Meet The James Patterson Co-Author Competition Semifinalists

Thank you to everyone who participated in the James Patterson Co-Author Competition and congratulations to the semifinalists! We had the opportunity to learn more about our 10 semifinalists. Check out the following selections from their written interviews to learn more about their writing experiences and inspirations (listed in alphabetical order).

Blake Northcott Ontario, Canada

What drives you to write?
Writing is in my blood! My grandfather was a bookbinder in pre-war Czechoslovakia, and my ancestor wrote one of the first books about settling here in Canada during the 1830s – her book is still taught at universities to this day.
Aside from my lineage, I just love the craft. I get a buzz of excitement when I read a great novel, and it inspires me to put words of my own on a page. I can’t read an exciting book without sitting down to write something immediately afterward!

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from James’ class so far?
That perseverance is ultimately the key to success. Hearing that he was rejected by publishers so many times and never let it defeat him was so uplifting. I’ve probably seen that lesson fifty times, and I still go back to it for inspiration!

Jack Mathers Pennsylvania, USA

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’s class so far? From the Passion and Habit lesson, it’s not even James Patterson’s quote, it’s his grandfather’s: “When you go (over the mountain) to work in the morning, you gotta be singing.” I think I actually teared up when I heard this. This is how I need to live my life. I need to sing. This was my favorite chapter. I have heard many people say many motivational things, but in this lesson, JP was speaking directly to me. I learned a lot of good techniques in the other chapters, but THIS one is the one that shook me.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
My wife for sure. I would not have even thought of taking this class if not for her. She has continued to believe in me despite my own (nearly constant) self-doubt. She is my biggest cheerleader. Not only has she given me encouragement, but she is my number one person to go to when I am working out an idea. Sometimes she has input, other times, she just listens. It’s usually perfect, even if she gets me fired up about something, I probably needed it.

Javier Sanchez Ohio, USA

Which writers do you aspire to be like?
I’m not going for brownie points when I say James Patterson. I struggle with reading and the psychology behind making short chapters and the rush of endorphins that come from the “mini accomplishments” every 3 to 4 pages really works. I was thankful when I discovered his style. I also enjoy the writing of Malcolm Gladwell. Every time I read one of his books it’s like peeling back a layer to humanity and seeing a perspective you wish you would have thought of yourself, but are still thankful that you were exposed to it through him. I’d like my writing to do the same.

If you could take a MasterClass from anyone, who would it be?                          Tom Burrell. He is a marketing communications pioneer who revolutionized the use of positive and realistic images of African Americans in television advertising. He practically invented marketing to urban minority populations.

Jessica Goeken Illinois, USA

What drives you to write?   
What drives me to write is knowing the person that I want to be. I enjoy writing, I love the way words go together and create something beautiful. I like to think that I’m talented, and I can’t imagine not writing and wasting whatever talent I have. I don’t want to look back on my life and wish that I had pursued something that I was passionate about, rather than what was simply available at the time.

Which writers do you aspire to be like?
I aspire to be like Tolkien. The depth and complexity of his characters and the world that he created is, to me, unmatched. I want to be able to think like that, to weave that kind of a story.

Jule P Miller III Mississippi, USA

If you could spend 5 minutes with James, what questions would you ask him?
I would like to know what he dreams about, what he still wants to do in his life. I would like to know what he thinks of science fiction, and whether he would like to co-write a science fiction piece. Finally, I would ask him if he wanted to drop by and have a bowl of gumbo sometime.

Who has been the most supportive of your writing? How do they help you?
In the more than 30 years of our marriage, my wife has always been encouraging of my desire to write. This past year and a half she has taken on the burden of being the sole breadwinner of our family so that I could develop my writing skills. Without that help, my writing would only ever be a hobby.

MaryBeth Yates Florida, USA

What drives you to write?
I’ve always had a love of telling stories. I write to share those stories with others, and hopefully bring them some entertainment/enjoyment in the process.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from James’s class so far?
OUTLINING!! I have always been horrible at this, and for some reason Mr. Patterson’s approach just clicked with me. It has really helped me on several projects already.

Matthew Trafford Ontario, Canada

If you could spend 5 minutes with James, what questions would you ask him?
Other than spoilers for what might happen in the next season of Zoo, I would want to hear about any times he thought he might have to give up on writing a particular book or story, and how he overcame that feeling.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in the story?
If you want to know that, I would encourage you to take James’s class and pay particular attention to lesson 13, Writing Suspense. In all seriousness, the best way to keep readers engrossed is to tell a fantastic story, the kind I would want to read myself. If I’m not bored, the readers won’t be.

Michael Jaoui New York, USA

If you could spend 5 minutes with James, what questions would you ask him?
Is there a story that got away? A story that’s great but you just can’t find the right way to get it on the page? I have a few of those, and I’m curious if a writer as accomplished and skilled as James Patterson does too.

What’s your favorite book?
That’s a tricky question. There are so many books that I love, and it’s hard to pick one. If I have to, I’d say All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, because it has something for everyone and is beautifully written. It’s got political intrigue, family drama, twists, turns, and action. It’s a timeless masterpiece.

Tammy Vaughter Nebraska, USA

What drives you to write?
There’s just this amazing feeling that comes with expressing, and creating a connection with my characters. I love creating characters in a world I can imagine, develop and control through words and scenes, and then watch a story unfold. This drives me to write. My parents shielded my siblings and I from television and influences they felt may steal our innocence and hamper our spiritual growth. Instead we were herded outdoors, into nature and traveled for a time in a gutted out school bus. We grew up poor, but I didn’t realize this until early adulthood. We lived along the flanks of the Verde River in Arizona in a tent. I feel like my parents decision to isolate my siblings and I for a time, fueled my creativity and imagination. This opportunity to live free inspired me to read and write at a very early age. And I must admit as well, acknowledgement in my writing is also a driving factor.

Who has been the most supportive in your writing? How do they help you?
My family has been the most supportive, especially my husband of 30 years, TJ. He has never let up with encouraging me to write. He reads anything I put in front of him and he offers honest criticism. I value his support. He is the one who gifted me the awesome James Patterson MasterClass and strongly urged me to enter the contest. I live in a very small community with a small circle of friends and family. My mother and my 4 grown children all love to write as well, and are very supportive of me.

Tucker Edward Axum III Louisiana, USA

What drives you to write?
I grew up in the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun country. Storytelling over delicious cuisine was a daily pastime for us. I learned early on that people yearned to be inspired and transported to other locales and eras, and writing has been my preferred tool for storytelling. Writing allows me to take loved ones and strangers on adventures around the world. Whether bringing a World War II soldier back to life, nursing an injured plane to terra firma, or walking the somber grounds at Auschwitz, words touch our hearts and minds. They remind of us our common humanity.

How do you plan to keep readers engrossed in the story?
People love a great story, and one with the right amount of suspense. I think of it as making a gumbo. Don’t worry about the recipe—just cook with your heart. Pour in a bottle of imagination, a hint of realism, sprinkle some humor, a dash of drama, and toss in some dialogue. Let it all boil together and stir it occasionally. The aroma excites you and makes you impatiently crave the finale. Your and my gumbo probably won’t taste the same, but they should both nourish the body, and make people wanna come back for seconds.


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