By Stephanie Ball
Bill Payne sips a Coca-Cola in a McDonald’s restaurant and looks at the five pocket-size Moleskine journals spread out over the table in front of him. He stares at the pages of his writing journal and drags his black pen over the text. As he reads his handwritten drafts, he routinely labels the sentences he needs to rewrite with the letters A, B, C. Children run around the tables laughing and screaming as Payne writes and rewrites his novel.
He sorts through the colored journals to find the green Moleskine that stores important details for his second book.
Payne, a former Brookhaven College student, published his first novel, “Christopher Quick and the Dragon’s Curse,” in September, a book published under the pen name Chris Quick.
“I can still remember my first story, which was an adventure about finding a cave with sparkling gems,” Payne said. “It was pretty linear but not too bad for a second grader.”
Payne said he has always loved writing but was sidetracked after he received his degree in computer programming and went to work for corporate America.
He is currently a Web developer but writes in his free time.
He wrote the book over four years.
“I felt the need to be creative,” Payne said. “Being a programmer is not as creative and there are only x number of ways to get to the end point. It is stifling.”
Patti Burks, computer information technology professor, said she remembers Payne as a personable and hardworking student. “He took programming with me and he would always do above and beyond what was required,” Burks said. “I could tell writing was his real passion.”
Payne said it is hard to find time to write because work is so consuming. He doesn’t go anywhere without a pen and paper. “I will wake up in the middle of the night and have to write down my thoughts,” he said. “I have notebooks in the car because I have to be ready.”
The characters drive the story in Payne’s writing. He used literary elements from his favorite authors: William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and J.R.R. Tolkien.
In “The Dragon’s Curse,” the protagonist, Christopher Quick, learns magic during his first year of wizard school. Quick recites spells in rhyme as he travels with a dragon.
“The character Chris in the book is my idealistic perception of me and things I would like to have done,” Payne said.
Ramiro Villarreal, computer science professor, said Payne had a good idea of what he wanted to do and was a bit more mature and gregarious, which set him apart from other students.
“Bill is one of the best students I have had at Brookhaven,” Villarreal said. “There was no doubt in my mind that success, in whatever field he chose, was not far away.”
Payne said he would eventually like to make a living writing instead of working eight or nine hours a day in an office.
Payne met Mari Madison, the graphic communicator who sketched and rendered the cover illustration for Payne’s first novel, in the First Methodist of Richardson choir. The two have been friends for 12 years.
“The prose paints vivid mental images from beginning of the story to the end,” Madison said. “He has worked tirelessly to perfect his vocational craft of writing and this book is an example of the success of his efforts.”
A book signing was held at Payne’s church, where he sold 11 copies of the book. He said he does not want the fame other authors relish but simply wants readers to enjoy the story.
The Christopher Quick series is an eight-part story. Payne said he expects to complete the next installment by this fall.
Payne said there are layers to the story that kids may not understand but will keep adults entertained.
“This is a coming-of-age story that progresses along the way,” Payne said.