The Story Behind Payne and Misery by Catherine Leggitt

I always wanted to write a book.

I know, everyone says that. It’s probably a pretty universally held desire. Somewhere hidden in the secret recesses of our cerebral cortex, many of us believe a manuscript waits to be discovered. I don’t remember ever thinking otherwise.

Payne and MiseryBut it wasn’t until my parents passed away and my husband moved me to his dream house on fourteen wooded acres in Grass Valley California that the real opportunity to write presented itself. Our new home was a magical place with a Grandma Moses view out my kitchen windows. Most of the time I loved it there. On the downside, it was more than half a state away from my children, grandchildren and friends. And then, menopause hit like a tsunami.

That was my state of mind in the middle of our second summer in our dream house—2005. I had already redecorated the kitchen and landscaped the yard. I was miserable and badly in need of another diversion. One day I stood in my beautiful office and stared out the window praying, certain that God was never going to hear me again.

My eyes lit on the gray house down the hill, a house where we had seen lights but never any people. I sat at my computer and started typing. Words began to flow out. After the first paragraph, I knew I was writing a mystery.

It was marvelous therapy, and kept my mind well occupied, but I never knew where it was going. I poured all my complaining and misery into that story. Sometimes, the main character (who oddly enough happened to be just like me) would impulsively do something she shouldn’t. Horrified, I’d delete that scene and say, “She can’t break into someone’s house.” Or whatever she had done. But she’d insist. “I must. How am I going to find what I need to find if I don’t?” So I’d rewrite the scene. I really got into the story, discussing possibilities with my in-laws whenever we visited. They encouraged me to continue. My mother-in-law asked me to write her into the story. Her name, Zora Jane, seemed perfect for the protagonist’s best friend and mentor.

Throughout the initial writing phase, real life intruded in many ways. For example, my husband burned a pile of oak leaves and garden debris in a blaze that lasted for days. Watching the fire, I knew that had to go in the story.

One day after I’d completed the first draft—called “Cornerstone House” in those days—I mentioned to my friend at Bible study that I had written a book but didn’t know what to do with it. She suggested taking it to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers conference. That proved to be one of the best pieces of advice I ever received because at Mount Hermon, the desire for excellence was born.

Payne & Misery, as it is now named, had to be rewritten seven times during a ten-year period before it got whittled down to the kind of story that could get published. In its present state, it may not be perfect, but it has come a long way from its miserable beginnings.


 Catherine Leggitt is an author and inspirational speaker. A native Californian born in the Bay Area, she raised two daughters, taught school, and cared for her aging parents in southern California before retiring to the north end of the state. Proud grandmother of six brilliant children, Catherine studies the Bible, reads, serves as a leader in Bible Study Fellowship, and sings in the church choir.

Catherine wrote a trilogy called the Christine Sterling Mysteries, which include PAYNE & MISERY, THE DUNN DEAL, and PARRISH THE THOUGHT. The first book won 2nd place at the Orange County Christian Writers Conference in May, 2010. It was published by Ellechor Publishing in 2011. THE DUNN DEAL and PARRISH THE THOUGHT were published in 2012 by Ellechor Publishing. PARRISH THE THOUGHT made the quarterfinals in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.

In addition, Catherine has completed a fourth novel with different characters called DYING TO BE NOTICED and coauthored a memoir for Sam Contino called STREET SMARTS.

When called upon to share her story, Catherine’s main themes come from Christine’s struggles in her books, which also happen to be some of the things Catherine struggles with. Thus, since PAYNE & MISERY addresses complaining, the first message, titled Always Choose Joy, centers on how to be thankful and choose joy instead of misery. The spiritual theme of THE DUNN DEAL exposes with the nature of truth. Merely having faith is not enough. What we believe matters. Catherine named the second talk, Always Choose Truth. In PARRISH THE THOUGHT, Christine learns to love unlovable people, so Catherine calls the third message, Always Choose Love.




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