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.
Who Knew a Bunch of Killers Could Be So Wonderful?
by Jenny Milchman
The mystery world is a warm and welcoming one, as any frequent, or even not-so-frequent, visitor to this very blog knows. Kaye is the warmest and most welcoming mistress of mystery herself, and when she decided to venture forth in a whole new way, I think she also found the welcome I’m about to describe.
My introduction to the mystery world began when I attended a local MWA meeting at a downstairs bar and restaurant in New Jersey. I remember that Mary Jane Clark was a featured speaker. I hung around the periphery of where she was talking in a state of awe. After the dinner, the host asked for any news from attendees. I had mentioned to someone at my table that I’d recently signed with an agent, and when the call for news was made, my tablemate all but shoved my hand into the air.
“I have a literary agent,” I murmured into the crowd, and the whole room burst into applause. Even Mary Jane Clark was clapping.
What nobody in that room could’ve known was that I didn’t find this bit of news very applause-worthy. In fact, the agent I’d signed with was my third, and I knew all too well by then that agent doesn’t necessarily = book deal. I was writing my seventh unpublished suspense novel at the time to prove this corollary.
But when the writers and mystery lovers in that dim, wine-wet bar began clapping, something happened. I felt a sense of camaraderie that propelled me through my current novel, and even onto the eighth, which turned out to be the one that sold.
Yes, that third agent, about whom all the MWA members were happy, did indeed sell a novel of mine.
But she couldn’t have done it without another warm welcome from the mystery community.
What happened after that dinner? Well, I kept writing, and my agent started submitting. And as had occurred with my other novels and other agents, we got close. But the interested editors were always turned down by their editorial boards. No offer was made.
And then the mystery world began extending itself. Louise Penny, Timothy Hallinan, and Stefanie Pintoff all agreed to look at unpublished manuscripts of mine. If that didn’t exactly make NY publishing all of a sudden open its arms, for sure it enabled new submissions to be made.
And then one day another author agreed to read my manuscript. Nancy Pickard’s book, The Scent of Rain & Lightning, was being talked about everywhere that year. And Nancy had an editor she felt was uniquely suited to my work.
Nancy turned out to be right. And that’s how my debut novel finally came to sell.
Because of a warm welcome extended by the mystery community.
After my book sold, writers I’d admired for years, even decades, were there to say hello. Linwood Barclay, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Julia Spencer-Fleming, William Kent Krueger, Laura Lippman, Hank Phillipi Ryan…the list of favorite writers who, when I reached out to them, reached back goes on and on.
The world of mystery and thriller authors is the warmest I’ve ever found.
Not bad for a bunch of people who kill folks for a living, huh?
Jenny Milchman’s debut novel, Cover of Snow, will be published by Ballantine on January 15th.