James Patterson: Pop Culture's A-List Author

James Patterson: Pop Culture's A-List Author

by Caitlin Bergmann
James Patterson is not only one of the world’s best-selling authors, he’s become an integral part of our pop culture. With his very own Harvard Business School case study, creation of the slogan “I’m a Toys 'R' Us kid,” a cartoon cameo on “The Simpsons” and a weekly poker game with ABC’s very own best-selling thriller writer Rick Castle, he’s hard to miss.

James Patterson with Alex Cross actor Morgan FreemanTwo of the best-selling detective series of the past decade — Alex Cross (played on film by Oscar winner Morgan Freeman) and Women’s Murder Club (starring Angie Harmon on TV) — have already been hits on the big and small screens. Now the Lifetime Original Movie “Sundays at Tiffany’s” becomes Patterson’s eighth title on film.

Read on to see what he has to say about bringing his best sellers to Hollywood and whether we’ll ever see “Sundays at Tiffany’s” on the Great White Way.

How important is casting the right actors to bring your books to life on screen?

I knew right away that Alyssa Milano would be great as Jane: smart and funny, good-natured and approachable. When Stockard Channing signed on, I knew this would be a home run. With seasoned actors, you just know who’s going to be a great fit.

Do you like to become involved in the movie’s creative process?

On my website (jamespatterson.com), we often ask who should play who in upcoming adaptations, like the Cross, Maximum Ride, and Witch & Wizard movies, all of which are being worked on as we speak. And I take everyone’s suggestions into consideration when we go to meet with directors and actors in Hollywood.

So did you take a lot of heat from fans when Angie Harmon (a brunette) was cast as Lindsay Boxer (a blonde) in “Women’s Murder Club”?

Angie Harmon was great, hair follicles aside. Too bad we didn’t see more of her.

Are there still talks of adapting “Sundays at Tiffany’s” into a Broadway musical? (Can Playbills become Pattersonbills?)

Yes. I’m pretty pleased with how that’s shaping up, and some of the songs are quite good and catchy … Can’t wait until it hits 42nd Street (or on whatever street it ends up on around Times Square).

“Sundays at Tiffany’s” is a far cry from the scenes Alex Cross or Lindsay Boxer encounter day to day.

Civvies are people, too!

Is it a nice break for you to step away from the thrillers and show your lighter side in these types of stories from time to time?

My main objective when pulling readers into a story is to get people to feel, and I hope that comes across in “Sundays.” It seemed to with the fans back when the book first came out in 2008.

What’s so special about this story for you?

I love writing about New York. Michael Bennett doesn’t get to see some of the grander parts of the city, as he’s usually busy negotiating for hostages and taking care of his 10 kids. Jane (Alyssa Milano) and her mom (Stockard Channing) are lucky enough to take in the St. Regis Hotel, Central Park, and of course, the huge Tiffany’s store on Fifth Avenue.

You’ve been poker buddies with Rick Castle on ABC’s “Castle,” alongside Michael Connelly and Stephen J. Cannell. All right, spill: Who wins these weekly “famous author poker nights”?

I’m not much of a gambler. I love sports and I’ve been known to hit the golf course. I like to think I put on a good poker face, though, for the cameras. Stephen Cannell will be missed — he was really a joy to get to know.

OK, let’s settle this bet when it comes to literary kids who can kick some butt: the Maximum Ride flock versus Harry Potter and his fellow wizard pals and the “Twilight” kids in a superpower showdown. Who’s winning?

If they’re fighting under the New Order, the fascist regime from my Witch & Wizard series, I’m not sure any of them would stand a chance. That world is pretty brutal. Hermione Granger might be able to take on Fang and Iggy — I’ll give her that.

Suspension of disbelief for a moment: Time travel is now possible. What would you tell your 18-year-old self?

Same thing I would tell any 18-year-old (provided they are as witty and good-looking as I was back then): Keep your head down and work hard, and keep what you’d like to do in life in sight. I was finally able to pull off my dream job for a living, but the path was twisty, to say the least.