Author Interview: C. C. Payne

C. C. Payne is a fulltime mother and writer. Something to Sing About, her first published novel, was inspired by her daughter who said, “Please write something for people my age, so I can read it!” C. C. lives in Kentucky.

Books by C. C. Payne
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Did you always know you wanted to be an author?
Nope! Not a clue! I never gave much thought to what I wanted to be when I grew up. I never gave much thought to anything—I was too busy reading! Before I knew it, I was grown up, and I still didn’t know what to do. So, I tried different things. By now, I’ve had lots of jobs—some I liked and some I didn’t—but I was never passionate about any of those jobs, the way I’m passionate about reading and writing. And no matter what job I had, no matter how many hours I worked, I continued to read and write. I wrote not for fame or fortune or glory—I wrote without even the hope that I could make a living at it. I wrote just because I wanted to, because I had to, because deep down, I’m a writer.
What inspired you to write Something to Sing About?
The truth is that the night before I began work on Something to Sing About, I decided to quit writing. I gave up. I ate a lot of junk food, and felt very, very sorry for myself. I cried, and then, before I went to sleep, I said to God, “Okay, I give up. What is it that you want me to do?” The next morning, my ten-year-old daughter sighed a sad sigh and said, “I sure wish you’d write something for people my age, so that I could read it!” I said, “Okay. I’ll try.” (I figured I didn’t have anything better to do, while I waited for God to reveal that I was meant to be a plumber or something.) After my daughter left for school, I sat down and wrote the first chapter of Something to Sing About. Ten pages or so into it, I stopped typing and suddenly realized I was having the time of my life! It was the most fun I’d ever had writing! (I couldn’t imagine having this much fun as a plumber, so I decided to put that off for a while—and keep writing!)
Is the main character Jamie Jo based on anyone you know?
Jamie Jo is a mixture of people I have either known or seen, with bits of myself thrown in, too—I am very shy by nature. Most of my characters are a mixture, like Jamie Jo. (I’ll see a little girl in the grocery store wearing baggy tights, and the image will freeze in my mind, or I’ll hear a neighbor girl screaming and imagine a big, fat bumblebee on her nose!)
Are you afraid of bees?
I like to think that I’m respectful of bees. I’m respectful of their vital importance to our food supply—and their stingers! So, this is to say that I don’t scream bloody murder when I see a bee, but I don’t try to pet it either!
There is a part of Something to Sing About that is based on an actual event. Tell us a little about this and why you decided to incorporate it into the story.
At 7:25 p.m., on March 1, 1950, after choir practice was scheduled to start, West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice, Nebraska exploded, with such tremendous force that windows in surrounding houses were shattered and a nearby radio station was forced off the air. Yet none of the church’s fifteen choir members were harmed, because they were all running late that night. Doesn’t that seem like something worth singing—or writing—about? I think so!
What’s a typical work day like?
These days, I get up at 7:00 a.m., argue with my daughter about her clothes and hair (she’s in middle school now, as she often points out, during these arguments). Once the house is empty, at 8:00 a.m., I start work—writing. I stay at my computer, writing, until 2:00 p.m. Then, I print the pages I’ve written, and grab them on my way out to pick my daughter up from school. My daughter and I have a snack and chat about her day, and then, while my daughter is at swim practice, I go back through my pages with a critical eye. I make corrections, mark out entire passages, write in others, and generally try to clean and tighten my work. I stop working when swim practice is over at 5:30. So, basically, I work a regular work day—8–5—like most people.
Do you have any advice for would-be authors?
I’m not qualified to give writing advice—there are a great many far better writers than I. However, I will say that in my case, I believe the difference between being an unpublished writer and a published writer came down to discipline and perseverance—it came down to finding a way to give more, when I wanted to give up. So, I write every day. Every day. I write when I don’t feel like it. I write when I don’t have time to write. I write despite scathing criticism. I write when I’m sick. I write when I’ve just come from a funeral. And then, I rewrite—when I don’t have time, when I’m sick, when I’ve just come from a funeral—you get the picture. I can’t out-write those other, better writers. But I can out-work them, be more disciplined, and more willing to persevere, despite any and all obstacles. So, if you want my best advice—as a writer, or a plumber—here it is: Work hard at what you love and don’t stop, no matter what!
Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
I tried to quit school in the first grade—and planned never to read or write ever, ever again!