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Interview: July 10, 2003

July 10, 2003

Kate White's latest book is A BODY TO DIE FOR, a follow-up to her bestselling debut novel IF LOOKS COULD KILL, featuring magazine writer-turned-sleuth Bailey Weggins. In this interview White talks co-Founder Carol Fitzgerald about the research she did for A BODY TO DIE FOR, the techniques she employs when writing her novels, and her recommendations for great summer reads.

BRC: As a character Bailey Weggins is so well-developed and fleshed out --- and real. Do you think that your years of editing magazines for women Bailey's age helped you write her?

KW: Yes and no. Every day as editor of Cosmopolitan I focus on the lives of 20- and 30-year-olds, which is an enormous help when writing about 33-year-old Bailey Weggins. But at the same time, magazine writing is so different from fiction. When I was first starting my mystery series, I really had to shake off my magazine writing style and that took time.

BRC: Most of the action in A BODY TO DIE FOR takes place in a spa. How much time did you spend at spas doing research? Had you spent a lot of time at spas prior to writing this book? What's your personal favorite spa treatment?

KW: Since my job at Cosmo is stressful at times, I've been trying to make a massage a monthly treat for myself over the last few years. But when I started to research the book, I tried all sorts of different treatments and sometimes I had as many as two treatments a week. Gosh, was that ever delicious. My favorite of all is the hot stone treatment. Some people don't find it as intense as regular Swedish massage, but I find it wonderfully exotic and relaxing. I have to confess, I now have massages even more frequently than I used to, but they're worth it. Since I began researching the book, I haven't had a cold.

BRC: Did you find it easier to write this second book, or were there different challenges?

KW: Developing the plot of my second book was harder than the first because I had far less time. I'd had a decade to get the plot for book one --- because I'd been mulling over writing a mystery for years --- and practically no time for the second one. I went to a day spa for an afternoon to try to relax and open my mind creatively. And the funny thing is, it was there that I came up with the idea to set the second book in the spa. Writing the second book was actually easier because I stumbled on a strategy that made a lot of difference. I made myself write a little every day, rather than just on weekends. It really keeps your engine running to use this approach and you never feel out of the groove with the book.

BRC: Do you outline your books in advance, or do you let the story and characters evolve? If you outline, have you ever changed your plan once you started writing?

KW: Yes, I outline my books in advance. I did some research on how to write a mystery before I started, and most successful writers seem to advise that you do an outline and definitely know who the killer is in advance. That prevents you from being boxed into a corner and also allows you to sprinkle clues and red herrings along the way. That said, the story and characters evolve on their own as I'm writing, as I hear is true for all writers. It's so startling when you're writing and a character suddenly announces something or does something that you had never intended. I think for me it's probably one of the most exhilarating parts of being a writer.

BRC: Do you keep notes on what your characters have done to ensure that the books stay consistent? How do you do this?

KW: Yes, I keep notes on what my characters have done to ensure the books stay consistent. I keep little files on people right in my computer.

BRC: Have you seen people reading your book? Do you introduce yourself to them as the author? Do you do the same thing when you see people reading Cosmo?

KW: Yes, I've seen people reading my books but I've always been too sheepish to say anything. And yes, I frequently see people reading Cosmo, which I get a huge kick out of as well.

BRC: Can you share a particularly interesting encounter with a fan when you were traveling, or from a letter you received?

KW: My most exciting and interesting encounter with a fan was when I was in an event and I was told Bill Clinton wanted to meet me. I had no idea why, but he came up to me and told me he loved Bailey and my first murder mystery, IF LOOKS COULD KILL.

BRC: If I remember correctly, your children are now teenagers. Have they read your books? What is their take on Bailey and Mom's writing fiction?

KW: My son Hunter is fifteen and one of the greatest joys for me was seeing him tear through my books. He told me he couldn't put them down. But he also asked me if I'd had them ghost written because he couldn't believe I could create a character who was cool.

BRC: What's next for Bailey? And when can we expect to see the next book in the series? Does it have a title yet?

KW: My next book, which will be finished this fall, involves Bailey and a wedding (not hers, a friend) and is called HERE COMES THE CORPSE.

BRC: What's on your summer reading list?

KW: I love to read a few different types of books at a time. Right now I'm finishing ATONEMENT, which I love, as my literary read. For mystery, I've just started THE DA VINCI CODE and as my educational read I'm using the summer to learn more about the Civil War by reading BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM, which is considered one of the best one-volume books on the war. And I'd love to give a plug for a book called RULES OF THE WILD. My family and I just came back from East Africa, and this is a terrific novel about Kenya.