Kate Brody

On Crafting a Literary Thriller, Writing Sex Scenes, LA Versus NY, and Her Debut Novel “Rabbit Hole”

Cover of Kate Brody: On Crafting a Literary Thriller, Writing Sex Scenes, LA Versus NY, and Her Debut Novel “Rabbit Hole”

In her debut novel, Rabbit Hole, (Soho Crime, 2024) Kate Brody pulls us downwards through a maze of interlocking concentric circles, weaving through grief, loss, the seductive pull of true crime and the complexities of female relationships. Rabbit Hole is all at once propulsive, sexy and deeply relatable, as the main protagonist, Teddy, reflects some of our deepest flaws and our unspoken wishes. 

Already garnering comparisons between the work of Gillian Flynn, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Ottessa Moshfegh, Rabbit Hole is poised to be one of the most addictive literary thrillers of the new year. 

Kate and I met this past summer on a “blind date” in a little corner of Queens, New York where I live while she was in town from L.A. visiting family. I was thrilled to have the chance to continue our mile-a-minute conversation that we began in that Queens bakery over Zoom a few weeks ago, where we had the opportunity to talk about how a manuscript shape-shifts over time, carving out space for your writing within an overflowing life, writing a juicy sex scene, and looking forward to what’s next. 


Barrie Miskin: So we’ve spoken before about how you did not set out to write a thriller, really, when you wrote Rabbit Hole. Can you describe your path towards how the book that we get to hold in our hands came to be?

Kate Brody: I wrote a novel before Rabbit Hole that was literary fiction and it was really expansive. It followed one character over the course of 30 years and I couldn’t find an agent for that book. I was kind of heartbroken about it. So when I started a second book, I knew I wanted something with a tighter timeline and more action upfront.

Rabbit Hole starts with a crash, with Teddy’s dad dying by suicide. That image came to me right away — it was one of the first things that was in the draft, and it stayed until the final version. So the beginning of the book was what it was. I didn’t know where it would go from there. I had conceived of it as a road trip novel. I knew I wanted gothic elements. I knew I wanted to play with thriller tropes, but I didn’t really have confidence that I could write a thriller. I don’t think of myself as a plot person and a lot of the thriller parts of the book came in editing. I think that was really the work of editing. But I will say a lot of early readers are still like, “this is not a thriller.” 

BM: Teddy is such a rich and relatable character and I love how you interwove  female relationships, which are really the core of this book. Teddy and her mother, Teddy and her sister of course. I wanted to know, when did Teddy first appear in your mind?

KB: At the time I started Rabbit Hole, I think I was almost exactly Teddy’s age. I was like 26, 27. I was working as an English teacher. I had a lot of  biographical similarities with Teddy. And I had just gotten through this sort of prolonged grief period. I think Teddy was my way of looking at that, like a sort of alternate version of me, somebody who’s a little stuck. 

I was really interested in sisters and in friendships that feel like sisterhood, mothers and daughters. It’s just kind of what I knew at that point too. My dad died when I was in high school, and then I have two younger sisters. So it was the four of us women in the house, my sisters and my mom and I. Those relationships felt rich for fiction.

They’re very complex and often there’s just a lot of identification that happens and a lot of resentment and love and it gets kind of all mixed together. So that was something I wanted to play with. And with Mickey, kind of exploring the friendship angle of that too. Teddy’s sister is long gone by the time the novel opens, but Mickey emerges as this kind of doppelganger for her sister. Mickey also represents, I think, for Teddy kind of what she could have been. I think that happens a lot with female relationships, where it’s so intense that you can’t even really parse what it is you’re feeling towards the person. 

BM: Absolutely. You do that so well within the book. So Reddit and social media play a huge part in the book’s plot. It’s a relevant topic, obviously, because it’s a facet of our day-to-day lives. So it’s really refreshing to see how this plays out in a number of new books — Allie Bottom’s Aesthetica  comes to mind. What sparked this idea for you, to keep that at the center of the plot?

KB: I wasn’t on social media when I started writing the book. It wasn’t on until after I finished the book entirely. And then I joined for the book, for promotional stuff. So it was something I was sort of interested in from afar. I had dabbled in it a little bit, I guess, in high school and college. Not even high school. I don’t think it was out then, but I knew right away, like when I was on Instagram, this is not for me. Like, I’m just going to die if I stay on this. 

I think Allie captures that side of it really well. When I was teaching, Reddit was big with the teenagers I worked with. And Reddit was sort of this boogeyman I felt in the news. It was like, “oh, Reddit, you know, incels.” It was always something bad. And then I got kind of into it. It’s different from a lot of social media because you don’t really have to have an account or home base. You don’t need a username or a photo. I think that’s why some of these insidious communities crop up on Reddit. 

I was interested in those darker parts and what it would mean to be the subject of that kind of true crime interest because those communities are very intense and very willing to violate privacy or make all kinds of crazy conjectures about people. That was kind of where Teddy’s family fit into Reddit for me. They would be the subject of that kind of true crime scrutiny.

BM: Right. So, a little off topic, but you write a truly phenomenal sex scene (laughs).

KB: Thank you. 

BM: It’s something I really struggle to do in my own writing. What does your creative process look like when you’re creating scenes involving intimacy?

KB: This is a fun question. Those are my favorite scenes to write. And I think I pride myself on that in a way. There was a professor I had in college as an undergrad who had an assignment called “The Story You’re Not Supposed To Tell” or something. Just write whatever the thing is that you feel you can’t write, that you’re not supposed to write. And at the time I felt that that was a sex scene. I hadn’t attempted it and it seemed scary, like it would be too revealing. So I did that. And then I never looked back. 

I think the part of writing sex scenes I really like is I love really embodied characters. I love writing about bodies. I think that’s my favorite way to think about character. Not through dialogue or action even, but just the way people’s bodies feel to them. 

BM: That’s so helpful, to think of it in that way. What your editing process was like for Rabbit Hole.

KB: I sent a draft to my agent in 2020. I think I just wrote the draft kind of straight through, not chronologically, and then we edited it together —  developmental edits, big picture edits —  for a year. Then I edited it with my UK editor for almost a year, and then my US editor for six months. So it was three solid rounds of edits. With my agent, Hillary, and my UK editor, it was mostly plot edits, developmental edits to make the plot a little bit more propulsive and to kind of situate the book in that thriller space a bit more cleanly. That was the bulk of the work. 

I probably wrote 200,000 words for this book, only 80,000 of which made it into the final version. It was a lot of writing scenes, deleting them, moving things around, writing things, deleting them, moving them around. It was a drag. It’s a lot of work.

I’m at a place now where I don’t even remember what’s in the final version. Like I know there were scenes and I can’t remember if they made it or if they got cut. I have to reacquaint myself.

BM: And what about your marketing and publicity process? I feel like we don’t get a chance to talk about this enough because it seems to have changed a lot over the years and authors really do have to put in a lot of personal work in order to promote their book. What has that been like for you?

KB: That part of it was definitely the most surprising to me. I didn’t know what any of that was going to look like. The team at Soho has been really great and I think they punch above their weight in terms of what they’re able to do for marketing and publicity. They’ve gotten it into a lot of bookseller’s hands, which has been really exciting. I think booksellers really help move the needle. 

I’m working on a lot of essays right now for different places. Not even just the writing of essays, but the pitching of essays. There’s so much rejection baked into that that I was not prepared for. You know, you sell the book and you’re kind of like, great, I have a book. It’s coming out. And then you’re suddenly back in the submittable trenches getting rejected.  And um, yeah, it still hurts. 

BM: So a little bit of life stuff. I know that you’re also a mom of little ones and an educator for your “day job” and you’ve written a bit about how you nurture your creative side while balancing everything else for Write or Die before. Would you be able to share a little bit about how you set aside time for writing in your daily life, especially getting closer to the book being published? Please tell me because I’m having a really hard time figuring out how to do it myself! (both laugh)

KB: Yeah. It’s hard. It requires so much. So much focus. I don’t know that I’ve ever been so singularly focused on something all day as I am right now. It’s been so long since I wrote it, but I’m just sort of obsessing over it, which makes it very hard to focus on this other project. 

Last year after we got the copy edits in, I had a really productive stretch. I wrote a draft of this new novel, threw that away. I wrote a second draft. So I have a draft of the next book done. I just have not been able to really dig in and edit it while we’re doing publicity stuff.

In general with kids, I don’t know. I don’t even know how I wrote Rabbit Hole. Like I don’t even remember really. I think it was at night. Now I rely a lot on time away. I’ve been doing a couple weeks a year at Dorland, which is a writing colony out here. It’s really nice.

BM: So what city is more conducive to being productive creatively New York or LA? 

KB: Oh, that’s a good question. Honestly, I love New York so much. I feel most like myself in New York. But everything is easier in LA.  I definitely have more time here. I was working a lot of hours in New York. Life was hard. Everything was expensive. Not that it’s not expensive here, but I do find that it’s a lot easier to carve out some writing time and have a little bit more balance here. 

The writing community in LA has been surprisingly strong. I found the writing community in New York to be a little bit cutthroat and competitive. There are a lot of writers in LA and everyone’s really kind and supportive. And there’s enough events that you can sort of feel plugged in without your entire calendar filling up with stuff the way it can in New York,

BM: I have literally zero writer friends here in New York. All my writer friends are actually in either LA, Portland, or the Midwest. 

KB: Yeah. I don’t know what that is. It doesn’t feel like we’re competing with each other here. Maybe that was just also being in grad school.

BM: That makes sense. I know you are working on a number of different projects right now. What can we get excited for next?

KB:I have a novel that I’m excited about, but I’m trying to temper that excitement. I can’t always tell with the draft if it’s good or not. But I like it. It’s very different from Rabbit Hole. It takes place over a number of years, in the eighties and nineties and a little bit current day. There’s a grunge band at the center of it. And it’s about ambition and bodies and disability and things like that. I also have a short story collection that I’m trying to clean up. The market is unfortunately really tough for short story collections, so we’ll see if anything happens with that. But I’m excited to see what happens next.



Kate Brody lives in Los Angeles and holds an MFA from NYU. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in: The New York Times, Literary Hub, The Literary Review, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, CrimeReads, Noema, and Write or Die, among others. RABBIT HOLE is her debut novel.

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