Kathleen Joan Toelle "Kathy" Reichs is an American crime writer, forensic anthropologist and academic. She is a professor of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; as of 2013 she is on indefinite leave. She divides her work time between the Laboratoire des Sciences Judiciaires et de Médecine Légale for the province of Quebec and her professorship at UNC Charlotte. She is one of the eighty-two forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and is on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. Her schedule also involves a number of speaking engagements around the world. Reichs has been a producer for the TV series Bones, which is loosely based on her novels, which in turn, are inspired by her life. She has two daughters, Kerry and Courtney, and one son, Brendan.
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Hi Reddit, my name is Kathy Reichs you may have read my books. The Temperance Brennan Series, The Virals Series or you may have seen Bones on Fox. I am looking forward to answering your questions!
Thanks for all your great questions. If you have not already, check out Bones Never Lie, just launched today in the US. Now, back to writing!
What are your top five favourite books?
Catch 22, The Silence of the Lambs, The Big Sleep, The Handmaid's Tale, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Hi, Kathy! I'm a bioarchaeology student with an interest in forensic anthropology, and I'm a big fan of your work. My question is: how did you go from dedicated academic (publishing non-fiction) to the prominent and popular author of fiction you are today? What was that transition like, and do you ever receive criticism from the academic community for it?
If my colleagues have negative comments, they do not share them with me! The transition was quite strange. Writing fiction is very different from writing scientific works.
Do you ever see yourself moving away from the Brennans (Tempe and Tory) and starting a new series? Or do you feel you have enough source material to keep these two series going in perpetuity?
Yes to both questions.
I love the show Bones mostly for how it portrays strong female characters working in science and technology.
What are your thoughts about how to bring more women into science and technology driven fields?
I think portraying women and girls in these roles is an excellent technique. That's why I do it with both Temperance Brennan and her teen age niece, Tory Brennan.
Why are the 2 main characters so different in your books compared to the tv show?
I think of Bones as a prequel. Tempe the early years.
This question is not meant to be disrespectful so please excuse me if it is. I do love the show bones based off of entertainment value. However, the anthropology students at my school have a game they play with that show. Every time there is a blatant disregard for factual anthropology we take a shot. It's safe to say we get sufficiently wasted. Do the producers of the show ever console you regarding forensic anthropology?I understand that for an hour-long show you can't include that much factual anthropology, however occasionally the information that they use is just completely wrong. Do you ever fight the producers to try and include more accurate science or do you just chalk it up to creative license? Again thank you for the awesome drinking game and study tool has some of my professors use bones as a quiz option, where they stop the show every time or something is incorrect and ask us why it's wrong. On another note, do you have any academic papers that I can find on the Internet?
I doubt my academic papers are on line.
I try to keep the science honest on Bones. Have your professors compare us to other TV series. Or have them email me what they think is inaccurate with regard to osteology.
How does it feel to be a the heroine of a book authored by a TV show heroine who was based on your life and named after the heroine of a series you authored?
It's awesome. Cannot believe Bones Never Lie is number 17! And that Bones is beginning its 10th season on air.
What got you into forensics ?
Police started bringing cases to me at my lab at UNCC.
What inspired you to write the Virals novels, as they are so different to anything else you've written?
Also, is Tory ever going to appear in a full Tempe novel/vice versa?
The idea or a YA series came from my son, Brendan, with whom I write the Virals books. Check out our two digital novellas, Swipe and Shift. In them Tempe and Tory both appear.
which word processor do you use to type your manuscripts, and what software features do you wish it had?
I use Word for books. I wish it had a feature that would highlight a previous use of a specific word.
I use Final Draft for scripts.
Ever been to the Body Farm at University of Tennessee?
Yes. With Bill Bass, its founder.
locked in a room with one bullet, Hitler and a depressing creepy clown... who do you kill?
You should be a writer.
I love the show and I love the books, but I'm curious. How do you feel about the artistic license which has taken the plot of the show so far away from the initial story of the books? (Ex. the huge inclusion of Booth and the Squints in the show, etc)
From the outset we wanted differences. And we wanted a character based show, not just another police procedural. Think of the show as earlier in Tempe's life. Leaves me free to write my books without worrying about impact of the TV series.
I live in Mooresville, North Carolina. I love your books. I am also in to Nascar too. I was wondering how Charlotte, North Carolina inspires you in your writing? I love the book you wrote about the drives of Nascar. I will be seeing you on Thursday night for the Mystery Dinner. Do you live here in North Carolina or somewhere else? I can not wait to meet you.
I live in Charlotte.
Have you read the Patricia Cornwell series about Dr. Scarpetta? If so, what is your opinion?
Read some of the early books. Terrific. Some of the few books written by a non-scientist that got the science right.
Hi Ms. Reichs! I was wondering, what is it like like being a female producer in a field so often perceived as being male-led? And also, I'm looking for a career in criminology, and would like to know if I should use television shows as a reference point when I am thinking of a future career? Like, are they accurate to the actual jobs? Thank you!
I thoroughly enjoy working with the whole crew at Bones. A great group of people.
Unfortunately, I don't think most TV shows portray a realistic view of forensic scientists. Our work is mostly in the lab.
Hi Kathy, I'm your big fan from Poland. Have you ever read any Polish books? If the answer is 'yes' - have you got favourite ones?
Sadly, I do not read Polish. But was there recently and loved it
Hi Kathy, thanks for doing this AMA, I have a few questions.
What's your favorite instrument?
What's your favorite song?
Tacos or pizza?
Wow. Tough ones.
Right now, Happy.
Temperance is a unique name, what made you decide to choose it opposed to another?
Can you tell us something we may not know about you but wouldn't mind sharing?
Had a student named Tempe. Liked the name. Needed a more formal version for an Irish Catholic girl, so Temperance.
Are you ever going to kill off one of the well known characters? When I read Bones of the Lost I really thought Tempes soldier daughter was going to be killed in Afghanistan but in the end she was fine. Which I totally apprechiated by the way - but anyway is there going to be a big loss for Tempe anytime soon?
Who knows? Can't allow spoilers, can we?
Hi Kathy, I'm a big fan! My daughter is a bit young to read your work but she has a passion for science and it's something I want her to have all of her life. My question is what advise would you give a ten year old girl who has a passion for science? Especially when society views that subject as a "boy thing".
Read the VIRALS series. Says it all. And she will love the books.
What's the similarities between the equipment you use yourself with that used on the TV show?
For anthropology it is very similar. But TV has unlimited funding. My lab does not.
I recently view the presentation you did in Scotland that was streamed online, Will you ever do one like that? Perhaps in TX?
I love it.
Yes. Coming to Dallas and Houston the last week of Sep. Next week! Check my website for times and places. Hope to see you!
What question do you have for reddit?
How am I doing?
Dear Mrs. Reichs,
First of all, thank you for all your Tempe Brennan books and one of my favourite TV-shows ever, Bones!
You are one of my greatest inspirations for me studying Prehistoric & Historic Archaeology in Austria and getting interested in Anthropology since about 15 years ago.
My question to you is:
What are your favourite historical, anthropological or generally scientific TV-shows?
Thank you in advance.
Love Discovery channel shows. PBS nature shows. Not sure their names in Austria.
If Tempe was a real person and one of your colleagues - would she probably be one of your friends?
Definitely. We would get together every year at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and have a meal. Maye a few drinks at the bar.
How do you balance working in your lab with writing/producing. Do you see the fiction writing affecting your academic work?
I write a temperance Brennan Bones book, a Tory Brennan Virals book, and an episode of Bones each year. And I tour in the US and internationally. As a result I have had to cut back on the case work.
How do you go about planning the structure for one of your novels?
I usually start with a case I have worked or an experience I have had. Then I decide on setting. I always change, names, dates, places, etc. from actual situation. Then I decide on the type of science that will drive the solution. Entomology. Blood spatter pattern analysis. Volatile fatty acids. Etc. (Don't want to always use bones!) Then I ask myself "what if?" and spin off into fiction.
Hi Kathy, I'm a big fan of your work! You're actually one of the major reasons I'm planning on becoming a forensic anthropologist myself, and since I'm a senior year undergrad who can't afford to apply to every graduate school, I was hoping you could provide some much needed insight.
Which school in the US do you think has the best master's program for forensic anthropology? They all seem to have their advantages (UT Knoxville with their body farm, Chico and their human ID lab, et cetera) so I'm having a hard time narrowing down my options. Also, does it matter at all if I get an MA or MS?
I'm working on getting a BS in anthropology from UC Davis at the moment and hoping I'll be able to work with the FBI eventually, if that makes any difference. Thanks in advance for answering my questions, and thanks for being such a huge inspiration to me!
Check out the ABFA website. Links to anthropology grad programs with board certified forensic anthropologists on faculty.
Hello. What is your writing process like? What do you do when you blank on more plot and what do you feel gets your creativity going more? Thanks for doing an AMA :)
When I have a free day I write all day. To work through a block I keep on writing.
Hi, Kathy! Thank you for sharing Tempe and her story with the world. I am currently reading Bones Never Lie and it is great!
In 1996, I took a criminalistics class as part of my undergrad studies. It has been interesting to see how much things have advanced in that field, as a whole, over the past 18 years. What recent advancements in technology have aided in your job as a forensic anthropologist?
Better microscopes. Better X ray technology. Better peer evaluation of who is a legitimate expert. Board certification. ABFA.
What convinced/inspired you to start writing?
I have always written. As an academic it is part of the job. The switch to fiction was due to making full professor and having worked on an interesting serial murder case. The two came together, and voila! Deja Dead.
I'm curious what you do to celebrate finishing one of your books?
I usually go to the beach for a short break. Very short. Soon I am working on edits. Or a Virals book. Or a script.
Tempe's professional life is like mine. Her personal life is her own.
What do you think is the most exciting thing about forensics?
The constantly evolving science in so many fields.
Hi, feel free to answer just one of these (if I get an answer at all that is, didn't want to create several posts)
1) Has there ever been anyone Ryan's looks are based on? Or anyone that looks the way you imagined him? (He's obviously so very different from Booth/David)
2) Is there a system or some sort of master plan behind which book takes place in which city? Or is it based on case and where it fits better?
3) Was Ryan supposed to just be one of the cops at first and therefor described as not really hot in the first book? (Or was that a translation error bc that's the only one I haven't read in English?)
4) Is the non-answer to that question at the end of "Bones Never Lie" going to come back and bite Tempe in the ass? Like a similar question (about living arrangements) without an answer (or without a positive answer in that case) did?
(I'm being vague on purpose bc I'm trying to avoid spoiling anyone who hasn't read yet since it just came out today)
I picture Ryan like a young Harrison Ford. I think he has always been hot. Always meant as a main character.
Hi Kathy! Your books and Bones are my absolute favorites! I think the amount of scientific research done for Bones is great in comparison to that of other shows in the same vein. Do you think the show does a good job with this? How much input do you have on the science of the show?
I think we do a very good job, though, of course, we take some liberties. In reality, not every crime is solved by the discovery of some minute trace of evidence. Go Hodgins!
First of all, I'm a HUGE fan. I was wondering what is your favourite book so far that you've written and why?
Bones to Ashes. Enjoyed the Acadians. Enjoyed returning to Tempe's childhood.
BTW. Learn more about the latter in Bones Never Lie, the book just out.
Hi Kathy! UNCC Student here. I wish you had stuck around for a few more years, so I could've taken your class!
My question for you is: What real life experience of yours has been the most similar to Temperance's? Any very similar cases or evidence? Thanks for doing this!
Bones Never Lie is a sequel to Monday Mourning (10 years later). That book was based on an actual case involving bones found in the basement of a pizza parlor.
I went to Afghanistan in 2012 with the USO. Bones of the Lost draws on that.
Hi Mrs Reichs! Will you come to Montreal?
I will be in Montreal in late October for some French promotion. Then again in November for the Salon d L. The new release in French is coming up soon!
How much of Tempe is you and how much is just character development?
Oops. See above.
I got to tell you in Stirling about my AVN, but as I was the one running about with the microphone I didn't get to ask you my question.
Do you have have any place in the world you would like to 'take' Tempe too in future books? (Scotland perhaps?)
Why not? Love Scotland. Murder in a castle?
Hey Kathy! Love your books! I got to be a fan because of the show (I can tell you how much I love BONES!!!) I love all the forensic anthropology, I think you are inspiring a lot of people into that field
Are you ever going to appear in the show?
Are you going to write different kind of books in the future?
Are you close to the people of the show, with Emily specially?
You should come to Raleigh/RTP to do a book sign, it would be lovely to meet you!
thanks for the AMA, I can't wait to get your new
I appeared in season 2. Judas on a Pole.
I am under contract for five Tory Brennan Virals books and 19 Temperance Brennan novels, two more after Bones Never Lie (released today!)
I am coming to Raleigh next year for Bouchercon.
Hi, im an anthropologist and I was wondering what your thoughts are on biological determinism? Most anthropologists I know regard it as pseudoscience but it I've noticed elements of it on the show bones
No one theory explains everything.
Well, this is AMA...
I stopped watching the show when Bones and Boothe moved in, had the baby, etc.
Honestly, prior to that, I absolutely loved the show and looked forward to watching it every week, but after that, it was more about their interpersonal problems and less about solving crimes.
So here are my questions:
Are the books the same way?
Has the show returned to crime or is it still about their homelife?
I don't actually expect you to answer these questions - you have no good reason to, but man, I loved that show for a long time and would love to see it come back.
Bones has always been a character based show. There is always an "A" story, the crime, and a "B" story, involving a personal issue in the lives of the characters. The Tempe books are similar. For example Bones Never Lie has a grisly crime at its center, but Tempe is also dealing with some personal issues.
Totally murder in a Loch/castle. (Loch Lomond...)
Do you have any favourite stories a fan has told you?
Too many to choose a favorite.
For the Bones tv-series, how important do you think scientific accuracy is? To what extent do you feel that simplifications or inaccuracies are acceptable in order to make the story more interesting to the general audience?
All terminology and technology that we use exists. What is added for entertainment value is the extent to which the science always solves the crime.
And, are you planning to visit Poland soon? I'd love to queue for one of your signed copies
Sorry we missed each other. Was just there.
Hello! I was curious as to who was your favorite character to write, besides Tempe?
So, the last page of Bones Never Lie - I have been waiting for that for a longtime. :D
As someone who has loved writing since I was old enough to pick up a pencil, I've always struggled with how to start. Do you plan your outline first, then do research, or just get stuck in?
And I just realised the old copy of Monday mouring I asked you to sign in stirling was related to your new book, that's funny how that worked out!
I do outline. But much more so with the Virals series. With the new Tempe book, Bones Never Lie, I began with six chapters. Expanded as I went.
re tool marks on bones. How accurate is this? had argument with FA at Liverpool Uni, said it was fiction :(
With saw or serrated knife (ie: teeth) one can determine class of tool, not specific one used. That is not fiction.
I'm a big fan of you from Hungary. Where can I buy/get an autograph from you? :)
Go to my website. Contact me through there. Perhaps I can send an autographed photo by post.
Hi Kathy! My ex-girlfriend (now fiancee) is a big fan of Bones and needless to say, I got hooked as well. My question is, how much influence do you have with the TV series, especially with how they portray Temperance's character?
Thank you so much and more power
I work as a producer. Have input, not control. And I write some episodes, now with my daughter Kerry Reichs. Last season "The Dude in the Dam".
Hello again, I'm sorry I just forgot to ask you this,
Have you ever been threaten or been in danger because of a case you have been working on, like "bones of the lost"?
Threatened once. By a defendant. In court.
Last question, as I have to cook dinner.
Where does The inspiration come from for Birdie? He reminds me so much of my crazy cats, the looks they give you could almost swear they were talking to you.
Birdie is my cat.
What are you cooking? I am starving.
Thank you for doing an AMA. Every time I sit down to read a Bones book, I end up pulling an all-nighter because I can't put it back down. Is there anywhere that you've wanted Tempe to visit for a case, but haven't yet in your books?
So many places. But I always write about somewhere I've been. Many stories set in Montreal and Canada. Cross Bones in Israel. Grave Secrets in Guatemala. Spider Bones in Hawaii. Etc. Bones Never Lie starts out in my home town, Charlotte, NC, moves to Costa Rica, Vermont, and Montreal.
Hi Dr. Reichs! I've been a fan for quite awhile: wrote you an email in 2006 asking about how to become a forensic anthropologist, but I'm applying to graduate schools for biomedical research now.
My question: What is your favorite peer-reviewed research article?
Mine is Rothenfluh, A., & Heberlein, U. (2002). Drugs, flies, and videotape: the effects of ethanol and cocaine on Drosophila locomotion. Current opinion in neurobiology, 12(6), 639-645.
Holy moly. I have read so many over the years I couldn't choose. Have a stack of Journal of Forensic Science editions on my desk now.
How did you come up with the name "Temprance Brennan"?
Based on a student I taught years ago.
Hello, I have two questions, feel free to respond whichever
Any advised in how to be a successful driven woman?
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Thanks in advanced
I am all for female equality in all endeavors.
I think organization and discipline are the key traits. As they say, if you want a task done quickly and efficiently ask a busy person.
No. Because of the differences between TV Tempe and book Tempe, I write unencumbered by what the television version of the character is doing.
I have only read one of the Temperance Brennan books but I have watched the show religiously since someone told me about it about 7 or 8 years ago.
The show encouraged me to try a Forensic Anthropology module in university (My degree was in geography and Irish Studies) and it inspired me to look into pursuing that career, although I cannot afford it at present.
Have you ever guest lectured in universities? if ever you were planning to in Ireland or the UK I would love to attend.
I love how you inspire women and portray such strong female characters.
I just lectured at Queens University in Belfast. Just returned home after a terrific tour in the UK for the release of Bones Never Lie. Good luck with your studies.
BTW. You should try the new book, Bones Never Lie. Or Bones of the Lost, now out in paperback. Perhaps one of the Virals series? Virals, Seizure, Code, Exposure.
Terminal will be out next March.
Where did you get the inspiration for Charlie the cockatiel?
My daughter has a cockatiel. Oliver. Oliver has some very colorful sayings. His favorite is "Road trip, don't forget the bird!"