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INTERVIEW: Nikki Payne's Dialogue Would Make Austen Proud

Updated: Jan 30

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview with Christina Boyd for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

A couple years ago, I remember reading Nikki Payne's Facebook post in a Jane Austen group about landing an agent for her first novel about a biracial Darcy through the Twitter event Pitchfest. I don't remember the pitch, but I do remember the energy that post created in the group and all the buildup to Pride and Protest getting sold and then published with Random House. As a half-Filipino woman, I was all anticipation to read how Nikki Payne would color Austen's masterpiece. I loved, loved, loved that book. I remember the first time I read it, messaging her every time something resonated with me or some remarkable coincidence to my own life. I was probably just the annoying fangirl authors dread in their DMs. But at 4:30 a.m., after reading through the night, I had little impulse control. What can I say? I was excessively diverted.

CHRISTINA: What do you think makes a good story?

NIKKI: Now, what makes a good story? Well, it's like a perfect blend of romance, humor, and social commentary. You want those swoon-worthy moments, witty dialogue that would make Jane Austen proud, and a story that makes you think. It's like a Regency ball where everyone's dressed to impress and the dance floor is full of surprises.

A good story should make you feel something, whether it's laughter, tears, or that "aha" moment when everything clicks into place. Even if you close the book in disgust, that author pulled something out of you.

CHRISTINA: Yes, words have power. And gifted storytellers can string the words together to create big feels, thoughts, and even motivate one to action.

Have you gone on an author pilgrimage or research trip? Where and what was the most memorable moment?

NIKKI: The love interest in my second novel, Sex, Lies and Sensibility is a Native American. I traveled to Maine to connect with the Wabenaki Confederacy there. Representation is incredibly important to me, so I made it a priority to immerse myself in their culture and learn from their perspectives. It was a humbling and eye-opening experience to witness their resilience and the deep connection they have with their land and heritage.

One of the most memorable moments was sitting at a restaurant on the river with members of the community, listening to their oral histories and legends. The way they weaved their words and brought their stories to life was awe-inspiring. It reminded me of the power of storytelling and how it serves as a vital thread connecting generations and preserving cultural identity.

The trip also allowed me to witness the beauty of their art, crafts, and traditional practices. From intricate beadwork to vibrant basket making, their craftsmanship was a testament to their rich cultural heritage. Being able to appreciate and learn from their storytelling firsthand was a privilege I will always cherish.

CHRISTINA: Maine? This is like when I was reading your first book. My husband is from Maine. So, I have a soft spot for anything about the place. I am Googling now Wabenaki Confederacy. I am imagining you sitting beside the Union River in Ellsworth at my favorite Union River Lobster Pot learning about the First Nations of Acadia. (I have a vivid imagination.)

If you could have dinner with three people, who would be at your table—and how might that go?

NIKKI: If I could have dinner with three people, my table would be filled with the voices and perspectives that have shaped history and inspired change. First, I would invite Maya Angelou, the wise and empowering poet whose words have touched countless hearts Including mine! I would love to hear her insights on the power of words to transform lives. Next, I would have Beyonce, a true symbol of work ethic and excellence in her craft. I'd be eager to listen to her stories of doubting herself or of moving passed people’s expectations. Lastly, I’d invite Lydia Bennet. Would she be absolutely fantastic at a party!

CHRISTINA: Oh yes, Maya Angelou and Beyonce. But no to Lydia. I would be embarrassed for her the whole time in front of Maya Angelou. Where are my salts?

What comes first, plot, or characters?

NIKKI: They go hand in hand, darling! You need interesting characters to drive the plot, but you also need a captivating plot to bring out the best in your characters. It's a beautiful dance between the two. A compelling plot will keep your readers hooked, but characters that leap off the page and make you root for them are what readers remember when they close the book.

CHRISTINA: No kidding. Your Dorsey Fitzgerald was just such a character. In the introduction of the multi-author anthology The Darcy Monologues, I wrote, “For over two hundred years, women have loved Jane Austen’s brooding and enigmatic hero, Mr. Darcy. Handsome rich strong cerebral. You might find Fitzwilliam Darcy in disguise, including his imperfections, as numerous literary paragons and film icons such as Gilbert Blythe, John Thornton, Gabriel Emerson, Edward Cullen, Lloyd Dobler, Jake Ryan, Richard Blaine, Mr. Big…” After reading Pride and Protest, I felt like I needed to amend my list to include your Filipino-American romantic hero, Dorsey.

What do you think is your strength as a writer?

NIKKI: As a writer, my strength lies in creating authentic and relatable stories. I love capturing the messy and hilarious moments of life, the awkward encounters, the triumphs, and the "OMG, did that really happen?" kind of experiences. I love diving into their minds, exploring their flaws, and making them feel like real people. It's all about capturing that Jane Austen-esque wit and charm while adding a modern twist. I love to find humor in everyday situations and bring that to the forefront.

CHRISTINA: Sounds very Elizabeth Bennet-esque.

Best advice for new writers:

NIKKI: To all the new writers out there, my advice is this: Embrace the power of your unique voice and never underestimate the impact of your stories. Writing is a journey of self-discovery, and it's through your words that you have the ability to captivate, inspire, and provoke change.

First, be patient and persistent. Writing is a craft that requires dedication and practice. Don't be discouraged by rejection or setbacks. Use them as opportunities for growth and improvement. Keep honing your skills, experimenting with different styles and genres, and pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone. Your perseverance will be the key to unlocking your full potential.

Additionally, read voraciously. Immerse yourself in the works of diverse authors, both classic and contemporary. Explore different genres and writing styles. The more you expose yourself to different voices and narratives, the richer your own writing will become. Learn from the masters, study their techniques, and let their words fuel your own creativity.

Finally, believe in yourself and your ability to make a difference. The writing journey can be daunting, but remember that you have a unique perspective and a story that only you can tell. Trust your instincts, embrace your strengths, and stay true to your vision. The world is waiting to hear your voice.

Go out there and let your voice be heard. You've got this!

CHRISTINA: Aww, I feel that to my core. Thank you for such great advice. I loved your insight and experience. Looking forward to reading Sex, Lies, and Sensibility. Can't wait. One day we are going to meet in person and I'm going to be all fangirl squealy about it. You've been warned.


By day, Nikki Payne is a curious tech anthropologist asking the right questions to deliver better digital services. By night, she dreams of ways to subvert canon literature. She’s a member of Smut U, a premium feminist writing collective, and is a cat lady with no cats.

You can connect with Nikki via her website and her social media.


Christina Morland
Christina Morland
Aug 17, 2023

Lovely interview, and I'm inspired by how much thought and heart goes into Payne's process. (It's wonderful that she traveled to Maine to learn directly from the Wabenaki Confederacy!

Christina Boyd
Christina Boyd
Aug 17, 2023
Replying to

Me too! Totally awesome. I can’t wait to read it.

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