If you’ve read a single book in your life, there’s a good chance James Patterson wrote it. To date, the prolific and immensely popular author has written 318 books that have collectively sold 425 million copies. Some of his best known thrillers are Kiss the girls and the Alex Cross series have become movies and television series, and his writing spans genres such as historical nonfiction, children’s books, and now, memoirs.
James Patterson by James Patterson: The stories of my life comes out now and full of stories that the author promises will thrill you as much as any of his novels.
“My life started out pretty dramatically,” she explained in an upcoming episode of Get a real job podcast. “I almost died the day I was born.”
The memoirs use Patterson’s distinctive handwriting style, with quick chapters that will amuse you, make you laugh, and then make you cry with the page turn.
“I promise it’s not boring,” Patterson tells Entrepreneur.
Throughout our conversation, Patterson talked about everything from his work habits to his collaboration with former U.S. presidents to the fateful setbacks that made him decide to quit his job. write full time. (It can be said that it was a good decision.) What follows are excerpts from this conversation, which have been edited for extension and clarity.
Related: Best-selling author James Patterson shares his advice for entrepreneurs: “Build a business you never want to retire from”
Hungry dogs run faster
I definitely come from humble beginnings: My father grew up in a poor house in Newburgh, New York. Her mother cleaned the bathrooms and kitchen, and they got a room. And so moving from that kind of poor home experience to the world’s best-selling author, that’s a big leap. That’s a million to one shot. And, you know, I did a novel with Dolly Parton, and she and I became very good friends. He came from a family of twelve in the Tennessee Hills. And let’s talk about this transformation, the kind of success you don’t expect. It is a testament to a little luck and hard work. My grandmother — she was great and was the one who encouraged me — used to say, “Hungry dogs run faster.” So I’ve always been a hungry dog.
Diplomacy in collaborating with former presidents
Well, first things first, I want to make it clear that I’ve written books with Bill Clinton, and I’m a good friend of the Bush family. I go right and left and I don’t really like it when animators talk about politics. But when I’m working with Clinton on our novels, diplomacy isn’t on our list when it comes to ideas. The same goes for Dolly Parton, and there was never a hit on the road with any of them.
Pay to do what you love
When I was young, I worked in a psychiatric hospital. And it was fascinating because I grew up in this small town and the psychiatric hospital had a good number of famous people. They were Harvard doctors and musician James Taylor was actually a patient there. This is before he became famous and used to play in the cafeteria. I started meeting very different people than I was used to, so it broadened my view of the world. And I also started reading like a maniac during quiet nights. And then I started scribbling stories. Someone said, “You’re lucky if you find something in life that you enjoy doing, and then it’s a miracle that someone pays you to do it.” And that was my concert. I love to write and read, and at 25, after my first novel was rejected by 31 publishers, someone said yes. So I was lucky enough to get paid for something I enjoyed doing.
Related: How to Write a Book Like James Patterson
The bottleneck that changed everything
I thought it was presumptuous for me to think I could be a writer, so I worked in advertising. But like I said, I’ve been clean for over 30 years. I became CEO of J. Walter Thompson North American, which was a great gig, and I kept writing alongside it. One day, it was weird, I had a house on the Jersey shore, and I had to go back to New York on a Sunday to work. And I was cursing because it was a beautiful day and the traffic was going 10 miles an hour on the Jersey toll road. And I noticed on the other side of the Turnpike that these cars passed about one every 15 seconds. And I was surprised that it was on the wrong side of the road. I was going in the wrong direction and needed to go the other way. And that’s when I made my decision. I had just lost someone, a woman with brain cancer, and I decided to try to find someone to love again who was just going to write books.
Related: 5 things this self-published author did to sell over 20,000 books with almost no money
About his dealings in Hollywood
I will never write a novel about Hollywood, but if I do, I have the first line: “Hello,” I lied.
His advice for aspiring novelists
I can’t give you any advice on how to write. All I can tell you is what I do. So the best advice I can give you is to go home right now and write. What if you have the feeling of reaching a dead end? Don’t stop. Go to the next chapter. Just leave it at that. Don’t torture yourself because once you get into this kind of panic and your ass starts to harden, it’s useless. Just go to the next chapter. You have a basic idea of what needs to happen. You will succeed in rewriting.