If one definition of creativity is finding a way to connect things that are seemingly unconnected, then pairing thriller writer James Patterson with the perpetually joyful country music legend Dolly Parton has to be among the most creative book-writing partnerships out there. And it worked beautifully for the novel Run, Rose, Run, out March 7, with an accompanying soundtrack by Parton out March 4.
While Patterson, 74, is the mastermind behind the novel’s fast-flowing plotlines and cliff-hanger chapter endings, you can hear Parton, 76, loud and clear in the two main characters. AnnieLee Keyes, a feisty young singer, hitchhikes her way to Nashville carrying little more than “big dreams and faded jeans” (the title of one of the songs). Then there’s Ruthanna Ryder, a seasoned country-music megastar who takes AnnieLee under her wing. It’s suspenseful and fun, with a hefty dose of romance.
How did this collaboration come about?
JP: I’ve always admired Dolly, and I had this germ of an idea for a novel. And so I contacted her, and she said, “Well, come on down and let’s talk.”
DP: And we talked and we talked and we talked — and we really found that we liked each other, and I really liked the idea that he had. Of course, I moved to Nashville when I was 18, so I understood the young character AnnieLee. And now that I’ve been in the business so long, I relate to Ruthanna. He had all these great ideas.
JP: Dolly contributed a lot to exactly what the story should be.
DP: Well, but you’re the one that gets all the mystery in there. I didn’t have as mysterious a life as either one of those women did.
What was the writing process like?
DP: He would send me pages, then I would get great ideas for songs, and send the lyrics back. But he hadn’t heard any of the music, with the instruments and the melodies, so I invited him down for a big listening party. I was just a nervous wreck, hoping he’d like the music, but it really turned out good.
JP: When we met, she said, “I’ve written thousands of country songs. I could write one right here standing on my head. Want to see?” And I’ll tell you, right after that meeting, Dolly sent songs and I was, like, Damn, I better get going here. And sometimes you would write songs that would give me ideas for a couple of new chapters, or for just a phrase.