David Payne's picture

David Payne

USA flag (b.1955)

David Payne was born in Henderson, North Carolina in 1955. He attended the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating with highest honors in creative writing in 1977.

After college, Payne spent a year chasing Melville's ghost in the Atlantic scallop fishery, working on trawlers out of Wanchese, NC, and, later, Point Judith, Rhode Island - experiences that underlie the commercial fishing scenes in his fourth novel, Gravesend Light (Doubleday, 2000), named one of the top books of the year by the Christian Science Monitor.

After participating in a mutiny in Cape May, NJ, Payne spent time bumming around Europe, South America and Turkey, engaging in the following activities, in no particular order - falling in love and living with a French woman in the Camargue, falling from a second-story hotel window in Florence, skiing in the Andes over Santiago, eating boiled tree-sloth on the Amazon, shooting a wild boar in Thrace, searching for (and finding) traces of a great-uncle, a tobacconist in Istanbul in the 30s, who had a love affair with a famous Turkish actress and was detained by the Japanese on his way home, spending the war in a concentration camp.

In 1980, while watching Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street Week, Payne was struck by the pun "Tao and Dow" and embarked on a three-year odyssey that would eventually become Confessions of a Taoist on Wall Street (Houghton Mifflin, 1984, winner of the Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship Award). The success of the book - especially in Europe - allowed him to write full-time, and he has ever since, with occasional forays into teaching - at Bennington, Duke, and in the Low-Residency M.F.A. program at Queens University of Charlotte in Charlotte, NC.

Payne's subsequent three novels - Early From the Dance (Doubleday, 1989), Ruin Creek, a New York Times Notable Book (Doubleday, 1993) and Gravesend Light (Doubleday, 2000) -- are set in the fictional Piedmont town of Killdeer, North Carolina, as well as on the Outer Banks.

His fifth novel, Back to Wando Passo takes readers to a rice plantation in the South Carolina Lowcountry, where two related love triangles "one marriage unraveling in the present day, and another shattered by the Civil War" drive toward a simultaneous crescendo of betrayal, revenge, and redemption.

After many years living in Manhattan and in southwestern Vermont, Payne now resides with his wife and two children in North Carolina.