In House of Robots, the first book of James Patterson’s new middle-grade series, Sammy, a fifth grader, is humiliated when his genius inventor mother insists that he bring her latest creation, a robot named E, to school. To record the audiobook (due out November 24), Hachette enlisted a narrator close to Patterson: his 16-year-old son, Jack. PW caught up with the Pattersons to chat about collaborating on the new audiobook.
How did your son’s involvement come about?
James Patterson: It came about because the children’s group [at Little, Brown] knows that he does a lot of acting at school, and he’s funnier than shit. They asked, “Would he be interested?” And he said, yes, absolutely.
Was recording House of Robots your first acting experience, and what did you think of it?
Jack Patterson: Well, it was not my first acting experience—I’m sort of a theater kid. At school, I did three plays last year: a musical called Ragtime, The Crucible, and a song cycle called Edges with a couple other people. So, no, not really my first acting experience, but definitely my first audio recording experience, which is a little different because it’s all about how you project yourself vocally. It’s definitely different when you don’t have an audience in front of you. It’s weird since you’re in that soundproof booth and people are just sort of watching you and telling you, “Say that again.”
What was it like having your son read your work?
James: It’s cool. It’s fun. My whole thing with Jack is to open as many doors as we can. I think it’s great to have opportunities for any mother or father to do things with their kids.
What was it like reading your dad’s work?
Jack: It’s funny because even though my dad doesn’t really write his books based on his personal life, there are sometimes little tidbits of him in his writing—stuff he would tell me when I was a kid. So sometimes I’d be reading a chapter and I’d almost have to pause and just laugh about hearing him in what I was saying. I wasn’t thinking, “Oh, this is what my dad wrote” every second when I was narrating—but it was sort of funny.
How does being a father influence the writing you do for kids and middle schoolers?
James: Jack got me into it. In the beginning, when he was really young, he was a bright kid but he wasn’t a big reader. When he was eight, that summer, we said, “You don’t have to mow the lawn, but you do have to read every day.” We got a Percy Jackson book and the Warriors series, and A Wrinkle in Time. When he took his SATs, he got an 800 in reading.
Any lessons from the book that you wish you’d known as a fifth grader?
Jack: I think there are a lot of lessons in House of Robots—how [Sammy] develops as a character. He seems to be growing up at a very early age. I wish I had been able to look past some of the silliness of being a kid when I was younger, the insecurities and worries about what other people think. But I think it’s cool how it provides a needed example of why kids shouldn’t worry so much about what the cool kids do or say.
Do you and your dad have the same taste in books?
Jack: He definitely tailors what he gives me to what he thinks I’ll like. Occasionally, he’ll just plop a book at my door when I’m at home and say, “Read this.” The most recent one was One Summer by Bill Bryson. I did enjoy that. It was a pretty fun book. It gives you a feel for the Roaring ’20s, and I like his kind of dry humor.
Did you enjoy the recording experience? Was it something you’d want to do again?
Jack: Yeah, it was a fun experience; I don’t think I could ever do it as a full-time job like some people do. I think I’d go crazy. But I’d totally like to do it again if [Hachette Audio] wanted me to.