For our friend Dan Wakefield, author of How Do We Know When It’s God?, finding novelist Peggy Payne’s work was love at first sight: “I wrote Peggy Payne a fan letter the first time I read any of her work—a chapter from her novel Revelation, one of the most moving and memorable works I’ve read about Christianity in the lives of ordinary people. I later learned she is also a fine teacher when I co-led a workshop with her at Auburn Theological Seminary, and again when I heard her speak on the writing of her wonderful recent novel Sister India. I recommend her work to all lovers of fiction and anyone interested in genuine spirituality.”
Some of Payne’s work is featured in Image issue 39.
For more information on Peggy Payne, click here.
Peggy Payne has been a freelance writer of one sort or another for the past 32 years. Her travel writing has taken her to more than 25 countries. Her novels, with their spiritual quests, have taken her on a journey into her own interior and into the workings of several religions
Her most recent novel Sister India was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She is author of the novel Revelation, and a co-author, with Allan Luks of The Healing Power of Doing Good (a Literary Guild selection). She also wrote a book on a clothing firm, Doncaster: A Legacy of Personal Style. Her short stories have appeared in a dozen journals, and in anthologies including God: Stories, edited by Atlantic Monthly senior editor C. Michael Curtis. One story was chosen for syndication by the PEN American Center; another cited in the 1987 Best American Short Stories and published in New Stories from the South. An essay of hers on the seductive nature of fiction about India is included in the new Remarkable Read: 34 Writers and Their Adventures in Reading, released in February 2004.
Born in Wilmington, NC, in 1949, Peggy Payne graduated from Duke University in 1970 and worked two years for The Raleigh Times before beginning to freelance. Her articles, reviews, or essays have appeared in publications including The New York Times, Ms. Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Travel+Leisure, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and many others. She has had one essay-“Writing the Sacred”-published in Image.
Payne has recently been awarded the Sherwood Anderson Award for 2003, given in memory of the author of Winesburg, Ohio. She has been the recipient of an NEH grant to study fiction at Berkeley, and an Indo-American Fellowship to research Sister India in Varanasi, and a North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship.
Her public speaking has taken her to locations from Banaras Hindu University to Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. Peggy Payne writes, and works with other writers, in a sunny office in the two-block downtown of Apex, NC, then drives home to a log house on a pond in rural Chatham County where she lives with her husband, psychologist Bob Dick. From her husband’s special interest in clinical hypnosis, she learned much that contributed to Sister India being repeatedly described by critics as “mesmerizing.”
In my novel-in-progress, Cobalt Blue, I am once again in my fiction following the story of a person seeking or being chased by God.
The stories—in each of my first two novels and in this new one—are set within the world of a particular religion. Revelation centers on the minister at a liberal Protestant church who hears God speak aloud, though his congregation doesn’t believe in that sort of thing. My most recent novel, Sister India, set in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, is the story of an American woman seeking peace in what she believes to be a sanctuary. Cobalt Blue, about two/thirds written, deals with both Tantric Hindhuism and Buddhism, and with Voudoun, more familiarly known as voodoo; further complicating matters, this story unfolds mainly in the conservative old golf resort town of Pinehurst, North Carolina. The main character, a 38 year-old woman, is, as the story begins, a painter in psychological and creative crisis.
Though the religious ideas in Cobalt Blue are of the sort that don’t get a lot of respect in this country, I am treating them with the same depth and seriousness as I’ve used in earlier books, fiction and nonfiction, in approaching the beliefs and cultures of Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. As far as I can foresee, my work will continue to explore mystical experience and its effects on a person’s life.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.