Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Q&A with Kate White


Photo by Jordan Matter


Kate White is the author of the new novel Between Two Strangers. Her many other books include The Second Husband. She is the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine.


Q: What inspired you to write Between Two Strangers, and how did you create your character Skyler?


A: I usually start a book with a germ of an idea, something I’ve read or overheard, but Between Two Strangers was inspired by something that actually happened to me personally. When my mother died a few years ago, my brothers and I learned that the bank had sent a check for one of her IRAs to a woman whose name we didn’t recognize. What????? Who was this person and why had we never heard of her?


It turned out that the beneficiary was a much-married relative of ours (the bank used the name she’d had during one of her marriages) and she received the money because of a bank error but hadn’t breathed a word about it. The bank eventually refunded the money to us, and, as far as we know, it didn’t claw back the money from this woman.


It got me thinking “What if…?” “What if somebody is willed a large sum of money by mistake?” “What if someone is willed money by someone they don’t know?” And then finally, “What would it be like to be willed a huge sum of money by someone whose name you don’t recognize, but it turns out to be someone from your past?” Why did he do it? What message was he trying to send?


As for Skyler, she just came to me. I empathized with how much she wanted the money in order to turn her life around, and I also immediately felt all the guilt and loneliness she’d experienced because of certain events in her past. 

Q: The writer Lisa Unger said of the book, “With her perfect pacing and gift for simmering tension, White deftly pulls back the delicate layers of secrets and lies, page by thrilling page.” What do you think of that description, and how do you navigate the pacing of your writing?


A: I loved Lisa’s blurb because I always hope my books are page turners for readers, with lots of tension and twists. I plot out my books in advance, roughly at first and then four chapters at a time, and during this time I’m always trying to be keep a close eye on the pacing.


But after the first draft, I always go back and really edit and tighten things to improve the pacing even more. Editing is an important part of the process for me.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: Since I’m a plotter, not a so-called “panster,” I always know the ending—who the killer is, what the major twist is going to be, and how I’m going to disguise the killer without cheating the reader. I’ve written 17 mysteries and thrillers and I’ve never changed the ending of a book. I don’t start writing until I’m committed to the crime and the reason behind it, and if I changed that, everything would unravel.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Like always, my wonderful editor, wonderful agent, and I all created lists of possibilities and then we brainstormed from those lists and came up with a title we all liked. As a former magazine editor-in-chief, I know the power of brainstorming. It can be so magical, but the first rule is that you can’t knock anyone’s ideas.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I publish a new suspense novel every year, so I’m just getting ready to turn in my 2024 psychological thriller to my editor. The spring is always crazy for me because I’m promoting one book, delivering another, and starting a new one. 


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I just celebrated my 10th year as full-time novelist and I want to thank all the wonderful readers who make that possible. It’s been great to be my own boss. I also love interacting with readers on Facebook and Instagram, and now more and more in person again. You can find information about my book tour on


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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