A published author, freelance writer & social media manager, weekly blogger, multi-website co-ordinator and all while working full time for a high street fashion retailer. The beautiful Callie Robertson might sound like Wonderwoman, in fact, she’s the twenty-something girl next door, found most evenings, sat with a glass of red, a house rabbit and a good book. With an Instagram to die for and fashion sense to boot, who is the lady that seems to have it all?
Callie, did we miss anything with that intro, are you Wonderwoman?
I literally blushed reading every word of that intro – Wonderwoman I am not! Just a regular girl with too much online-time, a penchant for wine and a hunger for words.
Can you take us back to the beginning and give us a little synopsis on who Callie Robertson really is?
A synopsis of my life… I think it’s been pretty normal if I’m honest! I grew up in Sussex where my school days were spent flirting with boys on MSN messenger whilst avoiding them in the school corridors and convincing older siblings to buy us WKDs to drink in the park – true London-suburb life! I went to university in Scotland (my choice was made purely on the basis of there being wild rabbits on campus) and studied Journalism and Politics. I’m pretty sure most of my time at university was spent either hungover or drunk with not very much in-between, but by the time my final year rolled around I was really enjoying my degree subject and wrote my thesis examining the difference between how health and fitness was portrayed in UK and US editions of Cosmopolitan. I guess this was the first time I’d truly enjoyed doing something academic, and it paid off as I got a first and an award for that dissertation. I later went on to do a Masters in Political Marketing remotely whilst working because I was interested in seeing how Donald Trump used social media to win his election. I can tell you now that a lot of wine was consumed when I got my Masters certificate through!
When we first met you, you’d only been out of uni for 2 years. At that time you’d already written for Cosmo, were working full time for Miss Selfridge and were applying to work with us at Emocto. Can you give us a low-down on how your journey into employment began?
I have done all the Harry Potter Sorting Hat tests available online and always get Slytherin.
Harry Potter Wiki Slytherin Personality:
Slytherins tend to be ambitious, shrewd, cunning, strong leaders, and achievement-oriented. They also have highly developed senses of self-preservation. This means that Slytherins tend to hesitate before acting, so as to weigh all possible outcomes before deciding exactly what should be done.
At first I was stressed by this, but I think it comes down to my ambition. My parents have always pushed me to work hard and that success is the reward – we don’t really believe in things being handed to you. I did so many unpaid internships, including one at Company Magazine where I made great contacts who I kept in touch with and ended up being friends. When Company shut down the writing team dispersed into all the other Women’s Magazines, so I was lucky to have contacts available in a lot of different places. For every twenty pitches I sent into magazines, maybe only one was accepted, but then that was another name to add to my portfolio and another contact I could utilize to get one step further. I learnt a lot at Miss Selfridge and made some friends for life, it was a company filled with strong and empowering women who taught me to push myself and I think that really helped encourage me to keep on writing wherever possible. If you love something, keep doing it. Practice makes perfect.
For someone who initially studied journalism and politics, you have a keen eye for the trend lead aesthetic, is it serendipitous that everything you present online (blog/personal website/IG) are all immaculate or is it planned like a military operation?
I’ve always loved fashion and pretty, Tumblr-esque websites, but I can absolutely admit that all my instagram photos are staged to the nines and filtered with extreme precision. I used to have a fashion instagram with a few thousand followers but last year I decided it was too much pressure and the idea of having so many eyes on my life wasn’t healthy. I deleted it, made a new private account and haven’t looked back since. It feels much more personal, and I actually stopped following bloggers as well. It’s not healthy to always compare your life to other people’s. Since discovering the Bookstagram community it’s completely different, people are so supportive and nothing is a competition. It’s about sharing what you love, not about looking 11/10 all the time and that’s something I can get behind.
This might have been covered in the previous question but if it hasn’t: Does Callie Robertson have the perfect life?
Absolutely not. I would never want anybody to think I did either! I have struggled with many mental health problems which I blog and tweet about often. I think it’s really important to keep conversations on depression and anxiety flowing because the more people talking about it, the more people are aware of it. I think 13 Reasons Why was a great series because it got people speaking about suicide, these are things everybody needs to be aware of and consider in their day-to-day when they’re speaking to people. You never know what somebody may be going through. I started writing to get through my depression when I was a child, so in a strange way I think I have my illness to thank for my passion. There’s always a silver lining.
Social media is great but we all now know the downsides to it. For those comparing their lives to yours, looking at your photos and thinking they’d love to emulate your life but they can’t because they feel they’re too fat/not pretty enough/lack funds/don’t have the skill set … (insert restrictive thoughts here), what would you say to those people?
Read the above! Nothing is as it seems. If you look at things in a certain way, anything can be made to look good. What makes people beautiful are their differences – something you love about someone else may be the thing they hate the most. Money isn’t something anybody should compare either. I can tell you right now – writers do not make much money! I live in London and am often texting my boyfriend if the bagels we have in our house are ‘not quite stale enough that we can’t still eat them for dinner.’ Never compare yourselves. And when it comes to skill – Youtube is great for editing tutorials! I recommend VSCO, Lightroom and Afterlight apps.
Not many your age would have achieved as much. Is that because you had a solid plan and knew what your path would look like?
Again, it’s easy to compare ‘success,’ but for me I’m always aiming higher and looking for the next step. I don’t seem to ever be satisfied! I always knew I wanted to write and I wanted to work in fashion, but it wasn’t as easy as that. Magazines aren’t hiring and it’s all about being digital now, so I had to flex my plan and try some new things out. I’m glad I did, it’s given me many more skills which have made me more employable in the long-run.
Not content with a degree and a job, two years after graduating with a BA in journalism and politics you went back to education to study for a Masters in Political Marketing. What inspired this move and why not directly after uni?
In all honesty, I was a little bored! I wanted to challenge myself, and I wanted to be working on something a little deeper than what the trends are for this season. I know I don’t want to work in politics – I don’t have the personality for it I would be sacked in a day – but I do find it interesting and I wanted to challenge myself. I was lucky to get a scholarship in an international school and they did all their lectures and exams online, so I could study in my own time after work whilst continuing to earn my rent money.
There are many people out there working full time, irrespective of age, who would say that after work they’re tired. Then there’s ‘adulting’ to be considered: gym, laundry, food shop…. The list is endless…how do you find the time energy to write and work evenings and weekends?
I go to the gym at lunch time – it really helps give me energy for the afternoon and is a great excuse to get away from my desk for an hour. I don’t think I ever really need energy to write in the evenings – I just love it! Food shops and laundry are a bit more of a struggle… luckily my boyfriend alternates shifts with me ha ha.
One in your shoes might say: I’ve got a job, I’ve got a BF, wine, house rabbit, beyond that I’ll relax. I needn’t do more. You’re out there, freelancing, running a blog, writing books. Why? What drives you to work so hard?
I also nap for two hours every Saturday and Sunday and watch a lot of Gilmore Girls, it’s not all go-go-go. I think my drive comes from always wanting more, which isn’t always a good thing. I want to buy a house, and that means I need a much bigger monthly paycheck. That means I need to put in more hours and get my name out there to bring in more work… it’s a vicious cycle but can be very rewarding when lovely people like you get in touch to interview me!
How do you find your freelance work?
Freelancing has its pros and cons. It doesn’t bring in stable income and can be stressful if you don’t know your next move, but you can get amazing experience and meet a lot of creative people. I personally only freelance on the side or when I really need to because for me I need the stable income – it’s not easy to break into. It’s all about contacts, so always be nice!
Who helps Callie create all of the wondrous creative outlets (be honest) is your BF a whiz on websites or do you have a personal photographer following you around everywhere?
Youtube tutorials! My boyfriend does not know the first thing about how to take a good picture, despite me trying (many times) to show him. It’s all self-timer, easy-to-use website builders and Youtube tutorials.
Because you’re home reading and writing and ‘guzzling wine’, does that mean you have no social life?
I definitely don’t go out as much as other people, but in all honesty I enjoy my own company and don’t like partying, so for me it’s not a sacrifice. I’d say I go out once a week for dinner with friends or after-work drinks, but it is hard to juggle everything sometimes.
You’re admirably so open with your life. Your recent Twitter post noted an abusive ex-partner, (we’re sorry to hear this) do you ever feel you over-share or is that what makes you so relatable to your audience?
I still lie in bed wishing I hadn’t tweeted things in 2003, but it’s the age we live in. Certain things are always kept private, like my current relationship and any negative thoughts or work-related happenings, but in general I do think that being open and relatable is important. Again, it comes back to keeping conversations going. I’ve had people message me saying they are going through the same things as I have been through and asking for advice, if I can help just one person out there then it’s all worth it.
Your professional website exhibiting your work is listed as: Callie Robertson (& book published under CK Robertson) yet your blog is named: Callie Kazumi. What’s with the name difference?
The multitude of different personas… Callie Robertson is what my friends know me by, what my work email is and what is on my CV – so that belongs on my professional website. My blog CallieKazumi started years ago as a fashion blog when I was at university, (Kazumi is my middle name) and then it became more of a personal diary and ‘online persona’. My author name, website and Instagram is C.K Robertson because I want it to live separately from everything else I’ve done. I want people to love the book because they love the book, not because they follow me elsewhere. That’s why the book is not promoted on my blog, professional website, personal Instagram or anywhere else. It’s for a very specific audience, and I don’t think that audience is the same as the people who follow me for my personality or opinion pieces.
If you couldn’t be Callie, who would you be, who inspires you?
Emma Watson. Aside from my Harry Potter obsession, she is gracious, doing amazing things for feminism, always speaking up about topical issues that need to be spoken about and is just a truly golden person.
Tell us about the blog and not wearing trousers for cover photos in Cosmo.
Look, I’ll be honest. If I ever have to submit a photograph for anything professional or am videoing something where you can only see my top half, rest assured I’m just wearing pants and slippers on the bottom half. I just like being comfortable in my own home! I hate jeans.
We saved this until the end: The book. Let’s talk about the book. Enmity, out August 2018. So many questions. Let’s do a quick-fire Q & A round:
When did you decide to write this?
I had the idea for it when I was at university looking at the Syrian Refugee Crisis and how it was being portrayed in the media. The idea grew from there over a few years.
When did you actually start writing this?
March 2018 – I had it planned out chapter by chapter and am a quick writer so it all happened quickly from there.
What’s it about?
It’s a YA fantasy about two nations divided by war. It’s about magic versus science, about distorted beliefs and about two young people trying to discover where they fit in with all of the chaos.
Who is it for?
Where could you meet the author on any given Sunday?
At the pub!
Why write a book?
I’ve dreamed of writing a book since I was little, but losing my job at Christmas gave me the time to really complete the planning and settle down to it.
Was it for money?
No – authors don’t make money unless you’re J.K Rowling or Bella Forrest. I didn’t even bother trying to go down the traditional publishing route because it was more for the personal journey than making a profit from it.
Biggest regret re. the book?
Not starting it sooner!
Do you want to be a famous author?
Haha absolutely no, it would do my anxiety no favours!
Is there another book coming?
Yes! There will be a sequel titled Amity.
Is that the clue in the naming of the IG for the book @byckrobertson – because there’ll be more books?
Can we write a review on the book once it’s published?
Yes please – but only if you liked it ha ha
The book has its own Instagram and website. Both very beautiful we might add. What was your thought process with the book and marketing?
Honestly I just wanted to share my progress and the artwork somewhere, there was no deeper strategy than that – I’m not a marketer. Glad you like it though! The instagram account came from recommendation of a friend who said Bookstagram was a good community to target. I’ve fallen in love with the community – taking photographs of books I love and sharing them is much more fulfilling than taking pictures of myself in try-hard outfits ha ha.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to market either themselves or their product?
Find your voice and roll with it – authenticity is key.
Why should anyone read this book?
Because it’s a perfect curled-up-in-an-armchair-with-hot-chocolate read.
Tell us something about the book that people don’t know.
Kai’s story is based on interviews I read online with real Syrian refugees, and a lot of the more graphic scenes in the book are things really happening under ISIS.
What’s your proudest achievement to date?
Finishing this book!
What else would you like to achieve before you turn 30?
Be able to work from home so I can finally get a dog!