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The Author Speaks

Interview With James Patterson

Best-selling writer talks about his new books, career changes and how to get a child to read

Q. You've been accused of operating more like a CEO than an author, because you work with cowriters. It's also been said that you churn out books like a factory.

A. That's just total nonsense. I am so incredibly involved. I write the outlines; and if you read the outline, you've read the novel. I insist on getting pages [from cowriters] every couple of weeks. I will edit and guide them along the way. Once I get the first draft, I will write anywhere from one to seven, eight, nine drafts. CEOs don't do that. I'm very, very hands on. If it's a factory, it's a factory where everything is hand-tooled.

Q. You made a big career shift in midlife. What can you advise others?

A. If you're still working, or if you have time, you prepare. If you want to write, you write, write, write. I have a friend who was also in advertising. And five or six years before he retired — and he retired fairly young, in his 50s — he took acting lessons and never told a soul. When he retired, he became a full-time actor, off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway. He prepared, he made sure that when he did retire, he was ready to do this.

And I think the other thing that's useful is, don't speculate about something; try it. We make judgments a lot of times based on faulty information or almost no information.

Q. Is there something you aspire to write or to do that you haven't done yet?

A. I'm looking forward to creating a couple of big hit movie franchises [based on my books].

Q. I know you were not very involved in the two Alex Cross movies that starred Morgan Freeman [Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls].

A. I wasn't involved at all. Morgan Freeman is great, but I felt they were clunky as movies. I'm very involved in the new Alex Cross movie: We're going to be shooting in August, with Tyler Perry [in the lead role] and Matthew Fox from Lost.

The trick with the movie scene is that there are so many people you have to deal with. Really, nobody gets in the way of my books. The editor is helpful, but not in the way.

Q. Some people are saying that Tyler Perry is not enough of an alpha male to play Alex Cross.

A. It's going to be a little controversial. I've seen Tyler perform in the theater, and he's real powerful. And I think his movies are very emotional and can be very funny. He's got a lot on the line here, and he wouldn't do this if he weren't certain it was going to work well.

Next: James Patterson's take on writing murder stories. >>

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