Dr. Kathy Reichs – From real life to reel life

Exclusive interview with Mark Ulyseas in Bali.
Dr. Kathy Reichs – a prolific writer whose books have all been on the New York Times Bestseller List. In fact her latest novel Bones to Ashes knocked J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter off the top spot. She is a forensic anthropologist for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina and for the Laboratory of Science for the province of Quebec. Kathy is one of only fifty forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and is on the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences; a professor of anthropology at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. A native of Chicago where she received her Ph.D at North Western Kathy now divides her time between Charlotte and Montreal and is a frequent expert witness in criminal trials.

Why are people fascinated by crime, especially murder?
People have a macabre interest in the ultimate crime, triumph of good over evil, puzzle solving and seeing order restored.

Is there a particular segment of the reading market that’s more interested in this area than other, say middle-aged people?
The primary segment is middle-aged women probably those in their late thirties early forties. The secondary has people of all ages.

What is it about forensics that attracts you?
I think it’s the relevance of the scientific process that ultimately reaches a proven conclusion. It actually impacts someone’s life. It also scientifically unravels the mystery of a murder and proves beyond all-reasonable doubt thus helping the police catch the perpetuator/s.

What percentage of your work is legwork and research as opposed to writing and dreaming up ideas and storylines? And how do you get ideas for your books – do everyday things spark off a train of thought?
All my books have drawn heavily on my real life experiences as a scientist. This has helped me in formulating storylines and creating plots and sub plots. You can safely say that work has inspired my writing. In fact it was in my forties that I started to write and since then have published ten books, all have been on the NYT Bestseller List.

Your characters like Temperance Brennan – ho do you come up with their names?
Oh I just liked the name.

Who are your favourite writers, and why?
Jeffery Deaver (Bone Collector), Ian Rankin and P.D.James (I spent her eightieth birthday with her). It’s too short a time to discuss each writer and how they influence me.

What’s your impression of Bali (if here for the first time?). how do people back home regard Bali?
Am here for the first time. It’s a very short trip but what I have seen of it so far is lovely. People back home don’t view Bali as a dangerous place…just too far to travel to!

Do you think you could set a book here (and this is a spark for a new novel?!) A tropical murder mystery. Could be big.
That’s a wonderful idea. Yes would be a challenge…the publishers need to sort out the details of my stay etc…hah hah hah

What are your thoughts on the Ubud Writers and Readers festival?
Well this is my last leg of my book promotion tour of New Zealand and Australia and I arrived with my daughter on the 29th and the festival closed on the 30th. Pity. But I enjoyed myself meeting other writers. Can’t say more.

How do you compare it with similar festivals around the world?
It is small and concise. There was much interaction between writers at the UWRF unlike many other festivals across the world that have an impersonal feel. That’s what I liked about it.

From initial idea to typing the final work, what’s the average length of time it takes you?
One year per book. Ten years ten books!

Do you think people are as interested in books these day as they used to be? Has someone like J.K.Rowling helped the industry enormously?
Yes yes very much so. Infact she has done a great service to the publishing industry and has been instrumental in helping in the revival of interest in books by children with her Harry Potter series.

In your line of forensic work what incident do you still recall with emotion?

When I was part of the team exhuming mass graves in Guatemala and this mother came up to me and held my hand. Her children and grandchildren were in the mass graves. It was moving.

From real life to print and now to reel life? Tell us about your TV series?
Hah its very exciting to see one’s work enacted on the screen.
20th Century Fox and Sky are broadcasting the TV series “Bones”. I am the producer and I also advise the panel of writers.

In your latest book Bones to Ashes what is it that inspired you?
The plot is based on a true story of a child’s skeleton found on the border of Brunswick and Quebec. I worked on that case. However, the parents or family members were never located. It still remains a mystery.

Are you working on any book presently?
Yes, the working title is Devil Bones, it is based on Voodoo, Black Magic and Witchcraft.