Meet Semifinalists Ellery Kane & Theresa Schultz

Thank you to everyone who participated in the James Patterson Co-Author Competition and congratulations to the semifinalists! Today, we’d like you to meet MasterClass students and semifinalists Ellery Kane and Theresa Schultz!

Ellery Kane
Oakland, California

ElleryWhat drives you to write?
My mother’s love for books inspired me to be curious about the countless stories unfolding around me, as every small town has its cast of characters. So began my fascination with people and the complex and singular lives they lead. I quickly learned most stories were not as easily deciphered as Nancy Drew. Some were tragic, others were filled with triumph. Remarkably, every story gave clues to the personality of its author. My curiosity about the behind-closed-doors lives of others is one of the reasons why I became a forensic psychologist, and now my “real” job drives my writing. As a psychologist, I meet many different types of people and ask them to tell me the deepest, darkest things about themselves. I’ve learned real life really is stranger than fiction, but through my writing, I hope to convey the idea that fiction can be just as extraordinary and riveting as real life.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
My favorite snippets of advice were to have a surprise—a twist or turn—in every chapter if you can, and to research, research, research, because it can inspire new ideas. I also love the idea that James does all his writing longhand on a legal pad—that is truly amazing!

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
Early on, my most ardent supporter was my mother. She was an English teacher and a writer herself, and she was the first person I ever shared my writing with. As a teenager, my first stories were a little morbid, but she never flinched. She always believed in my potential no matter what I set my mind to, and although she is no longer with me, her belief was instrumental in allowing me to unabashedly pursue all of my goals. Now, I’m fortunate to have a special someone who wears many hats: cheerleader, bad review censor, editor, plot developer, and sounding board.

Theresa Schultz
Irvine, California

TheresaSchultzWhat drives you to write?
I love creating complex characters, putting them in challenging situations, and seeing what happens. For me as a reader, I want to fall in love with the characters and miss them when the book ends. I would like to provide that same experience for readers of my books. Of course, I aim for great action, memorable dialogue, a terrific setting and all the rest, but if readers don’t care about those characters, they won’t keep reading, no matter how well a book is written.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
One piece of advice that is so simple, yet so brilliant, is James’ TBD message. I’ve gotten stuck before and spent far too much time trying to fix a scene, when it makes more sense to write ‘To Be Determined’ and keep going. I’m learning that as I write the next scenes, often I will come up with a way to fix the earlier scene, and I haven’t wasted precious writing time.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in your story?
Once I’ve got the reader rooting for my characters, I intend to throw several obstacles in their way and make their lives as difficult as possible. That makes the ending all the more satisfying. I want to include several twists and turns that (I hope) the reader won’t see coming. Pacing is key too, and I always try to end most chapters with a hook that forces the reader to turn the page and keep going.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
My husband has been my biggest supporter. We’ve done without some material things that a steady second income would have provided, but he’s always encouraged me. My kids have been great too. It’s not easy living with a writer. We’re juggling characters and plots in our heads all the time. My mom has been my biggest cheerleader, and the writers in my critique groups have been tremendously helpful. Writing is a lonely endeavor, so spending time with fellow writers who “get it” is invaluable. I feel truly blessed to have such a supportive community.

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