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Q & A with Kathy Reichs

Jon: Kathy, you’re now 17 books into your series with Temperance Brennan. When you started that first book, did you have any idea that it might take off and become the franchise that it has?

Kathy: I did not! When I wrote the first book, Deja Dead, my only goal was to get someone to publish it. I never dreamed that the novel would take off, win an award, and lead to a long-running series and primetime TV show. Sometimes I still can’t believe it.

Jon: I love the idea that with in the “Bones “ universe you’ve created a series with her niece and I think it’s even more fun that you are writing them with your son. I know of one other Mother/Son team writing books, Charles and Caroline Todd and I know they have a ball doing it. Is working with Brendan fun?

Kathy: It has its moments, believe me, but we’re really enjoying working together. The Virals series was actually Brendan’s idea, and Exposure is the fourth book in the adventures of Tory Brennan. We like to call ourselves the number one mother-son teen forensic thriller writing team in the world, because we’re the only one.

Jon: Part of what I really love about all your work is that the science is real. This is obviously important to you. Has keeping it real ever presented a problem when working it into a plot or story line?

Kathy: It’s very important to me to keep the science, if not always plausible, then at least possible. Coming from a science background, I take that kind of accuracy very seriously, and Brendan and I always heavily research any technique of principle we are going to have the characters employ in the books. If you get something wrong, you’re going to hear about from fans. And for me, you can add colleagues and hobbyists as well. So we’re as careful as possible to make everything legit.

Jon: When writing for a younger audience, do you approach the writing different than when it’s targeted to adults?

Kathy: No. We have younger characters, so obviously their language, activities, and interests are going to be different from those of adult characters—that’s where Brendan is especially useful in the creative process—but we never attempt to “talk down” to a younger audience. Young readers are remarkably smart and savvy, and they’ll sniff out anything that appears condescending, and ignore it. The Virals books are every bit as lengthy and sophisticatedly plotted as the Tempe Brennan books.

Jon: Who is your favorite character to write, the one you can have the most fun with?

Kathy: I like Tory. I love thinking about how Temperance Brennan may have sounded and acted at 15. Brendan’s loves writing Hi, since he claims that’s actually him talking to the audience through the book.

Jon: I love that the Virals have heightened powers, but not quite superpowers. Was this intentional and if so why?

Kathy: Very intentional. We didn’t want these powers to become a crutch that magically solved every problem the teens might encounter. At root, we wanted science to drive the series. In fact, the Virals aren’t even sure if their extrasensory capabilities are good or bad—the flare powers may actually be killing them, an issue discussed at length in Exposure.

Jon: What is your favorite part about being able to tell stories for a living?

Kathy: The hours. They’re mine.

Jon: People talk about how Americans read less and less, yet it seems most of the kids I know are reading a lot. I’m guessing that the Virals series helps keep kids interested in reading. Do you get a lot of letters/emails from younger readers?

Kathy: We do, and from educators as well. One of my goals with the series was to get kids more interested in reading, and to bring my forensic science knowledge to a younger audience. Virals has helped me accomplish both things, as well as work with my son, who is a very strong writer in his own right. It’s been wonderful.

Jon: If you could go back and chat for an hour with a 13-year-old Kathy Reichs, what would you tell her?

Kathy: Keep digging things up, and trying to figure out how the world work. It’ll pay off in the end. Don’t cut your hair short, though.

Jon: When you aren’t writing or working what is your favorite way to spend your time?

Kathy: I’m a beach bum. I have a second home in the Charleston area, one of the many reasons we set the Virals series in that fantastic city. I’m there any time I can be!