James Patterson: Give Them What They Want

Author on his career in advertising, controversial methods and huge success.

ByABC News
March 13, 2008, 1:32 PM

March 13, 2008— -- When you put James Patterson near a pad of paper, you get movies like "Kiss the Girls," or television shows like ABC's "Women's Murder Club." But more than anything, you get books: rows and rows and rows of books. More, it seems, than even James Patterson can count. He says he has "no idea" how many titles he's authored.

For the record, the number is 48, unless a new one has come out since this piece started that we don't know about.

"I don't do the counting," he said. "But every once in a while someone will hit me with one of these statistics. And I go, 'Oh, that's interesting.'"

Interesting that James Patterson has sold nearly 150 million books. Interesting that has had more No. 1 bestsellers in the past five years than John Grisham, Tom Clancy, JK Rowling and Dan Brown combined. Very interesting that last year, one out of every thirty-five books sold was a Patterson title.

How is he so prolific? Patterson, who writes by hand, says he gets up early to work.

"I think what I do is put together a good story," Patterson said.

Millions agree. This blunt, supremely confident man is the creator of the wildly popular Alex Cross crime novels. Two of them, "Kiss the Girls" and "Along Came Spider," were turned into Morgan Freeman movies.

He also writes the "Women's Murder Club" novels, now a television series. And lately he has been focusing on books for teenagers with his "Maximum Ride" series.

The main characters of these three series are a black man, a group of women and children with wings a pretty diverse mix from this white 60 year-old writer.

"I wish we could evolve to this a little bit the similarities between us are a lot more than the differences and we seem to really be just blowing up the differences and forgetting about the similarities," Patterson said.

If his protagonists are different, the books all share a style that is distinctly Patterson: direct and to the point. He writes in short chapters that can be just a page or two long.