Award-winning lawyer shows there are multiple truths in marriage and divorce
PHILADELPHIA, PA – Founding partner of an all-women law firm, Margaret Klaw uses her experiences as an award-winning family lawyer to pen her first contemporary women’s fiction. Recognized by Best Lawyers in America and designated a Pennsylvania “Super Lawyer” in the area of family law, she’s written for prestigious outlets like The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine and The Washington Post on her expertise. “Every Other Weekend” (She Writes Press, May 23, 2023) is Klaw’s first novel using her extensive professional experience to create an engaging and darkly humored multi-perspective look at one family’s journey through the complexities of divorce and custody.
On the outside, fortyish hipster dad Jake lives the perfect life, happily settled down in a politically progressive, urban and notably self-satisfied community, working at his not-so-demanding job, playing guitar with his band, and enjoying domestic life with his beautiful and accomplished wife Lisa and their two charming daughters. Until Lisa blindsides Jake by telling him she wants a divorce. From there, perspectives shift, and Jake’s world tilts out of control as the story unfolds from multiple points of view–those of other family members, Jake’s self-absorbed divorce lawyer, the cranky family court judge who presides over his custody case, his polyamorous millennial girlfriend, and even the beloved family dog.
For fans of “Little Children” by Tom Perrotta, Klaw’s dark humor and deep bench of experience in family law gives readers a bird’s eye view of the ripple effect caused by one family’s divorce, while making it clear that there is never one truth about a marriage.
“Every Other Weekend”
Margaret Klaw | May 25, 2023
She Writes Press | Contemporary Women’s Fiction
Paperback | 978-1-64742-479-4 |$17.95
Ebook | 978-1-64742-480-0 | $9.49
MARGARET KLAW is a writer, lawyer and founding partner of BKW Family Law, an all-women law firm in Philadelphia. Named a Preeminent Woman Lawyer by Martindale-Hubbell, she has been recognized by Best Lawyers in America and designated a Pennsylvania “Super Lawyer” in the area of family law. Starting with day-in-the-life vignettes about practicing family law published in HuffPost, she has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time and Salon, and is the author of “Keeping it Civil: The Case of the Pre-nup and the Porsche & Other True Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer” (Algonquin Books, 2013). “Every Other Weekend” is her first work of fiction. Find out more about Margaret at her website.
Follow Margaret Klaw on social media:
Twitter: @margyklaw | Instagram: @margyklaw
In an interview, Margaret Klaw can discuss:
- Her passion and background as a family lawyer and founder of the all-women law firm, BKW Family Law
- How her experience as a family lawyer has been the inspiration for both “Every Other Weekend” and her first book, “Keeping it Civil: The Case of the Pre-nup and the Porsche and Other Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer”
- Moving from writing nonfiction to writing fictional stories and what she’s learned in the process
- Her process of writing a fictional story using vignettes from real-world cases
- Her observations as a family lawyer that led to writing a multi-perspective narrative
- The lack of one true story behind any family law case, and Klaw’s unique observations from the courtroom
An Interview with
1. While you already have a career as a successful lawyer and published author, what made you decide to create a fictional story this time?
During the editing process with my first book, KEEPING IT CIVIL: The Case of the Prenup & the Porsche and Other True Accounts from the Files of a Family Lawyer (Algonquin Press, 2013), which was based on a blog I wrote about the daily life of a family lawyer (i.e., me), my editor asked me to create a story that would run throughout the book to make it feel more cohesive and less like a series of short essays and that would serve to create dramatic tension and keep readers reading. We settled on a custody trial, which I had to fictionalize because I was actually making up courtroom dialogue, unlike the clients and judges and opposing counsel I mentioned in the short vignettes, whose identities I protected but whose actions were (painstakingly) accurately retold.
It turned out that putting together that trial – I got to completely make up what the judge would say to the annoying opposing counsel! – was the most enjoyable part for me of writing Keeping it Civil. So about a year after the launch of that book, when I was thinking about what else I wanted to write, I had the not-so-bright idea that I could write a novel, which I figured would be super fun and easier than the first book because I could go wherever my imagination took me and not have to worry about protecting people’s identities. For some reason, the fact that I had never taken a creative writing course in my life and had absolutely no idea how to put together a novel didn’t seem like an impediment when I started. But of course it was, and learning, painstakingly, how to write a novel, was a profoundly humbling and challenging experience.
2. As a family lawyer, you of course drew from some of your professional experiences. How much of this story draws from real life?
A lot. Both the legal parts, e.g. what goes on at Jake’s lawyer’s office on a daily basis, what his lawyer thinks about him as a client, what happens in the courtroom during trial, what the relationship between opposing counsel is like, and what goes on behind the scenes in chambers with the judge’s clerk and court staff, etc., and the community aspect of the book as well.
“Every Other Weekend” is the story not just of an individual family but also of a cohesive urban/suburban neighborhood where all the characters live and everyone’s lives are constantly – and sometimes inappropriately – intersecting. “Greenwood,” as I call it, is a very thinly disguised version of the neighborhood in Philadelphia where I’ve lived for decades and raised my kids. The scenes at the kids’ school where Jake’s band-mate’s kid also attends and knows what’s going on with his daughter, at the dog park where Jake runs into his lawyer and meets her daughter who he then hires to babysit his kids, the various groupings of moms and daughters who meet at the coffee shop gossiping about different version of the same events, the dry cleaners where the judge runs into Jake’s lawyer, all of these are lifted from my experience with living in a community where many of my clients are my neighbors and many have become my friends. And where I have had to constantly keep secrets from my family and friends to protect client confidentiality, so I often feel like I’m navigating a sea of private information while everyone is gossiping around me and I can’t say anything.
3. The story is told through multiple narratives and you’ve talked about the fact that there’s never really just “one truth” in family law. What was the reason to tell the story this way?
I am acutely aware, after decades spent in courtrooms, that people telling different versions of the same events are not necessarily lying. Sometimes they are of course, but very very often, perhaps more in the family law context than in others, people will tell different versions of the same events because they actually perceive those events differently when they happen or perhaps remember them differently afterwards. It’s a terrible oversimplification to think that there is always a “true” account.
In “Every Other Weekend” there is one particular scene, involving Jake and his lawyer’s 18-year-old daughter who is (probably inappropriately) babysitting for his kids, which appears one way when we first hear about it from Jake, a different way when we later hear about it when the daughter is telling her friends about it, and a third way when the daughter is confronted by her mother (Jake’s lawyer) about it toward the end of the book. I have been asked by many of my early readers what actually happened in that scene, and my answer is, sincerely, I’m not sure. I really don’t know! That’s the point. And so much of what we learn about Jake and Lisa during the course of the book contradict how they see themselves and each other. All of this is fascinating to me, and it’s why I set the book in this one place where all my characters’ personal and professional lives overlap and where everyone is talking about their neighbors, and where I periodically added “choruses” – the women at the yoga studio, the guys at band practice, the teenage girls at the cafe – talking about the events unfolding around them, which give yet a third version of events as told by those on the outside looking in.
4. What are some reasons why people get divorced? Any surprising stories you can share?
I’d say in my very unofficial (but voluminous) observation, not what you’d think. Infidelity is quite low on the list – people often weather that. I’d say the greatest number of divorces are caused by various addictions (alcohol, drugs, occasionally gambling) or other mental health issues. And usually people have tried hard to make it work before deciding to pull the plug on the marriage. Financial issues are also big – which are incidentally a major part of the demise of Jake and LIsa’s marriage but you don’t really learn the scope of it until late in the book, since Jake doesn’t place much importance on it.
Domestic violence is also unfortunately pretty common, and that is certainly a reason marriages end but often not until it’s been going on a long time because the dynamic of abuse is that the person being abused is scared of standing up to the abuser. And sometimes the abuse is mental, not physical.
One thing that used to be a reason marriages ended which we never see now is because one spouse was gay, and either they or the straight spouse decided they just couldn’t live with that lie to the outside world. Fortunately now gay people don’t need to have sham heterosexual marriages. Now they can get married and get divorced for all the same reasons straight people do!
5. You mention being married to your teenage sweetheart. Would you mind telling us that story?
I met my husband on my second day of college. I was seventeen. He was nineteen and had taken a year off between high school and college, doing things like hitchhiking to Mexico and crewing on a sailboat being delivered to the Caribbean (all of which turned out, amazingly, to actually be true.) He took courses like pottery and “Self-Concept.” I was a very serious conservatory student (violin) and spent most of my freshman year in a practice room. I transferred to a different school, he followed me, I had an identity crisis at the age of 20 and realized I didn’t want to be a professional musician, he supported me, I ended up in law school, he supported me, then he went to architecture school, I supported him, we had our first child and our lives have been successfully intertwined ever since.
One of the most popular pieces I wrote when I blogged for HuffPost was about divorce lawyers being romantics who stay married. I really do think my career has helped me appreciate the relationship I have with my husband and kept me from sweating the small stuff.
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