The glamorous writer’s life!:
As the rakish, love-struck, sex-obsessed teen hero of the 1993 cult novel “Youth in Revolt,” Nick Twisp encounters all manner of obstacles, including dysfunctional parents, jealous rivals, the Berkeley police and, of course, acne.
Such a raft of challenges are not completely foreign to his creator, C. D. Payne, who has spent significant chunks of his own career struggling, working a series of lousy jobs, living in a trailer for four years and receiving a trail of rejection letters, professional and otherwise. Even with the critical success of “Youth in Revolt” — which he self-published in 1993 and which subsequently became an underground hit — Mr. Payne still couldn’t get a publisher for the book’s three sequels, which he ended up releasing himself.
But like Nick Twisp, Mr. Payne has been helped along by the passion of his fans, and has lately been enjoying a second surge of popularity, thanks to the well-received film version of the book, released this month. Mr. Payne’s list of admirers includes the producer David Permut, who worked for seven years and through three production companies to get the movie made, and Michael Cera, the adolescent specialist (see “Juno,” “Superbad,” “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist”) who stars as Nick — and his devilish alter ego, Francois — in the film….
All of which has pleasantly surprised Mr. Payne, a quiet, unassuming 60-year-old — married with pet — who lives in this rustic Sonoma County town, about 50 miles north of San Francisco.
Born into a blue-collar family in Akron, Ohio, Mr. Payne started writing because “it was the only thing I tried in life I didn’t find boring,” he said.
“And for years,” he continued, “I couldn’t make any money at it.”
After making his way to Harvard, where he earned a history degree, Mr. Payne decamped to California in the early 1970s, eventually living in a trailer in Santa Monica, while dabbling in short humor, screenplays and even cartoons, all to negligible success. “I did the standard thing,” he said. “And I got all the rejections.”
By the late 1980s, he was living in the Bay Area and commuting to the Sharper Image, the San Francisco retailer of consumer gadgetry (since bankrupted), working as a bored-senseless copywriter. Mr. Payne said he began writing “Youth in Revolt” as a kind of psychic safety valve.
The book sounds like fun, and Payne lucked out. But it’s a cautionary tale for anyone who still hopes that writing a book or screenplay is a quick or certain road to fame and fortune.