(BA, English, Film Studies and Production, ’06
MA, English and Creative Writing, ’08)
Q & A:
- What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
I will always cherish what I learned in the many classes I took with the late Dr. Ruth Prigozy, who taught at Hofstra for over four decades. Dr. Prigozy taught both English and film classes, and because I earned undergraduate degrees in both those majors followed by an MA in English and Creative Writing, I had the opportunity to take several classes with her. She was brilliant and one of the world’s foremost experts on F. Scott Fitzgerald — she even edited and wrote the introduction for the edition of The Great Gatsby that we read in our class! She pushed me to take my writing and research to the next level and was incredibly inspiring.
- What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing learned in that position?
After my undergraduate years at Hofstra, I worked as a resident director at Hofstra while earning my master’s degree. The most important thing I learned as a resident director was management skills. As a teenager, I didn’t have an opportunity to work in a strong management role. As the resident director of Colonial Square East, I had to manage 14 resident assistants and a lot of residents! I think I did pretty well for a 22-year-old fresh out of college, but I made a few mistakes and learned plenty from what I did wrong.
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
I’ve worked in various roles in communications in both higher education and entertainment. For my jobs in higher education, I started as an adjunct teaching English and film classes at various colleges. After a few years, I transitioned to administrative roles in different capacities for colleges creating content — writing, photography, video — wherever a particular school needed me to create it!
At the same time, I also worked as a freelancer writing for the entertainment industry, which has been a lifelong passion of mine. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked on some incredible projects, including working for three years in Los Angeles as the director of operations at the Visual Effects Society, a global honorary society that represents television and film visual effects artists, and playing a significant role in producing the organization’s annual awards show at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. Each year, I was the person backstage holding the envelopes and ensuring the correct winners were announced. I’m happy to say I never handed anyone the wrong envelope!
- What advice would you give Hofstra students?
A university experience is so much more than what you learn in your classes. As important as my degrees are to me, the most significant thing that Hofstra added to my life is the people I met there, including many longtime friends and — most importantly — my wife, Erin (McAndrew) McKittrick ’08, who I met because we were both involved in Residential Life. I never would’ve met any of them if I didn’t get involved in activities outside of my classes. Do what you can to find people who share your interests, and you will value your time at Hofstra even more as those people remain in your life.
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
Opportunity. Looking back, I didn’t grasp at the time just how many opportunities Hofstra offers students to succeed in their programs. I knew students who jumped into internships early and had extraordinary experiences in major industries, and in some cases, those experiences led to amazing careers. But it’s up to each student to go after those opportunities! I’m very pleased with my education at Hofstra, but I do think now that I could’ve taken advantage of even more of the excellent opportunities that Hofstra offers its students.
- What inspired you to delve into writing about the history of music?
I’ve always had an appreciation for music and its history, and I’m one of those odd individuals who truly enjoys the research process. When I get interested in something — a band, a filmmaker, an author — I want to learn everything about that subject. As I learn more about my favorite artists, I sometimes see interesting narratives about them that perhaps other people haven’t seen before. Why not write a book about that? It became a natural part of that process.
- Where does your passion for writing lie — in fiction or nonfiction?I spent several years after I graduated with my master’s degree from Hofstra teaching college classes. It comes naturally to me to want to take what I learned and explain it to others. Writing is perhaps the best way to communicate that because you can reach a much bigger audience than you could in a classroom.
I gradually realized how much more I enjoyed writing than teaching. I enjoy writing and I would do it even if nobody wanted to publish my books. In fact, I’ve had many ideas for books rejected by publishers. It’s disappointing, but if you can move forward after that rejection because of the thrill of eventually getting one of your ideas accepted, you will get so much enjoyment out of that acceptance.
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Where do you see your career progressing in the future?
If you asked me this question 10 years ago, I never would’ve predicted that I would have published multiple books, lived for several years in Los Angeles, and met and interviewed some extraordinary people. Not only have I developed my own opportunities, but I’ve tried to leap on as many unexpected opportunities that I have come across. Some don’t lead anywhere, but others lead you in unexpected directions.
As for the next 10 years, I simply hope to continue writing books and hearing from people — especially total strangers — who enjoy them.
- Who was the person who most influenced you, and how?
My wife and fellow Hofstra alum, Erin (McAndrew) McKittrick ’08, has been the most influential person in my life. Meeting her at Hofstra when I was a graduate and she was an undergraduate pushed me to look at the bigger picture of where my future was headed. We joke about being not only each other’s biggest supporter, but also each other’s toughest critic. Because of that, she has influenced every major decision I’ve made about my career and helped me make the most difficult decisions I’ve ever faced.
- How do you begin researching the lives of the artists you write about, like The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty?
This is where all those research skills that I learned at Hofstra as an English major paid off! The first thing to realize is that as limitless as the internet is, there are so many sources from previous decades that don’t yet exist online. Tracking down as much information as possible about the events of these artists’ lives at the time that those events happened is so important. The lives of rock and roll stars are legendary, but frequently the facts of what really happened have been … well, let’s say embellished as time goes on!
Christopher McKittrick is a published author of fiction and nonfiction, including the books Can’t Give It Away on Seventh Avenue: The Rolling Stones and New York City (Post Hill Press, 2019) and Somewhere You Feel Free: Tom Petty and Los Angeles (Post Hill Press, 2020). He recently signed a book deal with the University Press of Kentucky to write a biography about famed film and television actress Vera Miles (Psycho, The Searchers). Christopher and his work have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Observer, and Newsday, and on USAToday.com, CNBC.com, Time.com, RollingStone.com, and dozens of other entertainment and news websites. He has appeared on television on HLN’s How It Really Happened and Al Araby TV’s Hekayat Al Cinema, and on various radios shows and podcasts.
Christopher has taught English and film courses at St. John’s University, LIU Post, and Suffolk County Community College and has worked in communications positions at St. John’s University and Holy Family University. He also has worked in several roles in the entertainment industry, including as the U.S. editor of Creative Screenwriting, the premier screenwriting resource, and as the director of operations of the Visual Effects Society, the global professional honorary society representing visual effects practitioners in the entertainment industry.
Christopher lives in New Jersey with his wife, Erin (McAndrew) McKittrick ’08, and their 1-year-old son.
For more information, visit Christopher’s website at www.chrismckit.com.