Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Q&A with Margaret Klaw




Margaret Klaw is the author of the new novel Every Other Weekend. She also has written the book Keeping It Civil. An attorney, she is a founding partner of BKW Family Law in Philadelphia.


Q: What inspired you to write Every Other Weekend, and how did you create your cast of characters?


A: I’m a practicing family lawyer. I’ve always been convinced that the world I inhabit through my work is a fascinating one—the tangled relationships, the emotions, the fast-changing state of the law (think gay marriage, open adoption, assisted reproductive technology, to name just a few) and the inherent drama of the courtroom.


I also live in a neighborhood where many of my clients do as well, and our lives frequently overlap and intersect.


In keeping with that time-worn but extremely valuable instruction to “write what you know,” I created a set of characters who all live in a progressive, urban (and perhaps a bit self-satisfied) neighborhood very much like mine, where the personal and the professional get mixed up together, for better or for worse; where groups of people—at the coffee shop, the yoga studio, the food co-op—gossip, process and pass judgment; and where the telling of events can become the truth of the events themselves.


The best tag line for the book is probably “there is no one truth.”


Q: You include a variety of points of view in the novel--did you write the book in the order in which it appears, or did you focus more on one character before turning to the others?


A: I wrote the book pretty much in the order in which it appears, starting with my protagonist, Jake, and expanding the circle around him to include his wife, his kids, his dog, his friends, his lawyer, the judge who ends up presiding over his custody case, and some additional characters that I’ll let readers find out about, some of whom did get added later on in the writing process.

What I changed after the book was written though, based on some excellent developmental editing, was the timeline. Instead of strict chronological order, I open with a trial scene and then go back a year and bring the story forward.


Q: Why did you decide to include polyamory as a theme in the novel?


A: Polyamory seems to be everywhere now, at least in my world, and without giving away too much, I thought it would be interesting to explore that culture and the tension between polyamorous relationships and more traditional ones.


Q: You’ve also written a nonfiction book focused on some similar issues--do you prefer to write fiction or nonfiction?


A: My first book, Keeping It Civil: The Case of the Pre-Nup & the Porsche and Other True Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer (Algonquin, 2013) is nonfiction. It is essentially a series of vignettes, drawn from my daily work life, with identities painstakingly disguised but all details true.


However, my editor very wisely had my create one narrative story, woven throughout, which would bind it together as a cohesive book. That story was a fictionalized custody trial. It was based on a mashup of several cases I had tried, but it was definitely fiction. Meaning, I got to make everything up! I found that I loved that process—going deep inside my head and inventing people.


So when I decided to write a second book, I tried my (completely untrained) hand at a novel. It turned out to be a long road, and I needed lots of help along the way, but I did really enjoy it. I pretty much love writing anything, including legal documents (not kidding!) but on balance, for me, fiction has been the most interesting and, when it’s going well, it’s thrilling.  


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m embarrassed to say: nothing. I’m busy with my day job, my family, and getting Every Other Weekend launched. However, I do have some ideas for a second novel, which involve stepping beyond the family law context. I feel like I’ve covered that territory in nonfiction and now in fiction so it’s time to branch out, which is both intimidating and exciting. I’m hoping to get started this summer.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: It’s never too late to start writing! I began blogging after my youngest left for college and that ended up turning into two books.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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