What moment of your recent debut stands out the most?
This is a hard question to answer. It might make the most sense if I say that Cover of Snow is my debut novel, but it’s not my first. To share the raw, hard truth, in eleven years I wrote eight novels, worked with three agents, and received fifteen almost-offers before my latest book finally sold. So in a way, every moment since Cover of Snow was released stands out—I’ve been waiting for them for more than thirteen years.But if I had to choose one, I would say it was when a reader at an event at Moonstone Mystery Bookstore in New Jersey came up to me. She was holding out a scrap of paper with words she wanted me to write in the book I was signing. They were things one of my characters might have said.Dugger is autistic, and though he uses rhymes and riddles to communicate, he often senses more than anyone else does in the room. “Sign, line, book all mine,” this reader wanted me to write. The idea that one of my characters meant so much to her—that she could actually speak in his voice—is a moment I hope to remember forever.
Getting it published! Seriously, I love to write, and getting to sit down in front of my computer every day is a privilege—something I look forward to as soon as I wake up. But the publication journey was very thorny for me. There were the rejections that said the exact opposite of each other (“Too much character development, speed things up” versus “Slow down the pace, we need more character”). There were the near misses when an editor wanted to buy it, but couldn’t get the whole house behind her. And finally, when my agent and I were completely out of options, there was the author who agreed to take a look at my unpublished manuscript, put it into her own editor’s hands, and finally made me a published author.
Has your experience teaching writing and publishing for New York Writers Workshop influenced your own writing and perception of the publishing industry?
I would say that my experience of being on submission for so many years, trying to get published, influenced my perception of the industry, and that I try to bring what I’ve learned back to my New York Writers Workshop students. New and emerging writers often don’t know—I certainly didn’t—just how long it can take to craft a publishable manuscript, and then ultimately to sell it. I hope that by giving voice to how very long it took me, people will feel encouraged to continue along their own journeys.
How do you balance teaching, writing, and your holiday Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day?
Oh my—can I say, “I don’t”? Seriously, it’s a great question, one I think almost all of us struggle with. How do we get time for everything we want to do? How do we make sure to prioritize our passion when we are just trying to get dinner on the table or the kids to school—or to take a shower? (There are days when I skip one).When I’m writing a first draft, I make sure to get to work first thing in the morning. I write in a converted, windowless closest on a machine with no internet. There are no distractions. No email or Tweets or status updates—or even the ability to get caught up in research, just looking one thing up. I sit down and lose myself in the story until I’ve written my words for the day.After that, I back up on a floppy disk (yes), go downstairs, and return to the current century, connecting with people who have written, or hosting writers on my blog. If I am teaching that day, or bringing a Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day poster to a bookstore, this is the time for that.But I would say that on very few days do I get it “all done,” and so I just try to do as much as I can and hope that people will be forgiving if I miss something. It’s what all of us do, right?
After reading Cover of Snow, I was itching to find out if there would be either a sequel or something else as dark and mysterious coming from you! Can you tell us what we can expect from you in the future?
Thank you so much for saying that. It’s impossible—for me anyway—not to feel nerve-wracked during this time. I wonder, “Will anyone read it, and if they do, will they like it?” Anyway, my next book is not a sequel in the sense that the main character comes back, but it is set in the same fictional town of Wedeskyull. My hope for “the Wedeskyull novels” is that people get to know the town through the prism of many different characters’ lives. There may even be a line or two in the next book about Nora! And one character you already know will have a much larger role. I hope it’s mysterious and suspenseful—it’s about a woman who wakes up in a hotel room and finds her children missing.
Thank you for stopping by Lovey Dovey Books! In parting, would you like to say anything to readers who have already read and loved Cover of Snow?
I would like to say a big ‘thank you’—to you and your readers. I don’t take one single reader for granted, and I am amazed by every person who writes to say they like it, or doesn’t write, but is touched somehow by the novel.I am going on tour, a crazy kind of tour—six months and eighteen thousand miles on the road—hoping to meet America and its readers. If we are coming anywhere close to you, please come out if you can. I would love to get to say hello!
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 will be 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 will appear in the anthology ADIRONDACK MYSTERIES II.
Jenny is the Chair of the International Thriller Writers Debut Authors Program, and the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, which was celebrated in all 50 states and four foreign countries in 2011.
Jenny hosts the Made It Moments forum on her blog, which has featured more than 200 international bestsellers, Edgar winners, and independent authors, co-hosts the literary series Writing Matters, which attracts guests coast-to-coast and has received national media attention, and teaches writing and publishing for New York Writers Workshop and Arts By The People.