A Chat with Kathy Reichs

The author gives TFK the scoop on her new book series for tweens and teens

Dec 27, 2010 | By TFK Kid Reporter Veronica Louise Mendoza

Ask your parents whether they've heard of the Temperance Brennan books. They probably have. You might've even watched a couple episodes of Bones, the TV series based on the popular novels. Kathy Reichs is the author of the well-known series, and she's also a notable forensic anthropologist. Forensic anthropology is the study of the human skeleton that helps to solve crime mysteries. Reichs uses her knowledge as a forensic anthropologist to write books for adults and now, for adolescents.

TFK Kid Reporter Veronica Louise Mendoza and Virals author Kathy Reichs.
COURTESY CAGAMPAN FAMILY
TFK Kid Reporter Veronica Louise Mendoza and Virals author Kathy Reichs.

Reich's new novel, Virals, is centered on 14-year-old Tory Brennan, a major science nerd and the niece of Temperance Brennan. Tory goes to a classy private school, but has few friends, all of which are geeks as well. Their idea of fun is hanging with wild monkeys, sneaking into secret laboratories, and taking care of a wolf-pup with an alien disease. The book, which mixes science, fantasy, action and adventure, is not one to miss. TFK had the honor to speak with Reichs, the storytelling expert.

TFK:

How did you come up with the idea for the Virals storyline?

KATHY REICHS:

Actually, my son came up with the idea of having a young adult series. I thought it would be fun to do a spin-off of Temperance Brennan books, but the storyline idea came from my experience. I adopted a potcake dog from one of the Turks and Caicos Islands. It had parvovirus, which is a deadly disease, especially for puppies. That's where I got the idea for the parvovirus [plot]. My daughter had a friend who had a wolf-dog as a pet, so I thought it would be more interesting to have a wolf-dog, rather than a potcake dog in the series. With that, I tied the whole concept of anthropology into Virals.

TFK:

Why did you decide to do a spin-off of your Temperance Brennan books?

REICHS:

A lot of my readers that read the Temperance Brennan books and watch the TV show Bones are young adults. So, I thought it would make sense to do a spin-off character that is their age.

TFK:

What kinds of challenges are there to writing for teens than writing for adults?

REICHS:

Getting the dialogue correct, because 14- and 15-year-old kids don't talk the same way that 40-year-old homicide detectives talk. I think the stories are just as complex as the adult stories, but done in a way that keeps young adults entertained.

TFK:

How are Temperance Brennan and Tory Brennan different? How are they alike?

REICHS:

They are very much alike because they're not interested in cotillion, or dressing up with dolls. They're much more interested in being out with nature and with science. They're also kind of smarty-pants in the way they talk and the jokes they make.

TFK:

What do you hope young adults will learn from this book/series?

REICHS:

That science is cool and you can do more than one thing even when you're a scientist. You can also write books. When you're working with facts and trying to solve problems in a crime lab, you can still write fiction. But, you have to keep it interesting and you can't use all the special language you use among yourselves as experts.

TFK:

How long did it take you to write Virals?

REICHS:

A year. During that year, I was also writing a Temperance Brennan book, and I was also working on the show. It was a pretty busy year.

TFK:

Who are you more like: Temperance Brennan or Tory Brennan?

REICHS:

I think I was like Tory when I was 14, and in many ways, I'm like Temperance now. Certainly, we do the same job, and we have the same sense of humor as well.

TFK:

When you write your books, do you ever draw from your own experience as a forensic anthropologist?

REICHS:

Always. I think every writer does that. I use cases and experiences I've had as a starting point. Then I make things up from there. I just use that as the core.

TFK:

What kind of research did you have to do to make sure that the details are accurate?

REICHS:

We did a lot of research. Research on how the brain works, how dogs' brains work, how dogs perceive the world, the geography of Charleston Islands, old Civil War fortifications and parvovirus.

TFK:

What advice would you give to kids who want to be like you someday?

REICHS:

If you want to be an anthropologist, you need to keep your grades up, go to a university, and go to a good grad school. Then, it's a long haul to get certification, but that's the route that you would take. If you want to be a writer, the best thing to do is write. Everyday just keep a diary or write a blog.