#254 – Writing Temperance Brennan with Kathy Reichs

Bestselling author and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs joins us on the podcast today to celebrate the release of The Bone Code, the latest release in her Temperance Brennan series (out today!). Kathy talks to us about her journey to publishing, her writing process, and how she has maintained such a compelling long-standing series.

Bestselling author and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs joins us on the podcast today to celebrate the release of The Bone Code, the latest release in her Temperance Brennan series (out today!). Kathy talks to us about her journey to publishing, her writing process, and how she has maintained such a compelling long-standing series. We also chatted about the process of adapting her series into the hugely successful TV show Bones and what it was like bringing her characters to life on screen. 

  • Kathy tells us about her journey from working as a forensic anthropologist and professor to becoming a bestselling author, why she decided to try her hand at writing fiction, and how her writing has changed throughout her career
  • She discusses her Temperance Brennan series and tells us how she keeps track of what has happened to her characters over the span of twenty books
  • Kathy talks about pulling inspiration for her books from both cases she has worked on and real world headlines, and she explains how she fleshes these ideas out from general concept to full-length novel
  • She explains her writing process, which includes less plotting and more pantsing, how the science in her novels will always drive the solution, and how she creates a “post-mortem” outline to ensure there are no loose ends in her mysteries
  • Kathy has co-written a series of YA novels with her son and several episodes of Bones with her daughter, and she tells us about the experience of co-writing and what it was like working with her kids
  • She talks about the experience of adapting the Temperance Brennan series into the TV show Bones, what it was like writing two distinct versions of the character Tempe, and she what the writing process is like for an episode of Bones

Useful Links

Kathy’s Website
Follow Kathy on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
The Bone Code
A Conspiracy of Bones
The Temperance Brennan Series
The Virals Series
A Woman of No Importance
War and Peace

Kathy Reichs’s first novel Déjà Dead, published in 1997, won the Ellis Award for Best First Novel and was an international bestseller. The Bone Code is Kathy’s twentieth entry in her series featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan. Kathy was also a producer of Fox Television’s longest running scripted drama, Bones, which is based on her work and her novels. One of very few forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, Kathy divides her time between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Montreal, Québec. Visit her at KathyReichs.com or follow her on Twitter @KathyReichs.

Joni: Hey, writers. You’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts. I’m Joni, author engagement specialist at “Kobo Writing Life.”

Rachel: I’m Rachel, author engagement coordinator at “Kobo Writing Life.”

Joni: On today’s episode, we are talking to bestselling author and forensic anthropologist, Kathy Reichs. She’s the author of the long-running Temperance Brennan series, which was adapted into hit TV show, “Bones.”

Rachel: We had a great conversation with Kathy and I feel like we probably could have talked to her for another hour on top of the conversation we already had.

Joni: Absolutely.

Rachel: It was a great conversation. We spoke about her long-running series and how she keeps it fresh and how she keeps everything straight as to what has happened to her characters. We spoke to her about the adaptation process. And we also talked a lot about how the science and her own experience as a forensic anthropologist really has influenced her work. And we also learned that there are only three working beavers in Los Angeles in Hollywood. So, lots of really cool information from Kathy, I hope you enjoy.

Joni: So, we are here today with the crime writer and forensic anthropologist, Kathy Reichs. Thank you so much for joining us, Kathy.

Kathy: Thank you for having me on.

Joni: Can you start by introducing yourself to our listeners?

Kathy: Well, I’m Kathy Reichs. I’m the author of the Temperance Brennan series of “Bones” books, upon which was based the TV series “Bones.”

Joni: And can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publishing?

Kathy: My journey to publishing? Oh, wow. Well, I was a forensic anthropologist for years, and I will not tell you how many. And I’m a full professor at the University. And so I thought I would try something new. I had published scientific articles and textbooks, educational things. So, I was free to do something new because I’d made full professor, which is the highest rank at a university. So, I thought I would try my hand at fiction. I don’t think anyone had heard of forensic anthropology back then, so I thought it would be a way to bring my science to a broader audience. And I don’t know if you know this, but professors aren’t overly well paid. So, I thought it might bring a little additional income. I have three kids, at the time they were heading towards university, private university, which is very expensive in the states. Anyway, so I thought I would try fiction. I had just worked on a serial murder case in Montreal, which had some interesting elements to it. So, I had the freedom to try something new and an idea for a story. So, those all came together. And I had to write it in my spare time because I was still teaching full time and commuting between the Carolinas and Quebec doing forensic casework. So, I would write on weekends, and early in the morning, I’d get up at 6:00 in the morning, I hated that before going to campus, on vacations, you know, whatever. So, it took two years to write the first book, and I really didn’t know what I was doing. I had no training in fiction writing, so, I just, you know, made it up as I went along. Yeah. And then, how long do you want me to ramble on here…?

Joni: No, this is great. So, the book was published in 1997, right? And I believe it was, at the time the most successful crime fiction debut ever, which is incredible. And since then, you’re still writing the same series, that was the first Temperance Brennan series. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Kathy: Well, just since I had never written fiction, and I am a forensic anthropologist, it just seemed natural to make my heroine do that because I’m familiar with it. I was familiar with being at autopsies, and in the crime lab, and at crime scenes, and body recoveries, that kind of thing. I also sniffed that forensics was in the air, there was this beginning of interest in the mid-’90s in forensics, and I just thought the timing might be good for a strong female heroine, who was a forensic scientist. So, that’s the path I took.

Rachel: And could you tell us a little bit kind of like what the Temperance Brennan books are about?

Kathy: Well, they’re a core. They’re murder mysteries. They’re forensic thrillers, which means a thriller versus a mystery means there’s more suspense, there’s more danger, you know, perhaps more physical violence involved, more danger to your main character. Nobody’s really sure the difference between a mystery and a thriller, but that’s what they are. The difference is that the plot is there… The solution to the murder mystery is driven by science. And in each of the books I tried to use a different aspect of forensic science, whether it’s, you know, “Bones,” of course, figured prominently in the first one, but it could be blood spatter pattern analysis, or mitochondrial DNA analysis, or forensic linguistics, or whatever. I’m lucky at the lab, in Montreal, it’s a full spectrum, medical-legal, and crime lab. And I worked there for a very, very long time. So, I had the advantage of all of that going on around me and all of my colleagues in the different specialty areas. So, if I needed to know about bite mark analysis, I could sit down with the forensic dentist and he would explain, you know, how do you analyze a bite mark. So, that’s how it came together.

Rachel: That’s really cool. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the term forensic dentist before.

Kathy: So, every other forensic scientist calls themselves whatever they are, a forensic chemist, a forensic anthropologist, a forensic engineer, but the dentists call themselves forensic odontologists, for some reason, they have to have a special term.

Rachel: And I know from listening to past interviews that you’ve done that you pull a lot of your, like, general plot ideas kind of like the impetus for the story from your real-life, from real cases. But I’m kind of wondering how you go from the beginning of the story to fleshing it out into a full thriller. How do you plot out your novels?

Kathy: Yeah. I take some ideas from cases, and that’ll just be the core, central kernel of the story. And then I change all the names, and the dates, and the places and everything, for legal and ethical reasons. I asked myself, I take the core idea. And then I asked myself, “Well, what if this happened, or what if that happened, or what if that happened.” And then I just spin it off into fiction. I don’t just use cases, I will sometimes do what we call in the writer’s room, for bones, the writer’s room, we would talk about ripped from the headlines episodes. So, sometimes my stories are ripped from the headlines, I’ll read something in the paper, and I’ll draw on that for the story or it might be something a colleague has talked about at a professional meeting. So, I get my ideas from lots of different places. As for the actual process, we talk about plotters and pantsers. And plotters are writers that outline, and, you know, they plot the whole story out. My son, who’s a writer is definitely a plotter, he uses different colored index cards and literally has a big board, he puts it all on just like we would have in the writer’s room. I’m more of a pantser, I plot out the first few chapters of a book, and then I just start writing. And then I know how it’s going to end, I know what the science will be that will help drive the solution, but then I just kind of flow, I do it by the seat of my pants.

Joni: That actually surprises me because the series is so long. How do you keep track of everything that’s, obviously you’re looking at what’s going on in one individual novel, but how do you keep track of how that fits in with the overarching series? Do you have somewhere where you write everything down?

Kathy: The book I’m writing now, number 21, it is going to draw on a lot of cases that Tempe has worked on over the 20 previous books. So, I’m having to do a lot of going back and keyword searching and finding out small details that after 20 books, which means at least 20 years, I just don’t remember all of those details. So, that’s the problem. That’s something I would have to do a lot of research into my own writing.

Rachel: And just kind of bouncing off the “rip from the headline” saying your last, I guess, number 19, “Conspiracy of Bones,” which was out last year, talked a lot about conspiracy theories, and the deep dark web, which was very much in the news, especially from 2016 onwards, we’ll say. And I was just wondering, are you planning on touching on the pandemic at all in your books or are you going to keep Temperance Brennan living in kind of a fictional version of the world?

Kathy: I think that’s a question that every author is posing to themselves. What do I do about this pandemic? Do I just ignore it and keep, as you say, in her own bubble, or do I somehow incorporate it? I’ve chosen to… Oddly just as the “Conspiracy of Bones,” I started that well before all of this conspiracy. When the book comes out, it will have been more than two years since I started the book. So, it’s ironic that the book comes out and a lot of that, you know, hit the press. And the same is true for “The Bone Code,” which is coming out next July. It does have not a pandemic but it does have a lot to do with human genome, human genome editing, what happens if we have the ability to do that now with CRISPR and other technologies, we can change the human genome but the scientists in that area have all agreed we’re not going to do that. It’s unethical at times. It’s unscrupulous. We’re not going to create designer babies. Well, what if you have a villain who decides to do that, go rogue and do that anyway? And, you know, I’m writing this book, and then that happens, that’s there was a scientist in China, a doctor, who did exactly that. So, yeah. So, that’s a component of the book. Also, a component of a book is this epidemic, like, situation of an infectious disease. It’s not spread like COVID or Ebola or anything. And I wrote that way before the pandemic took place. So, yeah.

Rachel: So, you might be a little bit psychic…

Kathy: I don’t know. I don’t know. Well, part of what I do is when I’m looking for a story idea, I look for something that’s going to be of interest a couple years down the road, hopefully, something that hasn’t yet, you know, really made a big splash in the news but I think is going to be an issue that people are talking about and thinking about. I love to look at things in which, like, the genome editing, where the technology is way in advance of any kind of legislation to control it or regulate it. What happens during that gray area?

Joni: I think just as you were saying that people are very, very interested in true crime now, we’re also fascinated by conspiracy theories. Do you have a favorite conspiracy theory or something that you find interesting?

Kathy: There’s so many to choose from. I was just in Washington, D.C., and not far from where my daughter’s home is, is the, I think it’s the Comet pizza parlor where “Hillary Clinton was sex trafficking children in the basement” or something. And that was pretty good. That’s pretty wacko. And then there’s the one where there are lizard people who are taking over the bodies of prominent leaders and politicians, and that’s a good one.

Rachel: I love that one.

Kathy: That’s a good one. Creative, and it gets an A for creative.

Joni: How did you know, you talked about being kind of aware of what’s about to become big and how you knew in the ’90s we were on the cusp of this fascination. Why did you think that or how did you know?

Kathy: I think, well, I don’t know here in the States, we were all watching the O.J. trial, like 24/7 and hearing about DNA and hearing about blood spatter and knife trajectories. And I think people really got interested in that. And I don’t know when CSI came on air. I don’t know when that began, but it all was just this feedback loop that…and I was part of it. The more people were interested, the more that was being produced, either in television or in fiction or whatever, so.

Rachel: I’d say that interest definitely has continued, you see such a boom in true crime over the past few years. What do you think it is about just, like, readers and humans in general that are so fascinated by darker stories, like true crime or forensics?

Kathy: It’s hard to say, and it’s not new, you know, murder mysteries have been around way back before Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. And people, and forensics has been around for thousands of years, people have used scientific indicators. You know, there’s a famous story about the Chinese, the head of his village, I guess, who the murderer was because flies were attracted to his pitch fork because it had blood on the pitch fork. Well, that’s forensics. And that was 2000 years ago. You know, so people are interested in mysteries. I think they’re interested in this kind of book because they like to solve… It’s like a puzzle. They like to solve the puzzle. Before the end of the book, take all the clues. And I think as an author, your job is to provide the clues, and it’s fair to provide red herring clues as long as you’ve explained them and tie them off. And I know when I’m reading a thriller, or a mystery, if I figure it out before the author tells me the answer, I’m disappointed because it’s the author’s job to throw in that twist, legitimate, you can’t ever rely just on coincidence, but it’s their job to surprise you at the end, I think. So, I think that’s part of the appeal is it’s fun to read this kind of book. And also it takes you into a world that most people don’t ever have to visit. Most people don’t ever have to go to a body recovery or an autopsy.

Joni: When we spoke to Karin Slaughter on this podcast a few months ago and something that she said that stuck to me is that she has gotten a lot of criticism that is very gendered about how she’s writing violent crime. And I wondered, is that something that you’ve experienced, or does the fact that you work in science and your job kind of insulate you from that sort of criticism?

Katy: I don’t know if she meant she was being criticized because she’s a woman writing violent crime or because often the victims of the violent crime in her fiction are female.

Joni: I think it was about her as the writer.

Kathy: About her as a writer, I don’t know. A lot of violent crime is written by women. We’ve got Liza Gardner and Lisa Unger, and we’ve got… Oh my goodness, I always go blank, Patsy Cornwell, and… You know, there’s a lot of violent stuff being written me, Karin, who else is out there? There’s a lot of… Sandra Brown. There’s a lot of us that… I have never been criticized for that, for that reason, so. But maybe as you say, I’m legitimized by actually being a practitioner.

Joni: I think that’s important.

Rachel: And just kind of snowballing off that, as a woman like in the STEM field, is that something you’ve had to deal with in the past, being a woman working in forensic anthropology? Have you had to face different kind of standards for your work?

Kathy: I haven’t experienced that. And I think the American Academy of Forensic Sciences is the professional body for forensic scientists. It’s made up of 11 or 12 sections, there’s the criminalists, there’s the dentists, the odontologists, there’s the bio pathology, there’s the toxicology, anyway, there are all these different. So, a journalist asked me that once and we got down the list of board-certified people, and we compared gender breakdown. And in anthropology is about 3 to 1, three men to one woman at that time, forensic odontology, for example, was 99 to 1. So, I think anthropology is less gender bias because it’s academically based. A lot of us are at universities and educational institutions and consult on the side, which is what I did for many, many years. So, that may be why it’s less imbalanced as far as what the gender is or the sexes of the practitioner.

Rachel: I’m just going to bring it back to writing – I’m always interested in gender politics, especially in more science-y fields – But like we mentioned before, “The Bone Code,” which is coming out July 6th is the 20th book in the Temperance Brennan series. And I was just wondering if you have any, like plotting tips or any advice for authors who are also writing such a long-standing series?

Kathy: Oh, I’m not wanting to give plotting tips because I have no training in writing. I just…

Rachel: You’re doing okay.

Kathy: Well, yeah. When I sat down to write “Déjà Dead,” the first book, I just tried to write the kind of book I like to read, that was sort of my guideline. Do I have any tips? Gotta go with Steve King’s, lose the adverbs, you know, they are not your friends, get rid of ephors, get the proper verb for what you’re trying to describe. Now, it’s hard. You know, I guess, if it’s your first book, I would recommend outlining, especially if you’re writing a thriller or a mystery because there’s so many things you have to tie together. And it’s writing…at least what I do is a bit similar to writing for a television episode, in that you have your what we would call the A story, which is your main story, which would be your crime, who is the dead guy. Your B story, which might have to do with something going on in the social life of your characters. And then you might also have a C story, which could be as you point out an arcing story, going from book to book to book. So, you do have to keep all of that straight, and you do have to tie off every single, legitimate and red herring clue that you’ve thrown out there. So, it’s not… I do create an outline, I don’t make an outline before I write the book, but I create an outline kind of a post mortem. I write each chapter as a separate file, and when I finish that chapter, I summarize it in an outline. So, I’m creating the outline as I go after the fact of each chapter. So, by the end of the book, I do have an outline, and I can go back then, and I can’t figure out if I’ve tied everything off and figure out where’s that appear and easily find it in the manuscript. I don’t know if those are useful.

Joni: No, that is. It is. I’m also wondering, so you talked about how it’s kind of the responsibility of the writer to keep the mystery so that the reader doesn’t figure it out before you want them. How does that work? Do you have beta readers that you test with because you know what’s going on?

Kathy: I don’t. I don’t. No one reads my manuscript until I turn it in.

Joni: Okay.

Kathy: And I think that’s because… Even my editor doesn’t read it. There will come a point where we’re at this point now for book 21, which I’m currently working on, where they’re going to want a title, and they’re going to want a synopsis. So, I do stop after like the first 100 pages or so and I do create for my publisher and my editor a synopsis, and we start, I think we actually chose the title for the next book. Anyway, but I’m not someone who constantly shares with my editor. My son does that with both his editor and his agent, I think. I don’t do that. I’ve never done that. Possibly, not out of egotism but possibly because of the way I wrote the first book. I did write it. And I did complete it. I didn’t tell anyone I was doing it because if you write a novel in the English department, you’re a hero. If you write a novel in a science department, you’re kind of suspect. So, I didn’t tell anyone. And now when I finished it, I didn’t know what to do with it. So, I just mailed it in. I didn’t have an agent, I just mailed it to Scrivener. And fortunately, they liked it, and they bought it. So, that’s just kind of the pattern I developed is I write the whole book, and then I send it to them. And usually, the editing process for me is pretty painless.

Rachel: You mentioned a couple times that your son is a writer, and I know that you wrote a young adult series with him. And you also wrote a couple of episodes of “Bones” with your daughter. Now, I’m just wondering what that experience was like, both working with your kids but also going from writing the Temperance Brennan series alone and then co-writing other people?

Kathy: Yeah. Plus, they’re both lawyers. Throw that into the mix. Throw that into your editorial meetings. It was good. It was a good experience, I would do it again. Brendan and I wrote… He was a lawyer. He hated being a lawyer. So, he came to me one day with this plan to get out of being a lawyer, “Why don’t we write a series of young adult books?” And I thought, well, first, I thought no, then, yeah, I thought that… Okay. Yeah. So, we had some understanding of when we would put on our co-author’s hat and take off the mother-son hat. And I think it went well. And we did six of those. And then Carrie and I did the, I think we did five episodes together of “Bones.” And that is really different because Brandon and I would split it and he would do some things. He was better at, like, young adult jargon and knowing what the social interactions, not that he was a kid anymore but the social concerns of young adults are different from adults. And then I would do, you know, more police-y science-y kind of stuff. When writing a screenplay, it’s very different in some ways, it’s very similar in some ways. As I said, you have your A story, your B story, your C story, that’s a structure is similar. One of the things that’s different is a screenplay boils down to dialogue, you don’t need any description because the viewer is seeing that, what she’s wearing, what the house looks like, but, you know, that’s all right there. So, it really largely boils down to some action, but dialogue.

It’s different in that you do what’s called breaking the story, and you go into the writer’s room with the other writers, and together, you just brainstorm for it anywhere from one to three weeks, it could be, and there’s a blank whiteboard divided for our show, it was divided into six acts. And by the end of the time, you just throw out ideas. How about if we find a body and our chocolate? How about if we find a body squashed in the bleachers in the high school gymnasium? And eventually, then, of course, after… You know, we did 12 seasons, he’d say, “How about if we find the body up in a tree?” “Oh no, we did that in Season 2.” “How about if we find the body, you know, in a frog pond?” “No, no, we did that in Season 7.” Anyway, at the end of that time, you have hammered out the outline. Then, you as the writer, each of our episodes is written by a different writer. So, as the writers, Carrie and I would then have to write a very lengthy. First, you have to pitch it to your showrunner and I wasn’t used to that because as I said, I turned my manuscript in pretty much complete, and they say it’s splendid, and I get some notes. But for this you have to answer to a lot of bosses, you have to answer to the showrunner and the executive producers, the network, you know, on up to God I think. So, once he approves your idea, then you’re sent to write an outline, it’s a very lengthy outline, like, I don’t know, 10 pages or more single space, then you have to pitch that. And then once that’s approved, then you’re sent a script and you actually write the script.

Once you turn it in, you’re done. And they change everything, and I’m not used to that either, so. But it can be for reasons that you as the writer you might not know about, for example, the intern that we had written into the script suddenly is unavailable, or the cost. Carrie and I wrote one called “The Dude in the Dam.” And our opening scene was going to be these two kids… No, somebody is screaming along in an all-terrain vehicle and he hits something, he goes airborne, he comes crashing down in this puddle of slime, which is from leopard frogs because if you add what frogs, leopard slugs because slugs make slime, it’s what they do, and then if you add water, it’ll increase in volume by up 99%. So, he comes down in this puddle of slime and there’s the body, hey, hey, great opening scene. That got changed to two kids walking through the woods and they see a body in a beaver dam, but it’s cheaper. You don’t have to crash an ATV. You don’t have to have the medics. You don’t have to have a stunt driver. So, you know, it’s just a lot of factors. Now, what we didn’t know was there were only three working beavers in Los Angeles and they were all booked. So, we’re getting down to where are we going to shoot and the special effects guys have built this… We’re shooting on location and they’ve built this gully that’s going to be the stream to the water. The water is going to come down, there’s the dam there with the body and all that. But at the last minute, we got a beaver, we got a beaver. There must, you know, the cancellation, or contract dispute, or whatever. Anyway, we got to beaver, we’re told this beaver would bolt, that once the wrangler opens the cage, the beaver would take off. Anytime you have animals you have to have a wrangler. So, we had both the beaver wrangler and the slug wrangler. So, we’re all standing around. The wrangler opens the cage, the beaver just sits there. Turns out it is a very elderly beaver, but when the scene opens, it’s a tight shot on the beaver and then they pan back. And she’s giving a pretty good performance. She’s moving around, she’s sniffing around, she’s acting very beaver-like. Well, the only reason for that is we’re all standing around kind of bribing her with carrots and various other types of produce. Anyway, I digress. So, a lot of things can be changed in your script, and that’s different for me from writing a book.

Rachel: Correct me if I’m wrong, but Temperance Brennan in the books and then Temperance Brennan as played by Emily Deschanel, they’re a little bit different. Did you ever have any difficulty kind of switching from writing Temperance in the book to writing Temperance for the show capturing that voice?

Kathy: No. And I liked the fact that there…I think of them as TV Tempe and book Tempe. And I like that because when I’m writing about book Tempe, I don’t have to worry about what TV Tempe is doing. I can just pursue my character as I’ve always written her. Now, there was a little resistance initially to my loyal reader followers that why is this being depicted differently? And I would tell… And it is, I mean, Emily Deschanel is wonderful, what she did with that part. I think if you binged all 12 seasons back to back, and you could see how she evolved that character, she was brilliant. But I would just say think of it as a prequel. Think of Tempe younger, she’s in Washington, D.C., you know, she’s less polished, she’s less sophisticated and just think of that as a prequel to the books. And people generally liked that idea, or at least they bought into it. And then got to see it as well, this is just more of Tempe. Yeah, it’s a slightly different manifestation but it’s equally satisfying, hopefully. It’s funny, the Washingtonian…oh, the Jeffersonian sorry, we were going to call it the Smithsonian. And first, we don’t get the beaver, and then right up until shooting, we didn’t have permission from the Smithsonian authors, lawyers to call it that. They didn’t say no, but they never said yes. And we had to put the logos on the lab coats of the truck and everything. So, we finally just decided to call it the Jeffersonian.

Joni: I love these stories. I did not know that there were working beavers, so…

Rachel: I didn’t know they were such a hot commodity.

Kathy: There are specialty companies that just provide animals for TV and feature films.

Joni: And it makes sense. It just never occurred to me.

Kathy: Yeah.

Rachel: Three working beavers in Los Angeles. I love that.

Kathy: There you go. And this one was quite elderly. So, for me, no, I don’t know.

Joni: All right. I guess my last question before we start wrapping up would be how has your writing style or your approach to writing and the way that you handle your writing business changed in the last 20 years since you started?

Kathy: Well, I think it’s become tighter. I’ve sometimes been accused of being a minimalist writer. I don’t write a lot of flowery descriptive prose, I keep it pretty tight and pretty straightforward. I am a little bit appalled. As I said, this next book I’m writing, I’m having to go back and look at a lot of the earlier books, and sometimes I just cringe. I suspect every author does.

Joni: Yes.

Kathy: Which is, “Oh, did I really use that metaphor or that simile?” I used way too many metaphors or similes in the first book, for sure, and I know I’ve cut back on that. But otherwise, I think, you know, the characters, they’re already fully formed, so I don’t have to reinvent them. You have to keep them changing, otherwise, they become boring, you have to keep them evolving. You have to keep them having problems that they’re dealing with, otherwise, the readers aren’t going to stay interested and the readers aren’t going to stay invested in your characters. One of the things that every author of the continuing character series has to confront is the question of aging. Do you age your characters in real-time? You know, I was never real specific about Tempe at the beginning. In the first book, she’s like, somewhere north of 40, but I’m never clear on that. Well, had I aged her in real-time, which I have chosen not to do. Each book is like it’s a few months later than the one before. You know, but she’d be, how long has it been? 20? How many years? She’d be getting older? Yeah. So, I’ve chosen to take the literary license of not doing that, but that’s one of the issues you have to look at. And I think that cat’s about 50 by now, our heroine is not aging.

Rachel: I’ve never really thought of that before of how characters age, outside of young adult because like, Harry Potter, for example, you know, each year is a different book. But outside of that with longstanding series, that’s not really something I’ve ever thought about. So, that’s really interesting.

Kathy: Yeah. And people who have a lot of longstanding, Harry Bosch and Sue Grafton, Kinsey Millhouse, and, you know, think about how many characters are out there.

Rachel: Jack Reacher would be up there by now as well.

Kathy: Yeah.

Joni: Awesome. Okay. Well, we’d like to finish off by asking authors about some of their favorite books. So, we’ve got a couple of questions for you. What is the best book that you’ve read this year so far?

Kathy: This year? I read… Oh, I read “A Woman of No Importance.” I really enjoyed that. It’s a story of a woman who was a spy, a very valuable spy, and who had one leg and was a very valuable spy in World War II.

Rachel: I will be looking that up.

Kathy: She is American, but she was in France. Yeah, it was really interesting.

Rachel: You’re at the beach, so this is close. But if you could only take one book to a desert island, what book would it be?

Kathy: Oh, it’d be a long one, so, that it would last. How long am I going to be on this desert island?

Rachel: It’s a good question but we don’t have any qualifiers.

Kathy: Oh, gosh. I guess I try to find… I will fess up. I’ve never read War and Peace. I mean, maybe that would be the perfect setting…

Joni: There you go.

Kathy: …to do it, so.

Joni: All right. And final question. Is there one book or one author who’s inspired you as a writer?

Kathy: I’m gonna have to say it’s lots of books, anyone who writes really badly, and anyone who writes really, really well. If I read something that’s written badly, first of all, I don’t finish it, but I’d say to myself, I never want to write a sentence like that. I never want to use a cliche like that. And then when I read something that’s just really beautifully written, and I’d say, “Wow, you know, how do I do that? How do you…” So, I’d have to say both ends of that spectrum influenced me.

Joni: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for doing this. We really, really appreciate it. Before I close this down, can you let us know where listeners can find you online?

Kathy: I have a website at kathyreichs.com. I’m on Instagram, I’m on Twitter, Kathy Reichs, whatever the “at Kathy Reichs”, I guess. And what’s the other one? I’m everywhere. I’m on Facebook, it’s Kathy Reichs.

Joni: Perfect. We’ll find you.

Rachel: I’ll put links to all of your stuff on the blog.

Kathy: Yeah.

Joni: And to your next book, which comes out in July. Thank you so much.

Kathy: Thank you. Have a good day.

Joni: You too.

Rachel: You too. Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life” podcast. If you’re interested in picking up Kathy’s books or learning more about her career, we will have links to her website and the series in our show notes. If you’re enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com and be sure to follow us on socials. We are at @kobowritinglife on Facebook and Twitter, and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.

Joni: This episode was produced by Rachel Wharton and Joni Di Placido. Editing is done by Kelly Rowbotham. Tearjerker provides the music and huge thanks to Kathy Reichs for being our guest. If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up today at kobo.com/writing life. Until next time, happy writing.

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