Interview: Jenny Milchman

Please welcome Jenny Milchman, author of Cover of Snow.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Well, it would have to involve my family. Some friends would be nice, too. There would be really good food, a restaurant ocoverofsnowr a picnic. Dessert is obligatory. And probably some nature. A waterfall, walk in the woods, maybe being on a high cliff overlooking the ocean. We’d get there by car—I love the road. And of course, I’d have a great book with me, one so compelling that it would be all right when the day finally ended because I’d know I could get into bed with the book.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
My husband really likes the perfume I wore when we met, and still put on sometimes. It’s been discontinued, but I have a stash—Victoria by Victoria’s Secret. But I think the signature phrase tickles me more at this stage. It’s not something I say—it’s what my two year old niece calls me. Wow. I think it’s because whenever she shows me something she’s done, or tells me something cool, I say, “Wow!”

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Stephen King. My eleventh grade creative writing teacher, who thought everything I did was great at a time when no one thought what I was doing in school was very great. And the late poet Kenneth Koch.

Do you listen to music when you write?
No, never. I cherish my quiet when I write. If there’s sound, I tune it out. I hear the noises that are happening in the story—dialogue, wind, gunfire, screams.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Hmm, very interesting question. It would be that 70% cacao stuff, dark and rich. Because Cover of Snow is suspense and deals with some pretty horrifying events. I’ve been told it’s a multi-layered story—a lot going on in it—hence the richness. But there’d be toffee or mocha chips or ripples of caramel in the chocolate because even though the story is frightening, I think it leaves the reader with a sense of rightness, of pleasure at the end.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Cover of Snow began life when one question grabbed me around the throat and wouldn’t let go. What would make a good man do the worst thing he possibly could to his wife? Of course, once I came up with the question, I first had to figure out what that worst thing would be.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I think I write about the thin line between where you are now and where you could be. Author Rosellen Brown wrote a novel called Before and After about the fact that there’s no nether-region, no crossing over. One moment you’re here, the next…there. When I am standing on a subway platform, I’m seeing the person who pushes someone onto the tracks. In a movie theater, I have the exit in mind—it’s all too easy for me to envision the guy who decides to turn one couple’s night out into a nightmare. I don’t like planes because the difference between business-as-usual (albeit business being conducted in a 42 ton metal capsule at 30,000 feet) and a plummet from the sky isn’t much difference at all. I think I write about the “there but for the grace go I” moments. The ones that scare us all, the ones we hope we would survive.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Nora Hamilton is the oldest of two sisters. Teggie—a name that’s explained in the book—is fifteen months younger, but she’s the one who has always taken charge of things. Nora and Teggie’s father is a man who tends to breeze through life, preferring the breezy over the stormy. From him, Nora has gotten a tendency to turn away from hard truths. The problem is that when Nora wakes up on January 23rd when Cover of Snow begins, she’s going to have to face the hardest truth a woman could ever confront.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Nora is strong but doesn’t know that she is—Ashley Judd in those movies based on James Patterson novels. And there’s a Jane Eyre-like naiveté to her, which she will have to overcome. Nora also has a steel rod core—think Rachel in the Bible.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Stephen King (there’s plenty of mystery to his horror), Edgar Allan Poe (ditto), Doris Miles Disney (Winifred—best last line ever), Julie Campbell (she wrote Trixie Belden), Shirley Jackson, and Dostoevsky. Except for SK, I couldn’t pick any contemporary authors, because that list would be 60, not 6.

What’s next for you?
Well…it’s kind of a crazy time to get to answer that question. Cover of Snow is my first novel, out this week.  Now  I will embark on a six-month book tour, with my husband and two children, where we drive town-to-town, bookstore-to-bookstore, library-to-library…hoping to meet readers. And I’m also working on my next book!


Jenny Milchman is a suspense novelist from New Jersey whose short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine’s Department of First Stories, 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 and available everywhere books are sold. When Cover of Snow comes out, Jenny is embarking on a six month tour with her family, town-to-town, bookstore-to-bookstore, library-to-library, and other venues, hoping to meet readers. Please see her website for more information.

Twitter: @JennyMilchman
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6 thoughts on “Interview: Jenny Milchman”

  1. Congratulations on your novel, Jenny! Sounds like a gripping tale. Hope your book tour is fantastic!

    I would SO love to hear a conversation among Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, and the creator of our beloved Trixie Belden…


  2. Hi, Jenny!

    I, too, am guilty of looking at an ordinary situation and imagining something horrifying. Nice to know I’m not the only one!

    Stephen King is also one of my favorites. I think he does suspense just as well as he does horror.

    Have a blast on your tour! You’re coming here (Richmond) next month, I believe. I have it on my calendar and hope to snag a signed copy of Cover of Snow!


  3. TL, Susan, and LynDee, this is the coolest set of comments because we all understand the thinness of that line. Maybe the conversation between the five people should be between us here–Cynthia would have to take part too, of course 🙂 At any rate, I greatly appreciate the luck and support. LynDee, I can’t wait to meet you in Richmond! That is very cool that you can come. I appreciate your being at other blogs, too–really hope to see all of you from Mysteristas again!


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