Kathy Reichs on World Book Club

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Sunday 5th October 2014

Kathy ReichsThriller writer Kathy Reichs is truly impressive. As well as working as a highly respected forensic anthropologist she teaches FBI agents to detect and recover human remains and frequently acts as an expert witness in court.

You wouldn’t have thought she’d have time to fit in anything extra but over the last 17 years she has written 17 bestselling crime novels featuring Dr Temperance Brennan, otherwise known as Tempe. Her books have sold tens of millions of copies around the world and been published in 31 languages. The latest, Bones Never Lie, was published last month.

I was lucky enough to be in the audience at BBC Broadcasting House in London when Reichs appeared on World Book Club recently to talk about her first novel, Déjà Dead. The hour-long interview with presenter Harriett Gilbert ranged from the inspiration for Reichs’s novels to her greatest fear as a forensic anthropologist. She didn’t hesitate for a second about this last question, revealing that the thing she fears most are micro-organisms in the autopsy room.

“If anything is going to get you it’s a germ you might pick up,” she said, adding that these days she and her colleagues wear masks, goggles and aprons and are “far more aware of the bio-hazards of the job.”

It’s that kind of detail that makes Kathy Reichs’s novels so compelling. She told Harriett Gilbert that she’s “fastidious about getting the science accurate” – and it shows.

When she started writing she “wanted to read the kind of book I liked to read” and so Déjà Dead was born. Unusually, it was accepted by the first publisher she sent it to – “not a typical story,” she admitted dryly – and she’s never looked back.

Reichs is firmly in charge of her characters and can’t be doing with the idea that characters can take over and dictate the way the plot unfolds.

“I don’t adhere to the idea that your characters can take over, that they can take you in directions you hadn’t planned,” she said. ‘You are the one in charge of the delete key. I am certainly in charge of my characters.”

Place is very important in her novels and she revealed that she never writes about a location she hasn’t visited herself, making notes and taking pictures as an aide memoire. She reads a lot of crime fiction herself – “I like to keep a thumb on the pulse, on what is going on out there.”

Déjà Dead by Kathy Reichs (Arrow, £7.99)

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