The 5-Question Interview: Christine Schwab

by Meredith Resnick

The writer talks about tempering fear with passion, the warning signs of repetition, and being a trendsetter, not a copycat.

Christine Schwab is the author of The Grown-Up Girl’s Guide to Style and Quickstyle (published under her maiden name, Kunzelman). She has talked about style on Oprah!, NBC Nightly News, CBS-The Early Show, The Today Show, Live with Regis and Kelly, Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, Rachael Ray, Inside Edition, CNBC News, Fox Network News, E! Entertainment and Weekend Today. She is a former contributing style editor to Redbook, and has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, and many, many others.

Meredith: How do you balance the outer world of beauty with the inner world of writing when you create? Is it seamless or conflicted? Is the intersection, in fact, quite natural?

cs_work_at_home_022CHRISTINE: For me the intersection is totally natural. I never have to stop and think about it. My world of fashion and beauty is part of me, it comes out on my pages in many different ways. My insight into people. My visual analysis of situations. My love for texture and color. I know some writers can go completely out of their realm and write. I am not one of them so far. .. Everything I write reflects on my background, my career in television and fashion and beauty, and who I am as a person. Having just finished my first fiction book after publishing two books of non-fiction, I am seeing how characters take on a life of their own and have the ability to take me, as the writer on a journey totally unplanned. It’s exciting and stimulating to realize that I may indeed go down different paths as I write more fiction. And who knows, someday I may write something totally unique when it comes to my life and experiences. I look forward to exploring fiction more and seeing where it takes me. It’s like moving to a new place, taking a new job, or going back to school. You never know how you will come out from the experience, but the journey is fascinating.

Meredith: Some people refer to their creations as their children. How about you?

CHRISTINE: I just finished my first novel and fell so in love with the characters and the journey they were taking me on that the day I wrote the last sentence I actually felt a sense of loss and cried. And for several more days I felt empty, missing my new found friends. Before, the closest I came to this feeling was with my first two non-fiction books when I mailed the package off to my agent. I actually wrote Federal Express with a commercial idea:  how as a writer I felt as if I was packing up my first born and shipping him off. Of course Federal Express hires one of the most prestigious public relations companies in the world to do their commercials so they passed on my idea. Still, as I handed the package over to the Fed Ex man my emotions were raging.  I had worked so hard to turn my pages into a story and now it was in someone else’s hands. Out of my control. Now, with everything electronically transferred, it is the same feeling when I press the send button on my computer. How can we not feel so close to our work when we put our heart and soul on the pages?

Meredith: Is fear ever an issue, like does your creativity measure up? How do you temper fear?

CHRISTINE: Most successful writers I know have either fear or extreme nerves over a project. I find this good because it means you’re making demands of yourself. Fear is always an issue for me. Some days I feel like I can do anything. Other days I read my words and question what I have written. As in the television world where I have worked for many years, one always questions their talents. I feel because we put so much of ourselves out there when we write and read, or submit, or go out to sell, how can one not be afraid? Rejection is tough, no matter how experienced a writer you are. I know a writer who has written and sold over a dozen books and with each new book she expresses fear.GrownUpGirl_LowRes

I have written and sold two books and now I have a novel out in the “for sale” world and I am once again in my fear mode. Will it sell? One day I know it will: it’s good, it’s timely and well written. The next day I think of all the reasons it won’t sell: the economy, it’s too long, it’s my first work in fiction and I am known for non-fiction. Try as I might, I can’t stop vacillating back and forth. Can any writer? I have all the ‘believe in yourself’ slogans surrounding me. I wear a good luck bracelet. I am a great believer and a very positive person and yet fear sneaks up on me. However I think fear makes us try harder, grow as writers and move forward because those victories are oh so sweet.

I temper fear with passion. I remind myself how happy writing makes me. How much I adore the process. As I sent this last book to my agent I asked my husband to remind me when I get down about the enjoyment I had in writing. I cut out encouraging sayings and tape them all around my desk:
If everyone thinks your ideas are good they aren’t ideas, their copies.

I will write myself into well being.

If it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Fear? Yes, it’s part of being a writer for me.

Meredith: When you write and report on image and style, does your mind wonder first what you would like, or what others would? Do you think about pleasing the crowd?

CHRISTINE: I have to write about what I believe, even if it gets me in trouble. That said, isn’t it the perfect solution to write what you believe in that makes readers happy? That is a best seller Don’t we all want a best seller?

If I write only to please readers I’m not giving any honest information, just copy-cat words. My job is to look at the trends and translate them for real people. Not fashion people. Not designers. People who will go to the stores and spend their money on what they feel are the most important purchases. Especially today, when money is tight you don’t want to invest in fads, you want longevity. In The Grown-up Girl’s Guide To Style I spoke from experience and honesty. People loved me or disliked me because I didn’t always tell them what they wanted to hear, I told them what they should hear. I feel that my value as a fashion writer is to help people. Style is something anyone can learn. I look at my job as being a teacher. I have great experience, I want to share it with readers. I never want to be a copy-cat. After my book came out many other books followed that adopted much of my philosophy. That’s when I know I’m doing my job.

Meredith: Once you have the basic idea for what you will be writing about, how do you expand on it? Now answer this: How do you know when enough is enough—a line in an essay, a chapter in a book?

CHRISTINE: You have to write what you know. I have never found it hard to fill up a book because I always write what I know and believe in. If you’re reaching for fillers you are most likely on the wrong topic. I feel when you’re writing what you know the words flow. Sure you come to a glitch every now and then, but basically you know where you’re going and how to get there.

I think you know enough is enough when you start repeating yourself. You fill in with long descriptions or dialogue that slows the story. You start looking at other books or magazines and pulling ideas from them instead of from your own head. I believe the more I can take someone into my head, the better the journey. The deeper I dig, the more fulfilling the work, for both me and my reader.

Christine lives with her husband in southern California where she is at work on a second book of fiction. “While many writers only deal with the ‘art,’ I feel you must take a look at the climate and write accordingly. My 25 years in front of the television cameras taught me to flow with the tides. Unless you are only writing to please yourself, you need to see what’s selling, or in the case of my fashion TV work, what’s hot and what’s not. Hot sells. It doesn’t mean you are selling out by any means, it simply means you are being smart,” she says.  You can get to know more about her at her website, right here.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

>>Most successful writers I know have either fear or extreme nerves over a project. I find this good because it means you’re making demands of yourself.<<<<

I feel exactly the same way and then when it's over, I too remember the passion.
Another great interview. I love these because you always seem to draw your subjects into conversations that are beneficial to writers – it makes us feel not so alone in all of our feelings and insecurities.
Thank you.

Roger Lefkon

Christine has demonstrated, in this interview, that she is articulate, thoughtful and uniquely capable of providing the reader with an introspective vision of what motivates her. She is clearly in control of her own destiny.

Amy Wallen

Christine, this is so inspirational. I love the part on fear the most. I am constantly fearful, and I need constant reminders that the fear is a driving force, because it can so easily bring me down if I’m not paying attention. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone, but instead am in the company of someone so successful, who knows how it’s done, but can also still worry about rejection and the publishing world at large.

And I really respect the part of you that considers yourself a teacher. That is such a giving way of expressing what you do. You are an expert and could walk away with that, but you also know you give of your talents and your expertise.

Thanks, Mer, for bringing another great interview to us out here trying to keep our oars in the water. You make it a safer place.

LitPark

A great description of how we all ping back and forth between confidence and doubt. I agree that it’s not a bad thing – believing in yourself is how you create at all, and doubting yourself and is you shape it and push it to be better. Luck on your novel submission!

Jackie Dishner

I did not consider my first published book a baby, you know, as in–I just gave birth! I was glad to be done with the writing/editing of it. But I was surprised to hear from other writers of similar work that they didn’t put much effort into marketing their books once released. Because I do still feel very close to the project, this thing that I did put my heart and soul into for three years. And it would be hard for me to just let it go without wanting to know where it went. So I’m always surprised to hear that people don’t feel that same way. They don’t want to do the marketing work. While I’m happy to work very hard at that. Because I spent so much time getting it in print, to me, it would be crazy not to make sure it was placed in as many readers’ hands as possible. Otherwise, why go through all that trouble?! In that sense, it is like having a baby. You want to make sure it survives.

Of course, then once I knew someone was going to actually read my book, I did feel a little of that all-too-familiar fear–Will they like it? Oh my, ours is an insane world in which to work. LOL

Kim Hooper

I love what she had to say about fear. I’m always afraid of fear, and this is a reminder to look at it as a positive. It drives me. It means I care. Thanks for this!

Vera Marie Badertscher

Obviously strikes a nerve. I particularly loved “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.”

Vera

Jennifer Margulis

This is an interesting interview, Meredith. I’d like to read more about her novel. Is it out yet?

Alexandra

I was interested to read that style can be taught. I had thought sense of style was simply something one was born with, since one of my daughters had it, and one didn’t, both born in France, style-capital or the world.

Kerry

I have been a fan of Christine’s on air fashion work and have read both of her non-fiction books and she definitely puts her money where her mouth is…she is a walking billboard of “age appropriate” fashion and style and in these economic times, thankfully, she is also budget conscious. I am excited to read her first book of fiction—when can I order my copy?

Monica Holloway

Christine is not someone to pull any punches, which is what I like the most about her. She is 100% herself in both her writing and her personal life, and this interview reflects that honesty. She has that rare ability to be generous, candid and very supportive all at the same time. I trust her take on just about everything. She’ll give it to you straight — with the most open, encouraging heart.

Sheryl

One of my writing professors, who was a very successful novelist, said something that has always stuck in my mind – that each and every time she sits down to write a (new) book, she’s so frightened and feels like she has no idea what she is doing. Fear is what every writer struggles with, no matter how long they’ve been at it, I guess.
Thanks for a great, insightful interview.

Dale Sessa

Christine, you know – you just know – the guts it takes to be a writer and yet you embrace this profession with every fiber of your being. You bravely peeked outside of your fashion “how-to” zone to write fiction and simply drove yourself with a strong and abiding dedication to your art. You are also inspiring and generous with your hands-on help and advice to other rudderless writers.

A fan of your non-fiction books, I look forward to reading the novel. I keep you in my “good luck thoughts,” always.

Phyllis Melhado

I’ve known Christine for many years. She’s a straight shooter, both as a writer and a friend — so refreshing on many levels! Her instincts are perfect and her writing is terrific. I always learn something about both style and substance when I read her work.
As a friend and a writer myself, I am looking forward to reading her novel.

Phyllis Melhado

Pamela Nichols

I love Christine’s style and honesty and passion. She is not afraid to admit she has fears which gives us leave to confess we can be afraid to put ourselves out there, but overcoming those fears is what makes us confident and successful. Cannot wait to read her first novel!

Cindy

I admire Christine because she has done what many of us say we want to do: write and publish a book. In fact, she’s now written number 3! I consider her one of the most fearless people I know; if she has fear, she certainly doesn’t let it stop her. Her non-fiction books were enlightening and a great read. When I’m considering something to wear or purchase, I still think WWCS(what would Christine say).
I’m excited to hear she’s now tried her hand at fiction; can’t wait to read it!

Joanne

I have known Christine for decades and yet again in this inspiring interview, what you see is what you get! Christine’s honesty and vulnerability as a person and a writer come alive on the page.
Can’t wait to read her first novel of fiction!

Pamela

Finally, an interview with a writer that gives us real insight into the process and the person. Christine bravely exposes the fear and uncertainty that comes with every project, but she also gives invaluable advice (once again on another topic!) on moving through those challenges. She reveals one of her greatest strengths in observing that the world of style and fashion is easily connected to the inner creative process of writing. As she points out in her first and second books, style and beauty is all about feeling positive about yourself – about honestly assessing strengths and weaknesses and working with both. We’ve all seen a million makeovers but none like Christine’s, because she forces people to go deeper, to go inside, to figure out what it is that makes us look and feel the way we so habitually do instead of in ways that might be better for us. Her writing style and process seems to be he same – go inward, go deep, work with it and then give it to the world (with style of course!). The novel will be amazing…

Sandy P

Christine,

It has been such a pleasure getting to know you. I am so impressed with all of your many talents, and cannot wait to read the new book. You are one amazing person, and I hope we continue to share many experiences in the future.

Alisa Bowman

I really enjoyed what she had to say about fear. I’ve so been there–over and over again!

Susan Whittaker

What an insightful interview! I particularly enjoyed Christine’s comment about a sense of loss after sending in her first work of fiction. Most readers feel a sense of loss when they finish reading a really good book – one where the characters become friends who you miss when you don’t interact with them regularly. Taking Christine’s comment about loss in creating those characters and then sending them off for review when the book is written, and her comments about fear makes me realize that as she sends off a manuscript – full of her characters that she’s come to love – she’s not only putting herself out there, but she’s probably feeling that she’s also setting up those beloved friends for review and possible rejection. I’m looking forward to meeting those friends soon and making them my own. We need authors like Christine who can acknowledge fear and courageously – passionately – work through it.

jackie

christine–i love your energy, your talent, your sense of style, and most of all, the ease with which you express it all. the interview touched all those qualities and i so respect your insights on your amazing creative process. any worthwhile creative effort is work, but you have demonstrated that the work is its own reward. how nice that you can share your writing with others. your generosity is another quality i so admire. you are an example for all of us who can use a little guidance in our every day lives. fiction is valid, too. thanks for being the amazing woman you are!

Hope Edelman

Christine is one of the hardest working writers I’ve ever met–someone who sets her mind on a goal and never gives up. And as all writers know, that pursuit involves exhilaration and courage and uncertainty and fear. A friend recently told me, “Courage is doing it scared.” I love that. Writers like Christine have that kind of courage. She is an inspiration to many!

Katherine Lewis

What a great interview. It’s always fascinating to get a glimpse inside the creative process. Now if only I could understand my own mind …

Nancy Monson

More so than fear, I find disappointment to be an issue with putting my work out there. I try very hard to tap into the zeitgeist, but that’s very hard to do!

Interesting interview. I’ll check out the new book too.

Marilyn

What an interesting interview. I am a fan of Christine’s non-fiction work and will look forward to reading her first book of fiction.

Barbara Bietz

I have been a fan of Christine’s for many years – I always turn the volume up when she is on TV. Her upbeat philosophy is inspiring. I love her book cover – nothing more fashionable than a crisp, white blouse.

Zov Karamardian

I have come to love Christine’s sense of style, energy and passion. Her fashion advice is so common sense. Her style appeals to millions of women out there including me. I can’t wait to read her next book; she is quite prolific writer. I love to see Christine’s book on the best seller list. Great interview
Christine!!!
Zov

Stephanie - Wasabimon

This was fabulous! I must say that I’m fairly style-challenged, so I should check out her book asap. ;)

Dina

I am not a writer, but within my line of work, I can relate to Christine’s views about fear, and the need to keep your presentation fresh. I agree with Chistine that within the creative process, fear is a good emotion. I admire Christine for her good taste and her ability to compliment her art with her good business sense. Thank you, Christine for inspiring me and many others. This is one of my favority quotes:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

bill

great interview. enjoyable and informative–and by the way, christine should pitch that Fed Ex idea to someone else. it’s perfect.

Judie Jacquemin

What an inspiring interview. I have been a fan of Christine’s for many years. Her television work is always fresh and creative. I may not have wanted to hear some of her observations but they were always kind and generous and relevant. It is an impressive accomplishment to write a novel and I particularly appreciate her comments about working through your fears. Easy to talk about. Difficult to do. We are all a work in process and Christine’s insights remind me that life is not a means to an end. Savor every moment. Thanks, Christine.

Jan Hughes Schaen

As a constant friend over the years, I am constantly surprised by her ability to make her thoughts become visual experiences for us. Her grace and beauty are balanced with faith and joy! Thank you, Christine, for sharing. Love to Shelly.

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