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For Kathy Reichs, author and creator of the crime television series “Bones,” and her son Brendan Reichs, passion for writing runs, well, bone deep.
Kathy Reichs, a practicing forensic anthropologist, writes crime novels about her literary alter-ego Temperance Brennan—the lead character in “Bones.” Now, in an unusual mother-son collaboration, both she and Brendan Reichs are co-writing the “Virals” series, the newest release of which, “Code,” they promoted at a Provo Library event on March 19.
The “Virals” series follows the adventures of Tory Brennan, niece of Temperance Brennan, who discovers an unsolved murder and becomes infected by an experimental virus that gives her special powers described as “flaring.” Kathy Reichs said details in her books are drawn from her professional experiences with fascinating and often gruesome cases.
“I’m usually able to keep my novels both relevant and true to the science I use every day, which is important to me,” Kathy Reichs said. “I don’t like cutting corners, or bending the truth about what is possible simply for shock value.”
Kathy Reichs doesn’t have to extend far beyond personal experience to shock. She traveled to Rwanda to testify at the UN Tribunal on Genocide, helped exhume a mass grave in Guatemala and assisted with identifying remains found at ground zero of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, among many other cases — sometimes at risk of her life.
“One time I was testifying and it was a very nasty murder dismemberment case,” Kathy Reichs said. “The prosecutor came up to me and said, ‘The defendant says he wants to kill you. We can’t bring police into the courtroom because it would seem prejudicial, so if he goes for you, don’t get out of the witness stand.’ I’m thinking in my head right away, ‘I know exactly where I’m going — I’m going to dive behind the judge.'”
However, Kathy Reichs said generally her life isn’t quite as action-packed as Temperance Brennan’s.
“I don’t take the same risks that Tempe takes — I don’t get as involved with interviewing witnesses and working side-by-side with special agents,” Kathy Reichs said. “I do work with cops, but I’m on the crime scene with them, or in the labs.”
While Kathy Reichs still works as a forensic anthropologist, she’s more selective about the cases she takes on. When she’s not touring, she said most of her day is spent working on “Virals.”
“The ‘Virals’ series was originally Brendan’s idea, and working on it together seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Kathy Reichs said. “Brendan was looking for a career change at the time, so I guess you could say ambition met opportunity at the perfect time.”
Brendan Reichs, a former attorney, was quick to make light of his previous profession.
“I tell people I’m a recovering lawyer,” he said. “I was truly unhappy in my law career and was looking for the next step. ‘Virals’ was the answer to a lot of questions I had about myself.”
The Reichses said they take a structured approach to co-writing. Brendan Reichs starts the first drafts and is responsible for most of the dialogue, while Kathy Reichs handles the structure and, not surprisingly, the plot twists. They write parts and then switch to edit each other’s ideas. According to Brendan Reichs, the process is effective and — usually — harmonious.
“We definitely have our moments — and the occasional day without talking — but we’re pretty good at keeping our work life and our personal life separate and checking our egos at the door,” he said.
Danae Friel, community relations coordinator at the Provo Library, said the attendance at the event reflected the growing popularity of the Reichses’ books.
“While the ‘Virals’ series is a little newer than the ‘Bones’ books, they’re equally well-written and interesting,” Friel said. “I think they’ll bring a whole new demographic of fans.”