A 40-year-old idea

Chatham writer Peggy Payne releases new fantasy tale


Peggy Payne has spent the last four decades creating a world straight from her imagination, and that world became a reality on Monday, May 1. Her book — “My Life on Earth and Elsewhere” — flew onto bookstore shelves and onto online retailers on Monday

“There were two books I wanted to go back and finish, and this was one of them,” Payne said.

Payne’s passion for writing began in 8th grade when she would enter many essay contests for monetary prizes, which she’d often win. She continued that passion through her time at Duke University, where she studied English and worked for the student newspaper, the Duke Chronicle, as a co-editor for the women’s issues section.

The easiest way Payne thought she could write for a career was if she went into journalism, and that’s exactly what Payne did.

“I did travel writing for about five years … and I did advertising, writing all kinds of things. But I hadn’t planned to write fiction,” she said.

Freelancing allowed for Payne to write for multiple publications, including the Wilmington Morning Star, the Durham Herald-Sun and more. From covering desegregation in North Carolina’s public schools to writing occasional editorials for extra money, Payne was able to gain experience covering a wide variety of topics.

However, Payne started thinking about what stories she would write if she wasn’t a journalist, and the idea hit her.

“I thought if I were going to write a novel, what would it be about or where would I start,” Payne said. “At the time, there was no paranormal stuff, no category of that at all. But that’s what I started with — that girl having an out-of-body experience.”

Now, over four decades later, My Life on Earth and Elsewhere will be released as Payne’s sixth stand-alone novel.

Payne’s other novels have received nods from critics affiliated with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and other publications. While most of her previous work could be considered contemporary adult fiction, Payne’s latest release will be her first young adult story.

The story focuses on a 16-year-old girl, Darcy, who finds out her parents are going to divorce. The shock of the news of her parents’ separation results in Darcey having an out-of-body experience. As her soul flies above the trees, she meets an “astral boy,” according to Payne.

“While she’s out of her body, she meets this gorgeous boy, who seems to have no pretense about him,” Payne said. “He is not like any boy in high school, except that he seems to be that age. They fall in love, and they try to work out how to have an interdimensional relationship.”

The book’s plot focuses on the relationship between the couple and the adventures they face as interdimensional beings. Payne said the relationship between the two characters plus the supernatural aspects of the book makes for a unique experience for readers.

“She’s kind of a fringy kid anyway, an outlier, and so she feels like high school can be enough of a challenge without talking about your astral boyfriend,” Payne said. “She’s trying to integrate him into high school, and that’s not easy … He nor she really know what they’re capable of — this is something new for both of them. So that’s the situation and then it gets really complicated.”

Payne said this novel has had several iterations over the decades, and in fact, she didn’t originally write it as a young adult fantasy novel. While My Life on Earth and Elsewhere has gone through many changes, Payne said she’s proud of how the final product turned out with Hydra Publications.

“I just got a review that said it would be mesmerizing for YA (young adult) paranormal readers and for lovers of fantasy without regard to age, and I happen to think that too,” she said. “I’m absolutely satisfied and elated to have this completed.”

My Life on Earth and Elsewhere will hit local bookstore shelves and will be available on Amazon on May 1.

Reporter Taylor Heeden can be reached at theeden@chathamnr.com.