On June 16th, following the release of Junk Shop Window: Essays on Myth, Life, and Literature, James J. Patterson gave a reading at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland—“the center of the universe,” according to Patterson—alongside novelist Aaron Hamburger, author of Hotel Cuba. In a discussion moderated by Zach Powers, these writers talked about their inspirations, their writing methods, and their upcoming projects.
In conversation, Patterson and Hamburger recalled the origins of their latest books. “To warm up, I would work on essays,” Patterson said, describing how the essays in Junk Shop Window stemmed from writing exercises he completed while working on a novel. Hamburger, whose book was inspired by a photo of his grandmother, told the story of how political advocacy led to the creation of Hotel Cuba. When speaking to Senator Debbie Stabenow about immigration rights in 2017, Sen. Stabenow encouraged him to “Write your grandmother’s story.”
While taking audience questions, the writers talked about their literary influences—John Cheever, Henry Miller, and Honoré de Balzac for Patterson, and E. M. Forrester, Cynthia Ozick, Kazuo Ishiguro for Hamburger, among others—and their current works in progress. Both Patterson and Hamburger are writing novels; Patterson’s follows a group of men who all become involved in an adventure, unaware that the others are involved, and Hamburger’s is set in Berlin during the Cold War.
The evening ended with words of wisdom. “The greatest reward is that day in your office when you write one great sentence,” Hamburger advised. Patterson spoke about the importance of revision: “Love the process.”
Junk Shop Window: Essays on Myth, Life, and Literature and Hotel Cuba are both available now!