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James Patterson has written the ‘world’s first’ self-destructing book

James Patterson has written a self-destructing book to create a thrilling reading experience, with a countdown clock at the top of the screen ticking the time until the entire book disappears. Readers can also see where others are in the book and “steal time” from those reading competitors.


Exclusive interview by Mary Yuhas


James Patterson holds the New York Times record for the most bestselling novels by a single author, which is also a Guinness record.
In 2010, the New York Times Magazine featured him on its cover and hailed him as having “transformed book publishing.” For the past decade, Patterson has been devoting more and more of his time to championing books and reading. His website, ReadKiddoRead.com is designed to help parents, teachers and librarians ignite the next generations excitement about reading. Patterson’s Book Bucks programs provide gift certificates to be used at independent local book stores. He has also donated 650,000 books to soldiers at home and overseas. He has donated scholarships in teacher education at twenty-two schools including Vanderbilt University, the University of Wisconsin and Manhattan College. Mr. Patterson’s awards for adult and children’s literature include the Edgar Award, the International Thriller of the Year Award and the Children’s Choice Award for Author of the Year. Mr. Patterson received a bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College and a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University. He lives in Palm Beach with his wife, Sue, and his son, Jack.
James Patterson  credit David Burnett

James Patterson; photo by David Burnett


LitVote: Your first novel “The Thomas Berryman Number” was published in 1976. It won an Edgar. What do you think of the book now when you revisit it? (The Edgar Allen Poe Awards or Edgars are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America to honor the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television, film and theater published or produced the previous year.)

James: I love the picture on the back of the book. I look so young, probably because I was so young. I think Berryman is still is the best written novel I’ve done. I think the story is a bit convoluted, which of course endears it to my fellow mystery writers. I don’t think the story is as strong as the ones I’ve done since then. Winning the award was a huge surprise. I remember when I won the Edgar at the Commodore Hotel I said, “I guess I’m a writer now.” I knew I could do this thing (writing) at a certain level.

LitVote: You’ve sold ever 300 million books worldwide. Is there a single or multiple discipline that you apply to each book that you feel has led to your huge success as an author?

James: I like to pretend I’m sitting across from somebody, just an audience of one, and I don’t want them to get up until the story is finished.

I try to use the notion of highest common denominator for all my novels. I want a mainstream audience, but I want to create something that’s at the top of the food chain… not at the bottom or the middle.

LitVote: What do your readers tell you they like best about your books?

James: I think two things that come up again and again are characters they want to follow and know more about, and pace. As the Brits say about my books, the pages practically turn themselves.

LitVote: Not only do you write thrillers for adults, you’ve written 35 books for children and teens. How do you come up with so many ideas?

James: For some reason, I don’t find coming up with ideas very difficult. It seems to be my strong suit. I have a folder in my office which is about nine inches thick full of new ideas. I’m writing another outline just this week. I don’t know where all this inspiration comes from. When I was a kid, we lived in the woods, and I wandered endlessly telling myself stories.

Patterson Hope To DieLitVote: You are well known for the lengthy outlines (60 – 80 pages) that you write before you begin a book. Are you able to describe what these outlines are like?

James: Basically the outline is the book. If you read one of my outlines, you’ll get the whole story. I try to make every chapter a scene.

I try to capture one nugget and try to build a scene around it.

LitVote: What is the biggest mistake most first time authors make?

James: I would say the mistake is not outlining, or not spending enough time on the outline. In most cases writers would save themselves a lot of heartache, and an unbelievable amount of time, if they would simply outline first. I think that is the biggie in terms of writer mistakes.

LitVote: Why do you write with other authors?

James: I think people are interested in this because for whatever reason they can’t fathom that somebody works differently than they do, or differently from the way they think everyone else should write. Collaboration can be easily understood – just think about Gilbert and Sullivan, or Lennon and McCartney, or Woodward & Bernstein. There are an inordinate number of successful collaborations. I was in Hollywood once and one of my books was being turned into a TV series.

There were ten writers collaborating. So what I do isn’t really all that unusual. Frequently in movies and TV, you have teams collaborating.

In advertising, it’s writer and art director, or writer and producer. The big lesson of the digital age is the power of collaboration.

LitVote: How do you choose your coauthors?

James: Coauthors are mostly people I have known for a period of time. I know they are good writers and I can work well with them. It’s almost always people I already know.

LitVote: What marketing strategies do you recommend authors use to sell their books?

James: If a lot of people weren’t interested in the last James Patterson book, the marketing is not going to fool them when a new book comes out. All marketing can do is communicate, there’s a new book and what kind of book it is. A lot of the apocryphal stuff written about my use of marketing is pure gibberish. I set the “Women’s Murder Club” in San Francisco because I wanted to write about San Francisco, not because I thought it would be a terrific marketing move.

LitVote: Is there anything you’ve learned not to do over your years as an author?

James: Unfortunately I keep forgetting the lessons I’ve learned and have to relearn them. I think the thing I’m most guilty of is losing focus while I’m writing a new book or outline. I always want to be conscious that somebody is out there – a potential reader – and I have to hold their interest for several hours.

It would be useful for some writers to craft a novel the way they would a short story. My original models for my fiction are very tight novels like “Mrs. Bridge,” “ Mr. Bridge,” “Steps,” and “The Painted Bird.”

Patterson desk

James’ Desk

LitVote: Do you immediately know if a book has the “right stuff” to make it and if so, what is the “right stuff?”

James: The three rules of real estate are location, location, location.

My rule for writing commercial fiction is story, story, story. The key to writing suspense is to raise questions that the reader absolutely, positively must have answered.

LitVote: Your latest venture is film. Murder of a Small Town, is a documentary about the downward spiral of minorities due to the loss of jobs in Pahokee and Belle Glades, Fla. and in your hometown of Newburgh, N.Y. How was this experience and do you plan to produce more films? 

James: I wrote the documentary because I visited Pahokee and Belle Glades, Fla. and Newburgh, N.Y. having given books out there to school kids. I found the kids to be bright and interesting – but I worried that they might become victims to the violence in these small towns.

Films that are hopefully upcoming are: “Zoo” with CBS which will be on this summer; “Middle School The Worst Years of My Life” with CBS as a TV show; and we’re developing “I Funny” with Nickelodeon.


Author Mary Yuhas, is the author of the upcoming memoir, QUIT AND BE QUIET, about growing up with a severely mentally ill mother,  featured three times on Scribd.

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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Sandi Holtcamp says:

    Great interview……

  2. Ruth Hartman Berge says:

    Very interesting comments. I especially like hearing that Mr. Patterson keeps re-learning things. Give me hope 🙂

  3. […] to promote your book? I believe some authors don’t feel confident in marketing their work. In a published interview with the famous mystery author, James Patterson, said, “All marketing can do is communicate […]

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