Interview: KE Payne (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Nyx Book Reviews: Hi KE, welcome to Nyx Book Reviews! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
KE Payne: Hi Celine. Well, I started writing seriously in my late-thirties. I’ve written short stories and poems on and off since I was a teenager but working full-time for the British government (and believe me, that sounds far more exciting than it really was!) has never allowed me the time to do it properly.
When I hit 30, I gave up my job and went to university and got a degree in History and Linguistics. Although I did briefly go back to work after I graduated, all I really wanted to do was write. I started off by writing some short stories for UK women’s magazines, and it was also during this period that my first novel, “365 Days” was accepted for publication. That spurred me into leaving work for a second time, and to start writing full-time.
However, I didn’t actually think about getting “365 Days” published at first. I’d found some old diaries of mine during a visit home and after reading them all again, it reminded me of a period in my life when I was pretty unhappy and confused. So I starting writing some thoughts and anecdotes down, through the eyes of a character called Clemmie, but I never dreamt it would ever turn into a complete novel. But once I started writing, I found I couldn’t stop and I wanted to see it through to its conclusion. Friends and family that read it suggested that I send it to some publishers, and Bold Strokes Books accepted it.
It’s all just snow-balled from there, really. My second novel “email@example.com” was subsequently accepted by Bold Strokes Books, and I still continue to write short stories for women’s magazines.
I’m sure that my decision to try writing full-time has been the right one. I certainly get far more satisfaction from writing than I ever did from pushing bits of paper around my desk!
Can you describe your book, firstname.lastname@example.org , in one sentence?
A confused and unhappy teenager finds answers to many of her questions about her sexuality through the people that she meets on an internet message board, finally leading to the happiness and understanding she craves.
What makes your book stand out in the quite extensive young-adult market?
To be honest, I don’t worry too much about the extensiveness of the YA market. I just write from the heart about things that matter to me, and have mattered to me in the past, and hope that it strikes a chord with the reader.
What message would you like people to get from your book?
That there are many ways to discover who you really are, and who is right for you. The main character, Immy, is, on the outside, just your average eighteen year-old college girl with a kind and loving boyfriend. But she finds her life turned upside down when she “meets” a girl called Fickle on the internet and then stresses about her growing feelings for her. She thinks it’s wrong to be attracted to another girl, and tries to ignore her feelings by focusing more on her boyfriend, which makes her feel unhappy and trapped.
I want people to read the book and realise that you can’t help who you fall in love with. Emily—who’s one of Immy’s friends at college—tells her just that; she tells Immy that she can’t help who she really is or who she may just happen to fall in love with, and that it’s not as if Immy woke up one day and decided to be gay just for the hell of it.
I wanted that to be the main message of the book – just follow your heart. There’s no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to love, and you should never be ashamed of who you really are.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
It’s exciting! I have ideas milling around in my head all the time and I can’t wait to switch the laptop on and get all those ideas down. I love that I get to “meet” all these characters, and mould them, and bring them alive, and then take them on a fantastic journey.
How much do experiences in real life influence your writing?
Both “365 Days” and “email@example.com” contain things that have happened to me in the past. Without wishing to sound too clichéd, I found it almost cathartic to write both books, as it allowed me to put some thoughts and questions that I’ve had in my own past into them.
I love writing comedy. Although “firstname.lastname@example.org” isn’t a comedy, my first novel “365 Days” definitely is. The character of Clemmie in “365” frequently says unintentionally funny things throughout the book, and most of the things she says are snippets of things I’ve heard people say. I’m a big eavesdropper! The best one-liners, double-entendres and malapropisms are always unintentional, and I love to keep an ear out for them while I’m out and about. It’s these anecdotes that go into my writing.
You write about quite a controversial topic; being gay. Do you fear negative reactions to this?
To me it’s not, and shouldn’t be seen as, controversial to be gay in 2011. It would be a shame if the book received negative reactions purely because it has gay characters in it, but I don’t fear it at all.
Anyone that’s likely to be offended by reading about a gay character would, I hope, know to find other fiction that’s more suitable for them.
What are your future plans? Any more books coming up?
I’ve already written a sequel to “365 Days” and am just coming to the closing stages of a stand-alone fourth, as yet untitled, YA novel. I’m also working on a couple of short stories, plus a humorous murder-mystery serial idea, so that’s all going to keep me busy writing for the foreseeable future.
Thank you so much for answering my questions! (: