KITRI Spotlight: Harriet Walker

KITRI Spotlight: Harriet Walker


Meet our creative, intelligent and simply brilliant friends who inspire KITRI in every single way.
For our latest KITRI Spotlight we were delighted to chat with Harriet Walker, Fashion Editor at The Times, novelist (and longtime #KITRIgirl!), about the publication of her debut novel, The New Girl. 
Congratulations on the publication of The New Girl! The book has received rave reviews, how does it feel?!

Thank you! It’s simultaneously surreal to have The New Girl out in the world, and also a massive relief. Publishing works very slowly compared to newspaper journalism – which is what I’m used to – so the build-up has felt quite prolonged at times: just under two years from book deal to publication day. I’m delighted with the reviews, of course, and that my story has found so many readers – and, according to lots of their feedback, kept them up late at night desperate to find out what happens in the end!

For those who don’t know, could you tell us a little bit about The New Girl?

It’s the story of a fashion editor and new mother on maternity leave, pulled between looking after her baby and missing her job (and worrying about the woman who is covering it while she’s off). The New Girl is a story about female friendship, ambition and rivalry – how we often judge ourselves more harshly than anybody else does and how our actions can affect others, whether we intend them to or not. It’s also to do with the pressure women come under to be good at or cool with ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Which is obviously impossible.

As a well-established fashion editor and a mother yourself, there are some similarities between yourself and Margot, your main protagonist. Are any elements of the story autobiographical or inspired by real life events?

The New Girl isn’t autobiographical, but it’s certainly inspired by things I’ve experienced in my career; I thought if I wrote what I knew, that would be most convincing for the reader. The New Girl actually wasn’t going to be about fashion, but I met so many women while I was on maternity leave who were fascinated by my job at The Times that I realised it’s a subject people wanted to read about. I tried to dispel some of the myths about how glamorous the industry really is… The magazine’s fashion cupboard in the novel is a tip, for example, and fashion week is fun but exhausting – and a bit weird.

What inspired you to write a fiction novel?

There wasn’t a moment where I thought “I will write a book now,” but I had more time to read other novels while I was on mat leave with my daughter and I was on Twitter much less too. I think my brain just got a chance to unwind a bit and start thinking in full sentences, longer plot arcs than just daily news stories. The more I read, the more I wondered whether I could do it too. I had a great time with my daughter that first year, but I felt guilty about almost everything – that I was neglecting my career or, if I thought about work, that I was neglecting her. I wanted to explore those feelings a bit more deeply, and eventually I came up with the characters and a plot that would let me.

Talk to us about your writing routine, alongside your daily work. What’s a typical writing day for you?

I started The New Girl at my kitchen table while my daughter was asleep upstairs and I just plugged away with a bit most days. It was harder when I got back to work – I wrote some bits on my phone during my commute! I’m pretty much full-time at The Times still, so my days are usually spent writing for the paper – at home at the moment, of course. I’ve been writing my second novel over the past year, and that’s something I do either after my daughter is in bed or maybe for a half-day at the weekend (I’ve tried early mornings, I am just not programmed that way!). I took a month-long sabbatical last year and did the rest on days off and holidays – it’s been full-on, but fiction doesn’t feel like work for me at the moment. I love having a project that is all mine; it feels exciting to come back to every time.

What did you find to be the most difficult and most rewarding part of the writing process?

Fitting it in! I find if I can arrange a full day of writing, I get into a real flow with it and that’s a great confidence boost – I’m a big fan of just getting it all down and then sorting it out afterwards. The most difficult aspect for me is plotting – I find it easier coming up with ideas and themes I want to talk about, and then I have to bend them into a timeline of events that will (hopefully) keep people turning the pages. That stage is really hard and draining, and at times really frustrating.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Just start. And try not to stop to go back and tinker until you’re finished. I’m guilty of reworking one sentence over and over, but you still only have one sentence by the end of it. Getting to the end of something is harder than starting, I think, but once you do: it exists! Then you can tinker.

Fashion is a huge part of your life and career - how has lockdown, and your second pregnancy, changed your wardrobe?

Lockdown + pregnancy = basically just in my nightie for the past four months! Thankfully, there are plenty of lovely, relaxed midi-dresses around that fit the bill but still look smart and pretty. I’ve been living in the blue Molly smocked style as well as a navy polka dot wrap from KITRI’s first or second collection (I think). I haven’t worn a pair of jeans for months, but then not many other people have either, it seems. Lockdown wardrobe and pregnancy style are not that different – stretchy waistbands, leggings and plenty of waft.

What’s next?! Do you have any future novels in the works?

My second novel The Wedding Night will be out next year. Lots of people have asked whether it’s a sequel to The New Girl – it isn’t, but it’s a similarly twisty and suspenseful story about a group of friends who decide to go away together when their friend’s wedding is cancelled – or is it? Beyond that, my baby is due in October, so I’ll be getting to grips with that! And hopefully squeezing in some writing on the side too.

Harriet's Edit

I have this shirt dress in grey – a bit 70s, a bit safari, and brilliant all-year-round. Just add tall boots in winter!
Perfectly jolly for drinking in the park – but smart enough for a Zoom call too.
I’ve been wearing this while pregnant but it’d be even more flattering if I wasn’t – the full sleeves and wide legs are timelessly chic whether you’re in heels or not.
My favourite sort of top right now – a blouse that makes a statement but is relaxed enough to wear with jeans. Add big earrings for night-time.
I want this for as soon as I have a waist again!
Simple but so elegant – this top will work with jeans, shorts or a skirt, and I love the bow detail at the back.
Thank you for chatting with us, Harriet!

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