Kate White and Alafair Burke Discuss SUCH A PERFECT WIFE
Kate White - former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan and bestselling writer - has a brand-new crime novel out this week: SUCH A PERFECT WIFE, available tomorrow (May 7th) from Harper Books! In honor of Kate’s newest release, I’m thrilled to share with CBTB readers a fantastic conversation between Kate and bestselling crime writer Alafair Burke, in which these two very talented women discuss SUCH A PERFECT WIFE, writing gutsy female characters, advice for aspiring writers, and more. If there ever were a fascinating and inspiring pair of women to learn from, it’s these two, and I’m absolutely thrilled to share their Q&A with CBTB readers today! In this post, you can learn more about Kate’s forthcoming release SUCH A PERFECT WIFE, plus get all the details on Alafair’s newest book, THE BETTER SISTER, too. Huge thanks to HarperCollins, Kate White, and Alafair Burke for sharing this Q&A with us today! Read on for all the details on both books, and the Q&A between Kate and Alafair.
About the Books
SUCH A PERFECT WIFE by Kate White
Blonde. Beautiful. A loving mother.
And missing since Monday.
On a sunny morning in late September, Shannon Blaine sets off for a jog along the rural roads near her home in Lake George, New York. It’s her usual a.m. routine, her “me time” after dropping the kids off at school…except on this day she never returns.
Is her husband lying when he says he has no clue where she is? Could Shannon have split on her own, overwhelmed by the pressures of her life? Or is she the victim of a sexual predator who had been prowling the area and snatched her before she knew what was happening.
True crime writer Bailey Weggins, on assignment for the website Crime Beat, heads north from New York City to report on the mysterious disappearance. An anonymous tip soon leads Bailey to a grisly, bone-chilling discovery. Every town has its secrets, Bailey reminds herself, and nothing is ever as perfect as it seems. She keeps digging for answers until—when it’s almost too late—she unearths the terrifying truth.
THE BETTER SISTER by Alafair Burke
Keep your enemies close and your sister closer.
Though Chloe was the younger of the two Taylor sisters, she always seemed to be the one in charge. She was the honor roll student with big dreams and an even bigger work ethic. Nicky—always restless and more than a little reckless—was the opposite of her ambitious little sister. She floated from job to job and man to man, and stayed close to home in Cleveland.
For a while, it seemed that both sisters had found happiness. Chloe earned a scholarship to an Ivy League school and moved to New York City, where she landed a coveted publishing job. Nicky married promising young attorney Adam Macintosh and gave birth to a baby boy they named Ethan. The Taylor sisters became virtual strangers.
Now, more than fifteen years later, their lives are drastically different—and Chloe is married to Adam. When he’s murdered by an intruder at the couple’s East Hampton beach house, Chloe reluctantly allows her teenage stepson’s biological mother—her estranged sister, Nicky—back into her life. But when the police begin to treat Ethan as a suspect in his father’s death, the two sisters are forced to unite . . . and to confront the truth behind family secrets they have tried to bury in the past.
Kate White and Alafair Burke Discuss
Such a Perfect Wife
Alafair: With your new book Such a Perfect Wife, and last year's Even if It Kills Her, you’ve returned to your series character, true crime writer Bailey Weggins. How do you decide whether a story should be written as a standalone novel or part of your mystery series?
Kate: That’s such an interesting question. With both types of books, I usually start with the germ of an idea that I’ve picked up from a news headline or maybe just a phrase I’ve read or overheard. Something as simple as “newborn twins” or “broken engagement” can be enough to get me wondering, “What if?”
But when I consider whether to make it the basis for a standalone psychological thriller or part of my mystery series, I guess it comes down to the perspective I want to have in the book. Bailey, as you point out, is a true crime writer and when I write books with her as the protagonist, it’s about looking from the outside in, about Bailey covering a case as a reporter and trying to gain perspective and uncover the truth.
With a standalone thriller, like the one I’m currently working on, I’m writing from the inside out. The protagonist is always a woman who finds herself by chance in a nightmarish situation and has to figure out not only what’s really going on but how she you can save herself.
Alafair: What were some of the thoughts that went into the story of Such a Perfect Wife?
Kate: The idea came from the fascination I have and the sadness I feel when reading news stories about wives or girlfriends who vanish and later turn out to have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Recently there was that horrible story of Shanann Watts, whose husband Chris killed her and their two little daughters so he could be with his mistress, and the Colorado mom apparently killed by her fiancé, who, it seems, might have disposed of her body with the help of his secret girlfriend. With Such a Perfect Wife, I wanted to write about a missing wife, but I also wanted to pose the question: What if, just maybe, the husband didn’t do it? Bailey finds herself asking that question when she is sent by Crime Beat to cover the story of a young mother named Shannon Blaine, who seems to have vanished into thin air. By the way, I had already chosen the name before I read about Shannan Watts.
Alafair: You were the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan for 14 years before leaving to focus on other projects, but you still write non-fiction books with business advice for women, including The Gutsy Girl Handbook: Your Manifesto for Success. What is your writing process? Do you work on multiple projects at a time, or focus solely on either a fiction or non-fiction book at once?
Kate: I always start writing pretty early in the morning and go through until lunchtime. I save the afternoon for social media, promotional stuff, research, and, if I really have to, editing.
One of the big discoveries for me was realizing that writing is easier for me in the morning, which took me by surprise because I’m a crazy night owl by nature. I think it’s key, no matter what you do, to figure out what your power hours are. When do you feel most in the zone? Don’t just assume, experiment. I’ve heard a lot of fiction writes say the morning hours just have a certain magic for them, and it’s certainly when I feel most productive. Only problem for me is that I still love staying up late! So sometimes my brain feels a little fried.
As for juggling non-fiction (whether writing books or editing Cosmo) and fiction, I used to have to do that regularly, and I made it work, but I didn’t love it. You’re really using two different parts of your brain. And constant going back and forth is always tough. There’s some interesting research which shows that when you interrupt a creative task to answer emails, it takes way too long for your brain to switch gears, and it’s really hard to regain the focus you had.
That’s how it feels when I’m toggling between writing fiction and non-fiction, so I’m trying to do that less and less. I adored my fourteen years running Cosmo, which included sitting at dinner next to everyone from Bill Clinton to Bradley Cooper (though he did NOT stare at me like he did Lady Gaga), but I left mainly in order to be able to write fiction full-time.
Alafair, I could ask you the same question. You not only write amazing fiction, but you’re a law professor. Do you find it hard to switch back and forth?
Alafair: Ha, you caught me asking about something I still struggle with. The magic writing time for me is late at night. If we ever did a writing retreat together, we’d never see each other! And I’ve tried to keep my law professor and writer lives separate. I tend to conceptualize a novel while writing my legal scholarship and vice versa. With time, I have found a way to tether the two worlds, which make it a bit easier to toggle back and forth.
Next question: Do you see a connection between the advice you write for women and the fictional characters you create on the page?
Kate: Well, I’d kill to go on vacation with you, Alafair, but I guess it couldn’t be a writer’s retreat. As for your question, I never really thought of it that way, but yes, I think there’s a connection between some of the advice I write for women and my characters. In my career books, I always stress the importance of being bold and thinking big. The playing field isn’t equal, and it won’t be until men, companies, and the culture change, but until then it pays to give yourself an edge by being as gutsy as possible. Even if it’s scary.
Though my female protagonists may have their flaws, they’re basically smart, gutsy women, not damaged in some profound way. But something bad suddenly happens to them, which tilts their world off its axis. They need all their strength and smarts to come through it.
That’s one of the things I love about your books, besides the fact that they’re such great thrillers. Olivia in the The Ex, for instance, and Angela in The Wife, are flawed in certain ways, and their lives haven’t been easy, but they’re also incredibly capable and fearless. I assume the same is true with your new book, The Better Sister. Am I right?
Alafair: Yes. The book has two female characters—Chloe and Nicky, adult sisters—who are imperfect in different ways, but I’d describe both of them as strong and (even) likable…..If you had to give one piece of advice to inspiring writers, what would it be?
Kate: Since a tendency to procrastinate and feel stuck affects many aspiring writers, my advice is to not panic when this happens or convince yourself it means you don’t really want to write. Just approach your procrastination as a problem that needs to be solved. Because if you start in with the self-loathing, it creates a vicious cycle. I was a world-class procrastinator with my writing in my twenties, and I used time management strategies to help me conquer the problem.
My favorite strategy is one I think of as the ten-minute miracle. One time-management expert I spoke to years ago said that we sometimes resist tackling an important project not because we don’t want to accomplish it but because we make it really daunting, and thus it’s easy to put it off. He suggested slicing projects down the same way you would cut a chunk of salami and making the slices as small as necessary, so you’ll be able to digest them easily.
I tried that when I wrote my first mystery. Instead of swearing, “I’m going to write all day,” I told myself I would write for only 10 or 15 minutes a day. I knew that window of time was a “slice” small enough for me to handle and I wouldn’t resist. Soon I was going for thirty minutes and then an hour and longer and longer. I sound like a new puppy that had to be trained, but it really worked--and others I’ve shared it with have said it worked for them, too. I highly recommend the ten-minute miracle!
Alafair: I knew you of all people would have great advice! Congratulations on another terrific novel.
SUCH A PERFECT WIFE by Kate White
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks (May 7, 2019)
THE BETTER SISTER by Alafair Burke
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Harper; 1st Edition edition (April 16, 2019)
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