Having gone to law school and practiced law for several years, what made you decide to write books?
I was one of those people, common in the children of immigrants, who wanted to “succeed” in academics and my career without really knowing what I wanted out of life beyond that. I always loved writing as well, but I thought that I could combine that with a career in law as a side-interest. As soon as I entered law school, though, I hated it. I requested a leave of absence, and went to Oxford to get a graduate degree in English. While I was there, I began writing short stories and plays.
I had, however, vowed to my father to finish law school. So I dutifully got my JD after Oxford, and practiced corporate litigation at several “white shoe” law firms. I also did some pro bono work for foster children. Throughout this time, I kept writing. I have found that the adversarial method of “truth-finding” in law does not suit me as well as using my own voice to tell the truths in which I believe. Nor did I really like the world of money and status as much as I thought I would.
For me, “success” has become a very personal thing, and has as much to do with love as with power, and with giving as much as getting.
Why did you decide to have Abigail be a lawyer?
I gave Abigail some of the ethical and moral challenges I faced as a lawyer. And though she is not a writer, her heart’s draw to motherhood represents the kinds of conflicts I felt as I emerged from the world of law. More than becoming the perfect professional, she wants to grow as a human being.
Abigail’s boss is pretty extreme in his sexism. In your experience, is this kind of behavior common in law firms? Are women expected to come back right after giving birth in order to become partner?
There is still sexism in the higher echelons of law and business, still a feeling that having children makes one less committed to the pure vertical motion expected from the elite. Men are still better than women at hiding the fact that they have hearts, and loves, and families – and that their attentions are divided. This division, by the way, is healthy. It’s humanizing. I hope that both men and women gain in the future by a more humane attitude towards personal life.
The country of Grenada plays a large part in the story – almost a bigger part than Abigail’s home of Manhattan. Do you have a special connection to the island? Why there?
I’ve vacationed there, and found it beautiful and memorable. It’s one of the most remote of the Caribbean islands – not far from South America, and more untouched than many of the others. I thought it made for a perfect locale for the legal subplot of GREAT WITH CHILD, and also for the growing romance between Abigail and Tim.
The idea of “Basmary” (basil and rosemary) is both hilarious and brilliant– any plans to try to make it a real product?!
No – but if anyone else (with a green thumb and a lab) decides to try, I’ll buy cases of it.
Abigail is the kind of woman who seems to want to “have it all” which is a common theme for essays and hot takes these days. Do her feelings reflect yours? Why?
I am more the type to go for depth rather than breadth. I don’t want “all” at the same time, but rather to do things wholeheartedly. When I had my children, I did stay home with them. I was also around to take care of my parents when they got sick. It feels wonderful to be able to give, full-time. And although my career has suffered by these devotions, I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
Abigail doesn’t quite get the hang of mothering right away which is certainly accurate in real life; what advice would you give to Abigail if you were with her when she was first encountering Chloe and getting to know her?
May I refer you to my first book MOTHERING HEIGHTS? There are two main points in it – Ultimately, you are the best expert on your own children. And my motto: “What children take from us, they give. We become people who feel more deeply, question more deeply, hurt more deeply, and love more deeply.”
A few process questions:
You’ve written a lot of fiction and nonfiction. Which do you prefer, and which is harder? Why?
I love both at different times. Non-fiction is like cutting through stone to get at the shape you have in mind. You are restricted by the stone, and the challenge is to cut away what isn’t needed, laying bare the essence. Fiction is like playing with clay – you can do virtually anything. But in that freedom there is sometimes more room for disaster.
How do you come up with your ideas?
I read a lot, daydream often, and take long walks.
Who is your first reader? What kind of feedback are you looking for in early drafts?
My husband and my closest writer friend are my first readers. They can give me comments in the kindest possible way, and tend to know what I am seeking to accomplish.
You’ve been published by big houses and small presses. Which do you prefer and why?
While I was thrilled to be published by big presses, you get much more attention and personal involvement from the world of the small press. I find that is also where you’ll often find the best and most individual and innovative storytelling.
Sonia Taitz is a writer, mother, and Yale-trained lawyer; her previous books have been featured in the pages of Vanity Fair, People, The New York Times and more.
Find out more about her on her website http://www.soniataitz.com/
In GREAT WITH CHILD, Abigail must figure out who and what she really wants in life: a go-get-‘em partnership at a big Manhattan law firm, with little interaction with her new baby (and the perfect nanny to help achieve that), or a cohesive family unit with work-life balance. Abigail asks herself the question so many modern women ask: how can I have it all?