If you are a book-lover, you undoubtedly have a James Patterson book on your shelf. You may not even know how it got there– We all have at least one. Rightly so, too, as James Patterson is an icon when it comes to American authors. Recently, GQ spoke with Patterson, who revealed he currently has 31 active projects happening all at once! Can you imagine? I’m struggling to write my first novel cohesively. Keep reading to find out just how Patterson handles such a task.
James Patterson admits he lost count a while ago on how many books he’s written now. When talking with GQ, Patterson revealed he is currently working on 31 projects– Yes, you read that correctly. So, just how does he keep track of all of these works? Let’s find out.
GQ asked, “So, how do you keep all of those projects straight?“
“I don’t have a problem with it. When I worked in advertising [at J. Walter Thompson]—and I’ve been clean for over 25 years now, so don’t hold that against me—I ran Thompson New York, I ran Thompson USA, and I was also a worldwide creative director, so there were an awful lot of things to juggle. I don’t even think about it anymore. It is a habit. And I don’t work for a living, I play for a living.
There’s almost nothing that I do that I don’t enjoy doing. I remember when Dolly Parton and I got together [to work on the novel Run, Rose, Run], one of the things we talked about is, we don’t want to do any projects where at the end we say we’re really sorry we did the project. In other words, we think that there’s a high upside.— James Patterson, GQ
Imagine working on a novel with Dolly Parton. I will now be adding that to my bookish bucket list (we all have one, right?) We are thinking the same thing GQ was when asking this next question. How long would someone need to work each day to accomplish something like this? Surely a while, right?
GQ continued, “How many hours a day would you say that you… Well, I was going to say “work,” but I guess I’ll say “play” instead?“
“I do what I do seven days a week. I’ll usually get up at 5:30 and work for an hour. Then, frequently, I will go out and hit a golf ball. They let me onto most of the courses I belong to very early, which is nice. If I come at 6:00, they say, “Go ahead.” I’ll go around for an hour, an hour and a half. Then I’m back here by 8:00, and then I’ll work till 6:00. I’ll take a couple breaks if I need them, which I usually do. And obviously, what that [day] results in is more books than my publisher wants. That’s why I started doing non-fiction, because they said, “Okay, yeah, we can handle one or two non-fiction.”— James Patterson, GQ
Now the question we all are probably craving to know the answer to– How on earth does someone come up with this many ideas. I remember coming up with the idea for my first novel, and that was like running a marathon. I wonder how you’d come up with 31 ideas at once!
GQ asked, “How do you come up with all your different ideas?“
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s a sickness. I’m going to donate my brain to science and they can check it out and figure it out. I don’t know what it is. I have a folder in my office here, and it has a clever title: “Ideas.” It’s about nine inches thick, and on every page, there could be anywhere from one to 10 or 11 ideas. Every once in a while when I’m thinking about writing another book, I’ll start looking through it and maybe jotting down six or seven of the things that are in there.
Just thinking, can I turn that into a story? Every once in a while, there’s something that’s been in there for a long time, and, all of a sudden, I know how to tell a story around it. If you can write beginnings and ends, you can make a nice living as a writer. If you write middles, you win Pulitzers and Nobel Prizes and stuff. But with beginnings and ends, you’re going to do okay.”— James Patterson, GQ
Read the full interview with GQ here.
Patterson’s latest project with Mike Lupica, The House of Wolves, releases January 9, 2023. The 31 projects he is actively working on consist of eight to 10 fiction books, one to two non-fiction works, and also three to five young adult books. It is safe to say we will be seeing a lot of James Patterson hitting the shelves!
Looking for more author insights? Click here to see our latest Facebook live interview with author Barbara Sontheimer.