Author Sally Koslow Talks About Book Club Fiction and Why the Women’s Fiction Label is Fine With Her

If you’re on Twitter  following writers and authors and agents and editors (as well as normal people) I’m sure it won’t surprise you to learn that’s where I first “met” Sally Koslow — another new-to-me author who’s not new to many other writers and readers. I hope if Sally is new-to-you-too, that you’ll follow her on Twitter and give one of her books a try.  And if you’re heading in the direction of having “almost” adult children you might want to try her non-fiction too. 

Please welcome Sally Koslow to Women’s Fiction Writers!

Author Sally Koslow Talks About Book Club Fiction and Why the Women’s Fiction Label is Fine With Her

ASN: With Friends like These is your third published novel. How has your writing process changed or evolved from the first to the latest — and how about with the fourth book?

SK: With each novel the process remains essentially the same—write, revise, write, revise repeat–while I attempt to develop strong characters who I take on a journey. Plot moves forward as characters interact and overcome obstacles.

I continue to try and raise the bar for the quality of my prose and structure. Little Pink Slips, my starter book, was one woman’s story plus subplots told chronologically, third-person. In my second novel, The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, my challenge was to interweave a back–story told with a present-tense/first-person story narrated by my main character. In With Friends like These I told the story through distinct voices from four different women, all friends–harder than I ever guessed. This approach allows a reader to see what the characters think of one another.  In my fourth novel, as yet unnamed and unfinished, the challenge is to feature main characters of widely different ages. It’s a three-generation story.

ASN: With Friends like These is touted as a book club book. Since that’s how a lot of women’s fiction is regarded, what do you think the ingredients are that make books just right for book clubs? Do you think of this as you’re writing or is it organic to the story?

SK: When I’m writing, the last thing I’m thinking is “Gee, will a book club like it better this way or that way?” I write to satisfy myself. But what I’m drawn to I believe women’s book clubs are, too: novels that deconstruct meaty issues affecting the lives of contemporary women. A reviewer once described my books as being smart without requiring a struggle. I liked that. With Friends like These exposes current stress-points within friendship—issues nobody likes to admit, money envy or competition when friends both want a commodity in short supply–the same great job, terrific house or spot for their child in a sought-out school. In The Late, Lamented Molly Marx, which many book clubs have told me they enjoyed, the conversation revolves around  the mystery within the book– its backbone—as well the and book club members’ deepest feelings about an afterlife.

ASN: And just a little off-topic — you have a non-fiction book coming out in 2012. Would you tell us about it?

SK: This spring Viking will publish my first work of non-fiction: Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest. The book examines the wandering lives of people in their 20’s and 30’s and the role their baffled parents, who don’t want to let go, may have played in nurturing kids who don’t want to grow up. It’s a hybrid of current events and memoir and his time I flexed my muscles as a journalist and essayist—I got my start as a staff writer for Mademoiselle Magazine and continued as an editor at Woman’s Day, then editor-in-chief of McCall’s and other magazines. Over my working life, reporting on subjects of interest to women has been a major focus.

ASN: How do you define women’s fiction?

SK: Any work of fiction that plumbs emotions and relationships deserves to be in that category. It includes Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Nora Ephron and David Nichols and is good enough for me.

Sally Koslow is the author of three novels published since 2007: Little Pink Slips, inspired by her experience as editor-in-chief of McCall’s; The Late, Lamented Molly Marx,  a bestseller in Germany and Target Book Club Pick, and With Friends like These, chosen by Target as an Emerging Authors novel. Her next book, Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest, is a non-fiction exploration of “adultescent” lives to be published by Viking in June 2012. She is finishing her fourth novel, also for Viking. Her fiction has been published in a dozen languages.

Sally was the founding editor-in-chief of Lifetime Magazine  and got her start at Mademoiselle, then moved on to Woman’s Day. Her essays and reporting have appeared in 0 the Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, Redbook, Harper’s Bazaar, Self, More and many other magazines. Sally is on the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute and the New York Writers Workshop and is an independent writing coach. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, she lives in Manhattan with her husband and is the mother of two sons. You can visit her at or follow her on Twitter: @sallykoslow.