By Elsie Puig for TCAJOB
Jeffrey Payne is a modern day renaissance man.
When he’s not spending time with his 18-month-old son, he’s developing the technology behind award-winning entertainment management software as the chief technology officer for Flex Rental Solutions of Utah.
He moved from Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood to Richland in March attracted by the family-friendly atmosphere and affordable cost-of-living.
He quickly introduced himself to the local media and technology professionals through Twitter as the sardonic quasi-anonymous voice behind the Hanford Spectator, but what most people don’t know is that he is a published novelist working on the second installment of his young adult trilogy about a modern day civil war.
And, he really is just a techie with a penchant for offbeat humor.
The first installment of the trilogy, Far From The War, which is available on Amazon in print and ePub formats, has received glowing reviews from bibliophiles online.
The novel’s heroine is seventeen-year-old Esther Casey, who is serving as a page in the United States House of Representatives when belligerent politicians and military officials stage a modern day coup d’etat.
She embarks on a journey to get back to her hometown in Orcas Island, Washington to be reunited with her family.
The inspiration for the novel came after witnessing the 2010 midterm Congressional elections.
“A lot of politicians started to talk about armed revolt and revolution and this scared me, I’m not really on the political fringes, or at least I wasn’t at that time,” said Payne, “someone needs to remind people what a civil war is really like and do it in a way that’s not overtly political.”
Payne started writing from a very young age. At age seven, his work was selected for the Missouri Young Author’s Conference.
“I wrote a story about some little kid’s idea of what going to the moon would be like,” Payne said.
Since that moment, he never stopped writing, even if his career has been a patchwork of professional backgrounds ranging from the performing arts to nuclear engineering.
He studied Nuclear Engineering in the U.S. Navy Nuclear Power School right after high school. After he got out of the Navy, he enrolled in St. Mary’s College where he studied technical theater before transferring to DePaul University and switching his major to mathematics.
“I have always been writing in one form or another, it was usually screenplays and plays,” said Payne. One of his plays, Transition Team, was selected for the 2007 Kansas City Playwrights Festival.
“I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I never thought I would have the stamina for it, a screenplay is 120 pages, but a book is different, I thought ‘Can I really sit down and write 120,000 words? So I just tried it and found I really liked it.” said Payne. “You spend more time with your stories and really get to know your characters.”
Before moving to Seattle, he lived in Kansas City where he designed the first version of the Kansas City Plant’s knowledge management software.
“A lot of neat, geeky things to do also involve working with giant corporations where you spend most of your time getting permission to do something,” said Payne. “It’s better to be in a startup environment where you can do whatever you want.”
So in 1999, Payne founded Shoptick, the industry’s first web-based rental management software. He then went on to co-found Flex Rental Solutions.
This year, the small company with main operations in Utah, won an InfoComm Rental and Staging Award for Best Rental Management Software for Flex4, their cloud-based software serving the entertainment industry with logistics support.
Their clients have put on the sound, lighting and staging for the likes of Madonna, Lady Gaga and Van Halen.
Payne is no stranger to the nuts-and-bolts of the entertainment industry. Back when he was a stage lighting designer he toured backstage with Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and Brandy.
“That was a long time ago. Back then, Britney Spears was the opening act,” he said.
But he still enjoys the finer points of working behind the scenes in the performing arts.
This year, he will be working as lighting designer with the Richland Light Opera’s production of the Titanic, set to debut in November.
Payne can be creative in both his writing career and his career as a software developer, but the two are ultimately different.
“In developing software, there’s a lot of emotional highs and lows, a lot of frustration because of time pressure,” said Payne. “Writing a book is just pure expression. You can put a lot of angst into it, but it doesn’t increase the angst, it helps dissipate it.”
He has already started working on the second installment of the Far From The War trilogy, titled The Mail Still Runs. The novel will be from the perspective of Esther’s sister, Charlotte, and will portray the family’s anguish as they wait for Esther’s return and what happens when neighbors disrupt their idyllic life on the island.