"I would like to think that I’ll always come back” says Laura Kay as her debut novel is set in the city
Laura Kay has been rather busy this year, not only has she toiled and strived to perfect her own version of the Yardsdale Marmite garlic bread - if you know then you know - she’s also found time to release her debut novel, The Split, a queer rom-com that just so happens to be set in Sheffield.
Earlier today, I managed to spend some time having a wonderfully well-rounded, humorous and broad-ranging conversation with Laura, who is currently in the process of making her way northbound to hide signed copies of her novel in Sheffield, which would only be right considering that it’s mostly set in our green and leafy city.
The Split was released in March this year, “it came out in lockdown when all of the shops were closed, a terrible time for the book to come out”, although she doesn’t live in the city anymore she holds fond memories from her years living here. “I went to uni and then I stayed, I used to live down Kelham Island way, and it’s changed so much in the time since I left, unreal”, Laura left in 2014 to embark on a career in journalism — in fact up until last month she was a journalist at The Guardian.
But we’re here to discuss her breakout novel, an endearingly humorous affair that’s packed to the brim with the prerequisite checklist of love, heartache, friendships, family, lesbian angst, cake and a horribly awful cat — but we’ll get back to the kitty. What about the story?
After she’s (suddenly) and brutally dumped by her girlfriend, Ally has found herself not only bereft and heartbroken, but also homeless, friendless and jobless… she does have something at least in Malcolm. The beloved cat of her now ex Emily. Following her hasty retreat up north to her dad’s home in Sheffield, Ally has no intentions other than hiding away from the world, under the relative comfort of her duvet. Ally’s dad has other ideas though and after she is reunited with her former beard (a pretend boyfriend to hide their sexual orientation) and old friend who is also nursing a heartbreak of his own. While there she comes up with an epiphany that the best way to impress their exes is by signing up for and running Sheffield’s half-marathon… After all, what could possibly go wrong, except for the little issue of being completely incapable of running in any capacity?
How did the journalist and self-professed ‘keen runner’ go about writing her debut?
“I sort of came up through scheme called ‘WriteNow’, a Penguin [Books] scheme for writers who are writing books and come from under-represented communities in publishing”, naturally you would come to the conclusion that Laura is part of the LGBTQ+ community and this scheme afforded the opportunity to workshop and finetune her novel. “I highly recommend it and they’ll be doing it again this year”.
You’d think that after publishing her first book Laura wouldn’t be begrudged a break but she has no intentions of doing so, as such she has already completed her second book which will be published in May 2022 with a third currently in the works.
“This book isn’t autobiographical in any way, I just set out to write a story that would make my friends laugh”, and from the short portion I’ve read so far she’s on the right track. So much so that The Split has received comparisons to the likes of Marian Keyes and David Nicholls, highly esteemed company indeed. Something which delights Laura to no end, high praise but perhaps fairly attributed.
I wondered whether she still felt the same about her old home? “I have to be honest, I left a little bit of my heart there, so I would like to think that I’ll always come back”, and she’s definitely more than welcome.
Laura will be in Sheffield tomorrow, leaving five signed copies of The Split at key locations around the city – in conjunction with Book Fairies – in places which happen to be featured in the book. You can also tune into BBC Sheffield tomorrow morning at 11:20am to hear her talking about The Split a little more.
Laura Kay’s debut novel The Split is out now from all reputable book retailers and can be purchased digitally on Amazon also.
You can follow Laura Kay on: