James Patterson wants to keep people reading
BY SHANA MCNALLY
WHEN HE SITS down
to write a book, James
Patterson likes to picture telling a story to
someone sitting across
the table. His hope?
That person won’t get
up until he’s finished
“I really think about the fact that
there’s an audience and I don’t want to
bore them, because I am easily bored,”
Patterson says in a recent telephone interview with The Costco Connection.
There’s little chance of Patterson being
bored, considering everything he has on
his plate. His idea file is ; inches thick, and
at any given point he has ;; to ;; books in
progress. Writing in longhand ;;; days
per year, he churns out kids’ books in five
to six months and adult books in nine
months to a year.
The son of an insurance salesman and
a schoolteacher, Patterson was a copywriter at J. Walter Thompson when he
began writing stories. During his rise to
advertising executive he won the Edgar
Award for Best First Novel—for The
Thomas Berryman Number in ;;;;—after
being turned down by ;; publishers.
His ;;;; novel Along Came a Spider,
his first novel to feature Alex Cross, a
homicide detective and psychologist, also
was his first New York Times best-seller in
fiction. For his current best-seller, The
People vs. Alex Cross, the idea of putting
Cross on trial for murder was irresistible.
“It’s a wild ride,” Patterson says. “The
police are under fire in this book; people
need to remember how hard their jobs are.”
Patterson also does numerous collaborations, the latest of which is the upcoming June ;;;; release The President Is
Missing. Co-authored with former
President Bill Clinton, it is the story of a
president who goes missing while in the
midst of being impeached.
“It should be the most authentic novel
about a president, since a president is deeply
involved in the writing,” Patterson says.
He notes, “My characters are compassionate and family-oriented, and I think
that appeals. They want to be family first,
even if it doesn’t always work out.” This is
true of his series characters, whether it’s
Michael Bennett in the Private series,
Lindsay Boxer and friends in the Women’s
Murder Club series or Alex Cross.
“I identify with Alex—he wants to be a
really good cop and a really good father,
and I want to be a really good writer and a
really good father,” Patterson says. “I just
play and get paid to do it. It’s not really
work; I still get family time since I work
The longtime Costco member and
Palm Beach, Florida, resident also makes
time for golfing, watching movies and
traveling. Of late he has reveled in writing
kids’ books, and he is outspoken about
helping kids become passionate readers
and advancing his philanthropic efforts.
It all started when he discovered his
son, much like Patterson when he was
young, was not a big fan of reading. To
Patterson, kids who don’t like to read just
haven’t found the right book.
To help encourage young readers,
JIMMY Patterson, his children’s book
imprint, focuses on turning kids into life-
long readers. It provides resources, strate-
gies and programs to serve teachers,
parents, librarians and booksellers.
Proceeds go to pro-reading initiatives.
He also started the website Read
KiddoRead.com for parents, teachers and
librarians. It features reviews of books
from a variety of genres and age ranges, a
Facebook community and contributions
from other authors. Patterson has given
away more than ; million books to students (and ;;;,;;; books to U.S. soldiers
at home and overseas).
Additionally, the Patterson Family
Foundation has endowed over ;,;;; college scholarships for teachers and currently funds more than ;;; James
Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships
at more than ;; colleges and universities.
“It’s an incredibly important thing to
do. The goal is to have kids finish one
book and then be ready to start another
one,” Patterson says. “If we don’t keep
kids reading, there’s going to be fallout. If
they are engaged, then they’ll want to
If his legacy is Alex Cross and getting
kids to read, Patterson is absolutely fine
with that. C
James Patterson’s The People vs. Alex Cross
(Item #1203738, 11/20) is available in most
and I think that
appeals. They want
to be family first,
even if it doesn’t
always work out.”