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Drew Payne

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About Drew Payne

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    Who I Am
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    I tell stories.
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    London, England
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    and being at home with my husband.

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  1. “I gave you good script,” Ma to Alan Cocktail Sticks, a play by Alan Bennett The writer Alan Bennett has been very open about how much he is inspired by real-life events. He has written plays and film scripts all inspired by real-life events; he has written several volumes of autobiographical essays, and every year or so he publishes extracts from his diary. I’ve seen and read all of them and enjoyed them so much. In his autobiographical play Cocktail Sticks, about his relationship with his parents, the character of Ma (based on his mother) says, “I gave you good script,” meaning he has used so many of the actual things she said in his writing. I cannot class myself in the same writing league as Alan Bennett, but I take so much inspiration from real-life events. That inspiration seems to fall into three different types. The first is when I want to write about events or attitudes that have made me angry or upset. This is when I use fiction to explore how I feel about a subject or when I want to write about attitudes in order to expose the negative/destructive nature of them. My short story I Always Knew is an example of this. It was the height of the Jimmy Savile scandal and I heard an elderly journalist on the radio saying that he’d always known about Savile’s crimes. My anger led me to explore that attitude, those people who are always “wise” after a tragedy, in this story. Secondly, I can find inspiration in news headlines and real events. Sometimes it a headline and a short news item that inspires my imagination. I don’t do anymore research, instead I let my imagination dwell on those sparse descriptions or even single event and then I fill out the events and with characters I’ve created. Without researching the events any further I can make sure I am not using the people and their tragedy for my own fiction, that my story is a complete work of fiction. A Family Christmas is an example of me using this type of inspiration. There was a mass shooting in America, on Christmas Eve, the year before I wrote this story. I learnt no more about that tragedy but my imagination filled in the blanks and I created a story that explored a theme that leapt out at me from this tragedy. I don’t always search out stories of death and tragedy, all kinds of things in the media can set my imagination off running. I read an interview with the actor Russell Tovey where he said a throwaway comment, but that comment set my imagination off. The result was the story That One Big Role. I have also been researching historical events for a series of stories. These take a lot more research and less of my imagination filling in the blanks, though some of that is still needed. With these stories I want to examine a historical event from a fictional character’s point of view, find the human story inside the facts. These stories do take a lot of work, but I don’t want to stop writing them, the research is fascinating. The Trial of the Century is the first one in this style I wrote. Thirdly, I find inspiration from my own life. It can either be just one small factor that I then spin off into a whole story, or else it can form a larger part of a story, or else I fictionalise something that happened to me as a way to explore what and why that thing happened. Boxing Day 1975 is a short story of mine that was inspired by one event from my life. When I was a young child, on Boxing Day, together with my family I watched the big film on television that evening, One Million Years BC. That was the only part I took into the story, it is certainly not based on my own family but I do vividly remember how my family all sat down together to watch the same television film. I met my first boyfriend in 1987 but our relationship did not last. Our break-up was different, difficult and not that conventional. I used that break-up scene, almost word-for-word from real life, as the opening scene of my story Out of the Valley. I used this story to explore obsessive love and not being able to let go of an ex-lover, none of which was my reaction to the end of that relationship, though this story did go through many rewrites over the years with the wish-fulfilment ending being quickly dropped. Then there are those real-life encounters that play on my mind and imagination and form the bases of some of my stories. Jonathan Roven Is Lost (a story in my collection Case Studies in Modern Life) is a story that started off in that way. Through my job, I saw the effect dementia has on the partners of those people with it. My blog here gives a much fuller picture of how that story was created. For me, there isn’t just one way that I find inspiration, but I guess that is the same for so for many writers, but using inspiration and facts from real life is very important to me, I want my stories to have that taste of authenticity. I don’t use overheard dialog in my writing, like many writers do, because the few times I’ve heard anything decent I’ve forgotten the actual words by the time I get home. But I do use real people in my writing or people’s attitudes and beliefs. I don’t use direct copies of people; I don’t feel comfortable if readers can easily identify the person who was the inspiration for a character. So often I combine different things from different people—the attitude from one person, the clothes style from another and the physical appearance from another. But what really fascinates me are people’s attitudes and beliefs and how they affect their lives and how people’s personalities react in different situations. For me, I find inspiration in so many different ways, so many different things can spark and inspire my imagination, but in the end it is my imagination that forms the story from whatever the inspiration is, though I always work to create authenticity in my fiction. I hope my stories bear that out. I do remember one of the classic things my mother said, though I have never found the right story to use it in. I was in my early teens and had just come home from school one afternoon and my mother was unpacking her shopping. “I won’t buy anymore lemonade, all you lot ever do is drink it,” my mother said. “What should we do with it, wash in it?” I said. “You know what I mean,” she told me. And I did. Happy reading Drew
  2. Drew Payne


    Thank you. I've been reading parts of this story to my writers group and when I read the first appearance of Liam's mother there was very strong reactions to her, but one person said that she was a very damaged person, and she is. Unfortunately, Liam's mother has turned her hurt outwards and blames everyone around her. She is really in need of psychiatric help but I don't know if she would every take it, she doesn't see there's anything wrong with her, its other people who are the problem. Often the problem with people like Liam's mother is that they can't see the harm they are doing, but I know the perfect cure for Liam but... No spoilers though.
  3. Drew Payne


    Thank you. In a way this is the best thing his mother could have done for him. She has all the maternal feelings of a stone. He'll now slowly be able to see that but that will take time. Fortunately, he has been here who care about him, including Janet who "managed" his mother. Unfortunately, I have to deal with his sadness first. And very unfortunately, these chapters are taking longer and longer to write.
  4. The premise of this book appears simple; it chronicles the 29 hangings that took place within Kirkdale Prison, Liverpool, until it was closed. But inside that premise lies a fascinating social history. In 1868, an act of parliament stopped all public executions; after that, all capital punishments took place within a prison’s walls, away from the excited crowds of onlookers, and Steven Horton uses this as the starting point of his book, ending when Kirkdale Prison was closed in 1892. He researched the 29 people who were hanged for murder during this time. In each section, in chronological order, Horton outlines the murders, the trials and the executions. At first glance, this book appears to be just another True Crime book, listing the injustices committed by one person against another, but Horton’s research lifts it out of that category. This book provides a fascinating and uncomfortable history of the Victorian working class, looking at so many of the harsh realities of their lives. This isn’t the warm chocolate box portrayal of Victorian society we have been presented with in films, television dramas and badly written novels. Horton highlights the hardships faced by the Victorian working class. Through his descriptions of these murders and trials come some uncomfortable themes, the results of heavy drinking and domestic violence being the two that jumped out. But also the effects of poverty, prostitution and racism are highlighted here. None of these murders are “exciting” or “complicated”, the type that populate True Crime books; they are grubby and sordid, the murderers often being quickly caught. But that is such an important factor here, so often these crimes come from poverty and disappear. Horton illustrates broader Victorian social themes as well. The place of religion in Victorian society. The speed of Victorian justice, sometimes indecently fast. The nature of Victorian street violence and the gangs who attacked casual passers-by. The often self-righteous and moral panic-making nature of the press, especially when they weren’t allowed to witness a hanging inside the prison, which uncomfortably echoed our present-day media. And then there was the incompetent executioner who tied the hangman’s rope too short so that the prisoner didn’t die instantaneously from a broken neck but choked to death, and then in the next execution he tied the rope so long that the prisoner was decapitated. I cannot say this was an enjoyable read, the stories here of human desperation and failings were too sad for that, but this a fascinating read. It gave me so many insights into Victorian society, things I was never taught in my history lessons. This was also another book that ended too soon, Horton’s style of writing and storytelling is easy to read and yet made me want to read more and more from this book. Fortunately, Steven Horton has written five other books, all of which I intend to read. Find Liverpool Murders here on Amazon
  5. Chapter Twenty-Five of The World Out There is now up.

    We are back in Nurton Cross and teenage Liam is faced with a very uncomfortable reality.

    Find the chapter here.

    Happy reading.

  6. He’d been again sat in the Common Room that Saturday morning when his mother arrived unannounced. He hadn’t been expecting any visitors that day. Mark had told him he wouldn’t be visiting him for another two weeks. He’d found himself a quiet corner of the Common Room to read his book. Mrs Williams had given him a copy of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and she’d asked him to write a review of it. She’d also given him copies of book reviews, printed off the internet, so he knew what was
  7. I really recommend it, it is the best thing he has written in years. But it does end too soon. I got so swept up in reading it that I reached the end far too soon.
  8. For so many of us, Armistead Maupin is known for the Tales of the City series of books. Though set in San Francisco, these books chronicled so many of the changing events of the seventies and eighties in such a personal way. Logical Family is Maupin’s memoir, starting with his birth in very conservative 1940s/1950s North Carolina up to 1970s San Francisco when he first started publishing Tales of the City as a serial in a newspaper. This is an amazing and complicated journey that Maupin tells in an engaging and insightful way. The son of a traditional Southern lawyer, Maupin was born into a very conservative and privileged family, in a home that included a portrait of a Confederate ancestor. He grew up to be the perfect white and conservative son, but his journey away from that world is the fascinating part of this story, and it’s his queerness that started that move, long before he told anyone. His description of his childhood is very evocative, but it is his time in the Navy, posted to Vietnam, that stands out. There are tenderly erotic descriptions of the intimate rituals of Navy life, there are comic moments were Maupin struggles but succeeds in being the last American naval officer to leave Vietnam, and there are the tragic tales as Maupin grapples with his sexuality in the face of the very homophobic atmosphere of 1960s and 1970s America. The greatest and most compelling strand of his story is how his struggles and eventual acceptance of his sexuality changed him as a person, forcing him to reject his conservative upbringing and all its values. This is the best thing that Maupin has written since the last Tales of the City novel. Maupin’s non Tales of the City novels always felt lacklustre, lacking the fun, insight and page-turning enjoyment of those books, as if he was trying to prove himself as a “serious novelist” but not quite succeeding. Logical Family is a breath of fresh air; it is Maupin as the natural storyteller, but one with an important story to tell, and Maupin at his page-turning best again. The worst part of this book was that it ended too early, with Maupin beginning to publish Tales of the City as newspaper serial. I wanted to know what happened to him in the 1970s, the 1980s, and the 1990s as the world around him changed so much. What could he tell us about those times? Please Mr Maupin, can you write a sequel?
  9. Alien invasion is a staple of science fiction and has featured far too many novels and films, but in The Midwich Cuckoos, John Wyndham turns that classic theme into a frighteningly original story that is still disturbing now. The Midwich Cuckoos begins with Richard Gayford (the novel’s narrator) and his wife Janet returning from an evening in London, celebrating his birthday, to the English village of Midwich, where they have recently moved. Midwich is the stereotype of the quiet, sleepy 1950s English country village where nothing unusual ever happens. Except this day Richard and Janet find they cannot enter Midwich, all roads are blocked. So they set off, on foot, across the fields, only for both of them to collapse, unconscious, in their tracks. The army, who are trying to keep everyone out because Midwich is incommunicado, rescues them. Everyone in the village is unconscious, as if they collapsed were they stood, the same happening to anyone trying to enter the village. An invisible force is surrounding the village. This lasts for twenty-two hours and then everyone wakes up as if nothing has happened. Soon it becomes apparent that every woman able to bear children is pregnant—some without the benefit of sexual intercourse. Also, together, the women give birth to beautiful but strange babies, all with blonde hair and golden eyes… There are no bug-eyed aliens or reptilian creatures fighting humans here, instead there are strange children who look and behave like humans but are not. As they grow up, the children begin to show nonhuman-like behaviour, slowly stretching their power over the villagers. As an alien invasion this is an original and disturbing approach, to have humans as hosts for the aliens and trick them into raising and protecting these “cuckoos” in their midst. Also, this is an implied alien invasion; no one names it as such. Wyndham’s novel is a slow burn, slowly and piece by piece giving the reader information, slowly revealing the nature of the children. Yet the characters here are all too real, displaying that all too human trait when faced with the extraordinary of simply accepting it as ordinary. He also taps into one of our fundamental fears, that our children are not our own but have been substituted by changelings. I first read this novel as a teenager and it frightened me; coming back to it as an adult I find it just as disturbing but for different reasons. This invasion almost mimics the way a virus attacks a body. It is such a simple but very original premise. The Midwich Cuckoos is set in 1950s England, when it was written, and so reflects the attitudes and prejudices of the time, children born out of wedlock are a source of shame and class rules everyone’s relationships. This only adds to the atmosphere and feel of this novel, the setting so real that it makes the extraordinary events that slowly unfold seem real as well—only adding to the horror. John Wyndham should be held up there as one of the greats of science fiction, though he seems to have slipped down in people’s memory. If you are new to Wyndham’s works this is an excellent entry into his dark universe. If you read this novel many years ago, give it a new look—it has lost none of its impact and is also now strangely relevant.
  10. Drew Payne


    The present day section is set over one, rather bad Sunday in Liam's life. He's needs a bit of perspective and he's going to get it, but there are many things we need to know about his life at Nurton Cross first.
  11. Drew Payne


    Oh, spoilers, spoilers... Do remember that this story is about redemption. Just as Liam is being redeemed in the flashback sections of this story, so he will be in the present day sections. No one has recognised him since he was released.
  12. Drew Payne


    You do know that he stabbed to death another boy when he was twelve? Liam is such a lost soul, I didn't realise it at first how much he is. But I wanted to write about how he pieces his life back together after one, very stupid act. We should never condemn someone for what they did as a child. (And please don't get too involve with Liam, he's got his eyes set on someone else.)
  13. Chapter Twenty-Four of The World Out There is now up.

    Liam sits alone in his room, in the present day B&B hotel. He is now living out there in the “free world” and it is such a lonely place.

    Find the chapter here.

    Happy reading.

  14. Liam sat at the little table in his room in the B&B hotel and pushed another forkful of food into his mouth. It was gone three o’clock and he hadn’t eaten since his breakfast of two dry pieces of toast, at nine o’clock that morning. He didn’t feel hungry - his appetite had vanished hours ago, but he had started feeling tired and light-headed. So ignoring his lack of appetite, he’d cooked his planned meal of sausages and baked beans on toast. First, he’d fried the sausages in the bottom

    Waiting for the Postman

    This blog is about one of those special places in my life, Gays the Word bookshop, and how I first discovered it, which wasn’t the conventional way.

    Happy reading



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