Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Q&A with Sally Koslow




Sally Koslow is the author of the new novel The Real Mrs. Tobias. Her other books include the novel Another Side of Paradise. She lives in New York City.


Q: What inspired you to write The Real Mrs. Tobias, and how did you create your cast of characters?


A: I love family sagas, especially books about mother-daughter relationships and there are countless wonderful novels of this sort by other authors.


In my own life, three relationships that loom large are with my husband’s mother as well as with my sons’ wives, and it occurred to me that, book-wise, these dynamics are underserved. I decided to tell a story from the viewpoint of three generations of women who have married into the same family: a matriarch, her daughter-in-law and the middle woman’s daughter-in-law.


In writing The Real Mrs. Tobias I began with the primary protagonist, the woman in the middle (Melanie) who is both a daughter-in-law and a mother-in-law. Melanie is a therapist with a social work background. To keep things interesting, Melanie’s mother-in-law, Veronika, is a psychoanalyst with advanced degrees. She is rather haughty, which creates tension that ignites the plot.


When the book starts, all the characters live in New York City, though Melanie is from the Midwest, as is her daughter-in-law, Birdie, whose rural, Protestant background differs from the rest of the urban, Jewish Tobias family. That, too, creates plot tension. The novel also includes social observation that springs from the characters’ varying cultural and regional perspectives. This adds another layer.


Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Sometimes when a book is sold its editor retains the title attached to the manuscript. That happened with my novel The Late, Lamented Molly Marx. Typically, though, the editor and writer—sometimes with the writer’s agent’s help—kick around new titles. We did this with this novel, which I submitted as The Motherlode.


My editor at Harper Perennial, Sara Nelson, suggested The Real Mrs. Tobias, which I love: it conveys that the book will be about more than one woman and also reflects the book’s cheeky tone. As the reader moves through the book, she may also note that none of the women go by “Mrs. Tobias.” Veronika is Dr. Tobias and Melanie Glazer and Birdie Peterson keep their maiden names.

Q: What do you think the novel says about mother-in-law/daughter-in-law dynamics?


A: Mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships can be challenging, which I try to show. When people marry, as they create a new family each brings from their original family “rules” for what’s “normal.”


This can be tricky. When a son marries, his mother usually cedes a certain amount of control—at least she should, because if she tries to retain the same amount of control as his mother, trouble may loom.


Triangular relationships are inherently complicated and that’s what you have with mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law—three people jostling for control. When a son/husband feels more loyalty to his mother than he does his wife, it’s a recipe for trouble.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I always begin with a basic premise, characters, and a somewhat fluid ending in mind. I realize that readers require a compelling plot to stay engaged, but I don’t so much “make changes along the way” as let characters influence the plot as I get to know them better and better.


I have a basic outline in mind, but give myself permission not to be imprisoned by it, since during the course of writing, better ideas may present themselves. All hail the creative process.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m toggling between two manuscripts. I finished one during the quarantine stage of the pandemic, which was like writer’s camp. I’m revisiting it now. The other manuscript—a love story-- is only about a third done, with a loose outline for the remainder of the plot. I hope one “book” makes it to the finish line.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: What did my mother-in-law think of the book? She especially liked the Author’s Note, which is mostly about her.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Sally Koslow.

No comments:

Post a Comment