Thursday, June 13, 2024

Q&A with Susan Weissbach Friedman




Susan Weissbach Friedman is the author of the new novel Klara's Truth. Also a psychotherapist, she lives in Westchester County, New York.


Q: What inspired you to write Klara’s Truth, and how did you create your protagonist?


A: I was inspired to write Klara’s Truth when I began to think of old, buried memory as similar to artifacts, considering how both need to be carefully excavated. I thought about this concept from the perspective of being a psychotherapist.


From there, I came up with the protagonist, Klara, who I made into an archaeologist. An earlier edition of the story begins with Klara at a dig site. For her, every artifact she ever excavated or held symbolizes her connection to the human race. As her personal relationships are quite limited, artifacts have become something of a lifeline for her.


Q: In Foreword Reviews, Karen Rigby wrote, “In the tender novel Klara’s Truth, a daughter at a crossroad finds new resolve while learning about family’s past.” What do you think of this description?


A: I like it, and think it’s accurate. Firstly, I’m glad Rigby experienced the novel as tender, as that is the feeling I was hoping to communicate.


Although the protagonist herself is not a particularly tender character, I wanted to handle her with love and care, given her lack of a nurturing experience.


And yes, when the novel begins, Klara receives brand new information about her long-ago-disappeared-father that puts her at a crossroads of either plunging into possibly locating and connecting with his family, with hopes of getting more answers, or sticking her head in the sand, and continuing with her static, unsatisfying life.


As she learns more about her family’s past from her father’s sister and old letters he had written to her, Klara certainly finds new resolve and even peace.


Q: How was the novel’s title chosen, and what do you think the book says about the concept of truth?


A: As Klara learns significantly more about secrets that were kept from her for years, regarding her father’s death, that he had always planned to come back for her after he found a job, and that his sister had been trying to contact her for years, she blossoms into a fuller, more embodied person.


Her truth was stolen from her by her mother and grandfather. In being able to recover that truth, she is able to become a more connected person, which is the key to her ability to no longer just survive, but to thrive.


I think that the title, Klara’s Truth, emphasizes just how central to our identity our personal truth is.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I hope they take away an understanding of how early childhood abuse can easily leave negative lifelong emotional scars, shaping the rest of the adult child’s life regarding their lack of ability to make emotional connections with those around them both through friendships and romantic relationships if there are no interventions to help them heal.


I was able to create an intervention for Klara as a writer, offering her a new family, which as a therapist I cannot do. Of course, therapy can make a huge difference over time in a case like this if someone is both open to it and has access to it.


I also hope they take away the overreaching impact of trauma on every level— individual, family, intergenerational, community, and society at large. This is a significant part of why I decided to set the story with a backdrop of the repercussions of the Holocaust.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on a prequel to Klara’s Truth. Originally, Klara’s Truth began on a dig in Mexico, but I was told many times that that was a completely separate book. I use small parts of that story in Klara’s Truth, like when I discuss an important friendship she forges with Rosario, a Mayan healer she meets.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: As a psychotherapist for over 25 years with a particular interest in working with women, couples, family, and trauma, I am sure that my professional experience informed how I approached writing this story. I hope that it comes alive, particularly psychologically, in the way in which I intended.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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