Bestselling author presents new novel

New York Times bestselling author Victoria Patterson visited Santa Monica College last Tuesday to discuss her craft and new novel, "The Peerless Four."

The packed event, which was sponsored by the Associated Students and the English department, treated students and instructors to a 90-minute discussion about sports, writing, winning and losing.

The event featured Patterson reading an excerpt from her new book, which tells the story of a female Canadian track team that competed in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, the first ever in which female athletes were allowed to participate.

After stepping in front of the audience, Patterson introduced the excerpt by explaining that she had been inspired to write her new novel after realizing that none of the major sports novels were written by women, or for women.

However, the novel's focus is not only on women and sports, but "a meditation on winning and losing," said Patterson.

Unlike Patterson's previous works like "This Vacant Paradise" and "Drift," the new book marks a sharp swerve away from her usual material about the dark secrets and decadent lives of Newport.

The presented excerpt revealed Patterson's clear and descriptive language that sharply depicted the character's life and inner thoughts. Patterson's style is almost cinematic in the way she vividly describes moments and feelings.

After finishing the excerpt, Patterson led a discussion about the process of writing the novel.

"I just allowed my mind to completely wander, and I went about it like taking a walk in the night," she said. "I researched as much as I could. I thought about sports, and what does it mean to win, and what does it mean to lose."

Patterson did not only prepare for the novel by researching sports, but she also tried to adopt the language of the '30s.

"I read books written in that period to avoid sounding 'modern,'" she said. "I filled myself up until I was brimming and then exploded."

Patterson compared the art of writing to the kind of dedication and drive that could be found in athletes.

"I think there's a compulsive aspect to writing similar to sports," she said. "You need to have a sort of endurance."

She recommended that aspiring writers read the classics, especially her favorite, Henry James, and his works such as "The Portrait of a Lady" and "The Turn of the Screw."

"If you're a writer, you need to constantly read, constantly feed," she said.

Patterson is now working on what she described as her "big book," which will focus on a return to the world of Newport Beach.