Name Jenny Milchman
Age Really? Can I say the age I feel I am? Somewhere between young and shocked that I’m not young anymore.
Where are you from I was born in New York City and raised in New Jersey.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life ect I’m the oldest of three kids. My brother is three years younger, my sister thirteen years younger, and they are two of my best friends. My parents will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this fall. I’m married to my college sweetheart and we have two young children. Family (and friends) are really the core of me, with writing and reading up there, too. In terms of schooling, I finished all but my dissertation in clinical psychology. I’m glad I studied (and practiced) psychology because in a circuitous way it led me to the suspense fiction I feel I was meant to write—but I don’t regret not finishing my degree. Psychology, as great a study as it was, was always my “plan B”.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news? I just handed in my final edits for my forthcoming novel! And got a pub date—February 2013! This was a dream 11 years in the making for me, or 13, or 37, depending on how you count.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing? My mom says I was dictating bedtime stories to her before I could write. My first memory of writing is a story bound in wallpaper—a pale blue with big white flowers—that was a kindergarten project. I wish I could remember what it said.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer? Ooh, that’s a good one. And a hard one. I always wanted to be a writer. But I didn’t feel safe calling myself one until pretty recently when I sold my debut novel.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book? This is a strange story. I was at the gym—a place I went to for one brief period in my life, which I doubt will ever be repeated—and I was bored as you-know-what on the StairMaster. I looked down and spotted a book on the floor with a very intriguing title. “Arugula’s Mother,” I said to myself. “What would a book with that title be about?” When I finished my workout and went over to look, the book had a title that bore no resemblance to “Arugula’s Mother,” except maybe it had an “A” in it. But by that point I’d already written the opening chapter in my head. So I just kept going.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? I really like books that compel you to turn the page with hooks and twists and cliffhangers and surprises. So that’s how I try to write.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title? The title of my forthcoming novel is COVER OF SNOW. The book was born out of a kernel of another book, which had a much less appealing title. But I was very happy to see that my editor and publisher instantly took to this title, with no thought of changing it (50% of book titles get changed by the publisher). I’m not sure how I came up with it except that the title works both literally and symbolically for the story.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? I don’t think so. But I’d be very interested to hear if readers find a message in it.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic? Oh, well, probably almost none. I mean, the psychology is true to life. But crime fiction works—the reason I not only love but need it—because it orders a disordered universe. In that sense, it’s terribly unrealistic, more’s the pity.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life? I feel like I came into my own as a writer when my writing began to depart from rehashings or reworkings of events or people I had known. COVER OF SNOW arose from a question that came to me one day: What would make a good man do something terrible to the people he loved?
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? My answer to this changes almost time I’m asked it. Tonight I’d say: Almost all of Stephen King’s early works. A handful of horror novels: THE EXORCIST, ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE OMEN, AUDREY ROSE, THE BAD SEED. The Victorian novelists, especially women like George Eliot and the Bronte sisters. I also love American writers: Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Dreiser, Henry James. And contemporary novelists too many to name.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? I have to give this title to Nancy Pickard, definitely one of my favorites in the contemporary author category, and the person without whom my forthcoming novel wouldn’t be…forthcoming. I actually didn’t have many in-person writing teachers, at least not for fiction (I studied poetry throughout high school and college). But books on craft by Albert Zuckerman, Donald Mass, James Scott Bell, Jack Bickham, Stephen King, Robert McKee and others will continue to teach me all my life, I hope.
Fiona: What book are you reading now? I’m reading Pat Conroy’s MY READING LIFE. It’s…a tribute, most particularly to his mother, and a pure joy.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Oh, yes, every day. I feature authors on my blog—150 and counting—so I add a new book to my Wish List multiple times a month. Plus, I browse in bookstores weekly, and leaving without a find is painful (though sometimes financially necessary). I can’t name one or two or five authors because I would feel so badly about leaving the rest out!
Fiona: What are your current projects? My book is just about a year from coming out, and believe it or not, we are shifting into countdown mode. After the book is released, we’ll be hitting the road for six months. Home-schooling (actually car-schooling) the kids as we drive from town to town, stopping at bookstores, book clubs, libraries, colleges, and any other place that will have us! It’s a grass roots sort of effort, a whistle stop/Partridge Family/Loretta Lynn kind of tour. It took so long for me to get published that I made a lot of friends along the way, and seeing them in person is a huge part of this dream for me. So, needless to say, this trip will take a lot of planning and is pretty much my #1 project right now. I’m also writing a new novel, and taking my kids to swimming, gymnastics, and T Ball, because they’re going to be structured activity-less in about a year! We’re not huge on activities, so hopefully this won’t be much of an adjustment.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members. The fun of writing the book, of telling the story. If that hadn’t been so much pure joy, I would’ve given up.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career? I am very, very grateful to say that I do. My husband saw it as one before I ever sold a word. He enabled me to cut back on my actual paying career so that I could write. But I didn’t feel entitled to call writing a career until now. And probably I won’t say it out loud very often until we see how my first novel does.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? Oh, man, no. On the other hand, it’s lucky I’m not in charge, because I probably wouldn’t have changed a word from the first draft and that was all but dreadful. Seriously, I think writers need editors, and I’m lucky enough to have a brilliant one. She’s just called the book ‘done,’ so I guess it is.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? I was writing before I had enough consciousness to say why. It felt like an impulse, a drive. It’s something that’s in me, I think, and has to come out. It feels almost…separate. Almost bequeathed.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us? Well, I can’t talk about this latest novel I’m writing, because I am still in first draft mode. No one, not even my husband, knows a thing about it. The excitement of sharing it when it’s all done gets into the work somehow, and injects itself. But I do have a second novel completed, and I hope that one might come out after my debut. It’s called OUT OF NOWHERE and is in some ways the opposite of COVER OF SNOW. It takes place on the west coast, in summertime, and although there’s a mystery at its core, it’s also a cat and mouse chase.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Revising. No question. It’s hard for me to reimagine things I wrote (and loved). I need a strong editorial hand. I’m willing to do it, of course, especially because it always, always makes the book better. But whereas the first draft comes spilling out in a glorious, honeyed stream, subsequent ones often have me wild-eyed, staring at the screen. And by the twelfth—as with my forthcoming book—I was all but stomping around, sure I couldn’t live up to what this book needed to be. I hope I have. I really hope I have.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? That would have to be Stephen King. I think he is a master of character and the closely observed detail.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? Well, we will be traveling a lot—18,000 miles over the course of six months. But is this a ‘have to’? Or my need/desire to? I guess that will depend on much people like the idea of our tour.
Fiona: Who designed the covers? It hasn’t been designed yet, but my publisher will do this. I can’t wait to see what they come up with! It’s hard for me to imagine that moment without my skin going all prickly.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book? Definitely revising, through all twelve drafts.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? So much. How to trust other people to know better than I. That any time you extend a hand, you get more than you give. That story is sometimes the best we have, and is always its own reward.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers? Write a story people can’t put down.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?At the risk of sounding a little Pollyanna…I don’t know you yet, but am so excited to meet you!
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done? I couldn’t be anything else, artistically or professionally, I don’t think. Not and still have been—me. But being home with my kids and husband is joy-inducing for me. I’m very glad I got to work at being a writer during my kids’ earliest years because it kept me in the house with them. By the time I finally sold my book, the first thing we did was drive to their school and tell them.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? if so what is it? Yes! Please visit me at http://suspenseyourdisbelief.com and http://jennymilchman.com I welcome letters and will always write back, so please send me your questions, thoughts, suggestions, or wishes.
Jenny Milchman is a literary suspense writer from New Jersey. Her debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, is forthcoming from Ballantine in early 2013. Her short story ‘The Closet’ will be published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 2012. Another short story ‘The Very Old Man’ has been an Amazon bestseller, and the short work ‘Black Sun on Tupper Lake’ will appear in the anthology ADIRONDACK MYSTERIES II.
Jenny is the Chair of International Thriller Writers‘ Debut Authors Program. She is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which was celebrated in all 50 states and four foreign countries by over 350 bookstores this year. Jenny hosts the Made It Moments forum on her blog, which has featured more than 150 international bestsellers, Edgar winners, and independent authors. Jenny hosts the literary series Writing Matters, which attracts guests coast-to-coast and has received national media attention. She teaches writing and publishing for New York Writers Workshop and The Writers Circle