Skip to main content

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

New York Times bestselling author Kate White discusses the process of writing her new psychological thriller, The Second Husband.

Kate White is the New York Times bestselling author of eight standalone psychological thrillers, including Have You Seen Me? (2020) and The Fiancée (June 2021), as well as eight Bailey Weggins mysteries, including Such a Perfect Wife, which was nominated for an International Thriller Writers Award. Kate, the former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, is also the author of several popular career books for women, 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, as well as the editor of the Anthony and Agatha Award-nominated The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

Kate White

In this post, Kate discusses the process of writing her new psychological thriller, The Second Husband, how she sets aside intentional time to brainstorm her story details, and more!

Name: Kate White
Literary agent: Kathy Schneider at the Jane Rotrozen Agency
Book title: The Second Husband
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Release date: June 28
Genre/category: Psychological Thriller
Previous titles: Seven previous stand-alone thrillers, including The Fiancée, Have You Seen Me? and The Secrets You Keep, and eight Bailey Weggins mysteries, including Such a Perfect Wife.
Elevator pitch for the book: The Second Husband is a gripping, unpredictable psychological thriller about a woman whose seemingly perfect second marriage is rocked when the police begin reinvestigating the brutal murder of her first husband—and start eyeing her as possible suspect.

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon
[WD uses affiliate links.]

What prompted you to write this book?

It’s kind of a funny story actually. A number of years ago I was walking with my husband and carrying a large umbrella because rain had been predicted for later. Without even really thinking, I suddenly started twirling the umbrella like a baton, including a move called “around the world,” where you twirl it around your waist. My husband’s jaw dropped. “Wait,” he blurted out, “when did you learn to do that?”

I explained that I’d taken baton lessons as a girl, something I’d never thought to mention before. I could tell it threw him off slightly, the fact that we’d been married for years but he’d never known this crazy detail about me. That moment stayed with me, and I played with it in my head over time, which is how I often develop plot ideas.

Eventually I decided I wanted to write a thriller about a marriage and the idea that no matter how much you might love someone, you don’t really know everything about the person, and that there might even be secrets your partner is keeping. The couple in The Second Husband, Emma and Tom, both have secrets they’ve withheld from each other, secrets that eventually come calling and threaten to destroy the new life they’ve built together.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

In the case of The Second Husband, it took roughly 27 months to go from idea to publication, which is typical for me. Since I write a book a year (and they’re always published about 12 months after I turn them in), I usually start a new book as soon as I submit the current one.

Here’s the hitch, though. I can write a book in a year, but I need at least three months to work on the idea beforehand, so that means I’m usually thinking of a new idea as I’m finishing up a book, which makes my brain ready to blow a fuse at times. What I find helpful during this period is to really compartmentalize and use a specific time of the day to be thinking of the new idea. I often do that in the shower rather than at my desk.

I loosely plot my books, always knowing the ending in advance. I’ve written 17 thrillers and mysteries and so far I’ve never changed the ending I planned on from the beginning, though a lot of the middle takes shape as I write. I use a spiral notebook to work out about four chapters at a time.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

Not so much in the publishing process per se, because I’ve worked with my fabulous publishing team at Harper for years and we know each other well, but there were some good learning moments on the marketing front. I’m always trying to stay on top of best practices in terms of publicity and digital marketing, and a few months ago the digital marketing director gave me an update on what was working best in the industry.

For instance, as far as Instagram goes, she said reels are key these days if you want to gain and engage followers. It’s really helpful to stay up to date on the marketing front, and I think most publishers would be happy to share such info if you ask for it.

Kate White: On Building In Brainstorming Time

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

My main character in The Second Husband, Emma Hawke, is a generational researcher and trend spotter, and I did a fair amount of research on people who do this for a living. One of the details I found interesting, and I used it in the novel, is the so-called “rule of three.”

If something happens once, it’s probably just chance; if twice, it means it’s a coincidence or curiosity; and if three times, it very likely could be a trend. I realized that’s something that could apply to so much in life, even relationships. Always good to note when something happens three times in close succession!!

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope they’ll be compelled by the harrowing dilemma Emma Hawke faces in her new marriage and want to stay with her as she tries to unravel the mystery and figure out the truth. And I would love to know that the twists in the book take readers by surprise but seem utterly believable.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Besides “write every day,” which the great John Grisham advised in an interview a few years ago, and I totally agree with (it really helps you stay in the groove so that it’s easier to return to the computer each morning), I always advise aspiring authors to aim not just for a certain number of hours in the desk chair each day but also a certain number of words on the page.

If you don’t have a number as a goal, you can end up reworking the same sentences over and over again and not adding pages at a good rate. Yes, somedays those words won’t be great, but if you build in time for editing, you can improve them.

Fitting Writing Into Your Life with Terri Valentine

Finding the time, energy, and motivation to get the writing done—day after day—stumps even the most seasoned writer on occasion. Life as a writer can be difficult to sustain, especially if you don’t have the direction, organization, and support you need. Get a glimpse into the life of a professional writer and set realistic writing goals for yourself with this online workshop. When you take this workshop, you’ll learn to manage your time effectively, create a writing platform, practice strategies for writing, and read The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen. Once you know how to fit writing into your daily life, it won’t feel like a chore. Instead, it will be enjoyable and invigorating.

Click to continue.

Historical Fiction Authors Don’t Expect Their Characters’ Battles To Appear in Modern Headlines, but Here We Are

Historical Fiction Authors Don’t Expect Their Characters’ Battles To Appear in Modern Headlines, but Here We Are

What happens to historical fiction when history repeats itself? Author Addison Armstrong discusses writing about the past and seeing it reflected in the present.

From Script

Art and Independence (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” television writer Vanessa Benton, Allegoria writer-director Spider One, Hulu’s Prey screenwriter Patrick Aison and director Dan Trachtenberg, and more!

Steven Hartov: On Shocking Truths in Historical Fiction

Steven Hartov: On Shocking Truths in Historical Fiction

New York Times bestselling author Steven Hartov discusses the surprising truths he discovered when writing his new historical fiction novel, The Last of the Seven.

Larry Beinhart: On Rejection Leading to Mystery

Larry Beinhart: On Rejection Leading to Mystery

Award-winning author Larry Beinhart discusses what he learned in the process of writing his new mystery novel, The Deal Goes Down.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: A Competition Announcement, 6 WDU Courses, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our self-published e-book awards, 6 WDU courses, and more!

Leah Franqui: On Killing Our Critical Inner Voices

Leah Franqui: On Killing Our Critical Inner Voices

Award-winning playwright and author Leah Franqui discusses how she examined her life through a fictive lens with her new novel, After the Hurricane.

Pacing Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Pacing Your Fight Scene (FightWrite™)

Trained fighter and author Carla Hoch discusses how to pace your story's fight scene and shares three examples from writers who tackle pacing differently.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Rushing the Drafting Process

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Rushing the Drafting Process

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so this series helps identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's mistake is rushing the drafting process.

Kwana Jackson: On Finding the Right Home for Your Story

Kwana Jackson: On Finding the Right Home for Your Story

USA Today bestselling author Kwana Jackson discusses writing her new romance novel, Knot Again.