Saige Drecksler asked James Patterson if his teen novels are a break from his usual crime and terror stories during Patterson’s first UF visit Friday.
Contrarily, he told her, he wrote one of his most popular book series, the young adult series “Maximum Ride,” for his son. He wanted to inspire his son, now 18, to read while he was in middle school.
“It’s really important for them to read books they enjoy, and that will keep them reading,” he said.
Patterson, a best-selling author of the “Maximum Ride,” “Women’s Murder Club” and “Alex Cross” series, took the stage in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom for about an hour, fielding questions from fellow best-selling author Michael Connelly about Patterson’s philanthropy, passion and advice for students.
Neither Patterson nor Connelly were paid to speak, said Diane McFarlin, the dean of the UF College of Journalism and Communications. The event was co-sponsored by the UF College of Education, the UF College of Journalism and Communications, GatorNights and Reitz Union Board Entertainment.
At the beginning of the talk, Connelly asked Patterson how he celebrates a No.1 bestseller, of which Patterson has more than 100. Patterson said he doesn’t.
“Different things move different people,” Patterson said. “That doesn’t move me.”
Instead, Patterson said he takes pride in his philanthropy. In 2013, The Patterson Family Foundation began to sponsor eight yearly awards of $6,000 each for incoming UF elementary education students, according to Alligator archives.
“What I try to do is find colleges and universities that do a particularly good job training teachers and getting them out into the world,” he said. “(UF) does a really good job.”
Patterson said extending opportunities to education students felt like the best way to give back.
“It just seems natural to me,” he said.
Connelly also asked if Patterson felt he had a duty as a writer or if his obligation is strictly to entertain. For Patterson, he said it was a little of both.
Reflecting on his career of more than 140 published books, Patterson said he’s never stopped enjoying writing.
“I thought it was presumptuous to think that anybody would ever pay me to write, but I loved doing it,” he said.”
“I don’t work for a living. I play for a living.”
Patterson encouraged students to seize every opportunity and consider as many avenues as they can while in college.
“Keep opening doors,” he said. “Just try stuff before you start shutting doors.”
After about an hour of conversation, Patterson and Connelly answered students’ questions for about 20 minutes. Liz Falcon, 19, walked up to one of two microphones and asked Patterson if anyone has called him crazy because of some of his darker works.
As she began to say, “I was wondering…,” Patterson interjected. “How much time I’ve spent in an asylum?” he retorted.
After Patterson laughed off the quip, he replied, “I worked my way through college at a (mental) hospital. I was not a patient.”
The UF political science and English freshman said she’s been a fan of Patterson’s work since sixth grade and that he inspired her love of literature.
“I don’t think I would have kept reading if I hadn’t found James Patterson,” she said.
Best-selling author James Patterson being interviewed by best-selling author and UF alumnus Michael Connelly during GatorNights in the Reitz Union on Friday.