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James Patterson talks writing advice, more with Kidsday

Author James Patterson with Kidsday reporters, from left,

Author James Patterson with Kidsday reporters, from left, Alanah Pullo, Erica Montemarano, Sebastian Garcia and Carissa Scarry. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

We spoke with bestselling adult and children’s book author James Patterson when he was in Manhattan recently. We are fans of the “Middle School,” “I Funny” and “Treasure Hunters” book series. His latest book for kids is “Word of Mouse,” which he co-wrote with Chris Grabenstein.

Have you ever started writing a book you never finished?

A couple of times. Not too often, but every once in a while it’s not working. I outline, so that makes it easier. If you do a good outline, then the book would probably work.

How are you able to write more than a dozen books a year?

I’m fast. Ten or so I write with another writer and that sort of . . . This year I wrote 2,500 pages of outlines and all the outlines are three or four drafts. I don’t work for a living; I play for a living. So I love to do it. That’s what I like to do when I get up in the morning. I wrote this morning when I came here. And when you’re thinking about what you want to do, look for something you love to do and then try to get to do it.

Is there any book you’ve written that you would like to rewrite?

I think you can rewrite all of them and probably make it better. But for me, I would rather tell another story. We’re working on another “Middle School” movie now. There are a couple things here that I would have done differently in the movie.

You were living in New York. Why did you move to Florida?

It’s warm. That’s the main reason. I’ve had snow for a long time. I grew up in upstate New York, Newburgh. Then my family moved to Massachusetts — that was even colder and snowier. I like to visit snow. I come up here for a day or two. Well [my son] Jack is in Rhode Island in school so we come visit him in Rhode Island.

What’s your advice for kids who are interested in writing?

Read a lot. Read a lot of different kinds of things. Pretty much any book, especially any pretty good books, there should be a different voice. There’s somebody else talking to you unless they’re imitating other stuff, there’s a voice there. You just want to hear all those different kinds of voices and then you begin to realize that that’s part of what makes books special or movies or anything. That voice, that tone. Somebody’s talking to you, somebody’s giving you their way of looking at the world. That’s part of it and then the other part of it is write a lot. Just keep writing. . . . The more you write the better you get.

Has technology changed the way you write?

No. It changes the way people read. It’s interesting. Right now the studies are saying that people don’t retain as much when they read it on a machine as they do with a book. That I think will change over time as people get more used to holding a tablet in their hands, but no, it hasn’t changed for me. It’s changed because there’s less bookstores. Like Border’s. A lot of bookstores were put out of business.

Do you prefer writing for kids or adults?

Right now I actually prefer writing for kids. I think it’s really important that kids read a lot. If the kids are already good readers — and this is true with [my son] Jack — it’s good that they read more broadly, not just read, just keep reading more kinds of things because then it gives you a . . . you get a feeling of how complicated life is.

Did you ever have writer’s block? How did you continue?

I don’t have writer’s block. I work on a lot of things at the same time. So if something is like, if I’m stuck I just go and work on another book that I’m doing. I’m very different in that way. Not better, but different than a lot of writers.

Did you have a teacher who inspired you in school?

My grandmother inspired me because my grandmother was one of those people who said you can do it. She would say certain things like . . . I wanted to be a basketball player and she said it’s not going to happen, and I could dunk, believe it or not, when I was in high school. But she said you’re not going to be a basketball player, but there’s a lot of things you can be. No teachers, but my grandmother.

How come your name is James and not Jimmy?

It is both. My mother always called me Jimmy. Jimmy is kind of a nickname. Not too many people call me James.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like my family. I really like my wife and my son. I like to spend time with them a lot. I read a lot, and I like to golf.

You were in the movie “Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life.” What was your favorite scene in the movie?

Oh, the one I’m in. That’s actually not one of the good ones. There are a lot of good scenes in the movie. There’s something emotional that happens in the movie and I think those scenes . . . Some people are going to cry a little bit in the movie. I think those are my favorite scenes. And the kids were great.

You had an amazing part in the movie. Do you wish you had more parts?

No. That was plenty. It was fine. It was a little smile.

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