White Dares Young Writers to Ask ‘What If?’

Kate White is an extraordinary career woman.

White was Editor-­in­-Chief at Cosmopolitan magazine for 14 years and is a New York Times bestselling author. Her work has received positive reviews from New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Publisher’s Weekly and has been published in 18 countries. In late 2013, White left Cosmopolitan.

“I made the decision to leave Cosmo three years before I left and I had originally let them know I was leaving in two years and they asked me to extend it,” White said.

White said she left Cosmopolitan partly because she did not want to be part of the unraveling magazine publishing industry and partly to give herself a chance to write mysteries.

“I got to be there in the heyday,” White said. “I wanted to leave when it was still incredibly exhilarating and no one is calling you up saying ‘You can’t give a dinner party for Rihanna because you don’t have a promotion budget anymore.’”

White said her transition from being Editor-­in­-Chief to writing novels was smooth.

“Because I had been writing novels on weekends for many years, I knew that I wouldn’t mind the solitary life of being a writer,” White said.

White said it is often difficult to be all in as a writer, as many people in the field need to work full-time jobs and pursue novel writing with their extra time.

Kate White, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Photo courtesy of cosmopolitan.com

Kate White, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine. Photo courtesy of cosmopolitan.com

“In terms of writing fiction, I think it’s hard to get started,” White said. “I always encourage writers to find the writer’s cocktail, which means finding what time of day is best for you to write. I am a night owl, yet I write best in the morning, so I had to change my schedule around a bit.”

White encourages young writers pursuing magazine publication to be practical. She said having a plan B is necessary.

“The magazine industry is in an incredibly perilous situation,” White said. “There is a ton of cost-cutting and it’s not nearly as much of the fun as it used to be in the heyday. Unfortunately, people have to understand the magazine business is in very tough times.”

White said even looking around dorm rooms it becomes apparent young women are not buying from the newsstands like they used to.

“If you have a fantasy of being in magazines, you have to know it’s not going to pay what it paid in the ‘90s when the salaries were really nice for people,” White said. “So many magazines are folding or are plummeting in newsstand sales that are just shocking to see.”

White said being versatile is important in order to succeed.

“You should seek opportunities in many places and be conscience of what’s happening in your field,” White said.

White has written nine works of fiction that includes six Bailey Weggins mysteries and three suspense novels. She has also written several popular career books. White said she enjoys having her mind called devious as a fiction writer.

“In magazines, you probably don’t want to be told you have a devious mind because it might imply you’re nasty,” White said. “I certainly don’t mind when people call me zany or crazy. It’s part of being creative.”

White said she enjoys creating a mystery with lots of twists, making readers stay up late to find out what happens next. She said the characters she creates have borrowed traits from people she knows as well as herself.

“You really try to give birth to somebody who is unique and isn’t just you,” White said.

“In my most recent book, ‘Eyes on You’, I think Robin, the main character, is in a very stressful work situation and feels it’s getting the better of her,” White said. “I like just letting her unravel a bit, because in my work I was always on guard about just not letting the stress get to me and always being in control. It was kind of nice to experience what it would be like to fall to pieces a little.”

White finds pleasure in creating suspenseful novels.

“For years when I was writing about Bailey in my Bailey Weggins novels, she had the freelance life I could only envy,” White said. “She’s irreverent and a rule breaker and she works freelance, which is something I always fantasized about doing and now of course do.”

White dares young fiction writers to ask themselves “What if?”

“There are people who don’t plot out novels, but it’s important to understand the meaning of the art even when you’re young,” White said. “What’s going to happen that challenges this person and puts them on a journey and change who he or she is? How does it end?”

“I think if you have that kind of information and plot it out, it’s better to do when you’re younger,” White said. “See where it goes.”

 

Julia Flaherty
Arts & Entertainment Editor
jflah017@uwsp.edu

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