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Interview with Bones‘ Kathy Reichs about Forensic Anthropology, Temperance Brennan, Spider Bones, and Virals

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Author and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs is a triple threat, managing to juggle a career in science in two different countries, writing a bestselling mystery series, and acting as a producer and now screenwriter for Bones, the television show inspired by her books. She recently spoke to the media about “The Witch In The Wardrobe,” the Bones episode she penned. Bones fans can read her comments about the show. During the interview, Reichs also spoke about her forensic career and a couple of her upcoming projects. For those fans interested in what books are up next for the busy author, Reichs dropped some interesting hints, both about Brennan and about a new character younger fans of her series may enjoy.

One of the questions the author was asked concerned how she got involved in the field of forensic anthropology. She answered, "Oh, pure accident actually. I was kind of dragged into it. I trained to do archeology – and kind of the thing that’s back story for Tempe on the series – but I trained to do archeology and work with ancient skeletons. I was very happily doing that when police started bringing me cases, and once I started doing the coroner work – the medical examiner work – I found that very compelling. I liked the idea of the relevance of it – that you could actually impact someone’s life, which is not necessary true – archeology is fascinating but if you’re wrong, you’re not going to send anybody to jail or you’re not doing to misidentify a missing person. So, I really liked that and I retrained. I became Board certified, and I’ve been in the forensic anthropology field ever since."

Kathy Reichs  [Photo: Zuma Press] source:  http://www.searchingbones.com/2009/05/26/kathy-reichs-will-help-fight-osteoporosis/Reichs said she’s astounded at how many emails she receives from people interested in going into her field. Asked if she had any advice for them, she responded, “My advice would be to study the hard science not just take some course in general forensic science. If you want to be an anthropologist, you need to study physical anthropology specialized in bones. If you want to be a forensic chemist, get a degree in chemistry. Do you want to do DNA work? Get a degree in microbiology. And do well. Study hard and go to graduate school.”

Like her fictional creation, Temperance Brennan, Reichs splits her time as a forensic anthropologist between North Carolina and Montreal, Quebec. Asked how this unusual situation came about, she said, "I went [to Montreal] on a national faculty exchange, NFE. It’s a program whereby one faculty member exchanges places with another at another institution for a year. I had just taken some French and this offer came across in the faculty meeting about this opportunity in Montreal, and I thought, ‘Well, okay, I speak French. I took 101.’ So, I applied and off I went and during that year of teaching at Miguel and Concordia, the English-language universities in Montreal, I started working at the lab because they wanted someone who was board certified in forensic anthropology and could speak French. I think they had a pool of one candidate, which was me. So, at the end of that year we just figured out an arrangement, when I came back to North Carolina, where I would commute and I would go to Montreal one week out of every six weeks or so. And I’ve been doing that ever since 1990."

Asked whether she has one case in her career that really sticks out for her, Reichs answered, "Well, I’ve got some that are a little more frustrating than others. I’ve got a few that have yet to be solved. I’ve got, for example, a little child’s skeleton in my lab up in Montreal that I’ve had since 1989 that’s never been ID’d, although I think we may finally get this little guy identified. So, those are always the most frustrating, and I guess those stick in my mind more than others. Probably the most difficult working situation was ground zero, working at the Trade Center. That was both physically and psychologically very demanding. But each case brings something different to the table, literally. It’s just hard to pick out any one single one."

Fans will soon be able to enjoy Temperance Brennan’s next case. Asked about the next book, the author said, "The next Tempe book will be out in August, August 24th. It’s called Spider Bones, and it draws on my experience. I consulted for years to our central lab in Honolulu for the identification of our war dead. It’s called JPAC, the Joint POW MIA Accounting Commission. All of our war dead from Southeast Asia, Korea, World War II are identified there … So, it’s going to draw on those experiences, and Tempe will be going to Honolulu to straighten out a mix-up in an ID back in ’68."

As if a new Tempe novel wasn’t enough to look forward to, Reichs also admitted she’s writing a new series for the young adult market. She noted, “The first in the series called Virals will be out in November, and it is going to follow 14-year-old Tori Brennan and her friends. Tori is the great niece of Temperance’s brother … They do simple forensic science and there’s also an element of grounded fantasy. They’re definitely not vampires but they have some special abilities.”

With the savvy author crossing forensic science with fantasy, Virals looks like an intriguing entry into the youth market. Reichs’ fans, both young and old, will want to circle August and November on the calendar for the next adventures of the Brennan family.

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  • Lynn

    It is great to have a woman show us that anything can be done when you work at it

  • virginia

    great to read that i m an archaeology student too!so good that i have this oportunity i guess…..