Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Author interview: Sally Koslow

Sally Koslow is the author of The Late Lamented Molly Marx, which I reviewed earlier. She was kind enough to agree to a few questions from me on Molly Marx and her other projects. She's written two books so far, Little Pink Slips was her first book. She also has another book due out later this year.

- On your website, you state that you got the idea for the story at a funeral of a neighbor. What made you decide to use Molly as part of the story, both after she's gone and in telling her story? I was struck by surprises revealed in the eulogies spoken that day. This led me to wonder what the deceased, a troubled woman, might have thought of what loved ones’ assessments of her. From here I developed the premise of The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, having a woman look back on her life from the beyond. I don’t know if readers notice, but when Molly is in The Duration, her afterlife world, looking down on events unfolding, she speaks in the first-person/present-tense, because her sensitivity and insights have become sharp and clear. When I tell the earlier part of her story, however, I do it in the third-person/past tense, to convey that Molly was less aware of how her actions affected her life. If readers take anything away from this book, I hope it’s the sense that we should wake up and take note and responsibly of what’s going on around us and how our actions affect others.

- As a non-writer, I am fascinated with the process of writing. There are quite a few unique characters in the story - did you start out with all of them or did some 'show up' as the story unfolded? A lot of the characters did “show up.” Sometimes I start with a small detail and let that seed germinate until it flowers. The idea of the detective, for example, came to me while I was visiting our country’s national monument in Washington D.C. for soldiers fallen during the Vietnam War. The name “Hiawatha Hicks” leaped off that wall and my mind took the name and ran. I wanted the detective to be a good guy, full of integrity, a romantic, but a little insecure because he’s new in his job. In the case of Claire, I wanted to portray a more-or-less perfect mother. Visually, I kept imagining Blythe Danner, the beautiful, blonde actress who happens to be the mother of Gwyneth Paltrow. Once a character takes shape, they start talking to one another, like hand puppets, and that’s what propels the action in a story. Characters start to feel real to me. I’m a lot older and more brunette than Molly, but there’s a lot of her in me.

- Molly is a mom, as are you and I. Did you find it difficult to write about a mom being gone when her child was so young? Of course! It was challenging to try to recreate tender feelings that a mother has toward her child, but the attempt at authenticity makes writing interesting. You attempt to put down in words the whirl of feelings that you—and other women like you—might feel. You try to make it real.

- Who are your favorite authors? So many! Whenever someone asks me that question, I tend to respond with the name of the last few really good books I’ve read, overlooking the hundreds of that came before. I gravitate toward novels and memoirs written by American and British female writers. Just a few of my favorite are Elizabeth Strout, Mary Karr, Charlotte Mendelson, Binnie Kirschenbaum, Lucette Lagnado and—like every writer, Edith Wharton and Jane Austen.

- What is your other book, Little Pink Slips, about? My first novel is inspired by my own personal experience. For many years, I was the editor-in-chief of various women’s magazines. One of them, McCall’s, was taken over by a major celebrity. Hijinks and heartache—including a “pink slip--ensued, and I tried to include both in the fictitious story of a magazine editor from North Dakota, which is where I grew up, who wound up in New York City. For anyone who likes magazines, I can assure you that my behind-the-scenes takes in Little Pink Slips are accurate, although the plot line and characters are imaginary. Sort of.

- What are you currently working on? My next novel, With Friends like These, comes out in late August. It’s a story about the complications of sustaining long, deep friendships, and I think that anyone who’s ever had a difficult time with a friend—and who hasn’t?--would find it authentic.

Thank you Sally for letting us get to know you a bit better.

No comments: