The Morning Call has an interesting interview with Andrew Gross, an author who has written six of the James Patterson bestsellers, a conversation in which Gross is surprisingly candid about how the process works:
Q: What's the process by which you co-wrote? How did that work?
A: I would say that every book I did came from Jim's initial idea, none would have been conceived without him. He would have given a loose idea about characters and plot.
Generally they would have extended that into a very detailed outline and we'd work on that together. If he liked it I would basically write it and he would review it each month. As the books went on each ended up at No. 1. Not everyone comes out with a book with 1 million readers.
Q: Do you worry about your books being the shadow of the ones you've written with Patterson?I don't know if Gross meant his comment (the part in bold print) to come across the way I am reading it, but it reads as a nice little put-down of the quality of a James Patterson novel, doesn't it?
A: No, I really don't. I don't write identical to Jim. I generally use pace, and a lot of plot reversals. My books I think have a lot more emotional resonance and more scene-setting and texture. With the fast pace of Patterson's book, it's something that he doesn't always have in his books. It was cool to see my name at the top of the best-seller list. I don't know if that will happen again. But I don't think of it being in the shadow. The truth is he has a lead on me.
I can't fault Mr. Gross for jumping at the chance to work with a bestselling writier like James Patterson. As the article says, Gross had taken two years away from his job to write a book, a book that he was unable to sell, and when Patterson called him about a chance to make some money from his writing he jumped at the deal. Who can blame him? No, what I find disgusting is Patterson's ability to slap his name onto a book and have it automatically hit the New York Times bestseller list even if his only contribution is to come up with a plot idea, a few character outlines and to edit and approve the efforts of another writer who follows his outline.
This just reminds me again why I distrust bestseller lists, in the first place, as any kind of guide to good books. Good books and bestsellers lists don't often cross paths.