James Patterson on Maximum Ride

Tell us about the Maximum Ride series

Growing up I loved flying and I think everybody has had that fantasy of flying. This is about six kids, who have a fantasy about flying but more than a fantasy, they actually can fly. They have retractable wings which means they can walk around on the streets and look like anybody else and all of a sudden flap out those wings and fly. And they have other powers but they have escaped from a biotech lab where they have been experimented on so they don’t know what their other powers are. These powers keep popping up on them which keeps the action moving forward.

Who is the ideal audience for the Maximum Ride series?

Anybody who’s old enough to read a novel, but not so old they can’t see any longer... or have fooled themselves into thinking they don’t like page-turning thrillers.

The Maximum Ride Series has been quite successful. What do you think it will take to make it a truly HUGE seller?

Well it seems like it’s growing that way already, but I think word-of-mouth is what’s going to get it done. People try it, they love it, they infect others with their passion for it... it’s the way anything becomes huge.

How did you come to start writing books for young adults?

I guess I started writing books like this because I’ve never grown up; I don’t want to grow up. When I write a story, I pretend there is somebody sitting across from me and I tell them a story and I don’t want them to get up until I am finished. My theory about getting people to read is that the best way to do that is to give them books that they just can’t put down. That’s what Maximum Ride is about; people just can’t put it down. The pages almost turn themselves.

What have you enjoyed the most about the Maximum Ride series so far?

What I’ve enjoyed the most about Maximum Ride is just how much people love it. We’ve had over a million and a half replies on maximumride.com: people writing in, drawings, all sorts of stuff, people just love these books.

Will the maximumride.co.uk site be part of the activities for The Final Warning?

Maximumride.co.uk remains Activities Central for all things Max. The characters post news there from time to time, people can win things, get sneak peaks, find out about unexpected things like graphic novels and more.

Who is your favourite character in the books?

My favourite character in the books is Max. Maximum Ride actually is the name of the main character. She was brought up in a biotech lab and her name there was Maximum. She didn’t have a last name and so unlike most of us, she gave herself a last name and she always loved Sally Ride, the astronaut, so she chose Ride as her last name.

Is there any exciting Maximum Ride news?

One of the cool things that is happening about Maximum Ride right now is that we just sold the movie rights to the producer who did Spiderman, X-Men, Fantastic Four and his passion for this is just incredible. I was talking to him and he has all these scenes in his head: flying kids and at one point Angel goes under water and she discovers that she can breathe under water. Just to listen to the passion and the vision that he has for the movie is just so exciting. We had 5.3 million people write in to maximumride.com saying they wanted to see the movie.

How about a video game for Max and the flock?

Yeah, there may be one of those in the works, too.  Check the site for details.

The Final Warning has Max and the flock facing some terrifying challenges.  What do you think is the most severe.

Well I don’t want to give anything away, of course, but the whole global warming issue is definitely a severe challenge in this one.  When the fate of the planet hangs in the balance, well, that’s big. 

Any romance for either Max or Fang in Book 4? Why/why not?

You expect them to have a social life when they’re entrusted with saving the world?

Where do you write the books?

I have an office in my house and it’s actually quite nice because it has a view of the Hudson River so it’s very beautiful and peaceful. Somebody said you are lucky if you find something you like to do as an adult and then it is a miracle if somebody will pay you to do it and that is what I have, I love what I do, I love telling stories. I look forward to getting up every morning to work, to tell stories.

How do you write?

Unfortunately I am a dinosaur; I write with a pencil, I do not use a computer. I write, I erase, I write some more. It’s kind of silly but it has worked for me and you know that old saying ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.’

Do you research first or get an idea first?

I start with the idea and then research, for Maximum Ride, I talked to about 30 or 40 scientists and every scientist and university professor I spoke to said things like kids with wings will happen in our lifetime – not necessarily that but things like that. But there are just going to be so many advances in biotech that it will blow our minds.

Who is the first person to read the books?

My son, Jack, is nine. He is a good reader and has read all the Maximum Ride books and he likes them very much (or I won’t feed him!) and he loves Daniel X (published by Century in July 2008). Usually he’ll say ‘It’s pretty good dad,’ but he really loves Daniel X, he gave it an A+.

What are your favourite young adult books?

One of my favourite stories is Peter Pan and it relates to Maximum Ride, part of it at least is about flying and freedom for kids and things like that and that is a lot of what Maximum Ride is about. I really enjoyed the Harry Potter books but now Harry has gone and we’ve got to replace Harry with things like Maximum Ride and Daniel X but I loved the Harry Potter books. There’s a lot of terrific books out there for kids of all ages.