Monday, September 21, 2020

Jenny Milchman

Jenny Milchman is the USA Today bestselling Mary Higgins Clark award winning author of five psychological thrillers, including Wicked River and The Second Mother.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Oh, how I hope the title takes readers into the story! We struggled with it like crazy, and the original title was completely different. It was the name of the island where The Second Mother is set.

My editor pointed out that all of my previous titles concern nature, setting, weather, and that while those are elements in my work, they miss a psychological dimension that is also there.

When The Second Mother came to me, it was like a jab to the skin. I hope it opens up all sorts of mysterious questions in the reader’s mind. What is meant by the “second” mother? Who will she turn out to be in the book? Is there a “first” mother? And if so, what happened to her?

The Second Mother is about the mystery of how families are made—and undone.

What's in a name?

The most straightforward answer to this is to talk about Callum McCarthy, the warm, fierce, tormented Irish immigrant with whom my heroine starts to fall in love. Callum’s last name was chosen by a reader who won a contest and wanted to memorialize a lost friend.

But a slightly deeper answer would be to talk about the sheriff, Tim Lurcquer, who lives far away but drops in on the novel at key points, wise and observing, and who offers one tip that sends the novel reeling in a new direction—and the right one—at a necessary time.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

Could we make the teenage me just a tad older—early twenties? Because in that case, not surprised at all. The Second Mother is about a woman who accepts a post as teacher in a one-room schoolhouse on a remote island off the coast of Maine—and at that age, I was considering applying for such a position.

Teenage me would be surprised, shocked, stunned that I’m a published novelist. Dreams—even unvoiced ones—really do come true.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I loved writing the beginning of The Second Mother. It’s the business-as-usual part—the calm before Julie upends her whole life and moves to Mercy Island. And Julie’s life is going so dreadfully badly—things just have to change. I loved seeing her prepare, pack everything up, anticipate her fresh start. She has no idea that even the freshest of new starts can turn rotten.

But I loved writing the ending even more. Because out of all those bad things comes, finally, triumph—and it was so much fun to watch Julie fight her way to victory.

I fear I didn’t answer your question exactly. But hopefully I did make readers want to learn who my heroine has to defeat—and how she does it.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

They’re stronger than I am. But they’re all outsiders like me. They’re who I would be in my wildest dreams of battle. They’re my role models, my inspiration, and my heroes. They’re who I hope I would be if I had to.
Learn more about the book and author at Jenny Milchman's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Second Mother.

The Page 69 Test: The Second Mother.

--Marshal Zeringue