The Widow Waltz
by Sally Koslow
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An exclusive Authorlink interview with Sally Koslow
By Ellen Birkett Morris
As a girl, Sally Koslow knew she wanted to be a journalist, following the example of Lois Lane of Superman comic books. Like Lane, she was fearless. After working for her high school paper, attending the University of Wisconsin – Madison and working for the Wisconsin State Journal, Koslow set off for New York City.
“I was naïve enough to apply at magazines, where I had no conections, and landed an entry level job atMademoiselle magazine. It was a great training ground,” said Koslow.
She went freelance when she had her first child, returned to work for Woman’s Day and went on to be named editor in chief of McCall’s magazine. Along the way she learned that the best way to explain something was by telling a story.
When a series of corporate maneuvers left her without a job, Koslow enrolled in a writing workshop. She fictionalized an experience she had with “a Chanel sample sale that was like the running of the bulls.” That piece of work grew and became her first book, Little Pink Slips.
|“My work as a journalist meant that I knew how to meet deadlines.” |
“My work as a journalist meant that I knew how to meet deadlines. I could finish things. Also, it developed my love of language,” said Koslow.
Her idea for her second book, The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, came to her at a funeral for a curmudgeonly neighbor who was receiving lots of accolades from the people who spoke.
“The first line came to me, “When I imagined my own funeral this wasn’t what I had in mind,’” said Koslow.
Koslow has also written a nonfiction book, Slouching Toward Adulthood, for which she interviewed over 100 young people ranging in age from 22 to 35. She drew on that work when creating the character of Luey in her most recent book, The Widow Waltz.
The Widow Waltz is her fifth book. The story centers on recently widowed Georgia Waltz, a wealthy mother of two who discovers her husband left her broke, and may have been unfaithful.
“I enjoy writing flawed characters that have surmounted obstacles. . . “
“I enjoy writing flawed characters that have surmounted obstacles. You don’t like the character in The Widow Waltz at first because she’s pampered, but you grow to respect her. All three women in the book (Georgia and her twentysomething daughters) had to grow up,” said Koslow.
The book reflects the experiences of women left high and dry in New York in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal and is Koslow’s first foray into the life of a woman who is in her fifties.
“I wanted it to be realistic, and a book a mother could pass on to her daughter,” said Koslow.
She said the challenge of the book was to raise the bar on the writing. Her own reading list includes Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn.
“The challenge for me is to pick the right word, become the best architect for each sentence and create the most rounded characters,” said Koslow.
She suggests that writers seeking to hone their work read good writing and read less for what the story is and more for technique.
“Don’t just read for plot, look at structure and point of view.”
“Don’t just read for plot, look at structure and point of view,” said Koslow.
For those seeking agents, she suggests checking acknowledgements of books similar to your own to see who the author is thanking for their representation.
“Editors prefer to work with agented manuscripts because they know the book has been vetted,” said Koslow.
As for Koslow, she is off and running on her next novel and looking to raise the bar again.
|About the Author|
Sally Koslow is the author of three previous novels, The Late, Lamented Molly Marx; With Friends Like These; and Little Pink Slips. She is also the author of the nonfiction book Slouching Toward Adulthood. Koslow previously served as editor in chief of McCall’s magazine.
|About Regular Contributor|
Ellen Birkett Morris
|Ellen Birkett Morris is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in national print and online publications including The New York Times. She also writes for a number of literary, regional, trade, and business publications, and she has contributed to six published nonfiction books in the trade press. Ellen is a regular contributor to Authorlink, assigned to interview various New York Times bestselling authors and first-time novelists.|
This post was written by Ellen Birkett Morris