James Patterson is the J.K. Rowling of mystery-thrillers — since writing his first novel in 1992, he’s sold more than 150 million books worldwide. His work has been adapted into movies (Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls), TV shows (most recently, Women's Murder Club, which met an early demise when ABC killed the show earlier this year), and now, computer games. James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet — a PC/Mac game featuring the four sleuthing ladies from San Francisco — goes on sale Aug. 26 (downloadable from MSN Games: zone.msn.com). We recently sat down for a chat with the best-selling author — and started off with an obvious question:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why a PC game? You’ve written books, had your work turned into movies and television shows, but videogames are an entirely new medium for you.
JAMES PATTERSON: What I liked in particular about the videogame world is that it attracts a very lucrative niche audience that’s also primarily male. And yet women — who look at computer screens all day — don’t generally use it for games. They don’t consider themselves to be gamers. So I found the notion of opening this world to women to be very interesting. And that’s really why I did this deal: because I love the idea of giving a lot of people who don’t normally play games something new. And in the case of casual games, [this game] is a notch up from [what they’re used to].
What was your exposure to videogames prior to taking on this project?
Not huge. I have a 10-year-old so I get a little exposure there. What I did early on is: I went in and sat with four of his friends and just watched them play — from Grand Theft Auto to the Tom Clancy games to Hitman.
Can you give me a better idea of what your involvement was with the WMC game — and compare that to your involvement with the TV series?
I talked to [I-play game designer] Jane Jensen, primarily about the story — in fact, we’re doing the same thing now because they’re starting work on the second game. What I try to put into everything I do is to have something that’s driving the story forward — and to see that the individual chapters are self-sustaining and are as powerful as we can make them. I wanted the story to have some dramatic power, something to hold you. [I wanted] the little side missions — which are a staple of casual games — to be a little more organic. In some casual games they can get a little sloppy. At least in WMC the little things — such as the parts where you have to mix the chemicals in the lab — have some relevance to the main story. We also tried to make the graphics fairly contemporary — I think they did a good job.
You’re working on the second installment of this series. Is there anything you learned from making the first one that can help you with future editions?
One of the things we’re talking about is building in rewards for people who are particularly good and who don’t have to use the in-game hints. I?d like to have someplace where people can post their scores or play against other people. We’re still working on making the mysteries even more involving.
Have your plans for the Women’s Murder Club games altered course now that television show is canceled?
Not really. They were really always two separate things. I mean, look: The TV exposure will help everything. It’ll help sell the books, it’ll help the game. The TV thing was interesting because that was a whole new medium for me. My issue with the TV series from day one was that I [understood the need for coming up with] crimes that keep surprising people along the way. That was the thing that wasn’t delivered. And I don’t think that’s hard to do. I think [for ABC], it was about attracting younger viewers. I think the show was cast kind of older — which I didn’t quite understand, knowing that they needed the younger demo. I think they could’ve taken the whole thing much younger in terms of the kinds of crimes and the cast.
NEXT PAGE: ”I think the show would’ve gotten renewed if it had been better. [Laughs ] It wasn’t a bad show; it wasn’t sharp enough.”