It isn’t hard for first time author Jenny Milchman, coming to Mendham Books at 7 p.m. on Thursday to sign copies of her novel Cover of Snow, to pinpoint the biggest challenge in writing her mystery book.
“Finding a publisher for it,” Milchman said of the thriller, which took 13 years to get published but was nearly a lifetime in the making.
“My mom says that when I was two years old, I would tell her bedtime stories, and she would write them down. I just know that I always wanted to write,” Milchman said. “But practical considerations interfered and I went to college and graduate school to study psychology. I realized at some point that I couldn’t stop writing, but it’s good I didn’t know how hard it was going to be.”
Milchman said the idea for her debut novel came from “a question that grabbed me around the throat and wouldn’t let go.” The question was what would make a good man do the worst thing he could possibly do to his wife?
“Of course, I had to first figure out what the ‘worst thing’ would be.” Milchman said.
In Milchman’s novel, Cover of Snow, Nora Hamilton’s police detective husband commits suicide in the middle of a frozen Adirondack winter. According to the author, Hamilton then embarks on a journey to lay bare the secrets a town has always kept as well as her own.
Milchman said that the real mystery in the book is not death of her protagonist’s spouse.
“I think the real mystery was not why my heroine’s husband died, but who he was, and who the two of them were together,” Milchman said. “Every marriage is different, and we never really know what’s going on inside another couple’s inner life together. Marriage is the biggest mystery of all.”
Although she lives just across the border in Morristown, Milchman said that Mendham Books is one of her homes away from home.
“Mendham Books is my local bookstore and I’m here all the time. The kids always got a trip to the playground behind the firehouse after buying a book at the bookstore,” Milchman said. “There’s a lot of influence on my work from living in this area. When I was writing the scenes of deep winter in Cover of Snow, I went hiking in Jockey Hollow, to see what the forest looked like buried, to hear what that kind of silence sounded like. The way people in small towns help and support—and sometimes hurt—each other is something I think people here will relate to. This isn’t like living in New York City. We know each other here—for better and sometimes, for worse.”
Before embarking with her family on a six month book tour across the country, Milchman is hosting a “Night of Hopes and Dreams” at Mendham Books.
“Tom at Mendham Books was the very first bookseller to reach out to me, and it was something of a dream come true,” Milchman said. “When he called, asking me to do an event, I didn’t even have to blink before saying yes.”
According to Milchman she didn’t just want it to be a signing. The author wanted it to be special for members of the community.
“People expressed interest in how I stuck with this for so long—trying to get published—and it got me thinking that lots of people have a dream they’re thinking about, or maybe one they put aside,” Milchman said. “An area moms’ group, as well as two writers’ groups, and friends I’ve made over the years will be coming.”
Milchman said she plans to speak a little about how she was “able to hang in there.”
“We’ll invite other people to come up and share a hope or dream of their own. There will be good food and drink—and hopefully some new friends to be made,” Milchman said.
While the book’s release and the event in Mendham are a dream come true for Milchman, she is quick to acknowledge the support system that allowed her to persevere. Milchman considers them all inspirations to her work.
“My parents taught me to follow a dream and my husband wouldn’t let me give up,” Milchman said. “And my third grade daughter comes up with images like ‘the wind herding clouds across the sky.’”