Kathy Reichs, like her character Temperance Brennan, is a forensic anthropologist, formerly for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in North Carolina and currently for the Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale for the province of Quebec. A professor in the department of anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, she is one of only seventy-nine forensic anthropologists ever certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, is past Vice President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and serves on the National Police Services Advisory Board in Canada. Reichs’s first book, Déja Dead, catapulted her to fame when it became a New York Times bestseller and won the 1997 Ellis Award for Best First Novel. Her novel, Devil Bones, was a #1 New York Times bestseller.
1. How do you get your inspiration?
I base a lot of my writing on actual cases that I've worked on. Sometimes in the midst of an examination or case file I come across something interesting or novel, and it leads to a story. So in that way my work really informs my writing.
2. What is your writing routine?
I try to write some every day that I can. Usually I'm a morning writer, but if I have a spare hour, I try to hunker down. Every little moment helps!
3. Are there places or people you draw inspiration from? Who? What?
Many of my characters are inspired by people I've worked with in the forensics lab, or police officers with whom I've worked a case. I find that it's easier to use real people as templates for characters, just so long as you don't make it too obvious who it is you're mimicking. I've had a few close calls at work on that front!
4. Are there topics you particularly like to write about ?
I like to write about new scientific techniques. I also prefer to use topics that are current in the public consciousness when forming a story. Murder mysteries are common, so it's important to be timely as well as interesting. Viewing everything from the autopsy table perspective gives me a somewhat unique take on the thriller genre, so I try to keep my work as true to that filter as I can.
5. Why did you choose the genre you have as your specialist area?
write what I know. I'm a board-certified forensic anthropologist, so that's what my stories involve. I really couldn't imagine doing anything else.
6. Do you ever suffer from writers block?and what do you do to overcome it?
I don't believe in writer's block. I believe you have to put something down every time you sit to write, terrible or not. You can always go back and fix what you've produced, and you should. Oftentimes there's a kernel of something usable in a terrible few pages that leads you out of the abyss. But you have to write, period.
7. Your advice: Techniques for writing well?
I think revision and brutal self-examination are the keys to producing good final copy. You should edit constantly, remove words you don't need, and keep knocking the work into better and better shape. Question every aspect of your story that you can think of. Never be satisfied with something the first time through--it can always be improved. Then let someone else have a go, and hold your tongue through the critique. It will make your work better in the end.
8. Can you offer some tips for a writer starting out?
Write. Write write write. No one starts out with the perfect story, but if you get started, you can find the missing pieces as you go along. I'm not saying to just wing it -- having an outline is very important, as well as knowing the general parameters of what you are trying to accomplish -- but you can't wait for everything to be perfect in your head. It never will be. Most bursts of inspiration come in the middle of producing a work, not prior to starting it.
9. What are you working on right now?
I've just finished my latest Tempe Brennan book, Bones Are Forever, releasing on August 28, 2012 in the US. I've also just wrapped my third book in the Virals series, which I write with my son, Brendan Reichs, titled Code. It will release in March of 2013 in the US.