Exploring the art of prose


Conversations Between Friends: Kate Brody and Nishita Parekh

Image is the book covers for THE NIGHT OF THE STORM by Nishita Parekh and RABBIT HOLE by Kate Brody; title card for new interview between the debut novelists.


Kate Brody and Nishita Parekh are debut authors who met on Instagram. They both released their first thrillers in January 2024 and have crossed paths in virtual events like the Penguin Random House Debut Mystery Panel. In the months leading up to their respective publications, they bonded over the conflicting demands of parenting and writing, and shared advice around publicity and promotion. Here, they discuss their debut novels: Kate Brody’s Rabbit Hole and Nishita Parekh’s The Night of the Storm.


Kate Brody: How are you feeling with your book coming out?

Nishita Parekh: I’m having a little bit of anxiety, but feeling mostly excitement, because I’ll finally get to see my book on shelves.


KB: I was talking to somebody today who read Rabbit Hole and they were very complimentary. But even praise is uncomfortable to hear. I wrote it so long ago that it feels like it’s not mine anymore.

NP: Your debut novel has been such a phenomenal success. How do you feel?


KB: I didn’t really have hopes for the launch. Only fears of empty rooms or no press coverage. Once I got past those concerns, it’s been all gravy. I’m trying to not complain too much, because I remember being on the unpublished side, going to events, watching writers moan about having to do press, and thinking: Champagne problems.

But anyway, I’m really excited to talk with you about The Night of the Storm. I mentioned Agatha Christie in my initial email, and the book is in this tradition of lockedroom mysteries. How did you land on that structure?

NP: The locked-room structure was never part of my original plan. I was just writing a family drama with suspense about two sisters keeping secrets. Funnily, they were only friends, not sisters, in the first draft. But I got feedback that their relationship was too toxic for them to be only friends in real life. I ended up making them sisters so that they’re forced to spend time together, even if they don’t like each other very much.

Then, Harvey happened, and I had a lightbulb moment of trapping these sisters along with their families in a house. Now I had this cast of characters stuck in a location and I realized this setup was perfect for a locked-room thriller.


KB: That note you got about Jia and Seema being sisters versus friends really resonates. I think about sisters so much in my work, because you can stretch that relationship much further than you could stretch a friendship. A friendship would crack under a tenth of the pressure, but sisterhood is like its own locked room in the sense that you don’t get to opt out. The fraught nature of their sisterhood intensifies the claustrophobia in your book, because Jia is literally and metaphorically stuck with these people.

NP: With Rabbit Hole, Teddy wishes so many things were different about her sister, but at the end of the day there is still love there, with all the other mess around it.


KB: Teddy is definitely somebody who didn’t have the kind of idyllic sister relationship that she might have wanted. At the start of the book, she’s still living at home ten years after her sister’s disappearance and dealing with the wreckage of her father’s suicide and all the bills he left behind. And she has this thought—I was never supposed to be doing this or, at least, I wasn’t supposed to be doing it by myself. Because whatever her feelings were toward Angie and however much they fought, the promise of siblings is that you share that burden.

I wanted to talk to you about your experiences with parenting, since they relate to The Night of the Storm. I have two kids. I don’t feel like I’m in a place where I can write about that experience yet. I need a few more years to process. There’s so much really insightful material in your novel about parenting and the judgment that’s baked into American culture and Indian culture. How did you approach those elements? And how was the writing informed (or not) by your own parenting experiences?

NP: When I started writing the novel, I didn’t have a kid and I was using my mom friends as a reference. But by the time I sold the novel, my baby was three months old. I feel like the book should come with a disclaimer that parts of it were produced by a sleep-deprived brain. Early parenthood was really one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But at the same time, I think that experience helped me to better capture the exhaustion and tiredness that Jia felt because that’s how I felt most of the time. And the bond between the mother and the kids became stronger in the rewrite because I was experiencing that bonding myself. It cuts both ways. Now, with the book coming out…even that is stressful, right? I have a job, I have a kid, and I have the launch. But my toddler helps keep me in the moment. Hard to worry about book reviews or sales goals when tiny fingers have your hair in an iron grip and tears are streaming down your face.


KB: My oldest is almost five. And people kind of keep asking him, “Do you realize your mom wrote a book?” And he just could not care any less. It’s very humbling.

I wrote the first draft of Rabbit Hole right after he was born, actually. And then it took years to get through the editing and sales process. I sold it on the literal day my second son was born, so the editing happened with another baby strapped to my chest. There are parts of the book where even I think, The person who wrote this was out of her mind. And people will say things like, “Wow, this book is really dark.” And I’m like, “I was hanging on by a thread!” I’m doing better now.

You talked about creating a cast of characters. Process-wise, did you have an outline for each of them? Did you have a sense of who they were before you started writing? Did they surprise you during the writing process?

NP: Some characters came easier than others. The main character, Jia, she’s a single mom, and she was the easiest to write, because all my closest friends are single moms. They are my heroes, and in many ways, the book is dedicated to their hard work. The other character that I had the most fun writing was Grandma. She’s the oldest person in the house, and she basically has no filters between her mouth and her brain. For the rest of the characters, I had a general idea of their personalities, but as I went through rewrites, with some helpful prodding from my editor, I was able to create backstories to develop them further.


KB: You do a great job even creating characters out of absence. I’m thinking of Dev, who, at the start of the book, the reader understands to be the faraway ex-husband, but he is a presence in the novel right from the start. He and Jia have all this shared history that informs the rest of the action.

NP: I think you do that really well with Teddy’s father. He’s dead from the first page, but I almost felt like I knew this person. I felt sorry reading about his battles with addiction. You can feel the impact his absence has on Teddy. His ghost is ever-present. We feel like we know him even though he’s not physically there.


KB: Thank you. With both Jia and Teddy, the absent characters are so heavily filtered through their perspectives that there is also a question of reliability. That’s something Rabbit Hole is interested in generally—memory and how we hold on to people who are gone, the narratives we tell ourselves about their absence. With Jia, her failed marriage recasts all her memories in a negative light. Her good memories of their family are thrown into question. And Teddy’s dealing with something similar with her father, where all the information that comes out after his death taints everything else.

Changing gears a bit, I wanted to talk about your setting, specifically how you use Hurricane Harvey. How did you approach incorporating a real-life, news-story event into the novel? Were you researching heavily or mostly relying on your own experiences?

NP: For the emotional part of it, I relied on my memories of empty stores and people hoarding toilet paper and bottled water. All the frenzy and panic. But then I had to go back and do research. And at one point, I got tired of having to stick to Harvey’s timeline, so I did consider changing it to a fictional hurricane, but a writer friend advised against it.


KB: These vast crises lend themselves so well to fiction, because they tend to make individual worlds so small. And with genre fiction, they provide a container for human drama to play out. What if we zoomed in really tight on one family trying to survive this disaster?

NP: Humans have a limited capacity to deal with incredibly stressful events and compartmentalizing is really a survival strategy. For example, we were facing a deadly worldwide pandemic, but what were our day-to-day concerns? How do I deal with remote work? How can I help my kids learn?


KB: Is there anything that you had to cut from a book that you really liked and wanted to keep?

NP: I’m actually an underwriter. So, I had to add things to the book. I am jealous of all the writers who complain about having to cut words.


KB: Do you think your next book will be another thriller?

NP: Yeah, it’ll probably be something in the thriller/mystery space. I write software programming for a living, and that’s also like solving a puzzle. Writing mysteries, you’re putting all these puzzle pieces together for the reader to solve.

Is there any advice you have for a fellow debut author? Something you wish you knew before you got published?


KB: I keep reminding myself that books have long lives. They’re not a one-day event. You don’t have to have everything figured out by your publication date. There are these superstar debuts that blaze onto the scene with national media interest, but they are the exception. For most books, finding readers is a much slower and more organic process.

NP: Always a good idea in publishing to accept that you are the norm and not the exception.


KB: It’s so easy to keep moving the goalposts for yourself.

NP: In my regular job, I’m so chill. I don’t need my manager to come pat me on the back. But publishing brings out this needy side of me that wants to get all the attention, and I don’t like it at all.


KB: Well, you spend years and years working on a Word document—this deranged activity that no one asked you to do—and then there is nothing about the publicity side of it that dovetails with your skills as a writer.

NP: I also wanted to talk about your use of Reddit. You use Reddit extensively in your novel, and I felt as if I was going down the “rabbit hole” along with Teddy. How did you decide that this social media app was the right one for this story?


KB: When I started the book, I was teaching high school. All the kids I was teaching were on Reddit, and all the grown-ups said it was the worst place on earth. Any time I feel that kind of friction, in this case generational friction, I think, I have to go see for myself.

The thing I really like about Reddit is that it is a pretty neutral tool. Users can be in community with like-minded people and chase their interests for better and for worse. As a user, I found it very addictive but honestly also very wholesome. I was mostly on parenting subreddits and writing subreddits. But if you have some bizarre interests, like if you want to speculate all day about a family you’ve never met and their personal tragedy, you can find other people to talk to about that. I don’t necessarily think I have a moral judgment on the platform so much as it was really useful to me in telling this story. It is also a place where true crime communities exist, and compared to other social media platforms, Reddit is very easy to incorporate into a novel because it’s entirely text-based.

NP: I think it is one of the few social media apps where you feel like it’s still being used by real people and not bots.


KB: Has anyone found a way to monetize Reddit? Maybe that’s part of it. It feels very retro, in a Web 1.0, Wild West way.

NP: My last question for you is about genre. I’ve never really known exactly how to pinpoint what is accessible literary fiction or upmarket fiction. With Rabbit Hole, I felt like I was reading a literary novel, but it still had this propulsive plot. What type of works have influenced your writing? And how do you approach that?


KB: I read a lot of literary fiction, and I don’t really think of it as a genre but more of a judgment on the quality of language, I guess. I’m not really sure what we mean, sometimes, when we say “literary fiction,” especially now that so much literary fiction is speculative. Those categorizations feel arbitrary to me.

There’s a weird thing with MFA programs wherein genre fiction is kind of looked down upon. But I had to just get over that bias, partly by reconnecting with the child reader in me, who was indiscriminate. As a kid, I would read classics, thrillers, anything that appealed to me. And I think the further I got from the MFA, the more I felt confident judging books for myself. Reading outside the bounds of preapproved capital-L literature. So, I try to leave the question of genre to the marketing people and just write a story that hopefully succeeds on both a plot and language level.


KATE BRODY lives in Los Angeles, California. Her work has previously appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Parents, Literary Hub, CrimeReads, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Noēma, and The Literary Review. She holds an MFA from New York University. Her debut novel Rabbit Hole has been chosen as an Indie Next pick, an Amazon Top 10 pick, an Independent Book of the Month, and a Jennette McCurdy Book Club selection. She tweets @KateBrodyAuthor.

NISHITA PAREKH is the USA Today bestselling author of the novel The Night of the Storm. She was born and raised in Mumbai, India, and now lives in Texas with her husband and toddler. A software programmer by trade and a writer at heart, she loves writing about her experiences as a woman and an immigrant. She is an active member of International Thriller Writers, Crime Writers of Color, and Sisters in Crime, and is a #RevPit contest winner. The Night of the Storm is her first novel. She tweets @NishitaAuthor.