Q&A With Kate White
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Q&A With Kate White
Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of nine psychological thrillers and the Bailey Weggins mystery series, which has eight books. Some of Kate’s work includes, The Secrets You Keep, The Second Husband, The Fiancée, and coming out next month on May 16, Between Two Strangers.
Q: I read an early copy of Between Two Strangers. For those who haven’t read the book, can you tell the readers of my blog a little bit about it and how you came up with the concept?
A: Between Two Strangers is a psychological thriller about a struggling artist named Skyler Moore who receives a bewilderingly large, life-changing inheritance from a man she spent a single night with twelve years ago–and she has no idea why. Skyler is overwhelmed with a desire to know what’s going on, but as she digs for the truth, it becomes clear that this man might have taken other secrets to the grave, and those could have terrifying consequences for her.
Q: What do you enjoy most about writing psychological thrillers and mysteries?
A: What I love most about writing both kinds of suspense is creating a puzzle for readers to solve, with plenty of twists along the way. I include a lot of red herrings to throw readers off (because hey, that’s part of the fun and they love that!), but I also give real clues.
How are mysteries and psychological thrillers different? I can only address that in terms of my own books. In the Bailey Weggins mystery series, Bailey is a true crime reporter and what drives her is a desire to learn the truth and see justice done. The protagonists in my psychological thrillers, like Skylar Moore in Between Two Strangers, are searching for the truth, too, but not just because the truth intrigues them. They’re trying to stop their own lives from being ended by circumstances, so they desperately need answers.
Q: When did you realize that writing was your calling and that it was something you enjoyed doing?
A: When I was seven, a teacher had me read a little story I wrote aloud to the class. The recognition and thrill were so seductive, I wanted to keep recreating that. And of course, I loved the creative experience. But here’s something else about that moment for me. The teacher had actually asked us to copy something down from the blackboard, and I totally broke the rules and wrote my own story. Because she rewarded me for my efforts, I learned how good it can be to break the rules.
Q: Is it fair to say that the characters and places in your psychological thrillers and Bailey Weggins mystery series, have bits and pieces taken from actual people you know in real life or places you’ve been? I like that authors can create a story using a little bit of real life.
A: Yes, I always use bits and pieces from my own life and people I know, but the fun is in tweaking the DNA of those places and people and creating something totally new. Ah, Dr. Frankenstein!! One interesting aside: Years ago, when I realized that I wanted to write books, I tried to keep a notebook of little observations and anecdotes from my life, which I could eventually use in my books. But it became so difficult and time consuming. But when you start writing, you discover that, thankfully, all that stuff is all stored in your brain somewhere and it just comes when you work, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Q: If you were to experiment writing in different genres, which genres would they be and why?
A: I started writing plays when I was a little girl and even had one put on in my high school when I was in ninth grade. And I’d love to make a stab at playwriting again one day. Even with no success, I’d love to do it.
Q: What is your advice to anyone on writing great mysteries and psychological thrillers? How do you deal with writer’s block if you ever had that problem?
A: I think it’s essential, at least in the early stages, to write every day. When you’re creating, you’re kind of working with this primordial soup, filled with all sorts of ideas, and you never want to stop it from churning or let it go cold. I also advise beginning authors of mysteries and thrillers to be plotters and not “panters,” because you’ll find your way much more easily if you have at least a rough outline. And don’t be embarrassed about setting a timer to keep yourself in your chair and even, in the beginning, only writing for a short amount each day. When I attempted to write in my 20s, I would put aside a whole Saturday, and then I’d fail because I just couldn’t stay put. When I tried again in my 40’s, I initially wrote for only 15 minutes a day and then expanded. That really worked and I highly recommend it.
As for writer’s block, I never experience that, thanks in large part to my experience in the magazine business. I worked at a variety of magazines and ultimately became editor in chief of Cosmopolitan for 14 years. What you learn in magazines is that if you feel at all blocked, you should just write something and know that you can tweak it later. You don’t wait around for muse to arrive. This works great with fiction writing too.
Q: What is your advice to any author, whether they’re starting out or have been writing for years, on how to deal with negativity, whether it’s from trolls online, unsupportive family and friends or negative reviews?
A: I never pay attention to anything negative or odd that a friend or family member says about one of my books. They often don’t even know the genre, so their opinions don’t count for much. And of course, in some cases someone might be jealous or weirdly competitive. After my first mystery came out, I ran into this woman who I used to work with and who used to make little digs about me. That day she kept asking me about my first book, which had just been published, and I ended up stupidly blurting out that it had just been a Kelly Ripa Book Club pick. And you know what she said? “How serendipitous,” as opposed to “Oh, it must be good.” I just laughed because there was such a lesson in that. In general, it’s just best not to talk about your books or any successes unless it’s at an event with readers who really care about you.
As for online trolls, I never read the nasty stuff. Not just because that negativity is poisonous, but you can’t help but feel sorry for the people who spew out that venom. What must their lives be like? I do find it helpful sometimes to look at three- and four-star reviews, because they might point to something I can learn from. I’m always trying to improve and I’m open to criticism.