Interview: May 3, 2002
May 3, 2002
Kate White, whose "day job" is Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo magazine, turns her talents and her experiences into a best selling mystery IF LOOKS COULD KILL. Bookreporter.com's Roberta O'Hara and TBR's Co-founder Carol Fitzgerald teamed up to interview White about the basis for her characters and the reaction from those in the industry. As Carol noted, " I worked with Kate years ago at Mademoiselle magazine, which makes interviewing her all the more fun. Reading this book made me think about my magazine days and all the craziness that goes on in working at a fashion magazine. Kate captured the atmosphere perfectly"
BRC: You drew on years and years of experience to come up with the scenes at the magazine in IF LOOKS COULD KILL and many of your characters seem like composites of some of the best known --- and some little known --- names in the business. What have you heard from colleagues? How many people have come up to you and said, "Hey, is that supposed to be me, or so and so?"
KW: I really made up all the characters because I didn't want anyone to kill ME --- though I used great lines I'd heard colleagues say over the years. The funny thing is, people are starting to wonder if someone they know is in the book. Someone asked me yesterday: "Is the fashion editor in the book So and so or So and so? And I had to say "NEITHER." I'm sure I'm going to inadvertently make someone very annoyed.
BRC: It seemed like you were poking some fun at your own industry when you tossed in the fashion and make-up tidbits. Were you?
KW: A tiny bit. Because it can be a little ridiculous at times. But mostly I think it seems that way because the book is narrated by Bailey Weggins, a freelance crime story writer, and she's a bit of an outsider who finds a lot of the fashion and beauty stuff silly.
BRC: Cat Jones name is so similar to Kate White. Was this a little inside joke on your part?
KW: I wish I could say it was. But I was almost all the through the book before I realized I'd done it. I have a friend with the last name Jones and I know a makeup artist named Cat and I put the two together. But how totally Freudian of me to do it that way and not realize my slip. I considered changing Cat's name but by that point I was too attached to it.
BRC: You published two successful nonfiction titles --- WHY GOOD GIRLS DON'T GET AHEAD and GUTSY GIRLS DO and NINE SECRETS OF WOMEN WHO GET EVERYTHING THEY WANT. What made you decide to write a novel --- in fact, an entire mystery series? How long did you ruminate the idea?
KW: I always had a secret fantasy to do a mystery. I love mysteries so much and the idea of having a regular character was thrilling. In fact, when I first started thinking about it, there was no Sue Grafton or series with women. But I had to keep putting it off as I moved up in magazines and had children. Finally I realized that I had to do it or it would be too late. The biggest problem was getting a plot. But I saw a great tip in an interview we ran (when I was at Redbook) with Laura Day, who wrote PRACTICAL INTUITION. She said:"Put the question out to the universe." I did and an answer came back.
BRC: When did you find time to write between juggling a career and being the mother of two? Did you find a way to add a few hours to the day?
KW: Another tip from magazines helped me. I was a big procrastinator in my 20's. I pitched a piece on time management to help me cure my problem. I got lots of great ideas, but one in particular worked for me. Break a project up into bite-sized pieces. So I write every morning for an hour or so, weekends a bit longer. I never don't do it. But it's not overwhelming either.
BRC: Do you feel the same thrill seeing the book in the bookstore as you do seeing Cosmo on the newsstand? Or is it different?
KW: How did you know? Yes, I love seeing Cosmo on the newsstand. It's a rush. But seeing the book in a Barnes and Noble (and they only had 2 left!!) was great too. It's different because it's not a team effort. It's a little lonelier --- and scarier.
BRC: Do you find yourself going through the day thinking about Bailey and what she might be doing if she were at Cosmo?
KW: I don't think about what Bailey would do at Cosmo but I do think about her in general, especially as I'm lying in bed. She seems real to me and that feels a little odd. I like her and wish I knew her. Sometimes I just love having her in my head. Freaky, I know.
BRC: So, is Bailey a Cosmo Girl?
KW: Not totally. She'd like to be. She's single and loves guys but has a tough time navigating the dating world. And though she dresses in a cute way, she isn't totally together in the fashion and beauty arena. As she says, in the morning her bed head hairstyle looks like a hedgehog sitting on her head.
BRC: Tell us about the next book --- A BODY TO DIE FOR. What's next for Bailey? Will we see Jack Herlihy again? How much of it is done?
KW: It takes place at a spa. As Bailey says in ILCK, she occasionally does travel articles and she ends up going to this inn and spa where something really bad happens. I'm over half way through. And yes Jack is in the book, making Bailey's heart flutter, but also leaving her confused about what she really wants.
BRC: Have you already determined how many more books will be in the series? Are they all outlined?
KW: I hope a lot. I'm trying to think of the plot for the third now. So I can write and develop kind of at the same time.
BRC: And we just have to know --- do YOU think that toe cleavage is sexy?
KW: Toe cleavage? No, not me. But I love it when I see it on women. My feet just never seem very sexy.
BRC: How do you feel about being THE FIRST BOOK selected in Kelly Ripa's Reading Club?
KW: I can't believe it. I'm just in awe of her and her power. I'm so honored. I keep wondering if I need to give her my first born son.
BRC: Since you are a mystery lover, who are some of your favorite authors?
KW: I love English mysteries, especially anything by D.D. James, Elizabeth George and the Inspector Wexford series by Ruth Rendell. I also love Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, Linda Fairstein, Patricia Cornwall, Mary Willis Walker, Diane Mott Davidson, Lisa Scottoline, Lynn Hightower, Jonathan Kellerman, and so many more. Last but not least, Anne White, my mom, whose first mystery, AN AFFINITY FOR MURDER, A Lake George Mystery, came out last year.