Interview with Kathy Reichs

Elise Cooper: Where did you get the idea for this story?

Kathy Reichs: Sunnie grew out of a story from an earlier book, DEATH DE JOUR. It is based on a true cult where seventy-five people were killed. Three of the victims were in Quebec, parents and a baby, who were assassinated. This actually happened and I was present when they came to our lab for autopsy. After thinking about the mentality of cults and why they kill themselves and others I did a lot of research on the psychology. This gave me rise to think, ‘what if someone grew up in the context of a cult where everyone they knew was either killed or killed themselves?’

EC: Why did you decide to write a non-Tempe book?

KR: My publisher suggested it. At first I was not overly enthusiastic, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it could be quite fun. After nineteen Temperance Brennan books I am locked in with the facts, and I have to remember to keep everything straight. With a new character like Sunday I was able to once again make things up, starting from nothing. I found the process stimulating and fascinating. BTW: I like Tempe and am not done with her yet, but I was energized in writing this new character.

EC: How did Sunday and her twin brother August get their unusual names?

KR: The cult she was a part of did not believe in names. She and her brother were born on a Sunday in August; thus the names after the day and month born. Her last name came about after she was arrested. When pressed for a last name she heard the Neil Diamond song “Hot August Night” in the background and used a last name of Night.

EC: As twins they look nothing alike?

KR: They are not identical but fraternal. I saw on the Internet a pair of twins where one was quite fair and the other African American looking. Since they were fraternal they would have a completely different genetic material.

EC: Can you compare your two main characters Temperance Brennan and Sunday Night?

KR: Tempe is very cerebral, logical, organized, controlled, and disciplined. She is a scientist with lab skills. Sunday is the polar opposite. She has quite a temper, not sociable, skilled with guns and tactics including surveillance, tracking, and intelligence gathering, a much earthier person. These are very non-Temperance kinds of skills. She is not your average Southern lady socialite, very different from your Charleston belles. Yet, they are similar in their dry, biting, sense of humor.

EC: Why a squirrel as a pet?

KR: Bob is his name and he allows her to be responsible for feeding him. She is not a puppy dog king of girl. I ran through in my mind what other authors had given their characters as pets and realized no one had a squirrel.

EC: Is Goat Island a real place?

KR: Yes. It is very secluded because the only way to get out there is by a boat since there are no ferries. It is just across from where I live, Island of Palm in South Carolina. Cross over to Goat Island and you will find a completely different world, which I describe in this book.

EC: What do you want readers to get out of the book?

KR: By the end of the book Sunday will have undergone a character change and is drawn back into humanity. A common thread throughout all my characters, whether Sunnie or Tempe, is compassion for other people. What drives Sunday is helping someone who might be alive while in Temperance’s case she wants to help the dead and their loved ones. All have a need to find closure through getting justice for the victims. Even Gus and their guardian Beau had compassion. He took in two children to raise even though he was not a spring chicken or a wealthy man.

EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?

KR: It will be a Tempe book, more of a psychological one. In a short story for the Bones collection her long time boss was killed, and the person who replaces him has a history with Tempe, disliking her and refusing to consult her. After a man is found dead, eaten by hogs with no face and hands she decides to pursue the case herself since dental records and fingerprints cannot identify him.