Today it's my pleasure to be shining the spotlight on author Jodé Millman and her debut novel The Midnight Call.
Visit her at www.jodesusanmillman.com or on Facebook @JodeSusanMillmanAuthor.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey?
My writing journey began with my father, Sandy Millman. In 1998, he’d authored a guidebook to Broadway called “Seats: New York - 180 Seating plans to New York Metro Area Theatres, Concert Halls and Stadiums.” When he unexpectedly passed away, Hal Leonard Publishing asked me to promote the book and to continue the best-selling series in his absence. It has been a great honor and homage to my Dad to be able to continue his legacy.
Around 2010, the internet rendered the book obsolete, so I decided it was time to start the novel that I’d had brewing in my head for so long.
From that point through 2018, the road was bumpy. It took me about three or four years to write “The Midnight Call,” and like every writer, I received numerous agent rejections. In 2015, I was signed by an agency, but shortly thereafter, I lost my agent to an illness.
Then, in 2018, I finally I got a break. I entered #PitMad twitter contest, and was discovered by my publisher, Immortal Works. My publisher is very author-oriented, and have been wonderfully communicative and supportive throughout the publication process.
You never know what is waiting around the corner.
If you had to give an elevator pitch for The Midnight Call, what would it be?
A pregnant attorney unknowingly risks her career, her relationship, her life and unborn child to aid her mentor when he’s accused of murder.
Who would ever suspect that their mentor, teacher, and friend is a cold-blooded killer?
Attorney Jessie Martin didn’t—at least not until she answers the midnight call.
Late one August night, Jessie’s lifelong mentor and friend—and presently a popular, charismatic, and handsome high school teacher—Terrence Butterfield calls. He utters a startling admission: he’s killed someone. He pleads for Jessie’s help, so out of loyalty she rushes to his aid completely unaware that she’s risking her relationship, her career, and her life—and that of her unborn child—to help Terrence.
Does Jessie’s presence at Terrence’s home implicate her in the gruesome murder of the teenage boy found in the basement? Why does Terrence betray Jessie when he has a chance to exonerate her of any charges? Has he been a monster in disguise for all these years?
To reclaim her life and prove her innocence, Jessie must untangle the web of lies and reveal the shocking truths behind the homicide. This quest turns out to be the fight of her life: to preserve everything and everyone she holds dear.
Where did the inspiration for The Midnight Call come from?
The inspiration for the debut novel was a gruesome crime that occured in my hometown of Poughkeepsie, NY in 1978. My former history teacher, a very popular guy, murdered a teen that was trespassing through his yard late one summer night. The murder was completely random, and apparently caused by a psychotic breakdown.
As a local attorney, I was acquainted with the victim’s family, the judges, the prosecutor and the police involved. To this day, the homicide continues to rock my community to its core.
For years, the crime haunted me and I followed its outcome closely. I couldn’t believe that I actually knew a murderer and that any one my friends, including myself, could have been his target.
I believed that the essence of the story – a teacher murdering a student – would make a great thriller, so I wrote my debut thriller, The Midnight Call
Which comes first for you, characters or the plot?
That’s like asking what comes first the chicken or the egg. It’s the plot that moves the story forward, but it’s the characters that engage the reader. There’s nothing like falling in love with great characters. They become your friends on a wonderful journey that you don’t want to end.
I find that I often remember miniscule details about the characters, but can only recall the broad strokes of the plots! It must be the way my mind works.
What is the first book that you read that made you think 'I would like to write something like that one day'?
I’m an avid reader, and have a Masters in English Literature, so it was my admiration for writers that made me want to write, rather than a specific book. Clearly, Nancy Drew hooked me on mystery, Elmore Leonard hooked me on suspense, Hemingway hooked me on language, Harper Lee hooked me on the law, but the list is endless. Each author has broaden my perspective on the beauty and sublety of the English language and storytelling.
What advice would you give to any other aspiring authors?
Learn your craft. Being a reader doesn’t guarantee that you understand the intracacies of writing a novel. Join a writers organization and take classes to learn the basic structure, plotting, dialogue, characterization, pacing and the other skills to craft a novel. Joining International Thriller Writers was a game changer for me. By attending Thrillerfest, I’ve made new friends, joined a supportive writer’s community, have taken classes, interacted with agents and editors, and learned more about writing than any source book could have taught me.
Also, never give up. Getting published is “a marathon, not a sprint.”
If you could write in a collaboration with another author, who would you like to write with and why?
Hands down, I’d write with Louise Penny. She is a master of storytelling and keeps the reader on edge on every page. Her style is breezy, almost cozy, but she grapples with real life contemporary issues. Her complicated mysteries always keep me guessing, and there’s always an amazing resolution to the crime. I’ve read ten in her Armand Gamache series and can’t wait for the next one due out this summer.
And finally what can we expect from you next?
I’ve completed the first draft of my next novel, tentatively titled “Hooker Avenue”, and I’m steeped in the revision process. Given the world’s situation, my insolation is allowing me to write like a madwoman. I view the first draft like a piece of marble, and I’m the sculptor who gets to chisel it into a piece of art.
I’m also writing book reviews for Booktrib.com, which is something new and fun. I’ve been introduced to many different genres so it keeps me in touch with the world of publishing, and it’s reminscent of my post-grad days of reading with a critical eye. And, there’s always my quarterly publishing law column in the Sisters-in-Crime newsletter, InSinC.
There’s plenty to keep me busy!