Arts & Entertainment, Writing

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.

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

Topics include: Where it all started • Why James chose writing • The heights of success • Family • Balance


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...

About the Instructor

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.

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James Patterson

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

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