Two Bluegrass authors seek young adult readers through tales of magic and family

Gwenda Bond has a new novel, Girl in the Shadows, coming out in July. It’s her sixth book. Bond calls herself, jokingly, a “17-years-in-the-making success.”
Gwenda Bond has a new novel, Girl in the Shadows, coming out in July. It’s her sixth book. Bond calls herself, jokingly, a “17-years-in-the-making success.”

Two of the most successful young adult authors in Kentucky live miles away from each other in the Bluegrass.

Both have books about to debut and both share similar outlooks about discipline and never giving up, but the women have never met.

C.C. Payne’s new book, The Thing About Leftovers (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, $16.99), explores the troubles of children whose parents divorce, re-marry other people and then produce other children. Fizzy, the heroine, feels the woes of children suddenly exposed to new rules by a step-parent and feeling pushed aside by a parent’s new baby.

“I come from blended families,” said Payne, who lives at Herrington Lake. “I know firsthand that even under circumstances where everyone is doing their best, it’s difficult.”

But such children need to know that they are still loved: “They’re not alone and they are not unloveable,” Payne said. “The unique thing about this book is that it lets you see from all perspectives.”

Payne had difficulties in school because she was a slow reader but she had high retention of what she read. She credits Lisa Saylor, a teacher at Lexington’s Southern Elementary, with spotting her potential and encouraging her academically.

I think sometimes people give up when they’re right on the verge.

Author C.C. Payne

She also credits her husband Mark Payne with keeping her spirits up while she compiled 100 rejection letters.

“He just grew more and more determined for me to prove them wrong,” Payne said. “... I think sometimes people give up when they’re right on the verge.”

While raising her daughter Laurel, who is now in college at Kentucky Christian University, Payne would write and edit after her child had gone to bed and she would get up at 4 a.m. to write.

Her previous books include: Lula Bell on Geekdom, Freakdom, and the Challenges of Bad Hair; and Something to Sing About.

Gwenda Bond, who worked in state government for 17 years, is a full-time writer now, and since she no longer works in the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Human Services, her hair is a rich teal.

Bond has a new novel, Girl in the Shadows (Skyscape, $9.99 paperback), coming out in July. It’s her sixth book, following Blackwood, The Woken Gods, Fallout, Double Down and Girl on a Wire.

“In some ways it’s hard to believe I was ever doing both,” Bond said. “I wrote early for years. I never took a weekend off.”

While she still tries to keep office hours with her writing, she’s also free to take a walk around her downtown Lexington neighborhood, do yoga and spend time with her menagerie: one cat and two dogs.

She still has a goal: write at least six pages a day for a book due Sept. 1.

Working in state government “didn’t exercise the same muscles” as writing novels, Bond said.

Next up is a project with her husband Christopher Rowe: The Supernormal Sleuthing Service. It will be the first in a new series about mystery-solving kids living in a hotel. The first book is expected to be published in summer, 2017.

She will celebrate her upcoming 40th birthday with a trip to New York and tickets to Hamilton purchased with part of her advance on Girl in the Shadows.

Growing up in Jackson County with educator parents, Bond had access to the school library, even during summer breaks. She read her brother’s high school reading list so that she would be done with it in advance and then could read whatever she wanted when she got to high school.

“I always wanted to write, and I’ve always read a little bit of everything,” she said.

She praises Jack Hillwig, who taught a screenwriting class at Eastern Kentucky University, for helping her polish her style.

“He said, ‘This is good, but not that good,” Bond said.

That was helpful, she said, because student writing that is overpraised doesn’t help the student improve. After EKU, she later got a MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

“I never really doubted that I would publish,” Bond said. “So much of it is perseverance. There’s no book that’s published ... that people don’t say ‘no’ to.”

Bond calls herself, jokingly, a “17-years-in-the-making success.”

Why specialize in young adult literature?

After the success of the Harry Potter series, “it’s a much more robust marketplace. ... There’s more readers and more avenues to get your book out there.”

Payne said that never giving up is key.

“I want kids to know that there’s always hope, that humor always helps,” she said. “What if I had stopped at rejection letter #83?”

Cheryl Truman: 859-231-3202, @CherylTruman


From The Thing About Leftovers, by C.C. Payne

Fizzy, a Louisville teenager, finds herself sad when her father, her stepmother and their new baby son have pictures shot by photographer Raul — and leave her out of some of them.

“There was no question who Raul meant by ‘the three.’ I knew who he meant and Dad did, too. In his defense, I have to say that Dad looked a little torn, a little sad-ish maybe, but still, he took his place under the sycamore with his new family.

“And that is how I ended up standing alone on the back porch, watching someone else’s family have their picture made, against an orange-sherbet-tinged-with raspberry-sorbet sky, wishing I had never said ‘stepdaughter’ — and wanting to pinch Baby Robert, just a little bitty bit, because he’d kept us all up most of the night, and now that we had to be up, he was sleeping like an angel.”

From Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond

Moira the Magician has just had a disastrous and puzzling audition, and now she’s being recruited to assist a knife-thrower.

“Not so fast, Moira,” Dez said, lingering over my name. “I need an assistant.”

What I needed was to leave this tent.

“No thanks,” I said. “I’m no one’s lovely assistant.”

The rakish act must have been getting old to Thurston too, because he said, “you were told to bring everything you need for you act. If you need an assistant and don’t have one, we can’t help you.”

Dez grinned at him recklessly. “I recruit from the crowd. And right now I’m recruiting the Miraculous Moira. Who owes me a favor.”

“Why are you doing this?” I asked, honestly curious.

“I helped you out,” Dez said, “and you just had a stroke of luck. Why not pass it on?”