Payne, Emily

I was born and, for the most part, raised in North Carolina. I have always loved reading and writing, and I studied journalism and mass communication and creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Upon graduation in 2006, I moved to Greenville, S.C., and have been here ever since. I currently work as a client representative at a wealth management firm. 

As a child, I often wrote little stories, but the idea of being an author did not come about until the summer I was 13. My parents were busy working and building our house, and I stayed with my grandparents for days on end. That was just on the cusp of the young adult genre becoming popular – there was no Harry Potter, no Twilight, no Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants yet, and I quickly ran out of things to read that summer. Finally, in frustration, I thought that if I couldn’t find a good book to read, I’d just write one myself. I did write a “book” that summer – it was 24 pages long, and I was so proud of myself. And the dream of being an author has stuck with me ever since. Over the years it has taken a backseat to more pressing matters such as school and jobs, but it’s always been there. 

Aside from reading and writing, I love to travel, which is lucky since seeing new places frequently provides inspiration for my writing. I also enjoy trying new foods and wines. In my spare time, I do yoga, crochet and spend time with my friends and family.

Interview Emily Payne


W. Lambert

 1) Tell us a little about yourself and how the creative writing process started for you.

I studied journalism, mass communication and creative writing. I live in South Carolina. At age thirteen I had run out of YA books to read, so wrote one myself—twenty-four pages. I felt so proud. The dream of being an author has stuck with me ever since. Over the years it has taken a backseat to more pressing matters such as school and jobs, but it’s always been there. I love to travel, enjoy trying new foods and wines, do yoga, crochet and spend time with friends and family.

  • 2) A new book; that pristine blank sheet of paper, blank screen. To you; a dread or a joy? A pleasure to dive in, get underway, or a nightmare of indecision?

Both. That blank screen is both a blessing and a curse. I struggle with going back and making major plot or character changes once I’ve already got something on paper so it’s nice to know I don’t have to “fix” anything. But at the same time, it can be very intimidating to know that absolutely nothing exists until I create it.

  • 3) Authors differ a great deal in how they deal with research. Some wouldn't dream of starting without intensive research being carried out in advance, others research as they go along, still others do as little as possible and only when necessary. That’s me, I’m afraid. How about you?

 I tend to do research as I go along. The only preliminary “research” I did for “That’s How Women Die” was a month-long study abroad trip to Italy in 2004. That provided the basic idea and the setting. I researched the details as I wrote.

  • 4) Tell us about your way of finding the initial idea for the next book. Do you normally have something in mind, a pre-planned schedule, or is it a random, isolated event, maybe an overheard comment that strikes a chord and triggers the next idea?

There is never a pre-planned schedule. Even if I do have some kind of rough outline, the characters often take me down a different path than I originally intended. Usually it’s just a chance event: a person I think would make a good character, a situation I think might go well in a book, a place that I feel should be written about. There’s really no telling.

  • 5) How did 'That's How Women Die' come about? Tell us something about its initiation and background.

When traveling I wrote down what we did, what we saw, what we ate. The trip made a huge impression on me. When I worked as a reporter, I began some creative writing using my travel notes as the basis for my story. The overarching story is fictional, but the activities are real. It made writing the book fun because I got to take the trip twice.

  • 6) How does a writing day progress for you? Are you strictly disciplined, have your own special space where you shut yourself away, refuse to be disturbed, or are you constantly juggling with life's other priorities that just can't go unattended?

There’s really no such thing as a typical “writing day” for me right now, as I work full-time and often don’t feel like touching a computer when I come home. However, my favorite (and most productive) way to write is to go to a local coffee shop, order the exact same drink every time, put on headphones and a classical music station, and write until I can’t write anymore. That’s how most of That’s How Women Die was written.

  • 7) Some authors revel in the storyline, page after page of highly descriptive prose. Others break away, excelling in dialogue, putting together wonderful conversations that give insight into the characters, pulling the story forward. Do you have a preference; feel more comfortable, maybe consider yourself better at one than the other?

Dialogue, hands down. My favorite part of writing is creating the characters, and dialogue is one of the best ways to create well-rounded, believable characters. In creative writing classes in college, I was told that writing dialogue is one of my greatest strengths.

  • 8) Who are your favourite authors and do you have one in particular who inspires you, maybe even set you on the road to becoming an author yourself?

Joanne Harris, Ann Brashares, Emily Giffin and Lauren Willig. They each inspire me in different ways. Brashares keeps re-igniting the spark of becoming an author. Harris inspires in the way she captures the essence of places. I love Willig’s characters and their witty banter. Giffin is my biggest inspiration, however. My writing style is very similar to hers, and I love her character development.

  • 9) If asked to give just one single piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

Write. Just sit down and do it. Whether it’s fear or indecision or plain old procrastination, there’s always a reason NOT to write. But until you sit down and write, you’re not a writer.

10) Finally, tell us about your writing ambitions for the future and what we can expect next from Emily Payne.

I plan to continue writing novels. And I’m going on a trip to France this month, so perhaps in my next novel the characters will be saying “Bonjour” instead of “Ciao.”