Q&A With Christie O Tate
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Q&A With Christie O Tate
Tonight I have the honor of doing a Q&A
with New York Times Bestselling Author Christie O Tate. Christie is the author
of “Group,” and her recent novel “B.F.F.”. Both of those novels are Reese
Witherspoon’s book club picks in 2020 and again in 2022. On top of being
an author Christie is an essayist. Christies
work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago
Tribune, Pithead Chapel, McSweeney’s, Motherwell, Entropy Magazine, A
Perfect Wedding, Together.com, Brain, Child and
others. That is a pretty impressive list.
Q: When did you realize in
your life that writing was your calling?
A: “Calling” is such a
beautiful word. Biblical, right? I love the idea of being called to writing.
The truth is that writing called to me from a young age, but I was too scared
to listen or heed. I had so many ideas about who could be an artist or a
writer—men, rich people, gorgeous women with long hair, bohemians, anyone who
lived in New York City or Paris, people with stellar SAT scores. I had defined
“writer” as a category I could never fit into. Thus, I’m a late bloomer! I
didn’t really let myself imagine that writing could be my calling until
I was 45. At the time, I was a full-time lawyer, mother of two kids in grammar
school, and I couldn’t write full-time, but I began to claim it as a calling.
Once I let myself have more than one calling (mother, lawyer, writer), I was
able to answer the call with my whole heart.
Q: Since both of your books
are memoirs, what advice do you give to those who want to write memoirs about
A: My advice is to write
your story and surround yourself with other writers who write
nonfiction/memoir. It’s extremely scary to tell “true” stories, and every
memoirist I know has to grapple with the specter of the disappointed, angry,
hurt people (mothers, usually) in their lives who may have big feelings about
the writing. I could never have birthed my two books if I didn’t have other
writers to lean on and encourage me to write the story I needed to write. I
work with other memoirists and my therapist and therapy group to iron out the
ethics and how to navigate the tricky relationship issues that come up when
writing memoir, but that is all after I have written the book.
Memoirists, please write your books!
Q: How do you juggle being
an author and writing publications for famous news media outlets?
A: For me, when I’m working
on a long-term project like a book, I need to dip out occasionally and turn my
attention to other, shorter projects. When I was writing Group, I often
needed a break from writing about therapy and all my romantic disasters. During
the breaks, I wrote essays about my grandmother or watching the Chicago
Marathon. Toggling back and forth kept me on the page and growing as a
Q: What advice do you give
to those who want to write publications for such famous media outlets like The
New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post etc?
A: If you want to write for
those pages, you must read those pages. Study them. Learn the moves. I read
dozens of Modern Love essays when I worked on my own. I studied the opening
paragraphs and the progression. I also listened to podcasts about submitting to
Modern Love. I also used my writing group to workshop my essays. I simply could
not see what needed trimming or expanding without having other people’s
Q: Your books were picked to
be Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks. What was that like? Also what’s Reese
Witherspoon like? Reese Witherspoon seems like a down to earth woman.
A: Hearing from my editor
that Reese Witherspoon had chosen my book for her book club was one of the
greatest surprises of my life. I screamed so loudly that my husband thought something
terrible had happened. And I had the great fortune of meeting Reese Witherspoon
over Zoom, and she was incredibly warm, engaged, and prepared. She makes it
look easy, but I have to think an incredible amount of focus and preparation
goes into all of her conversations with authors. She knew my book intimately
and asked me insightful, detailed questions. You can’t fake that kind of
engagement. There is so much I admire about Reese Witherspoon, but her
brainpower is at the top of the list. Yes, she gorgeous, warm, and stylish, but
she’s also a mental powerhouse, and my experience with her and her team was a
completely thrill and privilege.
Q: Are you currently writing
something now? If so can you spoil what your next book is about?
A: My second memoir, B.F.F.—A
Memoir of Friendship Lost and Found, will be out in February 2023. It’s
about how my friend Meredith changed my life by inviting me to work on
friendship, something I wasn’t super great at until mid-life. So it’s a book
about ghosting, envy, competition, and learning how to show up as a friend
regardless of how much baggage you have.