As the editor-in-chief of famed magazine Cosmopolitan, Kate White knows women inside and out. She knows what women like, and she especially knows what they like to read. So it's no surprise that her deliciously decadent mystery novels are such a hit with the ladies.
White came from a strong background in the magazine world. Since getting her foot in the door at Glamour magazine by winning their Top Ten College Women contest, she has worked as an editorial assistant at Glamour, later becoming a feature writer and columnist for the magazine. Following her stint at Glamour, she worked her way up to editor-in-chief for Child, then Working Woman, McCall's, and Redbook. In 1998, White became editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan.
Since joining the ranks of Cosmo, White has spear-headed a spin-off magazine called Cosmo Style, started a channel called Cosmo Radio on Sirius Radio, and published books such as Cosmo Kama Sutra through the magazine's Cosmo Books. She is also responsible for driving Cosmopolitan's readership through the roof. Since taking control of the magazine, she has increased its circulation by over 500,000. So, how can a woman with such a full plate find time to also launch a successful fiction-writing career? Well, as she says on her web site, "I don't really have any other hobbies other than cooking. I can't sing, play a musical instrument, excel at sports, draw, quilt, knit or decoupage. So writing mysteries is my hobby."
That hobby has led White to create sultry true-crime reporter Bailey Weggins, who has sashayed her way through three novels since If Looks Could Kill was published in 2002. The following year, Weggins reappeared in White's second perfect-for-the-beach mystery. A Body to Die For is rife with White's trademark wit and sexiness and became another big seller. The book not only pleased White's readers but also garnered her some well-deserved praise from the press. Publishers Weekly, which was critical of If Looks Could Kill, applauded A Body to Die For, saying that "fans will find Bailey's sassy wit as engaging as ever and are sure to admire the skill with which White pulls together all the threads."
In 2005, White published her third Bailey Weggins novel, Over Her Dead Body. This time out, Bailey loses her job at Gloss magazine (no doubt a fictional stand-in for Cosmo). However, things get hotter than ever when she begins covering celebrity crime for Buzz magazine and her new boss is murdered. Again, White is pleasing fans and critics alike.
White's most recent release is a brief break from Weggins's exploits, but it certainly isn't a break from the kind of sly blend of humor and sex that readers have come to expect from her. How to Set His Thighs on Fire: 86 Red-Hot Lessons on Love, Life, Men, and (Especially) Sex is a slightly satirical, high-spirited take on the kinds of self-help guides found in women's mags such as, well, Cosmopolitan. But fans of Bailey Weggins should not fear -- White is currently working on the next installment of her hit series.
Good to Know
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White is not the only lady in her family with a knack for mystery writing. Her mother Anne White is also a mystery writer and recently published her third novel Best Laid Plans.
White was not only a writer and editorial assistant for Glamour, but she also appeared on the magazine's cover.
White is a recent recipient of the Matrix Award, which honors "extraordinary achievements of women in the communications field."
Some fun facts gleaned from our interview with White:
"I love to cook -- I find it very relaxing."
"I'm too Type A, so I get lots of massages."
"I have 5 brothers, and I constantly recreate these relationships with the men I work with and my male friends."
"I modeled for two years. I just had to see what it was like, once I learned that I look better in pictures than in person!"
"I'm a mother, and I love that. I'm also a nature lover, and lover of history. I've loved my trips to places like Antarctica and Alaska, Kenya and Tanzania, Chile, Argentina, Peru, the Galapagos, the Amazon, though I also die for London and Paris."
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In the spring of 2006, Kate White took some time to answer some of our questions about her favorite books, authors, and interests:
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
The Secret of Red Gate Farm by Carolyn Keene. It was the first Nancy Drew I read, and not only made me see that I could be addicted to reading, but also that I loved mysteries.
What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren -- Brilliant, beautiful and a fabulous glimpse into a part of U.S. history.
MacBeth by William Shakespeare -- I know it's a play, but I love it. I love to just read it.
The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch -- A fabulous coming-of-age novel about a foreign correspondent in Jakarta in the ‘60s.
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley -- It was so compelling, I couldn't read another book for weeks.
Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitgerald -- I still remember how moved I was the first time I read it.
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway -- I just reread it, and it holds up even now.
Atigone -- Another play, but I mean the one by Anouilh, not Sophocles. It always makes me cry when I read it.
The Dubliners by James Joyce -- I reread "The Dead" over and over.
All the novels by John Fowles, especially The Magus, which you should read at 19, all full of longing.
A tie between The White Hotel by D. M. Thomas, a haunting mystery of sorts, and Camille Paglia's book on the best poems ever written -- It gave me a whole new appreciation of poetry. God, there are so many others.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?The Year of Living Dangerously -- Great drama, with a historical backdrop.
Anne of the Thousand Days
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
I do like rock and country western, but I prefer classical -- especially opera. I listen to that when I write. I just fell in love with Carmina Burana, and play it constantly when I write.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
All the King's Men -- I'd love to discuss it before the new movie comes out.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I love to give the book Jacqueline Kennedy's Favorite Poems to new mothers; I love to get bird books from my kids.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
I love to write early, in a small office, with a breeze blowing and a hot cup of tea.
What are you working on now?
The next Bailey Weggins mystery, Drop Dead Gorgeous.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
I was lucky. My Cosmo job gave me entrée.
If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be?
My mom: Anne White.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Don't set up unnecessary hurdles for yourself. If no one is responding to your letters, maybe you need to re-craft it. If no one is liking your book, maybe it needs a whole new beginning. Since I work with a lot of writers, I see that they are often very resistant to "hearing" criticism.
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