Up Close: Kate White
Lucky 13 for Former Cosmo Boss-Turned Suspense Author
By Dawn Ius
Thirteen may not be a number routinely associated with luck, but for New York Times bestselling author Kate White, the number has significant meaning—SUCH A PERFECT WIFE represents White’s 13th published novel, and number eight in her suspenseful series featuring intrepid crime journalist Bailey Weggins.
For the former Cosmopolitan editor—whose time at the reins led the magazine to consistent #1 sales on the newsstands—she’s grateful for the opportunity to continue following this new career passion.
“When I finished my first book, it seemed miraculous that I could actually have cranked out 90,000 words, and it still seems miraculous each time I finish a new book,” she says. “But most of all I feel lucky to be writing full time and not going into an office every day. I loved my Cosmo years, but this is really orgasmic.”
Luck certainly plays a part, but White’s skill is evident in each novel, with SUCH A PERFECT WIFE primed for bestseller status. In it, Weggins is thrust into the murder investigation of a young woman who goes missing—and is subsequently murdered—while out for an early morning jog. Fresh in her new role as a reporter for the hot new online magazine Crime Beats, Weggins soon discovers that there are more facets to the case than she first thought. A serial killer is on the loose, and the danger to herself, and potentially other women, is palpable.
The stakes are high for Weggins, which adds to the suspense, but it’s White’s command of the craft that truly raises the stakes. Tight prose, powerful chapter beginnings, and cliffhanger endings—these are the skills that took root at an early age when, like many women writing suspense today, White spent hours devouring Nancy Drew books.
Weggins fits neatly into that gutsy female mold, presenting on the page as a competent, confident reporter—despite being somewhat squeamish about talking to victims, and her fierce tenacity to get ahead in her career, sometimes to her detriment. While she’s good at taking a step back and analyzing the specifics of a case, White says Weggins sometimes forgets to take a look at the bigger picture.
White can relate. While running Cosmopolitan, she says she often reserved an hour at the end of each week to close her office door and “plan” her next steps, advice she’d pass on to her prickly protagonist if she thought it would make an impact.
Weggins would be wise to listen—doling out career advice is another of White’s specialties. In addition to writing her bestselling manifesto for success—The Gutsy Girl Handbook—White is often a featured keynote speaker at networking and business meetings, and her articles on the power of being “fearless” are widely published. Perhaps it’s not so miraculous that White has 13 novels to her credit, but rather that she’s been able to carve out the time from her busy schedule to write them. To do so, White adheres to a semi-strict routine.
Crafting each story is a labor of love, but like Weggins, White does much of her planning in a notebook, using a #2 pencil. Writing by hand, she finds, nudges out some of the questions that later will form her plot. And yes, White is a bonafide plotter—the idea of being called a pantser actually mortifies her, as if someone might think “I’m pulling wedgies on them.” But those plot points aren’t so structured as to not leave room for her characters—whether it be Weggins, or any of the protagonists from White’s standalone novels of suspense—to power the story forward. As long as she knows who dies, how the victim dies, and in what way she can disguise the killer, White says she can begin…
At present, having just turned in book number 14—a standalone White describes as one of her favorites—she’s jotting down those essential questions for the next Weggins novel, looking for new ways to put her protagonist in peril. At least for the duration of the novel.
As White admits, Weggins isn’t always in physical danger, but with each case, the emotional and psychological impact of true crime investigation takes its toll.
White can relate to that too. While at Cosmopolitan, she saw how readers often gravitated to real-life stories of crime, and assigned a beat reporter to a true crime column in the magazine. Now as an author of suspense, White still follows true crime—The Five, Hallie Rubenhold’s documentary of the women murdered by Jack the Ripper, is on her bedside table—but she admits that sometimes she needs a break from it all.
That’s one of the reasons she and her husband live half the year in Uruguay, quite a distance from her network of writing peers. A network that White says is special and critical in today’s publishing age.
And sometimes, it can lead to art that imitates life. In Alafair Burke’s new novel, The Better Sister, there is an unexpected and cherished nod to “Kate at Cosmos.”
“What I’ve discovered,” White says, “is that the people in this industry are very generous. We should support each other! It’s a big pie with lots of room for a lot of authors.”
Lucky for readers, White is among them.
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