Alumna Q&A: writer and strategist Kimberley Tait '01

by Kylee Sibilia | 3/28/17 1:15am

Kimberley Tait ’01 has balanced pursuits in both the financial and literary worlds since graduating from Dartmouth as an English and government double major.

After earning an MBA from Columbia Business School, Tait worked at investment banks in New York and London before striking out on her own as a financial writer and marketing strategist.

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada. Tait has citizenship in the U.S., Canada and Switzerland and currently lives in London.

Her debut novel, “Fake Plastic Love,” will be released on May 9.

The story centers on two Dartmouth graduates and best friends adapting their personal ideologies after graduation.

How did your time at Dartmouth influence your future career?

KT: It had an enormous impact on my writing. At the time, I had a huge interest in F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I’ve always been deeply moved and inspired by his writing.

There wasn’t any Fitzgerald on any of the English course syllabi, so I was allowed to essentially construct my own one-person class on Fitzgerald the fall of my senior year.

Ultimately, by being allowed to construct this one class, I developed a topic for my senior thesis, which was on life as a staged performance in the novels of Fitzgerald. That’s had a big influence on the themes that I explore in “Fake Plastic Love.”

When I wrote the thesis, I had no idea how imminent the explosion of social media would be, which would make this idea of staging life so much more relevant than I could ever have imagined.

It was interesting to see that as the world evolved, social media became pervasive. I kept viewing it through the lens of this thesis that I wrote. Years later, I still carry that with me.

In your novel, the main characters Belle and M represent both the whimsical and the logical sides of students at Dartmouth, and your dual careers in investment banking and writing seem to reflect this dichotomy as well. How have you balanced these two passions, and what would you say to Dartmouth students who might also want to pursue several very different paths?

KT: My intention was to create these two character foils: M, who is the narrator, and her best friend Belle. M believes that she’s this staunch realist, and Belle is a very whimsical, romantic figure in the novel.

M, without giving anything away, is figuring out that it maybe isn’t as straightforward as saying “I am a realist,” just as it’s not perfectly straightforward to say, “I am a romantic.”

My personal belief is that we’re sort of a messy mix of both, and actually that’s a wonderful thing because that’s what makes us human. No matter what career path you go down, it’s really important to recognize that there are many parts to who you are.

Since graduating from Dartmouth, I was always writing on the side, even when I was working in-house at various investment banks.

I knew that I wanted to observe and analyze and really dissect the world around me, including the professional world around me, by writing. While that wasn’t something that I was pursuing day to day as a career, it was something that I knew was really important to hang on to.

More and more, we’re inundated with this idea of having to put ourselves online in what seems to be a very choreographed and scripted way.

Through all of that noise, it’s really important to maintain some kind of introspection, to say, “listen, even though I am working at an investment bank, there may be a romantic side to it.”

How much of “Fake Plastic Love” is autobiographical?

KT: It draws on my observations of the world that I saw developing around me, beginning in the mid-2000s when social media became so prevalent, and certainly pre-financial crisis when I graduated in 2001. Going into investment banking seemed at the time to be one of the most all-American things that a high achieving graduate could do.

“Fake Plastic Love” does draw from my experiences working in-house at Citigroup and later at Goldman Sachs, and then doing my MBA at Columbia and sort of the mindset everybody had of needing to get a particular job offer from a particular firm even if it didn’t necessarily make them happy or wasn’t what they actually wanted.

All of that gets put into “Fake Plastic Love,” but the characters are totally fictitious. I put pieces of myself into the characters, but that’s really as autobiographical as it gets.

I hope the themes are very realistic, but my style is slightly romanticized and in some cases sentimental, and I want that to be a little bit otherworldly and a little bit larger than life.

Ultimately, my hope is that the reader gets transported away from the everyday reality that they may be living.

Do you plan to write more books in the future? Will you continue working in investment banking?

KT: I’m now working on revising my first manuscript. I grew up in Toronto in Canada, and it’s based on my experiences moving to the U.S. It’s a very interesting time to explore the theme of national identity, and particularly the political environment that we find ourselves in. I’m really enjoying returning to that manuscript and using all the lessons that I’ve learned from the process of publishing “Fake Plastic Love” to enrich it. I hope to finish that in the near future.

Beyond that, I do have a few other ideas that I’m keeping on the back burner as potential future novels, so hopefully this first one will be a success, and then I’ll take it from there.

I think what has enabled me to have more flexibility — and this was sort of how I found a balance between the romantic and realist side of myself — was when I left Goldman Sachs and started my own business working as a financial writer and marketing strategist.

I work with financial services and investment firms, doing all manner of writing work.

That’s been a wonderful way to still enjoy the world of finance and continue to work with those sorts of clients but then balance it with fiction writing.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.