James Patterson, the best selling author on the planet, took a quick break from writing to talk about strong female characters, storytelling and what to expect from Crazy House, the new dystopian thriller he co-authored with Gabrielle Charbonnet, releasing on May 22. 

So, let’s start at the beginning. Tell us a little about Crazy House.

Crazy House takes place in a world under the control of an all-powerful government called The United, where isolated villages referred to as “cells” produce food and other resources vital for survival. My twin protagonists, Becca and Cassie, grow up in one of these cells. Cassie is a rule follower; Becca is reckless. At the beginning of the novel, Becca is kidnapped and sent to a maximum security prison. She is immediately put on death row, even though she’s committed no crime. And that’s just the beginning of Crazy House.

Sounds like we can look forward to another wild ride in this book! Cassie and Becca appear to be opposites, but their bond as girl-power sisters is incredibly strong. Did that inspire the plot or did the plot inspire the characters?

I’d say they inspired each other in turn. I enjoy writing strong female protagonists, so I knew Cassie and Becca would hold their own right from the start. The obstacles they face only serve to underline that strength of character.

We can tell you like these sisters. What do you admire most about them?

Cassie has always fit in, and Becca never has. But as the story progresses, Cassie learns that she has a rebellious side while Becca finds her independence. I admire their ability to grow as they learn more about themselves.

James Patterson © Sue Patterson

What is it about writing a dystopian thriller that appealed to you?  

Dystopian thrillers are an exaggerated version of our reality, but given the current state of the world, might not be as exaggerated as we’d like to think.

Sadly, that’s true. And the girls’ experience in prison as they battled for survival was terrifying! Was there something that inspired that or did it arise as an organic part of the story?

I always knew that I wanted the prison to be part of the story, but some of the details were inspired by my own observations while working in a mental hospital as a college student. I also have a home near Sing Sing, and I visited the prison while writing Crazy House.

We never knew that about you! That explains why this book feels so real. Would you share a favorite scene or line from Crazy House?

I enjoyed writing the few scenes from the warden’s point of view. Getting inside the head of a villain is always fun. Another of my favorite moments is the first time that Becca witnesses an execution, but at the risk of spoiling anything, I’ll leave it at that.

Now that we know more about Crazy House, how is it different from the Maximum Ride series? And what will fans find familiar?

Cassie and Becca have a lot in common with Max. Each of them is fiercely protective of their loved ones, and reluctantly pushed into fighting for a greater cause. But the world of Crazy House is much more isolated than Max’s. While Max has her flock, Cassie and Becca only have each other to rely on.

 

Which character from one of your other books would be most fun to write into Crazy House and why?

I think it would be fun to bring a little levity to the story. Maybe Jacky, from Jacky Ha-Ha, could provide some comedic relief, or little Isaiah from Word of Mouse could pop in. Isaiah would be excellent company in a jail cell.

So true! Love that. So, who did you write Crazy House for?

I wrote it for all fans of YA–teens and adults. I think an older audience will be drawn to this story just as much as younger readers.

What do you love most about being a storyteller?

My goal has always been to write books that readers can’t put down. With kids, in particular, I find it hugely important to give them stories that keep them coming back for more. So when anyone tells me that my books helped foster a passion for reading, that’s the best feeling in the world.

Mission accomplished.