I definitely use photos, sometimes videos and voice notes. These days the old Dictaphone and camera have been replaced by the iPhone. Love it!
Where do you write?
Unlike my daughter Kerry, I cannot write in coffee shops and on planes. I need a calm, isolated location, namely, my office. Either on the Charlotte end or the Montreal end. And I need quiet. No TV or music while I create!
We are huge Bones fans. How do you work with the production team and what type of guidance or advice do you give them?
I am a producer, and work mainly with the writers. I answer questions about forensic science and help with what we call ‘bone clues’, evidence in the skeletons that drive each story. I have also written two episodes, one in season five and one which will air in season nine (co-written with my daughter Kerry). I appeared in ‘Judas on a Pole’ in season two.
Is there a particular favourite forensics technique or tool of the trade that gives you goose bumps any time you use it, write it into one of your books or see it used on set?
Not really. Cases vary and, therefore, require different technologies and methodologies. For one I might spend a lot of time gluing. For another I might spend a lot of time measuring. The goosebumps come from getting the answers.
Kathy, you wear so many hats so comfortably – University Professor, Scientist, Novelist, Mother, Producer – we are in awe of you. Is it challenging moving between these roles?
Yes, but it is also stimulating. I have always enjoyed moving among different arenas – parenthood, academia, the crime lab, the world of publishing, the world of entertainment. It keeps me sharp. And off the streets.
What are the biggest controversial or debated subjects in forensics?
The validation of individual specialties as legitimate aspects of forensic science and the qualification of individuals claiming to be experts.
Is there an unsolved crime or case from distant or even recent history that you would like to work on?
I followed with great interest reports on the discovery and analysis of the skeleton of Richard III. Now it is possible that the bones of Cleopatra’s half-sister have been found and exhumed. Such cases have always fascinated me.
Are there any popular myths or misconceptions about Forensic Science you would like to lay to rest?
While forensic science includes many powerful tools, it cannot solve every case every time.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to become a forensic scientist or an author?
Scientists employed by crime labs have special skills, not simply a general knowledge of forensics. Study hard physical science – chemistry, microbiology, molecular genetics, physical anthropology, etc. Earn an advanced degree, become board certified.
To those who want to write I offer the same advice every author gives. Write. Write. Write.
Is there a question that you have never been asked in an interview that you would love to answer?
I have probably been asked every question imaginable. Except my hat size.
Do you have a favourite book cover of all time?
I love the new series Random House has designed for my Temperance Brennan books. Every one of them is a work of art. I think my favorites are Bones Are Forever and Devil Bones.
Do you have any favourite crime thriller TV programmes?
Bones, of course. And I really enjoyed The Killing. Very dark.
Watch the Trailer for Kathy Reichs’s novel Bones are Forever:
A big thank you to Kathy Reichs for taking the time to answer our questions.
Bones Season 8 is out on Blu-ray and DVD on 7th October from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.