Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer from New York State, who lived for eleven months on the road with her family on what Shelf Awareness called “the world’s longest book tour.”
After a thirteen year journey/trek/slog toward publication, Jenny’s debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, was acquired by Random House. It won the Mary Higgins Clark award, was praised by the New York Times, and chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick. RUIN FALLS, was published the next year, and chosen as an Indie Next Pick and a Top Ten of 2014 by Suspense Magazine. Jenny’s third novel, AS NIGHT FALLS, was published in June, 2015.
Jenny speaks nationwide about the publishing industry and the importance of sticking to a dream. She is Vice President of Author Programming for International Thriller Writers, and the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day. Jenny led the literary series Writing Matters, which covered the publishing industry during the upheaval of 2009, attracted guests coast-to-coast, and received national media attention. She teaches writing and publishing for New York Writers Workshop.
1. What is your favorite thing about the storyline of Wicked River?
Wicked River arises from an incident in real life. No, my husband and I weren’t stalked through the wilderness by an extremely smart and manipulative madman, but we did set out on a back-country honeymoon deep in the Adirondacks. The only difference between us and my heroine, Natalie, and her husband, Doug, was that my hubby and I had to turn back after just one day. (We wound up going to Paris on a borrowed credit card, and paying it off for-ev-ah). But Natalie and Doug didn’t get so lucky. For them to make it out of the woods will require the fight of their lives. That’s my favorite thing—how a kernel from real life kicked off a question in my head—what if my hubby and I hadn’t turned back when we did?
2. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?I eat dessert every single day, often more than once. I’m not sure how guilty this makes me feel, though. Secretly I believe that dessert’s going to turn out to be the next health craze. We already know it about fat, poor, benighted nutrient we falsely maligned for decades. Why not brownies too?
3. What is your ideal reading environment?It’s funny—for years I wrote in my husband’s office, in a Kinko’s copy shop on a rented word processor—dating myself here—or on a bench in my brother’s bedroom when we went to visit him. In other words, pretty much anywhere. And then, for years, I wrote in a closet we repurposed in our house, windowless, but private at least. I would find closets wherever I was staying on tour—in hotels this could get pretty cramped! But just recently we moved to the mountains. And there is a tiny house in back that we made into a studio. It has a picture window looking out over the woods. And suddenly, I can’t imagine writing anywhere else. OHHH. I just reread this question and saw you said ‘reading’ environment, not writing. Well, I’ll leave the above to be edited out because my answer to the real Q is pretty short. And that’s: ANYWHERE. Wherever I have a book in hand (and I always have a book in hand), I read. On line waiting for takeout, in my room, driving…OK, not driving.
4. If you couldn’t be a writer, what would be your second choice?I practiced as a psychotherapist for ten years, so that probably would still be my “back-up” except that I’m a big believer in No Plan B except that sometimes we need one. In fact, my Plan B career enabled me to become a writer. I had wanted to write since I was a tiny kid, but for me that meant noodling around with Victorian-esque novellas after reading the Bronte sisters, or trying my hand at poetry. My first —unpublished and unpublishable—crime novel was written after I’d just been handed a terrifying case at the hospital where I was interning. I began treating this five year old, blonde, cherubic child… who had just killed the family pet. Suddenly, it was as if life were a suspense novel. And I sat down and began writing. Eight novels, three agents, and eleven years later, I got published.
5. When you first became a writer what was something about it that was completely different from what you expected?How much work and learning and toil are required after you’ve begun to put words on paper, after you’ve written the end even. The amount of rejection.
6. What are a couple of your favorite books? What makes them your favorite?Any of Stephen King’s early-mid career books count as my all-time favorites: The Dead Zone, Cujo, Misery, to name a few. I think Stephen King is a master of character—the smallest walk-on role is someone I remember years later. I love many of the great horror writers of the 1970s, including Ira Levin and Frank de Felitta. After that we get into contemporary authors, and I can never choose just a few!
7. What was some of the best advice you ever received?Don’t give up. Perseverance is the soil out of which dreams grow. (I made up the second line. But the first was told to me about a million times by people who knew how cranky I’d be if I gave up).
8. Tell us something about you most people don’t know?
I have a very compulsive streak and can make people around me nuts as I clean or straighten up. (“I’m sorry, honey!! I’ll be on tour for a month and you can be as messy as you like. [That’s a joke, kids. Please keep the house nice for Mommy.)]
9. Who was your biggest supporter in becoming a writer? Biggest critic?
My husband, hands down. It took me eleven years before I earned a dime in this business, and my husband never put a lick of pressure on me. He’s also my first and best reader of my work. Well, sometimes my agent gets it first, and she’s pretty wonderful too. My parents get credit also—not only are they fans of my work, able to provide substantive feedback while still seeing the good parts, but they taught me that dreams matter. I don’t know whom I’d count as a critic, except all of the above in a positive, writers-improve-through-criticism sense. I’ve been very lucky to have as much support as I do.
10.What’s next? What can you tell us about your next book?
It’s called Mercy Island, and it kicks off in the fictional town of Wedeskyull where I set all my books, but quickly departs for points— or ports—unknown. Some pretty terrible things have gone down on that tiny island over the years—which my heroine will find herself right in the midst of.
Jenny Milchman is the Mary Higgins Clark award winning and USA Today bestselling author of four novels, including Cover of Snow and Wicked River, out from Sourcebooks on May 1st.
To Purchase Jenny Milchman’s newest book Wicked River out 05/1/2018 click HERE