Although Mr. Patterson has been as good as any other top author at
marketing his own identity, he said his strength was in storytelling.
"I spin yarns," he said. "I love it. I have a folder with several
hundred ideas for stories. They just come and I’ll say: ‘There is a
story here.’ "
During a visit to Chapel Hill, N.C., for
example, he saw posters asking for help in finding missing women. That
led to the plot for "Kiss the Girls," a 1995 thriller about two
murderers who compete to kill girls. The book is in the Alex Cross
series, which is centered on the exploits of a black detective.
Patterson said he often worked with co-authors because he believed that
he was more proficient at creating the story line than at executing it.
"I found that it is rare that you get a craftsman and an idea
person in the same body," Mr. Patterson said. "With me, I struggle like
crazy. I can do the craft at an acceptable level, but the ideas are
what I like." He said the co-authors received a flat fee and, most
often, credit on the book cover.
In novel writing, as in advertising, Mr. Patterson wants the final
say. Once there is a first draft of a book that has a co-author, "I may
ask the collaborator for a polish," he said.
"Then I do the remaining rewrites," he added – sometimes as many as seven.