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Author uses real life drama as inspiration for debut novel
For novelists, it's often real life events that inspire the characters and plot twists in their books.
It was the haunting memory of a baby sitter's suicide threat that inspired Jenny Milchman to pen “Cover of Snow.”
The New Jersey-based author will visit Oklahoma City on Monday and Tulsa on Tuesday promoting her debut novel which is on bookstore shelves now.
When Milchman was 8, she vividly remembers the night her male baby sitter came into her bedroom and admitted to her that he planned to kill himself. Why would he tell her, an 8-year-old, this? Should she keep his secret?
“In years to come, I felt terrified that the decision had been left in my 8-year-old hands,” she said.
Fortunately for the baby sitter, Milchman blurted out the truth to her mother that night. The boy was found in his bed, alive but with an empty pill bottle next to him. Milchman's decision to tell the truth may have saved his life.
“I think that writers cast a net and the whole world goes into that net and you never know what's going to grab and become a novel,” Milchman said. “That incident was a moment that could have gone much, much worse.”
Nora Hamilton, the central character of “Cover of Snow” wasn't able to prevent the suicide of her husband. The book begins with her discovery of her dead husband.
“The book is about those moments, that if we don't play them right, they can end in disaster,” Milchman said. As the plot of “Cover of Snow” thickens, Nora begins unraveling a powerful conspiracy and facing hard truths she spent a lifetime avoiding.
Tackling a subject as serious as suicide isn't uncomfortable for Milchman. She spent much of her early career grappling with the mental health issues of her patients while she worked as a psychotherapist. She even worked in an emergency psychiatric ward.
“Unfortunately, life is not a suspense novel,” she said. “Suicide leaves so many questions unanswered. In this book I tried to answer those questions. I wanted there to be a sense of redemption. In real life you don't always get that.”
Milchman loved helping people during her psychology career, but the siren's call of writing never left her heart, she said. When a particularly intense case she was working started keeping her up at night, she sat down and started writing what would become her first novel.