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24 September 2014

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Harry Patterson
Harry Patterson

Jack Higgins

Highly successful author Harry Patterson, who lives in Jersey, explains what first inspired him to become a writer and gives his tips on what makes a good story.

"I started to write short stories and things like that; and that was the beginning!"
Harry Patterson, author of The Eagle has Landed

Harry Patterson, most widely known by his pseudonym Jack Higgins, has written more than sixty novels; many of which have topped the best sellers chart. His books have been translated into over forty languages and some have also been turned into films.

His most famous novel is probably the thriller The Eagle Has Landed (once again under the name Jack Higgins), which was made into a film starring Michael Caine and Donald Sutherland.

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The beginning

Harry was brought up in a working class family in Belfast, and it was here that he discovered his passion for literature.

With little money Harry spent a lot of time in the library from a very early age; “luckily I happened to have a very early ability to read quite fluently, and so I read all the time because there wasn’t much else to do.

“That love of reading lead to me thinking that I could think of stories as well. So, through my teens and so on, I started to write short stories and things like that; and that was the beginning.”

It’s awesome to be in print

It wasn’t until Harry was 29 that he got his first book published, at the time he was a school teacher. “To hear that I’d actually got a book published…was awesome really; simply because you were in print, not because you were making money”.

Be sure not to be discouraged if you think that you’re no good; Harry didn’t believe that he had a talent for writing yet he has gone on to become one of the most successful writers of our time, “there was no feeling in my mind that I was going to enjoy the success that I learnt later in life” he explains.

Keep it simple

So, if you have an idea for a story forming in your mind, how do you start to get that down on paper? Harry suggests that the most important thing, which has proved to be so successful for him, is to keep the idea simple.

All writers have experienced writers block from time to time; you’re happily tapping away on your keyboard when all of a sudden your inspiration suddenly dries up and you can’t think where the story is going to develop next.

If you keep the idea of your story simple you can avoid this happening “the idea of what the book should be about is the important thing, and you can say that to yourself in two or three sentences, then the rest of it is a development of real people, just like real life.”

Keep it real

“You tend to find that if you have an idea about so and so, it’s rather like real life and it will develop in your head, it really will, and suddenly you will find that characters will creep in that you didn’t know about.”

Indeed one of the best tips that Harry himself was ever given was from an old school teacher, who told him that it is important to “let [the story] unroll as if it is real life and then unexpected things will happen.”

Over to you

Now it’s your turn to be the writer: take part in our BBC Jersey Short Story Competition and the next thing Harry reads could be your work.

last updated: 02/03/06
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