“She didn’t mess around, and neither do I,” Patterson said. “We both get down to business and chop wood.”
In the news release announcing the book, Little, Brown seemed giddy over the commercial prospects of a multimedia project targeting Patterson and Parton’s audiences: “This dual release will mark the first time a #1 best-selling author and an entertainment icon who has sold well over 100 million albums worldwide have collaborated on a book and an album.”
Patterson has long relied on a stable of collaborators to meet his frenetic publication cycle. According to his publicist, he’s written 322 books and sold some 425 million copies. He’s worked with around 35 co-writers and currently has multiple books on the best seller lists, including “The Shadow,” which he wrote with Brian Sitts, and “The President’s Daughter,” a political thriller he wrote with former President Bill Clinton. It is a follow-up to their previous novel, “The President Is Missing,” which sold more than 3.2 million copies worldwide.
But joining forces with a celebrity as popular as Parton could generate even more interest in the forthcoming book. She is one of the few public figures with seemingly bipartisan appeal, celebrated by some as a working-class Southern hero and venerated by others for her support for L.G.B.T.Q. rights and unapologetic kitsch. (Parton created her own theme park in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, “Dollywood,” which includes a water park, dinner theater, roller coaster rides and a replica of her two-room childhood home.)
“People love her,” Patterson said, stating the blazingly obvious.
After their initial meeting, which was casual (“No agents, no lawyers,” Patterson said), Parton and Patterson spent the next six to eight months hashing out scenes, going back and forth on chapters and notes. Parton nicknamed him J.J., short for Jimmy James, he said.
They kept the project secret, though Parton, in an interview with The New York Times late last year, let slip that she was a fan. When asked to name three writers she would invite to a dinner party, she listed him along with Maya Angelou and Charles Dickens.
“First would be James Patterson,” she said. “Since we’re both in entertainment, we could write it off as a business expense.”