James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell: Author One-on-One
In this Amazon exclusive, we brought together blockbuster authors James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell and asked them to interview each other. Find out what two of the top authors of their genres have to say about their characters, writing process, and more.
Patricia Cornwell is the former Director of Applied Forensic Science at the National Forensic Academy, and a member of the Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital's National Council, where she is an advocate for psychiatric research. She is the author of sixteen previous Kay Scarpetta mysteries, five non-Scarpetta novels (including At Risk), and Portrait of a Killer. Read on to see Patricia Cornwell's questions for James Patterson, or turn the tables to see what Patterson asked Cornwell.
Cornwell: James, your questions were so good, I'm going to ask you similar ones. Let's start with why you write? Do you love it or love having done it? What motivates you?
Patterson: I truly love writing. I sometimes think about my grandfather when I reflect on this. When I was a boy, I lived in a town on the Hudson River. During the summers, my grandfather would take me once a week on his frozen food and ice cream delivery route. We'd be up at four in the morning packing up the truck, and by five we'd be on our way. Driving a delivery truck isn't the most glamorous job in the world, but every morning, my grandfather would drive over the Storm King Mountain toward West Point, and he'd be singing at the top of his voice. And he told me this: "Jim," he said, "when you grow up, I don't care if you're a truck driver or a famous surgeon—just remember that when you go over the mountain to work in the morning, you've got to be singing." Writing stories keeps me singing. Writing to me isn't work, and I like that a ton.
Cornwell: What is your routine when you're facing your next novel? What is the process like for you, and what is your favorite part of it? Least favorite?
Patterson: I like to have a lot of ideas in the air at one time. I've got around 20 manuscripts sitting in my office right now, in some degree of completion. It's a lot of material, a lot of stories. My least favorite part? Hmm. Maybe sharpening pencils? Actually, I’ve always kind of liked sharpening pencils. I don’t mean to seem too over the top about this, but I really wouldn’t change any of it.
Cornwell: What do you and Alex Cross have in common? How are you different?
Patterson: We're both family-oriented guys. I think it's a real treat to be able to get along with your wife every day, which I do; my wife and I really have trouble being apart for very long. And I think readers will agree Alex is generally doing better in the romance department. One difference between us would be that I'm much more content to sit around and write. I think Alex would get a little bored on a "ride-along" with me.
Cornwell: What inspired you to create Alex Cross?
Patterson: Hardly anyone knows it but when I started the first Alex Cross novel, Alex was a woman named Alexis. After 100 pages or so, I changed the character to Alex. When I was a kid growing up, my grandparents had a small restaurant and the cook was an African-American woman who eventually moved into our house. All through my growing up period I spent a lot of time with this woman's family. They were funny, wise, the food was great, so was the music, and the family is at least part of the inspiration for the Crosses.
Cornwell: What's the one thing a reader has said that you've never forgotten and perhaps found startling?
Patterson: I'm sure you've had this, too, Patricia, but the one comment that gets me every time is hearing people say my books have them reading again. I know sometimes you and I get some heat for being as popular as we are, and are saddled with that old equation that says if you're a bestseller, you must be lowbrow. But I frankly don't think there’s anything more meaningful than hearing that I've turned a person back into a reader (or in the case of younger readers, got them started).
Cornwell: How about you? You're the one with all the movies! Good experience or not?
Patterson: Sounds like we're on the same page there, Patricia. I definitely feel like some past projects didn't quite live up to their potential. And I likewise have hopes for a couple of movies in the works: the third Alex Cross movie, and the very first Maximum Ride movie, which has Avi Arad (producer of Spider Man), Catherine Hardwicke (director of Twilight), and Don Payne (writer for The Simpsons) on board. There's also a very promising TV series based on a new book I've written that's being developed with CBS and Imagine.
Bestseller Patterson offers nothing new on a theme he himself has already done to death in his 16th novel featuring detective Alex Cross (after Cross Country), in which Cross takes on yet another barbaric serial killer, this one known as Zeus. Word that an estranged 24-year-old niece, Caroline Cross, has been murdered disturbs Cross's birthday party. To make that horror even worse, the killer fed Caroline's body through a wood chipper. Cross soon discovers that Caroline supported herself as a high-price escort for Washington, D.C.'s elite, and that other women who served similar clients have turned up missing. Cross's investigation soon attracts the attention of the feds, and he concludes that Zeus is better connected than most of the psychopaths he's brought to justice. A subplot centering on a health threat to another member of Cross's family adds padding. Readers expecting the killer to be identified through insightful profiling will be disappointed.
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