James Patterson and Mike Lupica, THE HOUSE OF WOLVES

James Patterson and Mike Lupica, THE HOUSE OF WOLVES

Zibby is joined by New York Times bestselling authors James Patterson and Mike Lupica to discuss The House of Wolves, an unforgettable thriller about Jenny Wolf, her murdered father, and the billion-dollar empire he left her with. The three discuss the book’s most memorable elements–its powerful female protagonist, intricate sibling rivalries, and sports. They also share the (quirky) details of their writing partnership (it involves late-night phone calls and finishing each other’s sentences) and reveal the actors they hope would play their characters on the big screen. Listen to this episode for a good laugh–James and Mike are hilarious!


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Jimmy and Micky. Welcome, Jim and Mike, to “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” Thank you for coming on to discuss The House of Wolves. Can you please tell listeners what this book is about?

James Patterson: Mike, what is this one about anyway? Do you remember?

Mike Lupica: I do remember. First of all, it’s about another great woman character from the firm of Patterson and Lupica, a young woman named Jenny Wolf, who is — Jim, I don’t think this spoils any to say she’s not supposed to inherit the family empire in newspapers and a San Francisco football team, but she does, much to the extreme unhappiness of her three brothers who all thought they were the boy princes who were going to grow up to be king. It didn’t quite work out that way.

James: I do anyway, and I think Mike and I both do, I think a lot of people like these family saga things, whether it’s Succession or Yellowstone or the Corleones. That’s what this is. This family, they don’t get along. They were brought up to eat one another by their father, who’s this tough, unpleasant, but humorous guy. We had the toughest focus group of all because we gave it out to my wife Sue, who thought it was the best book I’ve ever dealt with. Then Mike, you had different folks reading it. How did they respond?

Mike: Zibby, I’ve got a lot of smart women in my life, as Jim does with Sue. My daughter and my wife loved this book. So did my mother-in-law. It’s brought me and my mother-in-law closer together. Is that fair to say, Jim?

James: That’s nice. That’s a beautiful thing.

Zibby: Is that a good thing, or is that not a good thing?

Mike: It’s a good thing. She couldn’t put it down. She read it in a day and a half. I told Jim this. You have to understand, my daughter is a rider. She’s a show jumper. The Horsewoman came out of that world and came out of her life, a lot of it.

James: That was a book that we wrote as well, Mike and I.

Mike: My daughter Hannah likes House of Wolves much better than she liked The Horsewoman.

Zibby: Interesting. I think the reason all the smart women like this book is because it’s about a really smart woman who is really strutting her stuff. It actually reminded me — I don’t know if you remember the movie Wildcats from the 1980s. Do you remember that movie with Goldie Hawn? She’s the track coach. That’s how I sort of envisioned her, Jenny, with her high school team on the field and commanding, at the end of Wildcats once she’s commanded all this respect from the team, and then how she can deftly go and just sit there on the forty-yard line and call all the shots and have such great command of football.

James: In the Wolf family, Jenny just refuses to be part of it. They’re one of the most powerful families in California. She just can’t stand it. She goes off and she teaches at a high school in San Francisco and winds up also coaching the football team, private school. She loves the sport and loves history as well. She is unusual. Her father believes that she knows more about football and life than any of his sons, who he doesn’t really care for. That’s how Jenny becomes the star of the story.

Zibby: It’s not just that they don’t get along, like they have little squabbles that most families might have. They are literally out for each other in a big, big way. I felt very protective of Jenny from the beginning. I knew she could take care of herself, but still, get those guys away.

Mike: Zibby, Jim referenced the Corleones before. Compared to the Wolf family in our book, the Corleones are like a musical comedy. The kill-or-be-killed Wolfs are much tougher than that. Jim’s right. There is a Yellowstone feel to this. There is a Succession feel to this. The thing that we love the most is that it all operates around this fabulous — Jenny is a fabulous character. I just believe that men or women are going to root like hell for her.

James: Not to be self-serving here, which we’re being, but we do think that this is accurate in terms of Jenny. One of the things about it — it has to do with the dialogue, a lot of which is Mike. There’s a lot of funny lines in the book. The way they go at each other, they’re not stupid people, they’re just sick in the head a little bit. They go at each other in very, very mean-spirited but — the other thing about it is it’s one of these — this happens, to me anyway, when I watch Succession or Yellowstone and some of them. I go, you know, I thought my family was kind of crazy, but they’re really not so bad.

Mike: Zibby, when Hannah Lupica finished reading the book, I got a text from her. She said, “Oh, now you tell me it’s okay to punch my brothers?”

Zibby: It’s the ultimate act of condoning sibling rivalry, or perhaps not.

Mike: We celebrate. We elevate sibling rivalries to an art form in this book. I think the intertwining relationships will surprise you, the reader, as we go. Mr. Patterson has told me from the time we first sat down with each other that when he’s writing a book, he imagines that there’s one person sitting across the table from him, and he does not want that person to get up.

James: Not until we finish the story. That’s right. By the way, Mike, I don’t know if you’re aware of it — we were talking about it before. Zibby is now opening a bookstore in Santa Monica. Going to be open in February, which is very cool. We hope that there’s room for House of Wolves in the bookstore.

Zibby: There will be room.

James: We’ll send a bunch.

Mike: Zibby, I am coming out to Santa Monica to visit my youngest son in late February. He works on Abbot Kinney. I am stopping by, for sure.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, stop by. If you want, we’ll have an event for you. It’ll be one of our first, if you’re interested.

Mike: I think we can arrange that, sure.

Zibby: Something. I don’t know. That’s great. Maybe your son wants to work part time in our bookstore.

James: Yes, he’s in.

Mike: Is there a tennis court in the bookstore? Maybe then.

Zibby: He can play tennis with my husband, who plays all the time. We’ll get him all set up. I like how you have Jenny’s relationship with her ex-husband, who is the quarterback of the team, and how she wants to trust him, and yet of course, he keeps disappointing her in very big ways, and that hopeful spirit that she brought to it at the beginning in particular and then having to come and be the boss, which is really — this whole badass which you have in the book in a very funny way really is the key to Jenny’s whole demeanor. Tell me about, how did you even craft her? How did you two do it together where you’re coming up with this amazing character and her brothers and all the other supporting actors and actresses?

James: As I’ve told you before, Zibby, I don’t like to — it’s like asking the people at Coca-Cola for the secret formula. Since it’s you, what Mike and I do is we’ll alternate words. For the song, “Oh, say…”

Mike: “…can you see…”

James: “…by the dawn’s…”

Mike: “…early light.”

James: Like that.

Mike: We just wrote that today, by the way. That’s just something we did today.

James: It’s a nice song that we just wrote. We go back and forth a lot, which is nice. Actually, a nice friendship has evolved out of the whole thing. We’ve been writing together for a couple years now. We do go back and forth a lot. What about…? What about…? What about…? It ended this way. What if it ends this way? That changes everything. We thought this was going to happen. One of the brothers may or may not survive the book. We’re not going to reveal that here, but who knows?

Mike: Zibby, let me tell you something. Most days, this will be an exchange at some point from one of us. “Okay, I promise this is my last call today, but what if at the end of chapter thirty-five, instead of doing that, we do that?” Then I’ll hang up or Jim will hang up. About fifteen minutes later, “Okay, I said that was the last phone call, but we’ve got just one more.”

James: We were talking earlier about something. Then we talked and talked. Then Mike said something. A minute later, I called back. I said, “I will not be able to unhear that.” Then I hung up.

Mike: We play golf. We didn’t know this for a while, but when we play golf, one of the caddies at one of the places, they refer to being in our group as the show. I did not know this until I ran into one of them out on Eastern Long Island this summer. He says, “You know, we call it the show.” I said, “I can see how you might think that way, but you’re seeing our relationship laid bare around bad golf shots.”

James: I think that’s why whatever fun there is — obviously, it’s not a comedy, but there is a lot of comedic and a lot of twists and turns. The other thing — I was thinking about this before we got on the call. Right now, the Christmas season coming up, holiday season, whatever people want to call it, I always like to have a couple of — I like a lot of other kinds, but I do like to have a thriller or two. Mike and I have gone through this. There’s nothing out there right now. There are a lot of good books out on a lot of different things. This is its own category, this page-turner thing which you really can’t put down. I don’t know what’s going to happen in February, but there’s nothing out there right now. The Grisham’s pretty good. I got an Alex Cross, which is reasonably good, and some writers that Mike and I both like a lot. It’s just not there. That’s not unusual. For people that like to escape — the idea of the podcast, you got an hour. You got half an hour in the day. House of Wolves is a really nice escape, I think. Zibby, you’ve read it.

Zibby: I completely agree. I feel like I read the first hundred pages in an hour. I was trying to put my kids to bed. I always read a lot while I’m putting my kids to bed because it takes hours.

James: You can read it to the kids. That’s okay.

Mike: No, Jim. No, no, no.

James: No, don’t read it to the — don’t read it.

Zibby: I did not. Not only did I not read it to the kids, but I was reading near them, and I had to keep moving the book away so they didn’t see certain words and all of that. I couldn’t put it down. I was inhaling it.

Mike: I’m not revealing something, but it takes us, what, two pages to bump somebody off, Jim?

James: Not in this book. We do have one coming, which maybe we can talk about, in September. There are a number of people that don’t get to the end of the book in that book. This one, not so much, but a little bit.

Zibby: I also think it was neat how you wove in, especially with the sports stuff, some — it’s mostly fiction, but then you weave in some real names and real players. You feel like, am I in a novel? Is this my life? What is going on here?

James: You can have no interest in football. I don’t have a lot. Still, it’s irrelevant to this thing. The other thing about the NFL, it is so screwy. Some of the owners are such nutcases. Not to name any names, but the guy that owns the Washington Commanders that named that team the Commanders and the Miami Dolphins guy, a kind of questionable move that they’ve done. There’s a little piece of that which gets into that whole thing. I know we are guys and we should be defending guys, but it’s difficult sometimes. Some of these patriarchs are not my cup of tea. We get to skewer them in the book, which is nice, or people like them.

Mike: I think right now, the only woman really in charge of a team is in New Orleans, Tom Benson’s widow. I think Mrs. Ford was running —

James: — Detroit, the Rams, at one point, I think.

Mike: The oft-married Georgia Frontiere. They were bumper stickers when she owned the Rams that said “Honk if you’ve been married to Georgia.”

James: It’s a cruel sport.

Mike: Having been around these people my whole life, NFL owners — we make a big thing out of this. There’s only thirty-two members of this club. Once you have one of these teams, you will do anything to hold onto it. If you want one, you will do anything, including maybe kill people, to get one. It’s the world’s greatest, richest — it’s like Real Owners of the National Football League. It really is a reality series.

James: Jenny is in the club. Some of them do not want her in the club, which is another fun thing about the story.

Zibby: Yes, a lot of oppositional forces. I love it, this whole push/pull. As a layperson football watcher — I didn’t say that very well. My husband watches a ton of football, so I have a passing knowledge of all of it. It’s fine. I wasn’t confused. It was all good. I know you’re great at writing about sports, obviously, but especially in this book, which has such a strong woman protagonist.

James: The big thing here is really the family. We haven’t talked about — which is also a fun part of the book. One of the brothers runs the newspaper in San Francisco. In the book, he starts attacking his sister in very, very unpleasant ways. That whole thing about the newspaper business, which Mike was in as well, that’s a real fun part of the book. They also have a media empire out in California. That’s another little part which we get to have fun with.

Zibby: I loved when Jenny, after her brother had put that in — first, how their mom was really upset. They’re like, oh, that you had done this stuff in your teenage years? She’s like, no, my brother for putting it in the newspaper. Then she walks through. That scene was one of my favorites, where she gets slandered, essentially, in the paper, and then she’s like, I’m not going to deal with this. Walks right through. You have her just be like, okay. It was great. Such empowerment.

James: It is fun. One of the interesting things that happened a couple of weeks ago was Audible — I have a little relationship. I do some podcasts for them. They got a little interested in the book. Amazon sponsors the Thursday Night Football on Prime Video. They said, “We could do something, but we want some original material.” Mike and I wrote fifteen new chapters which aren’t in the book. It’s the day before the book starts. It’s called Fear the Wolf. I think it’s out — I’m not sure — as an Audible podcast. There’s fifteen chapters out there that aren’t in the book. I don’t know if anybody’s ever done that. Probably, somebody has, but I don’t know. Eventually, we’ll probably deal with the fifteen chapters somewhere too. That’s another fun thing.

Zibby: That’s so cool.

James: Didn’t seem like fun at the time, but it turned out to be fun.

Mike: When we were writing the book, we kept thinking — we had bumped off a pretty great character in chapter one. Every once in a while, I’d say to Jim, “What a couple of shmucks…”

James: I wonder what he would’ve been like.

Mike: We thought about it as a prologue. It just didn’t fit. Jim, it’s like a great advertisement. It became great advertisement for House of Wolves.

James: One of the fun things to do is if you write the hell out of a character and then you get rid of them early. It doesn’t happen that often. In television, I can think of one series where they did it, The Mayor of Kingstown or the something of Kingstown. I think it’s Paramount+. They actually knock off a major actor in the first — they obviously meant to do this — in the first episode. What? He’s dead?

Zibby: A lot of flashbacks.

James: It’s an interesting thing to do.

Mike: Jim, my memory, as you know, can fail me often. Isn’t William Holden’s character floating in the pool as he starts the narration of Sunset Boulevard? I think Sunset Boulevard is narrated by a dead guy. Joe Wolf, even gone, is a huge presence in this book. He’s a huge presence for Jenny. He’s a huge presence for his three sons, god willing they all make it to the end of the book, Jim.

James: I hope they do. I’m rooting for Jack, Danny, and little Tommy. Little Tommy, he’s not really that little.

Mike: It would be awful. Jim, it would be awful if anything happened to him.

James: It would be, yeah. This is what it’s like. Welcome to the writers’ room.

Zibby: I love that. It’s awesome. It’s really neat to see the behind-the-scenes of how they all evolve and also the control. The idea that someone who’s controlling in your life, you literally cannot be rid of that force even if they pass away, what do you do with that? How do you make sense of it if you don’t even have the option to talk to the person anymore? It’s this intractable thing, which I think so many people can relate to if they have a difficult character in their lives. What if there are strings they pull? Not to this extent, but still.

James: Anybody that’s going to go see a shrink, I say, it’s your father or your mother. I just saved you a lot of money. Maybe both.

Mike: We haven’t even talked about one of my favorite characters. Zibby, I hope you agree with me. The cop, Cantor.

Zibby: Yes, yes.

Mike: We do have a murder we need to solve in this book.

James: I forget, did we solve it?

Mike: I guess we did.

James: We did. We solved it. Okay. All right.

Mike: Yes, we did. In fact, Zibby, at one point when we were thinking how much we did like Joe Wolf, I did call up Jim one day, and I said, “Did they ever find the body, Jim?” He goes, “Yes, unfortunately, Mike, they did.” Unfortunately, Joe had a do-not-resuscitate order on him, so we couldn’t bring him back. This cop — Jim knows this. This cop kind of came wandering into the book, and we couldn’t get him out.

James: This is correct. That happens. We do outline pretty heavily, but the outline is not a straitjacket for us. That’s always been the way any book that I do. It’s like, I don’t know. Then that happens every once in a while. You start writing a character, and all of a sudden, you go, oh, no, I like this character. This character’s interesting. We want more of this character. That’s what happened with Cantor, for sure.

Zibby: I would not want to be interrogated, necessarily.

James: Then there were one of the sons we didn’t care for that much, so whatever.

Mike: I hope nothing happened to him.

James: Yeah, me too.

Zibby: No spoilers. No spoilers.

Mike: Well, we didn’t say which son.

James: We already spoiled the first chapter, but so what?

Mike: It’s only the second page.

James: That’s true.

Zibby: Do you have visions of who you want to play these characters if it were to be a movie?

James: I don’t know. Who do you think? Who would be a good Jenny for you, Zibby?

Zibby: I don’t know. I keep thinking — she’s too old now, I guess — Sandra Bullock because didn’t she play something similar, an owner of a basketball team or something?

James: There was a football — which was kind of a mean-spirited with Pacino. Any Sunday.

Mike: Any Given Sunday.

Zibby: Yeah, Any Given Sunday.

Mike: Cameron Diaz, right?

Zibby: Oh, Cameron Diaz. Is that who it was?

James: Yeah, Cameron Diaz. That was just a humorless approach.

Mike: Whoever the biggest female star in the world is right now, Zibby.

Zibby: That’s who it is?

Mike: Whoever that is, we’d like to get. We have actress interested in another one of our characters.

James: We do. Who was the woman in Hunger Games? She’s good.

Mike: Jennifer Lawrence.

Zibby: I could see that. I could totally see that.

Mike: Jennifer, Jenny. Listen, problem solved.

Zibby: Jenny, Micky, and Jimmy. There you go. You’re all set now. Coming full circle.

James: And Dolly.

Mike: Jim, I used to say to Elmore Leonard — he’d be writing a book. I’d say, “What do you think that the main character looks like?” Every time, he’d say George Clooney. If it wasn’t George Clooney, he’d say Brad Pitt. I’d say, “Yeah, okay. Good. Fine.”

James: He did get George Clooney.

Mike: Oh, man, did he ever, in the one with Jennifer Lopez. She’s great.

James: That’s the one where the two of them wind up in the truck of the car, right?

Mike: Yeah.

Zibby: In the new movie with Julia Roberts and George Clooney, they did outtakes at the end. Somebody accidentally spills all this stuff on George Clooney. Julia Roberts is like, “It’s okay. It’s just George Clooney.” He’s like, “Yeah, call 1-800-BRADPITT. It’s fine. I have a replacement.”

Mike: How is that movie? We have it. We haven’t watched it yet. Is it any good? George Clooney and Julia Roberts.

Zibby: Yeah. What’s it called? Oh, my gosh, this is so embarrassing.

James: It’s not a great title that you remember.

Zibby: I can’t remember the title. This is so embarrassing.

James: We just watched Tár the other night. That’s a tough one, but boy is that smart. Really smart. Very tough.

Zibby: I have to get to that one.

James: She has to win the Academy Award. She’s so good, Cate Blanchett. She’s so terrific in it.

Zibby: The question is, how do you take this book now and make it palatable in some PG version for all the kids that you both write for? My nephew’s been reading all of your books. Sorry, Jim.

James: I’ve heard this before.

Zibby: I’m sorry.

James: It reminds me of a story. It reminds me of a horrifying story. I’ll tell it closer to reality. Mike and I are out golfing. This woman comes running up to us. I’m sort of like, here she comes. She runs up to Mike. She says, “Mike, you’re my favorite author.” Mike immediately called his agent.

Mike: And everybody I knew.

James: We get it.

Mike: Jim, I think you cut off Zibby when she was talking about .

James: Oh, yeah. Right, I’m sorry.

Zibby: It’s okay. When you’re writing these great characters, it would be great to have an equally amazing, strong, female, younger — how do you shrink down some of the themes? Maybe you have no interest in doing this. Maybe you will or won’t. Some of these great themes I feel like are really good for kids to hear, but this is obviously too advanced.

James: That could be a cool thing, the Wolfs growing up when they’re ten, eleven, twelve years old. That would be horrifying. It’s a horror movie.

Zibby: No, that would be great.

James: It’s more horrifying than Lemony Snicket.

Mike: There’s a scene in the book where two of the Wolf boys come back, Zibby. One of them has gotten beaten up pretty badly, and the father doesn’t care.

Zibby: I remember.

Mike: He’s mad that they let the bad guys take their ball away from them.

Zibby: He said something like, there are two girls in the family. Didn’t he say something like that?

James: He’s not a nice man.

Zibby: Something like that. Oh, well.

James: I like that, the early Wolfs.

Zibby: Early Wolfs.

Mike: Wait, Jim, I think they already had a book like that. I think it was called Lord of the Flies.

James: That’s true.

Zibby: What’s the name of a wolf that’s a baby? Does it have a name? You know what I mean? A cub?

James: Baby wolves? Yeah, sure, cub. We’ll go with cub. I don’t know.

Mike: I think it is a cub.

Zibby: The tree house of cubs.

James: We have various wolf caps that we have. The University of Nevada, they have a wolf on theirs. Then Mike had an original done with another kind of wolf. We have our wolf caps.

Zibby: Good. You could even get a mascot.

James: We’re doing a tour, which I don’t usually do. We’re going to do that in January when the book comes out. I forget where the heck we’re going, but it’ll be fun.

Mike: I know.

Zibby: Where are you going?

Mike: We’re going to North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and New York City, the big, bad city.

James: I know we’re going to Clemson. I don’t know why, but we’re going to Clemson.

Mike: Tallahassee.

James: Tallahassee, Charlotte, New York City. I know we’re going to be on Good Morning America and Morning Joe, maybe.

Mike: Morning Joe.

James: And Zibby. This is the first one, though.

Zibby: This is the place to start. You got to work your way up.

Mike: Zibby, we may have to get you a wolf cap. Jim, I may have to bring Zibby a wolf cap to Santa Monica.

Zibby: I would love to have a wolf cap. Very cool. Do either of you have advice for aspiring authors who are trying to do what you’re doing, work closely with somebody, try to find the right partner, cowrite, any of it, or just try to do anything? Any parting advice for anybody?

James: Story, story, story. Look, it all depends on what you want to do. If you actually want to make money — not that that needs to be the reason you write your book. Story is really useful. Story, story, story. If you can tell it to somebody who’s not your best friend or your friend who will always tell you what they really think and you tell them a couple of sentences and they go, oh, my god, that sounds great — for example, my wife, her mother died a few years back. Mother was ninety-eight. Wonderful lady. She was talking about her a couple days later. She said something to the effect of, “Things I wish I told my mother.” I said, “That’s a book.” She wrote it as a novel, not about her mother, but about a mother-daughter thing, Things I Wish I Told My Mother. That’s the kind of thing where you go, yeah, yeah, yeah. Her book, it’s a mother and a daughter. The mother’s kind of a tough doctor, very serious. The daughter is more of an artist. They decide at some point they’re going to take this trip. Why am I selling Sue’s book? in April.

Zibby: Great. We’ll get Sue on here.

James: What they want to do is stop being mother/daughter and just be friends and be adults, which, of course, doesn’t work. They’re the odd couple. You just get that title and go, oh, yeah, there’s a book there. That’s a big piece of it. You go, ooh, I want to read that, when you tell me two sentences about it. That’s useful.

Zibby: That is useful.

Mike: Zibby, you’re talking to two people — we write every day. Jim writes every day. I write every day. He’s right. Working with him has been like getting a masterclass in storytelling. I’d never worked with anybody before. If I did have one good point for young writers, if you are going to find a writing partner, I suggest, if you can, try hooking up with the guy who’s sold more books than anybody on the planet.

James: I’m always open.

Mike: That may sound crazy, but you know what? Damnit, it’s working for me.

Zibby: I love it. Thank you. You guys are hilarious. That was totally a bright spot of my rainy, gross day here. Thank you for the laughter. Really fun.

James: You’re very welcome. It’s always nice to be on here. You’re really fun. I’m sure the bookstore will be really cool.

Zibby: Please come. Zibby’s Bookshop.

James: We will. Mike will. I haven’t been to LA since COVID. I guess it’s time. I should go back.

Zibby: It’s definitely sunny. Well, you’re in Florida.

James: You can see the sun in my office here.

Zibby: It’s a step up from New York.

James: Mike’s in Florida, but you’d never know it because he has no windows in his office.

Mike: That’s simply not true.

Zibby: He has a nice tan, though.

James: Oh, that’s nice. Look at that. That’s cool. All right, palm trees and the whole ball of wax. Is that real stuff, or is that just a painted window?

Mike: It’s my real view. Thank you, Zibby.

Zibby: Thanks, both of you. Thank you so much.

James: Thank you. Thank you, Mike.

Zibby: Take care. Buh-bye.

James: Bye.

Mike: Buh-bye.

James Patterson and Mike Lupica, THE HOUSE OF WOLVES

THE HOUSE OF WOLVES by James Patterson and Mike Lupica

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