Kathy Reichs (Bones)

Kathy Reichs: The Interview (Bones)

Kathy Reichs, the inspiration behind the title character in the hit Fox show, Bones, comes face-to-face with the cahracters as she writes Thursday's episode.  We sat down with Kathy to discuss the show...

SHAKEFIRE: I was wondering, do you see Brennan as two separate people:  The character on TV and one that your readers know?

KATHY REICHS: No, I really don’t.  I think of book Tempe and TV Tempe and I think of TV Tempe as an earlier point in book Tempe’s life.  She’s 30-something rather than 40-something.  She’s unmarried.  She‘s living in Washington, which I find very appropriate because that’s where I started my career at the Smithsonian.  It’s the very first place I ever worked with skeletons, so I think of TV Tempe as a prequel. 

SF: Well, we just had our hundredth episode of Bones not long ago.  I was wondering how you see the longevity of the show. 

KR: Well, I think we should go to a thousand episodes.

SF: You’re on Twitter.  How do you see social networking becoming such an important part of promotion and interacting with fans?

KR: Well, I’ve just started tweeting inspired largely by Hart Hanson, who is a greater tweeter.  And I’m amazed at how I really didn’t understand the power of it, but I’m amazed that if I tweet something, then it gets re-tweeted and re-tweeted, so it really does reach a huge number of people.

SF: Some fans have said that they’d been inspired by you and by the show to pursue forensic anthropology as a career choice.  Do you have any advice for them?

KR: I’m astounded also at how many emails I get through my Website about kids, or even older people, wanting to go into forensic anthropology or any area of forensics.  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.

SF: Are there any similarities that you see between yourself and either of the two Tempe characters? 

vWell, obviously professionally we do exactly the same thing.  I work in the Crime Lab.  I go to crime scenes.  I work in North Carolina and in Quebec Province in Canada a lot, but I do cases all over the country here and there.  Tempe’s tied a little more to the Jeffersonian, but she gets out into the field as well.  She’s gone to New Orleans and she’s gone to the Pacific Northwest, I think.  So, what we do though is identical.  In terms of personality, I think we’re quite different. 

SF: How would you say that you’re different?

KR: Well, one way that we’re similar is sense of humor. I mean, I think we have a similar sense of humor.  And that was important in creating the show.  That was one thing Hart Hanson and I and Barry Josephson were on the same page about from the get go.  But as far as her social awkwardness and her inability to form close relationships, I think we’re different in those ways. 

SF: There are rumors that you would be soon writing a young adults market focus novel.  Is that true, first of all?

KR: Yes that is true.  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. 

SF: I was wondering, what led you to take on a career as a forensic anthropologist?

KR: 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.

SF: Has there been a particular case throughout your career that has just totally blown you away with the results that you discovered?

KR: 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.

SF: Now, the “Witch and the Wardrobe” sounds very interesting.  I wanted to know what specific real-life case did this story come from or did it?

KR: Well not really.  It came from a combination of different things.  Whenever I write a novel, I always bring different aspects of different cases together and blend them together into one story.  So, I’ve had cases where bodies were found covered in some kind of melted goop from a fire, so that kind of figured into it.  I’ve had cases where bones were found in coffins or storage lockers or trunks that probably belonged to fraternities or things like that that were dressed in odd clothing or something.  So, elements of that came into the story.

SF: Will we see you in anymore guest spots in the future?

KR: Well, every time I’m out there, Hart and I talk about it, and I actually had a whole lot of fun doing it, a lot more.  I was initially kind of reluctant to appear on camera and Hart said, “Well I’m going to write a part.  If you don’t want to do it, we’ll cast it.”  And I was still fairly reluctant, and then he told me David Duchovny was directing, so I said, “Oh yes, I am on board.”  I turned out having a really good time, so yes I would like to do another one.  They may have created a monster when they let me go in front of the camera.

SF: After episode 100, we’ve had kind of little snippets of Booth and Brennan’s personal relationship – that both of them kind of trying to work out how it’s going to look.  What can you tell us about this episode, “Witch and the Wardrobe,” what Booth and Brennan’s relationship is going to be like?  Are they bickering more?  Do they have some special moments?  What can you tell us about that?

KR: Well, they’re getting along pretty well right now I think.  I mean they’ve started dating other people, and I leave the character development pretty much to Hart and to the executive producers.  I’ve got some interesting plot developments with some of the other characters in my story but not specifically Booth and Brennan.

SF: Okay, so Angela and Hodgins – what can you tell us about that part then?

KR: Well, Angela and Hodgins are getting along pretty well lately, too.  I certainly am not going to give away spoilers about who it involves.  We’ve got Sweets and Daisy, and we’ve got Angela and Hodgins, and we’ve got Booth and Brennan, and Cam has started dating her OB/GYN guy, so who knows?

SF: Is there anything about TV Temperance that you’re kind of jealous of?  That you wish you had thought of first for your book Temperance?

KR: Well, a lot of the science and the technology that they use on there is really pretty good.  I’m sometimes amazed at how they dig out some of the ideas for the different stories, so every now and then I’ll think of “Well, why didn’t I think of that,” like the rock ‘n roll hall of fame arena or the urban spelunking arena.  In each show we try to visit some different arena – the world of pathological plastic surgery.  So when I see that, I’m sometimes thinking, “Hmm.  I need to be more creative in my settings.”

: What’s the next Tempe book and when?

KR: The Tempe next 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, and I act as – did I say that already – as a consultant out there for years.  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.

SF: I wanted to ask about the process of actually writing the episodes because I know, obviously, you’re not used to writing television, but Hart told me that you guys did it in about 2-1/2 days instead of a week.  So, how is the process of writing a television episode for you?

KR: Well, it’s really different from writing a novel.  For one thing, when I write a novel, I do it alone.  I give my idea to my editors and they say that’s splendid, and then I go ahead and I write the book and I send it to them.  That’s not how writing a TV episode works. 
First you have to have your idea approved by the executive producers, your network, the studio, etc., and then when that happens, you write a very lengthy outline, which I don’t usually do for my novels.  And then when that’s approved up all the hierarchal levels, then you go and you break the story and it’s a collective experience.  You do it with the other writers, which is very different for me.  So, that’s what Hart was talking about – breaking a story, I’m told, can take from one to three weeks, and yes, we finished in about 2-1/2 days. 

I loved working in the writers’ room.  That was to me to have this brain trust, and we’re all bouncing all these ideas off of each other and building on ideas.  That was just really a lot of fun for me.  And then you pitch it to Hart, in this case, and then he liked it and made a few suggestions and notes, I guess.  And then I got sent back and wrote it, and then they change a lot of it, which is also a shock to me.  So, it was a very positive experience but a very different experience from writing a novel.

SF: Would you be willing to do it again, do you think?

KR: Absolutely, yes.  I really did have a good time.  I learned a lot because it was the first one I had done, so I figure I shouldn’t waste all that newly acquired skill and maybe I should try my hand at a second one if they let me do it.

SF: So, you talked about it a little bit, but when you say that you think that the current Temperance is just a younger version of the Temperance from your books, then do you see her not – sort of the same thing – you said you don’t want to tell Hart what to do, but if you think she’s a younger version of your book character then that means she won’t end up with Booth?

KR: No, not necessarily. We don’t know.  My books are taking place like ten or more years later and somewhere in between, she’s gotten married and gotten unmarried to this guy Pete from Chicago.  So, who knows what would’ve happened between – she could either end up with Booth and then separate or not end up with Booth, but my books pick up when Tempe is already well into her 40’s.  So, it gives a lot of freedom for what’s going to happen with the characters on the show.  One other difference is that story.  Hart has given Tempe this back story with Ryan O’Neal as her father and being abandoned as a child, and her father blowing up, killing the Assistant Director of the FBI, etc.  That is just totally different from the back story in my books, so readers just have to deal with that.  That’s just different.

Interview by Kara Johnson