The Penmen Profile: SNHU Chats with Award-winning Playwright Raegan Payne
by Pamme Boutselis
An award-winning, published playwright, Raegan Payne’s work is regularly in production. She is also an actress and strident volunteer. Her efforts in volunteerism are chronicled in her nationally recognized blog, The Good Muse.
Have you always written?
There’s a picture of me trying to type when I was one. I always kept a journal. When I was in elementary school I would write plays for my brothers and cousins to perform, but I was a horrible producer so the productions weren’t very good.
What’s your process in developing your storyline and characters?
I believe a well-rounded character is the cornerstone to good writing. You can watch a wonderful character do any boring activity for hours and it’s fascinating. I do detailed character sketches and try to get to know each character inside and out before I get started. I definitely stress more about a character having an arc than fitting them awkwardly into a certain act structure.
What challenges do you face in your writing, and how do you overcome them?
I can’t spell, so thank god for spellcheck.
I’m also a slow typist.
I get self-conscious like anyone. I force myself to write a page a day. I also always work on several projects at once, so I don’t get locked with one and stop altogether.
What has the road to publication been like for you?
I had one of those Hollywood stories, literally. I couldn’t afford to produce a full production of my plays so I started entering them in contests. I started “winning” to quote Charlie Sheen.
The Hollywood Fringe festival was approaching, and some people knew I was winning awards, so we all scraped a few hundred dollars together to put the plays up. The plays attracted some big actors, and they sold out.
One night after the show someone walked up to me and asked, “Are these published?” I said, “No not yet.” And they responded, “I think my publisher would be interested.”
Cliché ending—And the rest is history.
How do you market your work?
My blog, The Good Muse, has helped a lot even though it is a work unto itself and not related to the plays. I think TGM was important because it’s an open portfolio of work.
As far as plays—I enter playwriting contests. And I win some. That helps.
I also have tons of people read my work to give me notes—this not only makes the work better, but it spreads the word about my new projects.
What do you know now that you wish you knew back then?
You’ll never, ever, ever be perfect. Don’t even try. Just put stuff into the world and see if it flops. You’ll learn more from mistakes than successes.
Who are the writers that have inspired you most, and how have they inspired you?
I love Christopher Moore’s funny sci-fi-ish novels and Chris Durang’s plays because of their madcap and yet real characters. Tina Fey for being a groundbreaking female comedian who proves that women are funny. Jane Austen for her wit and candid observation. Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde for setting the bar so high.
If you keep just three books in your library, which would you choose and why?
This is the hardest question. Right this minute I’d say:
- “Pride and Prejudice” because I would need a good love story and it’s funny.
- The complete works of Shakespeare because I could spend the rest of the days studying his sonnets and plays and learn something new everyday.
- “Sacre Bleu” by Christopher Moore, because it’s ridiculous, hilarious and everyone needs a good muse or a book about a muse.
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