When Samantha, from JKS Communications emailed me with their January tours, I know I wanted to meet and hear more about today’s guest, as I’m sure you will too. So without further ado, Ms. Jenny Milchman!!
Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer from New Jersey. Her debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, is forthcoming from Ballantine in January 2013 and is available for pre-order now. Her short story The Closet was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in November 2012. Another short story, The Very Old Man, has been an Amazon bestseller, and the short work Black Sun on Tupper Lake appears in the anthology ADIRONDACK MYSTERIES II.
Jenny is the Chair of the International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. She is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which was celebrated last year in all 50 states and four foreign countries by 350-and-growing bookstores.
Jenny hosts the Made It Moments forum on her blog, which has featured more than 250 international bestsellers, Edgar winners and independent authors. She co-hosts the literary series Writing Matters, which attracts guests coast-to-coast and has received national media attention, and loves to teach and speak about writing and publishing for New York Writers Workshop, Arts By The People, and WomenWhoWrite
Visit Jenny at her website, Facebook, Twitter and GoodReads.
A Day in the Life of a Debut Novel…Make That Many Days
My debut novel, Cover of Snow, started life when one question grabbed me around the throat and refused to let go. What would make a good man do the worst thing he possibly could to his wife?
Of course, first I had to figure out what that worst thing would be.
I wasn’t a newlywed when the idea for Cover of Snow occurred to me, but we didn’t have kids yet, so were in that vast untrammeled region when the world still orbits around you as a couple. The worst thing a husband could do to his wife would be to leave her.
I’m a suspense writer, so my mind tends to go to dark scenarios. This wouldn’t be a women’s fiction novel about a divorce or love triangle. My heroine’s husband would abandon her in a way that revealed a whole nest of dark secrets.
Once I had that, I could begin to write. But if it seems easy from there…well, it wasn’t. This novel was written in two versions and two distinct phases of my life. The first one— with a different title, different cast of characters, different plot trajectory—contained only the above kernel. Husband loves wife, husband does something very bad.
That version was written before there were laptops, and largely before there was internet. I was accompanying my own husband on a business trip to North Carolina, and wrote chunks on a rented word processing machine at Kinko’s. Copying and other businessman’s and woman’s shuffle went on around me as I pounded out words.
I now know that I wrote that novel completely wrong—and not only because I was on a stool at Kinko’s—but also because aside from the opener, I didn’t have much of a story. And what I did have, I wasn’t sure how to communicate to the reader.
But that initial question had grabbed me around the throat and refused to let go. So some ten years later, I sat down and reread the novel I’d written in a copy shop. And I realized what was wrong with it.
Now I could get to work.
A writing day in the life of Cover of Snow went something like this. I would wake up and not check my email. (Checking email is a recipe for delaying writing by two or three hours. For me anyway). There is one holdover from my Kinko’s days, and that’s that in addition to my netbook, I retain an old word-processing machine with a tower that runs Windows 98. This wondrous piece of machinery has never met an internet connection; in fact, it still backs up on floppies. (They’re growing scarce, so if you run across any, please send ’em my way).
First I would read over the previous day’s work, then stop for a quick breakfast. After that, I wrote for about three or four hours. Sometimes I looked at the old version, the one that didn’t work, to remind myself of characters or a line of dialogue, but mostly I was writing new. In the end, about 250 words were retained from that original novel.
A novel is a conversation between writer and reader, and even between a writer and herself. Anything you write one day will look different the next—that’s why it’s so hard for writers to stop editing and perfecting their work.
And sometimes you write the right book at the wrong time. The trick is to know when that has happened—and what the right time is.
Jenny Milchman is a suspense novelist from New Jersey whose short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Adirondack Mysteries II, and in an e-published volume called Lunch Reads. Jenny is the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, and the chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. Her first novel, Cover of Snow, is published by Ballantine.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Waking up one wintry morning in her old farmhouse nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Nora Hamilton instantly knows that something is wrong. When her fog of sleep clears, she finds her world is suddenly, irretrievably shattered: Her husband, Brendan, has committed suicide.
The first few hours following Nora’s devastating discovery pass for her in a blur of numbness and disbelief. Then, a disturbing awareness slowly settles in: Brendan left no note and gave no indication that he was contemplating taking his own life. Why would a rock-solid police officer with unwavering affection for his wife, job, and quaint hometown suddenly choose to end it all? Having spent a lifetime avoiding hard truths, Nora must now start facing them.
Unraveling her late husband’s final days, Nora searches for answers—but meets with bewildering resistance from Brendan’s best friend and partner, his fellow police officers, and his brittle mother. It quickly becomes clear to Nora that she is asking questions no one wants to answer. For beneath the soft cover of snow lies a powerful conspiracy that will stop at nothing to keep its presence unknown . . . and its darkest secrets hidden.