Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Chicago, Illinois, raised there and in Minnesota. I studied at the University of Illinois, at American University, and at Northwestern University. So I am a northerner by birth. In my twenties, one snow storm too many drove me south. I’ve lived in North Carolina ever since and never missed the snow and ice!
At twelve I wanted to be a scientist, though my understanding of that was very dim. At eighteen I wanted to be the most popular girl on campus. At thirty I was back to science, having completed my PhD in Biological Anthropology and wanting to get tenure at the UNCC, the university at which I was on faculty.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
Life would go on forever. Or, at least, for a very, very, very, long time.
4.What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
As a child I read the entire Nancy Drew series. I think this triggered my love of mystery. As a teenager I devoured popular books on nature and pre-history. I think this stimulated my interest in science and archaeology. As an adult I am motivated by truly great prose and truly bad prose. One inspires me, the other alerts me about what to avoid.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
As a university professor, writing was always part of the game. When I was promoted to the rank of full professor, I felt free to try something new. Writing was my natural choice, and a novel seemed a good vehicle to bring my somewhat obscure science to a broader audience. I’d just worked on a serial murder case, so I had the basis for a storyline. And off I went.
Bones Are Forever takes my character, forensic anthropologist, Temperance Brennan, to the small town of Yellowknife in the far north of Canada, and into the high stakes world of diamond mining. The trail starts in Montreal with the pursuit of a woman thought responsible for the deaths of her own infants. While on the tundra, Tempe and Detective Ryan are joined in the investigation by a sergeant from the RCMP, a gentleman with whom Tempe has shared some awkward history. Uh, oh!
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
I hope they acquire an understanding of how it feels to work with forensic science, both in the lab and in the field. Of the complexities underlying the concepts of guilt and innocence. Of the tensions created when aboriginal and industrialized world views clash. But most of all I hope they enjoy the ride!
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
I most admire those who can create characters we care about, settings that move us, and stories that keep our hearts racing and our fingers turning the pages. Some of my favorite modern writers include John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, Pat Conroy, PD James, James Lee Burke, and, of course, my daughter, Kerry Reichs.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Currently I am under contract for 19 Temperance Brennan novels (currently working on number 16), and 5 Tory Brennan young adult novels (currently working, with my son, Brendan Reichs on number 4). And the TV series Bones, for which I am a producer, is about to air its 8th season. That should keep me busy for a while.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Write. Write. Write. Read. Read. Read.
Kathy, thank you for playing.
About the Contributor
While still in his twenties, John Purcell opened a second-hand bookshop in Mosman, Sydney, in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Since then he has written, under a pseudonym, a series of very successful novels, interviewed hundreds of writers about their work, appeared at writers’ festivals, on TV (most bizarrely in comedian Luke McGregor’s documentary Luke Warm Sex) and has been featured in prominent newspapers and magazines. Now, as the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au, Australia’s largest online bookseller, he supports Australian writing in all its forms. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two children, three dogs, five cats, unnumbered gold fish and his overlarge book collection. His novel, The Girl on the Page, will be published by HarperCollins Australia in October, 2018.