James Patterson Bio: In His Own Words – Video Exclusive, News, Photos
James Patterson is an American author, best known for his psychological thriller novels. He currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. He has sold over 300 million copies of his work, and was the first person to sell one million e-books. Patterson’s stories frequently become adapted for both film and television, with Zoo and Maximum Ride the latest to be depicted on screen. He is frequently dubbed ‘The Planet’s Best-Selling Author.’
James Patterson Bio: EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION
James Brendan Patterson was born on March 22, 1947 (now age 69) in Newburgh, New York to Isabelle and Charles Patterson. His mother was a teacher and homemaker, while his father worked as an insurance salesman.
Patterson attended Manhattan College in the Bronx, where he received a B.A. in English and graduated summa cum laude. Patterson worked his way through school by taking a job at McLean Hospital, a mental institution outside of Cambridge, Massachusetts, he told uInterview. Frequently working night shifts, it was during his trips to the hospital three or four times a week that he would pick up books to read. “Once I could read what I wanted to read, as opposed to what was in the schools,” he confessed. “I really got turned on [to literature].” Patterson jokingly says that he was a “literary snob,” who mostly read the work of James Joyce, Günter Grass, and Jerzy Kosiński.
Patterson continued his education, receiving an M.A. in English from Vanderbilt University. While pursuing his master’s degree, He stumbled upon William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal. Having enjoyed these two contemporary literary works, Patterson felt that he would be able to write similar stories. Patterson has said that his greatest influence is possibly Evan S. Connell’s 1959 novel, Mrs. Bridge.
James Patterson Bio: A CAREER IN ADVERTISING
Despite being a Ph.D. candidate at Vanderbilt, he decided against becoming a college professor, instead taking a position as a copywriter for ad agency J. Walter Thompson (He also concurrently pulled a high number for draft in the Vietnam War, another reason to no longer stay in school). The company behind the famous Kraft grilled cheese sandwich ads, Patterson joined in the 70s, and he himself was behind several campaigns as a creative director, lending his creativity to Burger King’s “Aren’t You Hungry?” advertisements and Ford LTD TV spots. He stayed in advertising for twenty-five years, eventually becoming CEO of J. Walter Thompson’s North America division.
While still in advertising he worked on his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, which followed the story of a Nashville newspaperman on the hunt for a murderer, and featured his now famous African American detective, Alex Cross. Published in 1976, the novel was rejected thirty-one times before being picked up by publisher Little, Brown, and Company. Patterson’s work would later go on to win the Edgar Award for best novel from the Mystery Writers of America. Ironically, compared to his later astronomical success, the work is considered a dud, having sold only 10,000 copies.
Patterson would go on to develop the Alex Cross character into a full-fledged series, penning the first of the franchise, Along Came a Spider, in 1993. This was also his first New York Times best-seller, a title he would go on to claim a total of 67 times. Along Came a Spider was later adapted into a film, starring Morgan Freeman in the titular role in 2001. Tyler Perry also had a turn as Cross in a 2012 adaptation.
Patterson officially retired from advertising in 1996.
James Patterson Bio: AN AUTHOR AND AN AD MAN
Although Patterson left J. Walter Thompson to focus solely on the craft of writing, he brought with him a keen eye for promoting his work. While creating his Alex Cross franchise, he convinced Little, Brown to put up the money for a television commercial, according to an interview with Vanity Fair. While the cost was high, Patterson had experience from working on the Burger King campaign. Buying broadcast time in New York, Washington, and Chicago, places he thought would eat up his new thriller, the gamble was successful, and there are currently over five million copies of Along Came a Spider in print.
Patterson continued to push buttons with his publisher when he suggested the release of multiple titles in a year; his suggestion caused sales to increase rather than the predicted drop.
Vanity Fair writer Todd Purdum described Patterson’s process as a formula: pages that have many paragraphs, paragraphs with lots of periods, but very few pages in a chapter. Every chapter contains an introduction summary of what previously happened, and the book ends with a “free preview.” This structure is similar to long-form television drama. Patterson told uInterview, while at a press junket for the television adaptation of his book Zoo, that the model used in his books is one that is suited for the small screen. ” [mystery writer] Michael Connelly says about my stuff, ‘What Jim does is every single chapter is designed to move both the characterization and the plot forward, every chapter, and turn on the movie projector in our heads,'” he said.
Patterson is also known for working with co-authors, sending them a detailed, 80-page outline for a novel. Once they aid in the writing process, he then looks over drafts multiple times, often with copious notes and revisions.
He has written 147 novels since 1976 and his books account for one in seventeen hardcover novels sold in the United States; he is even responsible for thirty percent of Little, Brown’s revenues. Following his Edgar Award, Patterson has gone on to win the BCA Mystery Guild’s Thriller of the Year, the International Thriller of the Year Award, and the Children’s Choice Book Award for Author of the Year. His book sales have surpassed that of Stephen King (with whom he has a somewhat contentious relationship), J.K. Rowling, John Grisham (The Firm), and Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code). In 2008 he became British libraries’ most borrowed author, only just losing the title in 2013.
James Patterson Bio: ADVOCATE FOR YOUNG-ADULT LITERACY
When Jack Patterson, his son, appeared uninterested in reading as a child, Patterson began to also write novels geared towards children. In 2009, he made a deal to co-write eleven books for adults and six for young adults by the end of 2012; his young adult works, Maximum Ride, Witch&Wizard, Treasure Hunters, and I Funny, have also achieved incredible success, with a film adaptation of Maximum Ride set for online release on August 20, 2016.
In addition to penning children’s work, Patterson is also an advocate for literacy, donating more than one million books to students, as well as $1.75 Million to school libraries around the United States. In 2015, his philanthropic efforts earned him the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. Not satisfied with providing just monetary assistance, Patterson also founded ReadKiddoRead.com, a website geared towards helping parents and educates excite children about reading. At Little, Brown, Patterson started Jimmy Patterson, a children’s book imprint.
He has donated $26 million dollars to both he and his wife’s alma maters, and has created several scholarships aimed to serve those entering the field of education.
James Patterson Bio: PERSONAL LIFE
Patterson splits his time between his home on the Hudson River in Westchester County, New York and Palm Beach, Florida. He is married to Susan Solie and has a son, Jack Patterson, who was born 1998. Jack currently attends The Hotchkiss School. Patterson is a Roman Catholic.
He has been known to be somewhat difficult to work with, as he is especially meticulous when it comes to his work. Bill Robinson, co-president of James Patterson Entertainment (the division that heads Patterson commercials) recounted to Todd Purdum how, after making a marketing suggestion counter to Patterson’s wishes, the author crisply replied, “I’m sorry, Bill, did you recently write an international best-seller that I’m not aware of?”
Watch James full uInterview:
Patterson has accumulated another $95 million in earnings in the June 2015 to June 2016 revenue period, according to a recent Time article; this continues to make Patterson one of the highest-paid authors in the world.