An Interview With Kathy Reichs- Bones Of The Lost/ Bones In Her Pocket

To mark the release of Bones of the Lost, the  latest book in the hugely successful Temperance Brennan series, Kathy kindly answered some questions for Raven Crime Reads about the new book, the discipline of writing, and the joy of peanut butter…  

 

With the release of the 16th book in the series, Bones of the Lost, this week in the UK could you tell us a little about the new outing for Temperance Brennan and the inspiration for the book?

The inspiration came from a recent trip I made to Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan with the USO.  I was so impressed with the dedication of the troops  and with their bravery in the face of danger and hardship that I had to write about it.  Also, my daughter is a nurse and works with organizations dedicated to helping victims of human trafficking.  She encouraged me to visit that very important topic.
 
 
I must confess to not reading a huge amount of crime fiction by female authors as sometimes I feel that narcissism rears its ugly head in terms of the attractiveness of the character and others reaction to them. Temperance Brennan, although an attractive and intelligent woman herself, always displays certain insecurities as a woman, particularly in her physical appearance and in her turbulent personal relationships. How important is it to you to keep this sense of reality in her character?
 
Very important.  I want my main character to be approachable, to be someone with whom readers, especially women, can identify.
 
Temperance Brennan has taken on a life of her own as regards the success of the series and the incredibly popular spin off TV series ‘Bones’. Is this limiting to you as a writer and do you fear the reaction from your reading public if you wanted to diversify and write something different?
 
I like the fact that the TV version and the book version of Temperance Brennan differ.  When I write my stories I am not impacted by what occurs on the small screen.  The television series is like a prequel, an earlier version of book Tempe.
 
Many crime writers hold the tenet that to gain a true picture of the socio-political atmosphere of a country or even a smaller community, crime fiction provides a ‘truer’ portrait of these themes than is being accomplished in mainstream fiction these days. Is this something you agree with, particularly in relation to the more global themes that you incorporate into your books?
 
Yes and no.  Some themes tend to be overplayed.  Serial killers don’t lurk around every corner.  But I do use my stories to throw light on real issues that need attention: trafficking in endangered species (Bare Bones) trafficking in people (Bones of the Lost), child pornography on the internet (Bones to Ashes).
 
Throughout your whole series there is, more often than not a seamless melding, of crimes past and present, obviously influenced by the atrocities you have witnessed in your professional career. How important is it to you personally, this sense of history repeating itself in the evil that men do, and why do you think that there seems to be a steadfast refusal in our inability to learn from the sins of the past?
 
For some books this is true: Death du Jour, Grave Secrets, Bones to Ashes, Spider Bones.  For others the plot is more of a straight line modern mystery:  Deja Dead.  In some cases, such as Monday Mourning,  the mystery involves the question of timing.  Just how long ago did the victims die? Is there, in fact, a crime at all?     
 
With books being released around the world, there must be pressure on you to travel and do promotion, let alone the time you devote to the demands of your professional career, whilst retaining a personal life. How do you manage to juggle all these demands of career and writing?
 
 
Discipline.  As I write this I am at my beach house looking out my bay window at the ocean and dunes.  My family are out there, enjoying the sun surf, and sand.  I have a deadline for the next novel.  It is Tuesday.  So I am working all morning.
 
 
And just for fun…

Your dream dinner party guests from history would be…

Mark Twain and Douglas Adams, to keep the conversation fun and witty;  Jesus Christ, I have a lot of questions;  Fletcher Christian, I’ve always been fascinated with the Bounty mutiny and life on Pitcairn’s Island; my great grandmother, to know why they all left Ireland;  Leonardo Da Vinci, needs no explanation.

What makes you happy?  

Family.  Pinot Noir.  

Your musical pleasures are….

 Unsophisticated.  

Your favourite word?  

Linoleum.

Peanut butter or jelly? 

Peanut butter.  Creamy.

From teaching FBI agents how to detect and recover human remains, to separating and identifying commingled body parts in her Montreal lab, as one of only seventy-seven forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, Dr Kathy Reichs has brought her own dramatic work experience to her mesmerising forensic thrillers. Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller, a Sunday Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel.  She is also a producer of the chilling hit TV series Bones.

Visit her website: http://kathyreichs.com/ .

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kathyreichsbooks

Follow on Twitter: @KathyReichs

Bones of the Lost  published 15th August in the UK ( William Heinemann)

The body of a teenage girl is discovered along a desolate highway on the outskirts of Charlotte. Inside her purse is the ID card of a local businessman who died in a fire months earlier. Who was the girl? And was she murdered? Dr Temperance Brennan, Forensic Anthropologist, must find the answers. She soon learns that a Gulf War veteran stands accused of smuggling artefacts into the country. Could there be a connection between the two cases? Convinced that the girl’s death was no accident, Tempe soon finds herself at the centre of a conspiracy that extends from South America to Afghanistan. But to find justice for the dead, she must be more courageous – and take more extreme action – than ever before.

Also available now – Bones In Her Pocket- a Temperance Brennan short story

Dr. Tempe Brennan has seen it all. Human bones. Animal bones. Old bones. Young bones. Male bones. Female bones. What she hasn’t seen is all of them mixed together in the same case. Until now…

The foothills of North Carolina aren’t the only unfamiliar territory Tempe faces as she races to learn the meaning of the Bones in Her Pocket.

 
 

 
 

Kathy Reichs- Bones Are Forever

A newborn baby is found wedged in a vanity cabinet in a rundown apartment near Montreal. Dr Temperance Brennan, forensic anthropologist to the province of Quebec, is brought in to investigate. While there, she discovers the mummified remains of two more babies within the same room. Shocked and distressed, Tempe must use all her skills and inner strength to focus on the facts. But when the autopsies reveal that the children died of unnatural causes, the hunt for the mother – a young woman with a seedy past and at least three aliases – is on. The trail leads Tempe to Yellowknife, a cold, desolate diamond-mining town on the edge of the Arctic Circle, where her quest for the truth only throws up more questions, more secrets, and more dead bodies. Taking risks and working alone, Tempe refuses to give up until she has discovered why the babies died. But in such a hostile environment, can she avoid being the next victim?

From the distressing opening scene of a small maggot-infested corpse, you know straightaway that this latest from Kathy Reichs is seemingly more edgy in it’s subject matter and choice of victim than her usual fare, as Temperance Brennan once again finds herself embroiled in murders most foul. With typical attention to detail, we follow Brennan’s crucial forensic discoveries as she pieces together- sometimes literally, as later she solves a macabre jigsaw involving exhumed remains- the secrets that dead bodies can yield up under her close scrutiny . No matter how many times the song ‘Dem Dry Bones’ crosses my mind in Reichs’ detailing of which bone connects to which, I always find the specificity of this information strangely compelling andit always adds to the perennial authenticity of Brennan’s logical and focused investigations of the human body.

Another weapon in Reichs’ armour is her ability to perfectly capture place and atmosphere, whether in the ‘nuts and bolts’ description of location, or is as particularly evident in the setting of Yellowknife, the own peculiar history of that location. Reichs’ takes us on a historical trip back through Yellowknife’s former fortunes as an area rich in gold, to it’s now new lucrative position as a diamond -mining town. Personally,  I rather enjoy this sojourn down a rags to riches memory lane (at least for some of the prospectors) to flesh out what is at times a slightly leaky story with some twists in the plot signposted a little too clearly for the seasoned crime reader. Also, in the course of the book, Reichs’ tries a little homespun social analysis on the subject of race and dips her toe into a somewhat stereotypical depiction of environmental campaigners and, although I can understand her needing to employ these facets of the story to drive the plot forward in a particular direction, it does feel a tad forced and, dare I say it, slightly clunky at times.

On an altogether lighter note, Brennan finds herself torn between two lovers as a couple of former suitors flex their muscles and vie for her attention, with the inevitable butting of heads that always ensues in these situations, and with rather a surprise announcement by Brennan’s daughter Katy to add to her personal chagrin, there is a nice balance as usual between Brennan the professional forensic anthropologist, a concerned mother and quite possibly a lover…no spoilers here!

I must confess after not having read a Kathy Reichs for a while it was quite nice to revisit a familiar character- like pulling on a comfy pair of slippers- and despite its flaws it was great to spend some time in the company of Temperance Brennan. I’d rather missed her!

 (And it goes without saying,  extra points for the adaptation of a Bond movie for the title…!)

(Thanks to Random House for the advance reading copy)

 Kathy will be appearing at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Saturday October 13, 2012

12pm — Kathy Reichs & Val McDermid – Two bestselling crime writers from opposite sides of the Atlantic discuss how their novels have bred successful TV series. Kathy Reichs from the US, whose Temperance Brennan novels were the inspiration for TV series, Bones.  And from the UK, Val McDermid, whose Tony Hill & Carol Jordan novels inspired Wire in the Blood.

6.30pm —- Kathy Reichs, Ian Rankin, & Dr. Stuart Holmes – Science and the art of murder come together in this fascinating discussion. Bestselling exponent of taut and compelling Scottish noir, Ian Rankin, forensic anthropologist and author, Kathy Reichs, and Dr. Stuart Holmes of the Royal College of Pathologists join us to discuss the true relationship between writing about murder and getting the science right.

http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature/