James Patterson and Hal Friedman discuss Torn Apart

What inspired you to tell Cory’s story?

As Cory’s father, and second best friend (after his mother), I was a constant witness to his daily struggles and unflagging will not to let his circumstances stop his life. My initial aim in setting down his story was simply to celebrate his heroism and pay him tribute. I imagined a family journal which we could all reference many years after the details would grow dim in our memory. I was a writer and felt that I had the words to accurately portray his story.

The record of his life took five years to record, and the deeper I got into his journey, the more I realized that there were other important things the actual publication of this work could do for people beyond our own family.

I had often seen the reaction of strangers to Cory’s unusual physical symptoms and how their initial shock could be changed to empathy once they understood the cause. A book gave us the potential to demystify his appearance for thousands and thousands of readers everywhere. Hopefully, they would understand more about a number of neurological conditions when they got done reading and be more supportive when they came across someone like Cory. Also, they could spread the word among their own friends and acquaintances.

It was also apparent that Cory’s story could serve as in inspiration for others like him, the kind of people he met along the way, and their families who might be on the brink of giving up.

How long have you both known each other and how did this collaboration come about?

Jim and I met 32 years ago at an advertising agency called J. Walter Thompson in New York City, where we were both copywriters. We worked together closely for the next 22 years as we both rose in the ranks. Eventually Jim ran the whole place as Worldwide Creative Director. In that time we created many famous campaigns for accounts like Kodak, Burger King and many other high profile advertisers. After Jim left his post to write novels full time, our friendship continued, as it has to this day.

When I decided that it was important to try to get Cory’s story published I sent Jim my first draft and asked if he would read it and possibly help me get Cory’s story to a potential publisher.

Jim read my draft and said he was extremely moved by Cory’s story. He also made some detailed editing suggestions, which I welcomed. Even though I had written novels of fiction myself, writing a true story as a father was a lot more difficult since I was so emotionally involved in the story. Jim’s critique was a great balance for me, not to mention being able to use his skills as a brilliant novelist.

This was the start of several extensive revises in our collaboration, and after sending him the third one he asked me a question that absolutely stunned me. Instead of just helping to get an audience with a publisher he asked me how I’d feel if we did the book together?

You can imagine being asked this question by the best selling author in America. Suddenly, here was a chance to give Cory’s story an enormous audience, and to further combine our talents to make it the best possible story it could be.

How did you find working together?

As I said, Jim and I had worked closely for a lot of years in our earlier incarnation as advertising people, so working with him on this project in a close and respectful way was instinctive. Also, our relationship over those years had seen some very traumatic and emotional times for both of us, which we’d shared with each other. These drew us closer on a personal level.  Our history may have given Jim more of a connection to the story of a young man – my son -- who hadn’t even been born when we first met.

Together, with Cory’s consultation, we worked on the book for the next few years until we both knew that his story lived up to the amazing journey he had taken.

And how involved was Cory in the writing process?

(Answered in previous paragraph)

Has Cory enjoyed the experience of the book?

I’m not sure I would use the word ‘enjoy’ in regard to how he felt and feels about his story. I doubt that anyone in his position is thrilled at the prospect of revealing the intimate details of his unusual behaviour and some of the extreme things he did.  Actually, his approach was very pragmatic and completely unselfish. Even though I was often unsure about taking his story public in the fear that it might embarrass him, he put me straight with his response when I asked him about it. “Will this help other people like me?” he asked, without missing a beat.

Some kid, huh?

Jim, you’ve written so many bestselling thrillers, what were the challenges of writing a non-fiction book?

The first huge challenge was that I know Hal and Sophia so well and I wanted to help them get the story just right. Because of that, the project was one of the most emotional ones I have ever worked on. What I particularly loved was that most stories about medical emergencies feature dysfunctional families. This, however, is a story of a terrific loving family that simply caught a very bad break. Getting it on the page so that it was as emotional as a book as it was in real life was a tremendous challenge for Hal and I.

The final problem was that I personally find many non-fiction books to be tedious reads. What I wanted to do was to create a non-fiction book that you just couldn’t put down once you started it. I suppose that’s the greatest similarity to my Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club thrillers. I’m very proud of this collaboration with Hal. I believe readers are going to love this story and never forget it.

What do you think the impact of this book will be?

Cory’s story is not so much about overcoming the hardships of Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders as it is about the spirit to survive in the face of great odds. There are innumerable people out there in situations that sometimes get to the point of desperation who I hope will take a measure of inspiration from what Cory did.

I know that Cory is pleased to be  part of this, and I also have the feeling that he’s not all that unaware that he could become a kind of hero from the public recounting of his life, not something he’s used to, for sure.

Hal, what does the future hold for you and Cory?

I think – no, I know—that Cory’s future is anything he wants to make of it. Ironically, I believe that he now has a special advantage in life. Over the years, the adversity he experienced was either going to break or toughen him, and now, emotionally, he is a virtual man of steel. With all he’s had to suffer through he knows that there’s almost nothing he can’t withstand, and I think this gives him an edge compared to young people who’ve grown up in a normal world where success and friendship came to them more easily.

Today, if you’re with Cory for only a few minutes, you can hear his strength, his good natured humour, and mostly, his unending optimism, part of which is his absolute belief in his future as a entrepreneur. He says, “don’t worry, Dad.  I’m going to take care of all of us and pay you back for everything. Hopefully I won’t have to count on that, but there’s no doubt that he’s going to pull it off. In a& way, the most amazing part of Cory’s journey is that he’s come out of it with such innate goodness and optimism.

Has writing Torn Apart inspired you to write anymore non-fiction?

I would embrace the chance to write in this area again. I hope that having the chance to publish Cory’s story will help direct me to histories of other people who’ve overcame monumental burdens. I’m certain that there are many people like Cory who persevered over great odds, and their stories deserve to be recorded and celebrated as well. I invite anyone who has such a story, or knows of someone who might want it told, to contact thru this publisher.