Danville resident C.C. Payne appears a confident adult on the outside. However, laughingly, she says, “I’m still 12 on the inside.”
“People with hormonal mood swings and bad skin, those are my people. I’m good with those people. Plagued by insecurities? I totally understand you. We could be friends,” Payne said. She uses this inside understanding to help her write books geared toward this group of people.
Recently, Payne released her second book, “Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freedom and the Challenges of Bad Hair” and says she was like Lula Bell in that she wanted to fit in so badly. In general, though, Payne says she was more like the character of Jamie Jo in her first novel, “Something to Sing About,” because she is naturally shy and “a little socially awkward.”
She also says she loved reading and writing but never considered it to be a career option.
“I always thought I would be lucky if I could force blood relatives to read my work,” Payne said, laughing.
That is, until a few things happened in her life. Payne’s grandmother, who she says had always been concerned with taking care of everyone else, had longed to be a writer and had written as a hobby, planning to one day try getting published. That day never came.
“My grandmother was a beautiful writer, and when I was 30, she died and she had outlined several novels and had always planned to write. She had spent her life taking care of other people and died before she got around to doing what she wanted to do. That’s really when I got serious about it. … I just didn’t want my life to slip through my fingers before I got to do what I really wanted to do,” Payne said.
Her husband, Mark, also encouraged her to really give it a shot, which she says was monumental in her career.
“I thought, ‘everyone has something they like to do, sing or write. … You don’t make money at those things,’” Payne said. However, her husband and daughter wouldn’t let her give up on her dreams.
“When the rejection letters came in by the hundreds, he could have easily said, ‘OK, you’ve tried, it’s not going to work out. Writing is just going to be a hobby for you.’ And I would have said, ‘You’re right.’ But he never did,” Payne said of her husband, “He was so determined, and so was my daughter.”
Because the two believed in her so much, she says, she couldn’t give up.
At the time, Payne was working as an administrative assistant in Nashville.
“I was working from 8 to 6. I would come home and cook dinner for the family, and, after I put my daughter to bed at 9, I would write until 11. Then, I would get up at 4:30 the next morning, and I would read and edit what I had typed the night before,” she said.
It was a strict schedule for the budding writer, but “it was the only way to not let my life pass me by,” she said.
This went on for a while until she began getting sick because of the lack of sleep. She ultimately changed jobs, working nights at a sleep lab, which enabled her to spend time writing during the day.
After writing two novels for adults and collecting rejection letters from all over the country, Payne said she probably was “in the slush pile at every literary agency at some point.” She describes feeling “lost” during this time. A conversation with her daughter Laurel, who was 10 at the time, sparked a new idea.
“She said, ‘Could I read the books that you’ve written,’ and I said, ‘No, they’re not for kids, they’re for adults,’” Payne said. Her daughter was unhappy with that answer and responded, “Well, I sure wish you’d write a story for people my age, so I could read it and share it with my friends.”
So she did.
“I thought, ‘I might as well try,’” Payne said, and she sat down to try her hand at writing for tweens.
“It just flowed. It was the most fun I had ever had writing. I couldn’t believe I had spent so many years not doing that, not having that kind of fun,” she said.