Brendan Reichs, co-writer of the YA Fiction Virals series, shares with us some insights, favorites, and confessions of his dynamic author life. After 3 years as a litigation attorney, Brendan wisely abandoned his career to co-write the popular Virals series with best-selling author and highly regarded forensic anthropologist, Kathy Reichs. The dynamic duo is 4 books into the series, which includes Virals, Seizure, Code and Exposure; the 5th book, Terminal is due next year. The books are complex and highly entertaining with a satisfying mixture of science fiction, suspense, adventure, crime and drama.
Brendan recently returned from San Diego Comic Con 2014, where he participated in the coveted “What’s Hot in Young Adult Fiction” panel. Read the excerpts from our interview with Brendan to find out where he and other YA authors hang out and to discover his Harry Potter transgressions. Learn more about Brendan at www.brendanreichs.com.
Brendan Reichs: The concept came first, but only barely. First I had an actual brush with canine parvovirus, and that experience led to the central conceit of the Virals books. A puppy I’d just adopted came down with the nasty little virus. At the time I was already looking for a new career, and my mother and I were discussing the possibility of a YA series involving forensics and a teenage character in the mold of Tempe Brennan. But we hadn’t hit on the right idea yet. The science-fiction angle of a weaponized canine virus infecting our main characters was the missing piece. We sold the idea immediately and I quit that day.
The four main characters of the Virals series, Tory, Ben, Hi, and Shelton, are a pack of overtly proud science geeks. In the first three novels of the series, this self -proclaimed “elite confederacy of nerds” is ostracized and mocked. In the fourth novel, Exposure, there seems to be a change in the tide at Bolton as the pack gains notoriety. What’s been the response from readers as the nerds become more popular?
I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the Virals overcame a few significant challenges in the first three books that have garnered both media attention and the gratitude of their peers. It’s hard to hate a group of nerds who may have just saved your life! And I think our readers liked the change of pace. I don’t enjoy writing the same social setting over and over again. It becomes tired. Changing the characters from outcasts to accepted just seemed to be more interesting, creatively. Though, to be clear, they still aren’t exactly the coolest kids in school. That will never change.
Tory is the sole heroine and the leader of the pack. Why did you choose a female lead?
It was always our intention of having a female lead character in the mold of a young Temperance Brennan. That was never in question from the first. But surrounding her with only male friends was something we hit on later in the planning stages. It just seemed to emphasize her isolation a bit more, while keeping the stories balanced and letting me have a little fun. Hiram is basically my personality taking part in the adventures, so I had to have that!
The series includes a substantial amount of science and technical information. Briefly describe the research process.
It’s intense. We want to get the science correct, above all else—it’s essentially our calling card. I’m constantly hunting online and in journals for news forensic techniques that can be executed in the guerilla style of the Virals’ investigations. It certainly helps that Kathy happens to be an expert in this area!
Your co-writer for this series is best-selling author Kathy Reichs, who is also your mom. How difficult is it to maintain a professional relationship?
For us, it’s surprisingly easy. When working, it’s actually harder for us to remember our personal relationship, since we both become so invested in the work. Every day is not a hug festival by any means, but we both have thick skin and can take criticism, which is probably what saves us. But don’t get me wrong; we have a lot of fun too. It’s been a great experience overall.
Have you conceptualized a soundtrack for Virals? What artists would you like to have included?
No one has ever asked me that before! I think Tory and the other Virals would lean more toward the rock scene, but nothing dreary or too emo. I could see a lot of Lumineers, Coldplay, and MGMT for Shelton and Ben. Tory would be into Lorde and Bastille. Probably Robyn too. And Hi would rock some One Direction and Taylor Swift. Kit loves Pearl Jam, of course, and his daughter absolutsely would too. Respect where it’s due.
This seems to be a particularly dynamic and optimistic time for YA Fiction authors. How would you describe the comradery and support amongst your peers and colleagues? Do you hold secret meetings?
No one has more fun than we do. The network of great YA authors is both deep and wonderful. I can honestly say that 99% of them are a delight to be around, and it makes doing publicity a thousand times easier. Interacting with other YA authors is one of the highlights of my job. And yes we do have secret meetings in underground bunkers abutting the Earth’s core.
Where is your favorite place and time of day to write? Do you have any superstitions or habits during writing (drinking Diet Coke, perhaps?)
I like to write late at night, at my desk, with Diet Coke coursing directly into my veins. But with two young kids I have now—unhappily—moved those sessions to mid-morning, where it works out okay. Gotta sleep at night when you have children, because you’re up with the dawn.
Do you have time to read? If so, what are you reading now, any recommendations?
Not as much as I once did, but I try to read as often as I can. I am currently reading Icons by Margie Stohl and Unbreakable by Kami Garcia. I recommend them both. And—I’m ashamed to admit this—I’m plowing through the Harry Potter books for the first time. I’m on Goblet of Fire. I feel like I just confessed to a crime.
What are 3 of your favorite picture books?
The 5th book, Terminal, is due next year, what’s next?
In Terminal, the Virals go back to explore the experiment that changed them in the first place, while Tory and Ben’s relationship takes front and center. Meanwhile the impossible has happened, as they are forced to confront new Virals intent on challenging them for domination of Charleston. And if that’s not enough, strange government types are following them, hunting their dark secret. It’s an exciting conclusion to the Virals series that will satisfy all Virals fans, both old and new. I hope!
For more on The Virals series by Kathy and Brendan Reichs, read a review of The Virals series.
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