Monday, July 21, 2014

ThrillerFest IX Debut Authors - Interview with Jenny Milchman, author of Cover of Snow & Ruin Falls

Today's debut author is  Jenny Milchman.  After reading her books and hearing about her journey to publication makes one realize that if you want to write and if you have a story to tell, you have to keep at it.  This is something that the published authors - speakers, panelists, and members of the audience alike - emphasize.
By the time that Jenny Milchman's debut novel, Cover of Snow, was published, she had actually written 8 novels.  And when Cover of Snow came out in January 2013,  Jenny and her family embarked on what Shelf Awareness has described as "the world's longest book tour."  It sounds like it must have been a glorious trip, meeting booksellers and fans.  The book itself gathered much attention and love from readers - Cover of Snow was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick and received nominations for the Mary Higgins Clark and Barry Award.   Jenny's second novel, Ruin Falls, came out on April 22, 2014 and she's now in the middle of a four month book tour with her family.

Jenny's willingness to take the time to interact with her readers goes hand in hand with her support of independent bookstores.  Jenny founded the Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.

Cover of Snow and Ruin Falls are standalone novels with no overlap in characters but each have as a heroine an ordinary woman,  who had been deeply reliant on her husband and reasonably satisfied with her life until things go awry.   And when things start to go bad, they do so spectacularly and quickly.   Nearly overtaken by events, the heroines fight back and in doing so they dig deep, reach back into themselves to confront their demons.

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman
  • ISBN-10: 0345534212 Hardcover $26 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (January 15, 2013), 336 pages.
  • ISBN-10: 0345534220 Paperback $15
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (December 31, 2013), 336 pages.
  • Booklist's description:
  • This superlative dark, wintry debut is set in a small town in upstate New York. Nora Hamilton oversleeps one morning to find that her husband, Brendan, has hung himself. Nora is bereft, and she struggles to reconcile Brendan’s suicide with their seemingly happy life together and with his job as a cop in his hometown. Her mother-in-law, a cold, forbidding woman, blames Nora, who tries talking to his partner, a cop who was also Brendan’s best friend, but he advises her to move on with her life. Nora can’t move on, not without some answers, and as she starts digging, she uncovers secrets about her husband and the town, the kind of secrets that people will do anything, including murder, to cover up. The ravages of winter impede her progress, but she plows on, determined to learn why Brendan never confided in her, but the answers prove more shocking than anything she might have imagined. These well-defined characters take us on an emotional roller-coaster ride through the darkest night, with blinding twists and occasionally fatal turns. This is a richly woven story that not only looks at the devastating effects of suicide but also examines life in a small town and explores the complexity of marriage. Fans of Nancy Pickard, Margaret Maron, and C. J. Box will be delighted to find this new author. 


Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman
  • ISBN-10: 0345549074 - Hardcover $26.00
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (April 22, 2014), 352 pages.

The blurb:
Liz Daniels has every reason to be happy about setting off on a rare family vacation, leaving behind her remote home in the Adirondack Mountains for a while. Instead, she feels uneasy. Her children, eight-year-old Reid and six-year-old Ally, have met their paternal grandparents only a handful of times. But Liz’s husband, Paul, has decided that, despite a strained relationship with his mother and father, they should visit the farm in western New York where he spent his childhood.

On their way to the farm, the family stops at a hotel for the night. In the morning, when Liz goes to check on her sleeping children, all her anxiety comes roaring back: Ally and Reed are nowhere to be found. Blind panic slides into ice-cold terror as the hours tick by without anyone finding a trace of the kids. Soon, Paul and Liz are being interviewed by police, an Amber Alert is issued, and detectives are called in.

Frantic worry and helplessness threaten to overtake Liz’s mind—but in a sudden, gut-wrenching instant she realizes that it was no stranger who slipped into the hotel room that night. Someone she trusted completely has betrayed her. Though she knows that Ally and Reid are safe, Liz will stop at nothing to find them and get them back. From her guarded in-laws’ unwelcoming farmhouse to the deep woods of her own hometown, Liz follows the threads of a terrible secret to uncover a hidden world created from dreams and haunted by nightmares.

Jenny opened up about Cover of Snow and Ruin Falls, her life as a writer, and her involvement in ThrillerFest.  The interview was conducted over the phone - any errors are mine in the transcription.  Now, please welcome, Jenny Milchman!

Q: Could you share the journey to publication?  What is it like going on these extended book tours - it sounds exhausting. 

JM: Cover of Snow is the 1st published and 8th novel I'd written. By the time that the book was sold, I'd worked with 3 different agents.  Another author had read it as an unpublished manuscript and reached out to have it read by her editor.  

JM: I wrote the 8 novels in 11 years.  The first 6 years I worked as psychotherapist and completed everything except my dissertation. I'd practiced without the doctorate. Then I had two kids and stayed at home with them and writing the books really kept me going.   I would lose myself in a new story. The stories were such a joy to write - the process of creating the character who is going to overcome odds and restore justice to her life is powerful.  I love it. Creating a new character kept me going through those years of rejection.  

JM: After landed with the right editor, my publisher and editor were very excited that writing a book a year worked for me.  So I was able to have my second novel come out the year later. The book tours don’t feel grueling.  It is so much fun to be on the road and meet people that I'd gotten to know,   to see plenty of ITW and Facebook friends becoming real.  People you only tweet at becoming real - it's been a magical experience. 

Ruin Falls had been written and was being edited on the road.  I can’t write on the road but editing is manageable. 

Q:  Had you heard of ITW before you’d become an author?  How did you feel when they’d asked you to join?

ITW has become one of the biggest parts of begin a writer for me.  I didn’t know about it until Cover of Snow had sold. Carla Buckley reached out to me when she saw the Cover of Snow. Even though I had written her a fan letter I hadn’t known about the ITW connection. 

Q: I’ve attended the breakfasts where the Debut Authors are introduced.  I find it to be one of the highlights of ThrillerFest.  As Chair of the ITW Debut Authors Program, what else goes on behind the scenes?  How has the ITW Debut Author program helped or made a difference for you?

JM: It’s beautiful.  One funny thing that happened, last year we had 29 debuts. the maximum that we could ever have. I had been instructed that everyone was to talk 1 minute and no more and each speaker had to keep to schedule. It was the first year I was organizing it.  I didn’t know how good a job I had done, but we were on schedule.  When it was my turn,  I said I could talk 15 minutes about my own book.  (Smile.)

JM: The story that I think of and share most often is that of Lisa Price who wrote a dystopian novel that my daughter loved. It was her fifth ThrillerFest and she made good on her promise to herself that one day she would be sitting be up there. Sometimes it takes a long time for a dream to come true but it does come true.

JM: One of my huge literary heroes it’s not even normally what I read, the Reacher series.  I talk about Lee Child more than about myself.  I realize that what I love about Reacher is that he’s a purveyor of justice. We’ve done a Skype chat with Lee Child, signings and talks with Doug Preston at The Mystery Bookshop. MJ Rose has stood beside me at my own book launch.   The community and support is unparalleled.

Q:Tell us about Cover of Snow  and/or Ruin Falls.
JM: The protagonists’ journey of discovery.  The women tend to be so lost at the start - and then they slowly find their bearings and make sense of what’s actually happening.

JM: When I spoke about loving to go to the story and the cathartic experience, the heroines start very small and weak at the beginning. They have different reasons and they’re good reasons that they have these holes in their own lives and that they didn't come into adulthood equipped to handle things. They dig deep to find that part of themselves and to balance the scales of justice.  The feeling that justice can prevail m - a woman becoming strong and taking the reins of her own life or reacher killing whomever needs killing.

Q: Favorite book/author as a child?  Who did you read?  Which authors or books do you pre-order? Influences?

JM:  "Kujo" if any novel influenced Cover of Snow. Kujo is about a series of dominoes.  If one was not in a row it would not have fallen the way it did.  25 years ago, if things hadn’t lined up, we wouldn’t have reached the result that it had.  A real master, a character who plays a role even for one page you won’t forget one person.

JM: The author who helped me, not thrillers or mysteries or horrors,Nancy Pickrd.  She’s been a big influence on me as an adult writer - the kindness and generosity you see in her characters and story with that kind of strength and richness. 

Q: What’s on your night stand?

JM: I just finished Those Who Wish Me Dead by Micheal Koryta. It’s a thriller about a little boy who becomes a witness to something no one has ever walked away from before.  

Q:  Independent bookstores have been described as germinating nurseries for writers.  Can you tell us a bit about your current book tour?  Are you making any stops in July in NYC? 

JM:  I love independent bookstores.  Take Your Child to a Bookstore day. The magic for me is when the virtual meets the real.  In a world when we can walk into a space inhabited by books. The healthy ecology of bookstores,  the conversations that take place can’t take place online.  Bookstore meets fan in writer world. The brick and mortar experience has to be treasured and we have to support the people that are keeping it alive.

Q: What are you working on now? 

JM: Editing  Night Falls which is coming out in 2015. When we get back to NY state and the kids get back to school I’m excited to write the next one. 

JM: I don’t outline but because of the [tight] schedule. An idea and/or character comes to me.  This comes to me and the months before, I jot down notes, dialogue, and a sense of turning point but nothing organized.  When I'm writing, I'm living the story as if it were happening.  One reason that writing is painful is I write as if it’s real, it is real.  When the first readers say it could happen this way, etc.  

Q: Advice for writers just starting out?

JM: This is a big part of ITW it’s what we do. We’re there for brand new writers.  For those just starting out,  it’s a better time than ever. There are more ways to bring one's work to readers. You know that the traditional publishing system saved me from myself. Writers starting out need to be aware all the time, need to make sure their work is as good as it can get.  Then the writing world and the reader world is going to embrace them. Educate themselves on the best way to publish, to know the best way for them and for their work.  And to never give up.

JM: Hank Philippe Ryan talked about  the Never Know day, the day before she and her husband met, the day before she sold her first book.  If you celebrate that, you’ll have the strength to keep writing. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for sharing my thoughts, and your own about my books and my journey, Gaby!