Message From The Author
Whose Tempe Is It Anyway?
BESTSELLER KATHY REICHS MAKES NO 'BONES' ABOUT IT
By Diane Snyder
And you thought you had a complicated commute! These days forensic anthropologist and bestselling crime novelist Kathy Reichs' life is a triangle that takes her from North Carolina to Montreal to Los Angeles. For years she's been traveling between North Carolina and Montreal, where she does forensic work for both locales' medical examiner's offices. But now that the Fox TV series Bones, based on her popular fictional character Temperance Brennan, has taken off, Reichs' travel schedule can seem as chaotic as an Amazing Race contestant's. She's a producer on the show and makes a point of reading every script -- and any version of any story involving her character.
But it's hard to blame her. With so many versions of Tempe floating around -- there's even a TV tie-in book, Bones Buried Deep by Max Allan Collins, based on the TV series that's based on her character -- she wants to ensure character consistency and forensic accuracy.
"Maybe that's what they call a control freak," she says with a laugh. "My main role on the TV show is to read the scripts and work with the writers. But I read even the abridged versions of my books for audio recording. I read the tie-in book manuscripts
and can't bear to let go until I've had my two cents' worth
TV viewers just getting to know the Tempe of Reichs' novels, the latest of which, Break No Bones (Scribner), is now in stores, will find a slightly older character than the one played by 29-year-old Emily Deschanel on TV, and Reichs doesn't plan to alter her novels to accommodate the series.
"I'm now in the process of beginning the first novel since the show has been on, and I'm stopping and thinking about the fact that they've created some backstory on my character which is not the backstory I've had on my character," she says, speaking
by phone from her North Carolina home. "And I've decided to
do nothing about it. We have TV Tempe and we have the books' Tempe, and they're going to be different in some ways."
Book Tempe's latest adventure has her in the other Carolina, teaching a class and trying to identify some bones she comes across in the process. Complicating matters, both ex-husband Pete and new love interest Andrew show up. The case is inspired by an actual one Reichs worked on in Charleston. "I did a case for the coroner down there a couple of years ago which she actually brought to me. I was doing a book signing and she brought it to me in a big Tupperware container."
When she's not checking Tempe's temperature, Reichs, who published her first novel, Deja Dead, just nine years ago, still takes on the occasional private case. In the spring, she appeared for the defense in the trial of Ohio priest Father Gerald Robinson, who was subsequently convicted of the 1980 murder of a nun. She testified that a procedure performed by the coroner may have contaminated bone evidence.
She also volunteers her services
for numerous humanitarian causes (as readers of 2002's Grave Secrets know). She was active in helping to identify the remains of 9/11 victims and testified at the U.N. tribunal on the Rwandan genocide. "I'm not
as involved as I was because the demands of producing and writing are just too much," Reichs acknowledges.
And soon she may not be the only published author in her family. Her lawyer daughter took a year-long sabbatical from her firm to write a novel. "It's a chick lit kind of thing," says the mother of three adult children, who's keeping a comfortable distance from the project. "We decided from the outset it would be a good idea for me not to be involved and not to read her manuscript."
Reichs certainly has enough of her own to focus on. Asked to what she attributes the popularity of her books and the series, her first response is simply, "Good writing is part of it." But so
is science, she adds. "All of a sudden people are fascinated by forensics," Reichs observes. "They never paid much attention
to it, and now in the last five years we're hot."
There's also the sexual tension. "I think viewers like the interplay between Tempe and Seeley, just as readers like the interplay between Tempe and Andrew," she says, "and they have a sense of humor. There's sparring, there's chemistry and there's humor."
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