Former Cosmopolitan EIC Kate White on Writing Bestselling Mysteries and ‘Picking a Lane’

'Lunch' with a prolific writer enjoying her successful second career

The scene at Michael's
Michael's.

Over the course of the many years I’ve been chronicling the fate and fortunes of the famous and infamous regulars at Michael’s, few people have left an impression on me the way Kate White did.

When I first met Kate–where else?–in this very dining room, she was the editor in chief of Cosmopolitan who, in addition to being one of Hearst’s star editors, happened to also be writing bestselling books on the side. I came to know her as one of the Wednesday Michael’s regulars I could always count on to light up the room with her fun Table One lunches, often attended attended by high profile-guests celebrating the publication of one of their books or one by White herself.

Unlike many peers who have risen to the top of the masthead, Kate never put shilling for her personal brand ahead of the title she represented. She was, dare I say, nice.  I once introduced her to my then five-year-old daughter during Fashion Week and several months later, when I saw her on a Wednesday at Michael’s, she had brought along some girlie hair accessories and a cute mirror for me to pass on. “I saw them and thought of her,” she said at the time. That kind of nice.

Kate White, Diane Clehane

I hadn’t seen much of Kate since she left Cosmo in 2013 to write full-time and work the lecture circuit (more on that later), so I was thrilled to meet her back at Michael’s today to talk about her latest book, The Secrets You Keep, which just came out last week from Harper.

By the looks of things, I wasn’t the only one that was happy about Kate’s return to 55th and Fifth. There were plenty of air-kisses exchanged as she made her way through the dining room to greet old pals David Zinczenko, Leonard Lauder and Barbara Taylor Bradford. Cosmo’s current EIC, Michele Promaulayko, who was lunching with Lauder, came over for a quick catch-up after the cosmetics mogul departed. The two women traded too many compliments to count before Michele told me, “Kate taught me everything I know” then added with a laugh, “Kate makes you feel like an underachiever, no matter what you do.”

It’s easy to see why. Kate is a New York Times bestselling author of eleven works of fiction: six Bailey Weggins mysteries and five psychological thrillers. Her books are published in 13 countries around the world. Her 12th book–the next Bailey Weggins mystery, Even If It Kills Her–will be out this October.

She is also the author of several very popular and bestselling career books, including I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: How to Ask for the Money, Snag the Promotion and Create the Career You Deserve and Why Good Girls Don’t Get Ahead But Gutsy Girls Do. Next March, 22 years after it was first published, Kate is coming out with an updated version of Gutsy Girls. “I want it to be a handbook–something you can stick in your purse,” she told me. I need a nap just typing this.

Harper

Clever Kate, who wanted to write mysteries ever since she read her first Nancy Drew book, wasn’t about to let her corporate success get in the way of her dreams of becoming a writer. She was EIC of Redbook when her then-boss Cathie Black called her upstairs and told her she was taking over the reigns of Cosmo. “I never saw it coming,” she said between bites of her dayboat scallops. “Then I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m never going to be able to fit in writing my mystery.’”

But four months later, she figured out a way. During the workweek, Kate wrote one hour a day from 7:45 am until 8:45 am at her office before her staff arrived (“They never got there until 9:30”) and on the weekends before her two children, Hayley and Hunter, got up. She somehow managed to leave her office every day by 5:30 p.m. so she could have dinner with her kids and then wrote every night for two hours after they went to bed. “Even if we’d go to the theater, I’d stay up and write when we got home,” she recalled. On the weekends, she wrote every day. “I was super disciplined.” I’ll say–she managed to crank out eight (!) books during her fourteen years at Cosmo.