Talking with Kathy Reichs
How does Kathy Reichs manage to be both an accomplished forensic anthropologist and a bestselling author? It takes “organization and discipline; whenever I’m not on a case, in court, or on the road, I pretty much write all day,” says Reichs. “So far I’m able to do it.” Indeed she does. In her new adventure, GRAVE SECRETS, Tempe Brennan is sent to find the truth about a brutal massacre that happened in a Guatemalan village in 1982. Similarly, Reichs went to Guatemala in the year 2000 as part of a human rights research team with Clyde Snow, a renowned forensic anthropologist. She says, “My stories are derived from real cases I’ve worked on. The situation in the book was modified somewhat, but villagers really came and watched the excavation and removal of the bodies from the well.” As for the background of the village massacre, Reichs said that it was “pretty much as described; men had fled the village, and the women and children were rounded up by the soldiers and killed.” Many people she worked with had to flee the country, and things aren’t completely cleaned up there yet. She says, “The world is not aware of what is happening there.”
As for the character of Tempe Brennan, she “professionally mirrors what I do,” says Reichs. But that’s where the similarity ends. “I try to make Tempe likable. I don’t want her to be unapproachable or cold. I try to give her quirks and, hopefully, a sense of humor.” People tell Reichs that she and Tempe have a similar sense of humor, but Tempe’s problems, like being a recovering alcoholic, are Tempe’s own. This is Tempe’s fifth adventure, and in each we are learning a bit more about her. Reichs says that in her first book everything was wide open. Characters were being identified and made friends with. Now, says Reichs, she has to remember each character’s quirks. She also has “the added pressure of not redoing” what has been done. The biggest challenge in writing a series is that many things have to be repeated to fill-in the new reader without boring the series reader. Her next adventure will be set entirely in Charlottesville.
This summer, Reichs is looking forward to listening to the unabridged edition of GRAVE SECRETS, along with Grisham’s and Grafton’s latest, on her way to the beach.—Denise Marchionda
©2002 AudioFile, Portland, Maine
Photo © Marie-Reine Mattera