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.
Get All-Access


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.

Ta-da! Well, I am inspired. It was just neat to hear him speak. This was a great opportunity. What a NOVEL idea... to hear from professionals you admire and aspire to be like/learn from! Now I must write.

This wasn't a class teaching the nuts and bolts of writing, but rather the heart and soul of the process. I laughed many times and teared up at a few points. I wrote tons of notes and not all were what Mr. Patterson said but what he forced me to imagine. I'd love to see more of these from him.

James Patterson class helped me looking at the writing process from a different prospective. As an author who is new in the writing business, this class help me become more organize in plotting and planning my next novel.

Great Intro. I'm looking forward to learning more.


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!

Richard 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

Adrian W.

A wonderful series by Mr. Patterson. He provides insight and practical information and guidance in a very user (reader) friendly manner. I will be referring to his materials frequently. Masterfully done!!

A fellow student

Thank you James Patterson. I loved what you said about not obsessing about selling a million books, but just doing what you love. That makes sense to me. Also the importance of having personal priorities and maintaining a balance in life. There has been lots of good sensible advice in these segments. I really appreciate them.

James Thomas S.

It was a pleasure having Mr. Patterson talking to me in the comfort of my home. I could not have asked for a better instructor. It was a good while ago when I first started this course. Along the way, about the 20th lesson, things came up and I stopped the course. My attention was redirected to some personal happenings that I had to take care of. But, just today I get an email from Masterclass stating that I needed to finish the course...and I did just that. I finished. And I thank you James Patterson for the honor of your teaching.

A fellow student

It was fun, entertaining and strange. It's like Jesus Crist's masterclass in doing magic. It all sounds very easy (get up early and write), but impossible to repeat, because the question 'what to write' is not answered. What is the difference between some story and the story, that sells? Good structure, the clash between the good and the evil, the hero in lethal jeopardy? What kind of hero, what kind of moral dilemmas? I was expecting a few more secrets. So finally I was left doing what was in my power: watching. I couldn't stop wondering, what is that substance in the bottle on the left? Thank God, finally, Mr. Patterson downed a shot... I was a little confused by the way Mr. Patterson described writing. First of all - visually. Changing the clothes and the background almost before the comma in the same sentence! Very starry! It gave me an impression, that it was not so easy after all. Re-writing, re-writing, re-writing.

Jeff S.

I have started about 10 novels and never get past the 20th page. I rewrite those 20 pages over and over. Mr. Patterson provides a structure and methodology to blow that logjam up. I have now written a time travel mystery that was picked up by Austen Macaulay, am working on a sequel, and have started an entirely different novel. What made the class sweeter is James' references to his advertising days...I am the former Chief Communications Officer of DDB Worldwide so loved the brand and marketing talk as well. Cheers!