Q&A With Jessica Payne

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Q&A With Jessica Payne 

Today’s Q&A is with Jessica Payne who is the author of psychological suspense. Her novels are Make Me Disappear, The Lucky One. 


Q: Jessica what made you want to write psychological suspense? 


A: I’ve always read, but somewhere along the way I stumbled across my first psychological suspense thriller, and whoa—it took me on a wild ride. Not only is there a mystery to figure out, but somewhere in there the author has laid a twist, a turn, you won’t see coming. It’s an adrenaline rush in a book. How cool is that? I started reading them one day, then found myself wondering… could I learn to write one? It seemed like the perfect challenge. A few books later, I’m still figuring it out, still learning more with every book, but I feel like it’s a goal accomplished.


Q: Was there a point in your life when you realized that you wanted to become a writer?

A: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but there have certainly been steps along the way. I remember writing a story in 2nd grade. My first “book” about my best friends and I in 4th grade. In middle school, which can be a lonely time, writing was my best friend. It was just what I did. What I grew up doing. But yeah, there was a moment when I wondered—could I do this? Could I be a writer? 

In college, I remember walking into a Borders (just aged myself!) and taking in the thousands upon thousands of books—surely, I thought, if all these people had figured out the secret to writing a book, I could, too.

But then life happened. I went to school to be a nurse. I dated. I got married. I had a baby. I was 34. Something about having a baby makes you think about that intersection of life and death—how precious life is. How short it is. And I realized there is no waiting to fulfill your dreams. You have to start working on them now. And so, I did. In 2018 I won my first National Novel Writing Month. That was the first time I finished a book of novel-length. And I was hooked. If I could do it once, I could do it again. And I did, over and over. My 4th book became Make Me Disappear, my first published novel.


Q: If you were to write in another genre completely which genre would it be and why?

A: Great question. And actually, there are several other genres I’d love to write in. Some of my ideas blend very closely into book club fiction (previously known as “women’s fiction”). I also grew up on urban fantasy, and a part of me would love vampires to come back into style. Maybe werewolves too, LOL. I adore a good science fiction novel every now and then. And I also read a good amount of nonfiction. Oh, and romance! I love romance. So… any of the above? For me, it’s about having an amazing character. I’ll follow an amazing character anywhere.


Q: If you are writing a new novel now, are you allowed to reveal any details?

A: I’m working on TWO new novels! One has gone to my fantastic editor and I’m in developmental edits. We’re calling it “Grey’s Anatomy, but with murder”. And I just started the rough draft of what will be my 4th book to publish, though I’m not ready to talk about that one yet!


Q: What is your advice for anyone to write good psychological suspense? How would you tell someone how to deal with writers block?

A: Well, I do recommend reading in your genre—find the stuff you love. The authors you admire. Who do it the way you want to do it, then find your own voice and your own style. I read as many books in my genre as I could to better understand the rules and when I could get away with breaking them. I also recommend watching Alexa Donne’s videos on YouTube. She has a whole playlist about writing thrillers and they were a great help to me so far as understanding the plot behind the plot, how to organize them, etc.

OK, don’t be mad at me—but I don’t (knock on wood) get writer’s block. I do, however, feel “blocked” sometimes, but usually I find it’s a symptom of following a story down the wrong pathway. I reread my book, and I almost always can spot where that point is. And so I revise, going a different direction. Sometimes, I’ll also write out scene cards of what I’ve written so far. It can help me see the book as a whole, and sometimes that allows me to see where I need to go next. 

Two great sources that might also help people are the books: Story Genius by Lisa Cron, and Save The Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody.


Q: What advice would you give to new writers on how to deal with online trolls, negative reviews and family and friends who are not supportive with their writer goals?

A: I have thankfully not had any issues with “online trolls,” but I’m a huge fan of the “block” button. No time for that kind of negativity. Nor do you owe anyone your time and energy. 

Regarding negative reviews—don’t read them! I don’t read any of my reviews (other than when I’m tagged on social media, and thankfully, those are mostly good!). My editor looks at reviews and sends me highlights and has promised to let me know if there are any themes that are something we should think about. But reviews are SO subjective. I’ve seen negative reviews for a book because it didn’t download properly, which has nothing to do with the author’s ability to write. Basically, it does you no good to read a stranger’s opinion of your book. I know so many writers who can listen to 50 positive reviews, but then hear one bad review, and that’s the one they’ll remember. The bad one. It gets in their head and makes them doubt themselves as they’re trying to write the next book. It’s just not worth it. Once that book is published, you’re not going to change it. It’s “out in the world” and each reader will interpret it subjectively. 

I’ve had the good luck if having mostly supportive family and friends. But my, have I heard stories about unsupportive ones. At the end of the day, it’s your life, and you get to decide how you spend your time. You don’t need permission from anyone, nor do you need to defend what speaks to your soul. I run a YouTube channel called #MomsWritersClub, where we have a whole episode on this—if you’re struggling with it, check it out. 


Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to any of your novels?


A: Not yet, though we have received interest! 


Q: Is it fair to say that any of the characters and places in your novels is based on people you know and places you’ve been? I always find it fascinating that an author can create places and people based on places they’ve been and people they know or even random people they’ve seen. 

A: Hmmm. Not exactly. The characters in my novels are not based on people I know. For example, Daniel in Make Me Disappear is not based on any one particular individual. However, he does have traits of a collection of easily half a dozen people. An arrogant attitude like someone I dated in my 20s, the ability to charm patients while being incredibly rude to nurses, like a surgeon I worked with a long time ago. We gather bits and pieces from our whole life, and certainly, these bits and pieces show up here and there. It’s impossible for them not to. Our experiences create who we are, and who we are is the person who writes the novel.

Locations, of course, are different. I spent a fair amount of time in Seattle, and absolutely that influenced the version of Seattle featured in Make Me Disappear. Same with growing up in Kansas City and basing The Lucky One there.