I first heard about Jenny Milchman at last year’s Thrillerfest Conference in New York. Although, I was unable to meet her in person at that time, I was fascinated with her debut, COVER OF SNOW, and her long road to publication. I’m excited that I will finally be meeting her at this year’s Thrillerfest. Not only is Jenny a talented author, she’s approachable, friendly, and willing to share her expertise and knowledge. I am fortunate that all of the authors on my website embrace these qualities and I am proud to add another lovely one to the list. Thank you, Jenny, for the interview and for your inspiration.
CL: This is a great debut, Jenny. I literally saw this book like a movie in my mind…very visual and suspenseful. You have a lot going on in the background. Did you create an outline before starting the novel or did you create the story as you went along?
JM: Well…if I tell you that the published version of Cover of Snow was draft number twenty-two, that might give you an idea! I probably could’ve saved myself a lot of work if I’d had an outline. But I think I might also have saved myself some of the surprises, and twists and turns. Because I didn’t see them coming, I hope that may translate into a more exciting experience for the reader. Thank you for your kind words, by the way.
CL: You’re a great storyteller and I didn’t see what was underneath the obvious at first. Tell me how you were influenced by this landscape and location? I could feel Nora’s confinement and sense of isolation.
JM: I’m so glad you could! I did, too. And do you know, I live somewhat near my fictional town now, and every time I see an Adirondack Trailways bus, I picture Teggie on it! In other words, the setting feels very, very real to me. The town of Wedeskyull feels so real, in fact, that it’s the setting for my forthcoming novel, and the one after that. This isn’t a series in the traditional sense, with a series protagonist; instead the town is the recurring character. People who filled small roles in Cover of Snow will play larger ones in Ruin Falls, and vice versa. In terms of why I was influenced by this landscape, I think a lot of it comes down to a very real sense of desolation and drama. If you make a wrong turn in the Adirondacks in winter, you could freeze to death, or fall beneath the ice, or…That kind of line that’s all too easy to cross suggests a lot of scary possibilities to me, and inevitably, those get turned into books.
CL: You uncovered layers of secrecy extremely well…what authors have inspired you?
JM: Well, the biggest influence on me has always been Stephen King. His Castle Rock is the inspiration for my Wedeskyull in some ways. But in terms of secrecy and suspense, Andrew Klavan and Laura Lippman stand out in my mind. And no one does small towns like Julia Spencer-Fleming and Louise Penny. I have left out so many favorites that this handful feels terribly incomplete!
CL: Tell me a little about your road to publication…was it a difficult one?
JM: You might think difficult is an understatement after I share this! Okay…so…Cover of Snow is actually my eighth novel, although it was the first one published.
While I was trying to get published, I kept getting close. I had three different agents represent five different novels and we had a total of fifteen “almost offers”—editors presenting a book to their editorial boards without getting the okay to make a deal. The last time before It Finally Happened, the novel in question had made it all the way up the ladder, and was turned down by the publisher herself. That was…crushing. (But in hindsight, the best thing that could’ve happened, in the same way that once you meet your husband, you’re awfully glad that last guy before him dumped you.)
Anyway, at a certain point during this process, I thought, Well, I’m hoping to get to do this for my career, so let me just act as if I already have a career. (That was a hard feat of pretend at times). And I began writing something like a book a year, slowing down when my kids were born. Most of those are in a cyber drawer—probably forever—although there’s one I hope does see the light of day.
The world changed out from under me during those years, and I explored the self-publishing and micro press worlds very seriously. What stopped me was my love of bookstores, libraries, and the face-to-face, all of which can be harder to delve into as an indie author (although not impossible and getting easier in some ways).
In the end, I was able to choose the path that felt most organic and natural to me, which was traditional publishing. For others, this choice will be different. In my case a combination of getting better, improving my craft, and also the intervention of a person who feels like a good fairy in my life enabled me to pursue my dream. An author whose work I loved agreed to read my unpublished manuscript, and she wound up putting it into her own editor’s hands. A few weeks later, that editor became my own.
CL: What can we expect from your second book, RUIN FALLS?
JM: Readers who have read Cover of Snow will see some tidbits and follow-up looks at characters from the first book, but those who are new to my work will hopefully just get some thrills and chills with a sense of completion, ultimate closure in the end. Like Cover of Snow, this is a novel about a woman who’s about the cross over the thin gray line none of us want to cross. The one that changes everything, and the only way back will take almost everything from you. Liz Daniels wakes up on the first morning of vacation to find her children missing from the hotel bed. She quickly realizes who has taken them and why. But that is when the real battle begins.
CL: What was one of the biggest lessons you learned while writing COVER OF SNOW and what part of the novel do you cherish the most?
JM: The scene I love the most in the novel takes place near the end. Nora is comforting a woman she’s had to deliver terrible news to. But in a way this was the place Nora journeyed the whole novel to get to…where she could reveal the truth without hiding anymore. What did I learn from writing the book that finally got published? Like Nora, to never give up.
Find out more about Jenny here:
Purchase both COVER OF SNOW and RUIN FALLS here: