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15 Minutes w/ Kimberley Tait, Author of ‘Fake Plastic Love’

Toronto-born Kimberley Tait wrote her first book, Fake Plastic Love, after resigning from working full-time at a prestigious bank in London, England. Set from 2006-2012, Fake Plastic Love follows the story of two best friends as they navigate ‘the real world’ after college: one works on Wall Street, the other is a whimsical blogger. When a third enters the mix – Jeremy – the friends face life’s biggest question: In this fake plastic world, what do success, friendship and love even look like?

SDTC: What should we be paying more attention to?

KT: Each other. Isn’t it so strange that in our digital age we are so hyper-connected through technology yet more disconnected from other people than ever before? Looking someone in the eye as we deliver a message is getting rarer and rarer. The more fixated we are with our screens — not just one but multiple screens, all at the same time — the less we engage with the people around us and the here and now. Technology has become a convenient crutch, an escape hatch, and a wall that keeps us safe. On one hand, we are exposing our lives more than ever, but we are also able to hide more effectively than ever before. One of the messages in my debut novel, Fake Plastic Love, is the importance of looking up from our devices — whether it’s a work smartphone or a highly choreographed social media feed — to focus on our genuine selves, and to invest in the living and breathing people around us.

What was the last Netflix series you binged on?

Stranger Things. It fills me with a deep nostalgia for my 1980s childhood. Also, the character Eleven is an eerie doppelgänger of me as a young girl. Five friends messaged me about it as soon as they started watching the series: “It’s you when you were little…with a shaved head and supernatural powers.”

One new thing you learned this year?

This year brought incredible shock and sadness when my husband’s sister passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at age 37. She was in the prime of her life — a phenomenally gifted artist, strikingly beautiful, and genuinely golden-hearted. Like many people, I have always tossed around epigrams like “Carpe Diem.” The tragedy of my sister-in-law’s sudden passing revealed to me just how incredibly fragile life is. As Lin-Manuel Miranda said so beautifully in his sonnet at last year’s Tony Awards: “…nothing here is promised, not one day.” There are no guarantees, so we are compelled to make the most we can of everything we are blessed to have right at this moment.

What memory brings a smile to your face?

Spring skiing with my family in my Mom’s home country of Switzerland when I was growing up. We all wore mirrored aviator sunglasses at all times. I often look at photos from those halcyon days, and it seems like some kind of mythical time and place.

What book/song/lyric/etc is resonating with you right now?

The book I can’t stop glowing about is Dear Reader by Mary O’Connell, a totally enchanting read that is Wuthering Heights meets the Gilmore Girls. It’s fantastical and hilarious and electric. Most of all, it’s a wonderful reminder that we should always try and extract magic from books to sprinkle onto our humdrum lives, come what way.

On a musical note, I recently discovered and have become fixated with Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox. They blend eras to create something fresh and charming, which is the effect I am hoping to create by echoing other eras in my own writing style!

Describe the funniest thing you’ve experienced in recent memory:

Practically all of the funniest moments of my life involve my older brother. He is a crazily talented linguist, speaking 10 languages fluently, and does the most incredible impersonations and skits. Sometimes he makes up fictional characters and actually assumes those characters in restaurants, on the subway, or when walking down the street. He is so convincing that everyone falls for the act. Most recently, he visited my husband and me in London for Easter and made frequent cameos as Richard “Dick” Tibbles, a hard-working, hard-drinking Englishman with an almost incomprehensible Cockney accent.

Best advice you’ve been given?

It’s a tie between “Keep thinking” and “Never, ever, ever give up.”

What is the best part of being your current age range?

Giving yourself permission to pursue your own definition of happiness. In my mid-thirties a light bulb went off and I understood that there is no real happiness to be found when you make life decisions based on what other people will think. Or what you think other people will think. (The prevalence of social media has made this so much more complicated.) First, other people give significantly less thought to you than you think they do. Second, none of that actually matters. What counts is what you see and feel when you give yourself a long, hard look in the mirror at the end of the day.

What word or phrase should we use more often?

Romantic. In an unsentimental, complex, and frequently shocking world, I think the world is in dire need of more romance. As Sebastian, the hero of “La La Land,” asks: “Why do you say ‘romantic’ like it’s a dirty word?” It’s not dirty, it’s glorious! Even a small romantic thought or gesture can take a mundane moment and turn it into a flash of magic.

What’s on your night table?

The wonderful new F. Scott Fitzgerald short story collection, I’d Die For You and Other Lost Stories — all rejected from publications in their time because they were too raw and unfiltered, not the star-washed Fitzgerald prose readers had come to expect — and his very first novel This Side of Paradise, which I’m re-reading for probably the twentieth time. I am a Fitzgerald fanatic and thought it would be fun to read both back-to-back so I could compare his first published work with this last.

What one item would you be lost without (besides your phone)?

My Warby Parker tortoise shell eyeglasses. I am horrendously near-sighted so literally would be lost without wearing them or my contact lenses.

Your biggest literary pet peeve?

Tying up loose ends at the end of a book too quickly, so it feels like a mad scramble to the finish. And gratuitous graphic scenes that seem to have been included purely for the shock factor.

What trends are you loving right now?

Stacked heels and fashionable performance fabrics — lovely looking and so comfortable!

Who was your celebrity crush when you were a kid?

Beauregard “Bo” Duke from the Dukes of Hazzard.

What do you love most about Toronto?

Its blend of modesty and pride. And its exceptional Bloody Caesars.

On Tuesday, May 16 from 6 p.m., join Kimberley Tait at Ben McNally Books (366 Bay Street) for the Toronto launch of her debut novel, Fake Plastic Love. The event is free, and open to the public. A signing will follow a reading from the author; books will be available for purchase. 
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