To submit requests for assistance, or provide feedback regarding accessibility, please contact

Arts & Entertainment

Personal Story

James Patterson

Lesson time 12:03 min

Every master begins as a student. James shares his long, winding path to becoming the world's best-selling author.

James Patterson
Teaches Writing
James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.


I don't think I ever had aspirations in terms of one, being a writer, or secondly, what would happen with it. It just seemed to me to be I don't know, overstepping to do that. I came from a background, people just didn't make it out of my hometown. I was never a stylist as a writer and I'm still not, so I don't think I ever expected that things would happen, and I still don't. I mean I don't think about it. I don't think about selling a lot of books, or supposedly I'm the bestselling author in the world. I don't really-- I love that, but I don't think about it. [MUSIC PLAYING] I grew up in Newburgh, New York. Tough little river town about 60 miles north of New York City. A real mix, which was kind of cool. You had the city itself was pretty tough. Then on the outskirts, you had a lot of farm, so you had kind of city kids, and then had farm kids, and then we had an Air Force Base, Stewart Air Force Base. So in the schools, we had city kids, we farm kids, and then we a kids who had been all around the world, so it was a nice mix of a different kind of ways of looking at stuff, and I think that was useful. My father was brought up in the Newburgh poor house, called the [? poogy. ?] His mother was [? char ?] woman there, and that means that she basically cleaned up the bathrooms for the poor people who lived there. And for doing that job, she and my father got one room, and that was his background. Bright guy. Somehow got out of that situation and went to Hamilton College, which is a very good college. So that was a real-- from the poor house to Hamilton College showed that he had a lot of smarts. My mother was a school teacher for about 50 years. Went to Catholic schools, which are very disciplined. When I was in high school, we had the same brother, and nobody-- people can't even believe that this shit happen back then, but we had the same brother for math and science sophomore and junior year. Every day he would walk in, he'd say, gentleman, anyone who doesn't have their homework please stand. So let's say I stand. Mr. Patterson. Yes, brother. Do you know what's going to happen? Yes, brother. Do you know why? Yes, brother. From the floor, boom. Across your face. Every class. As I went through life, I found that college and advertising were both nothing compared to how difficult high school was in terms of that environment. It was like advertising, big deal, nobody's hitting you. It's all right. I generally write about strong women and I had strong women in my life. My grandmother in particular very strong, very strong willed. I can remember, she's 80 years old and I'd go up, I was living in New York City at the time, and I would travel up to 60 miles to see her, and I can remember like where the hell is she, and I go in the back and she's like 80 years old and she shimmying a refrigerator down a mounta...

Set out to write a best-selling book

James Patterson, the author of 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, reveals his tricks of the trade. In his first online writing class, he guides you from the start to the finish of your book.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

James really hit on some concepts that I've thought about doing but never really put into practice. I also liked the way the topics are presented. I felt like it was personal instead of a lecture.

He delivers his classes just as he delivers his novels, easy to follow & too interesting to stop! A privilege to learn from such a craft master.

James, I teach young writers, and I can't tell you how invaluable it is to know your first novel was turned down 31 times. You teach my students grit.

I'm right there with you, James! My first book was rejected, but proved that I could write a book. I'm excited to learn more.


Adrienne F.

He's brilliant, however his comments about High School made me laugh for a day.

Dorothy E.

Not being confident that your an author until you get an award? That really hits home. Getting published and/or self published, having a letter from that first fan, getting those first royalties...those things shore up yur confidence, but don't really get your there. Wonder if I'll ever get there...

Cheryl C.

James Patterson's MasterClass was exceptional. Already one of my favorite writers his class was extremely informative and motivational. Loved his sense of humor -- especially Hollywood.

Dale U.

This has been a truly inspiring Masterclass. Thank you James Patterson for being an informative, witty and laugh out loud funny instructor. I hope someday that you will read my book and think, "Okay, this guys pretty good." Cheers.

Stephen A.

So... to become a top-selling writer... start at a mental institution. OK. Got it!

Christine Duffy Z.

Loved to hear James' personal story. It makes me think about what might be of interest in my own story. Something to think about for those future readings and book signings and cover blurbs. Thank you James.

Andrea C.

I loved this whole series. I have ordered one of your books, Woman of God, from Amazon to experience the book from the vantage point of having listened to this course. Thank you for your candor and honesty. You make it sound simple and fun. I wish I could feel that way about writing.


So many clues in here as to how and why James became the prolific writer he is today, and why his books appeal to strong women. And yes, hug your kids!

Dick A.

A Yank in Oz: Love, sex and scandal lead to the rise and fall of an American expat in 1970s Australia.


The lesson on Hollywood didn't really cover a step-by-step process of how it worked out well. What if you or the author didn't want any changes or additions that changed the plot or values, etc.? What is a reasonable price tag for the use of a good book that is being bought, even if not a best-seller? Did you receive more compensation after any books were released as movies? Is it best to have a lawyer at these mtgs. & let him/her handle the particulars? Tks! Nancy