There’s a big difference between a debut author and a first-time author — and Kate Greathead is very much the latter. The word debut just doesn’t quite fit, seeing as how she’s been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Vanity Fair and is also a nine-time Moth StorySlam champion. And her first book, Laura & Emma, has hit shelves to fantastic reception; she’s this month’s pick for Belletrist, the Emma Roberts-fronted digital book club.
The tome follows a woman from the upper crust of the Upper East Side (that’s Laura) as she attempts to raise her daughter (that’s Emma). Laura had a one-night stand and the father vanished, so despite her liberal leanings, she finds herself leaning on her family for help. This isn’t your typical dramedy about private schools and Hamptons homes and blue-blooded dysfunction — although that’s there too — but rather a layered story about mothers and daughters and identity. The story is told in a series of vignettes, picking up during random moments like the time Laura’s mom tells all her friends that she’s the product of a sperm donor.
Ahead, Greathead waxes poetic on her favorite moments from this (sorry) debut novel and confesses to some very relatable writing routines.
What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
Second grade. The assignment was to write about our winter break. I’d had a blowout fight with my best friend, and I wrote what was basically a character assassination of her. Eager to expose her true colors to our peers, I volunteered to read my assignment out loud in front of the class. I was sent to the principal’s office and told to erase what I had written.
What is the last book that made you cry?
Rachel Ingalls’ Mrs. Caliban.
What is your favorite part of Laura & Emma?
There’s a downstairs neighbor who appears towards the end of the book. Even though he’s a minor character, Marty became one of my favorite people in the book. He’s a little tragic and funny.
Which book is at the top of your current To-Read list?
I’m about to re-read one of my favorite books, Julie Hecht’s Do the Windows Open.
Where do you write?
Cross-legged on the couch with my laptop on my lap.
Which book made you a forever reader?
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fanny Flagg.
Pick a GIF that you think, in this moment, best describes you and your book:
What is a snack you couldn’t write without?
Do cigarettes count? I used to think I couldn’t write without smoking. Thank God those days are over. I can write without it, but I love candy.
What was the hardest plot point or character to write in Laura & Emma?
If you could change one thing about any of your books, what would it be?
The ending of Laura & Emma has triggered some strong reactions, with many people telling me they hate it. This makes me sad. Still, I don’t know if I’d change it.
Write a movie poster tagline for Laura & Emma:
A tree grows on the Upper East Side.