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Write Now with Scrivener, Episode no. 14: Jessica Payne, Thriller Author

Jessica Payne's first novel, about a women who arranges her own kidnapping, has just been published.

Jessica Payne has just published her first novel, Make Me Disappear, a psychological thriller about a woman who arranges her own kidnapping. Jessica is the host of #MomsWritersClub, on YouTube and Twitter, where she discusses the issues around writing and being a mom.

Show notes:

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Jessia Payne's first novel, about a women who arranges her own kidnapping, has just been published.

I spoke with Jessica in March, as she was preparing for the launch of her novel in June. I asked her about the stress of publication. "It kind of comes and goes in waves. There are days like today where I feel like I have a pretty good handle on everything. But there are other times where it feels like there are a million things to do. Right now, it's a big push for promotion. I just had my cover reveal, which was super exciting. What people don't realize is that it does take some organization and some planning ahead of time. And alongside that I'm also still revising book two."

A lot has changed in publishing in the last couple of decades. Authors are now expected to do a lot of their own promotion. "I think the biggest mistake that people make is approaching it like it is promotion. Because that's not entirely how I see it. I have made a great community online of writers and readers, and it's a lot of fun to connect with them. So now that it's my turn to publish a book, they want to support me, and that's really cool."

I asked Jessica how she started as a writer. "I have always written. I can remember, in my 20s, walking into a bookstore and looking around and thinking to myself, 'So many people have written books. I think I could do this too.' But a lot of it is about timing and finding the right thing to write about. And for me, I felt like I needed some life experience as well. But I always thought that someday I would write a book. And I had my daughter. And something about having this tiny, fragile life in your hands makes you think about how life is very short. And that was kind of the thing that got me to start writing that first book. And I didn't necessarily have expectations, but I started writing. And I haven't stopped since."

Jessica started writing Make Me Disappear in the spring of 2020. "I had already been writing. I had written three books prior to that, and had queried them to literary agents. I'd gotten somewhat of a response, but had not gotten an agent. I wrote Make Me Disappear right after COVID lockdown started. It was the story that had been waiting to be told. And it felt very different to me; this was going to be the book that got published."

The novel is about a woman who fakes her own kidnapping because she wants to get away from the world. I asked if there was some symbolism related to COVID. "I don't know if it's specific to COVID. But I definitely went through a period of time in my 20s where the idea of being able to disappear and escape and start a new life was appealing. I think we all go through a period of time like that."

Jessica has some experience of being away from the world; she lived in the woods for six months. "I was on a backcountry trails crew [in 2006] in California, in a program called the California Conservation Corps. You live in the woods for six months, you don't have phones, you don't have computers or internet, the only way you communicate with the outside world is snail mail. Living and working out in the wilderness was an incredible experience that made me step back and reframe my whole world and what I wanted from life."

Jessica had been working as a registered nurse, and gotten a degree as a nurse practitioner, "but that's also when COVID hit. My husband is in the military, and we were in between back-to-back moves. So with all of that, I chose to stay at home with my daughter. Around then is when I signed with my literary agent, and got a book deal soon after. So right now I am a full-time author and stay at home mom."

Jessica has been using Scrivener for most of her writing career. "My first book was written during NaNoWriMo. I downloaded the trial during that time, and absolutely loved it."

Jessica prepared a list of the features she likes best in Scrivener. "I write in multiple points of view and multiple timelines often, so I love being able to have the Binder where I can see all of my different chapters. I love that I can easily move them around. For the book I'm currently working on, I have flashback chapters, but they don't have to go in any particular order. So I'm able to easily move them around. I also like that you can change the little icons; so I have a green flag for one character and a red flag for the other. It makes it so easy to be able to just scroll through and see who is who. I also really love the Compile function and how it auto-formats everything for you. I love that it has the dual screen where you can pull up two chapters at once; I use that when I am revising chapters. I also love that I can take notes in the little notes area. And I do that a lot. I make an ongoing list of things that have happened or stuff I don't want to forget that needs to happen later in the plot. It really helps me stay organized."

I asked Jessica to project herself to the future, to think how she'd feel when the book was finally published. "I think I'm going to feel relieved. I hear that there is a bit of a letdown afterwards. Not because of anything bad, just because you put all of this energy to get the book out, and then suddenly, it's done. Since I have another book coming out, I'll probably shift into that pretty fast. I think it'll be wonderful to relax a little. But I'm also so excited to hold my book in my hands, I think that's going to be wonderful to see it on shelves."

Kirk McElhearn is a writer, podcaster, and photographer. He is the author of Take Control of Scrivener, and host of the podcast Write Now with Scrivener.

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