Jodé Millman - Witty, Smart, and Entertaining Legal Thriller
Jodé Millman is the author of the best-selling SEATS: NEW YORK Theatre guidebooks. Her debut novel, THE MIDNIGHT CALL, which was published by Immortal Works in June 2019, received the 2020 Bronze IPPY award for Suspense, was short-listed for the Clue Award and was designated as “Best Police Procedural” by Chantireviews.com. She is an attorney, book reviewer for Booktrib.com, a regular columnist with Sisters In Crime about publishing law, and is the co-host and co-producer of the popular podcast Backstage with the Bardavon (available on iTunes, Spotify, and GooglePlay). Jodé lives with her family in the Hudson Valley, where she is at work on her next novel. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, The Midnight Call.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Midnight Call is about.
Late one night, Attorney Jessie Martin’s mentor and popular high school teacher Terrence Butterfield calls, admits he’s killed someone and pleads for Jessie’s help. She rushes to his aid, unaware that she’s risking her love, her career, her life and her unborn child. When the police arrive, her presence raises questions concerning her role in the slaughter of the teenage boy found in Terrence’s basement. Did Terrence call her as a lawyer or a friend? Was she somehow responsible for the murder? To prove her innocence, Jessie must untangle the web of betrayals and the shocking truths behind the homicide.
What inspired The Midnight Call? Was there something in particular that made you want to write this book?
The murder was inspired by a brutal homicide that occurred in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1979. Similar to THE MIDNIGHT CALL, the true crime was committed by a popular teacher who brutally maimed and butchered a student who was randomly trespassing through his yard late one night. The actual incident is personal to me because I had been one of the real killer’s students. Also, I knew the victim’s family, the judges and the attorneys involved. To this day, our community still remains in shock over this tragedy.
Tell us more about Jesse Martin. What makes her so special?
Being a debut novelist, I wanted to write what I knew, and being a female attorney in a male-dominated profession was something that I’d lived and breathed for decades. While gender politics within the legal profession have changed since I attended law school, the American Bar Association reports that in 2018 only thirty-five percent of all lawyers were female. I wanted Jessie Martin, Esq., a relative rookie attorney, to feel the pressure of the bias and struggle against it, creating the tension that she must constantly prove herself, overachieve, to attain her goal of partnership.
This book was well-received, receiving the 2020 Bronze IPPY award for Suspense. What has the experience been like so far?
Since the release of THE MIDNIGHT CALL in June 2019, it has been quite a ride. I was lucky to be able to travel around the U.S. to bookstores and events last summer, and I was able to meet new readers who enjoyed my novel. I’ve been so gratified to be supported by my readers, my publisher – Immortal Works, and the writing community. The novel blends the genres of thriller, romance, mystery, and suspense, so it’s also been wonderful to be recognized by the publishing community as well (The Bronze IPPY). And THE MIDNIGHT CALL is also a finalist in numerous Romance writing competition as well.
How much have you drawn on your own experiences as an attorney to write The Midnight Call?
As a litigator, I observed, first-hand, the darker side of human nature. Revenge, greed, anger, and betrayal transformed people who once loved each other or worked together into mortal enemies. Observing these intense emotions inspired me to write about law, dig deeper into the mystery of the human psyche, and in the case of THE MIDNIGHT CALL, to examine what would lead someone to randomly steal the life of a complete stranger.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I don’t know if it’s hidden or secret, but I’m a watercolor painter and photographer. I’ve been painting since grade school and minored in art in college. Also, I hit a mean golf ball! This season we installed a veggie garden, so it’s yet to be seen whether my thumb is truly green.
Readers say this book had them at the edge of their seats throughout. How did you pull this off?
I believe in blending genres –thriller, crime, romance and action. When we read a novel, we want our characters to be three-dimensional and have true, believable lives. Simply because my characters’ lives are in jeopardy, that doesn’t preclude them from experiencing a passionate love life. Love always raises the stakes, creating tension to propel our characters, as well as the readers, forward. By incorporating crime, romance, office politics and courtroom drama, I hope to keep my readers on the edge of their seats.
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
I’m so pleased about the cover of THE MIDNIGHT CALL and I was very fortunate that my publisher, Immortal Works, assigned an amazing artist, Ashley Litersky, to capture the essence of the novel. I sent them a wish list of ideas, and it took only one minor revision to make it perfect.
Was there a particular character whose voice you found it easiest to write in?
Mo Esposito, Jeremy Kaplan’s legal secretary, has achieved that honor. She is totally unfiltered, unconditionally committed to her boss, and gets the job done with flair.
Which of your characters has been the most challenging to write for?
Definitely, my protagonist, Jessie Martin. Once Jessie answered the midnight call and made the decision to rush to the aid of her friend, teacher, and confidante, Terrence Butterfield, the ancillary issues of Jessie’s life came into play. It took time to develop the stakes for this young woman, but once I did, they came rushing out: a troubled pregnancy, a strained relationship, loss of her job, betrayal by a loved one, and two old loves resurfacing - one good, one evil. I wanted Jessie’s life to become messy, like real life, so readers could sympathize with her, root for her successes, and forgive her failures.
These internal and external issues were balanced against the main plot of the novel. For Jessie, Terrence Butterfield was her high school teacher, the person who encouraged her to become an attorney, her father’s best friend, and the keeper of her darkest secrets. The combination of Jessie’s deep emotional attachment to Terrence and her duty as an attorney propel her to act, without question, to help save Terrence’s life.
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
Without a doubt, the first line of my book is my favorite.
“I think I killed someone,” the man’s voice whispered across the phone line.
It was designed to hook the reader and entice them to discover who and what is going on. The fist line is a nice bookend to the last line in the novel, which is a cliffhanger spoken by the same character, the killer – Terence Butterfield. I’ve received numerous comments about that last line!
Talk to us about your writing routine; what’s a typical writing day for you?
I write every day for at least four to five hours a day because it’s important to me to keep a close connection with my projects. It helps with continuity and flow.
The practice of law has provided me with four essential craft skills that I’ve been able to incorporate into my writing: discipline, vocabulary, plotting, and research. As a result, I spend a great deal of time outlining my stories. Since they’re based on true crimes, I start with a seedling for my novels, and then my characters come to life in the context of those crimes.
Unfortunately, attorneys are not trained to be “brief” and over-writing is a difficult habit to break. However, my insider access to the judicial and criminal justice systems is at the heart of my novels.
What are you working on right now?
Presently, I’ve finished the first draft of my next novel, HOOKER AVENUE. It is the second installment in what I would like to call the Queen City Crime Series as each novel will be inspired by true crimes occurring in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. – “The Queen City of the Hudson”. In HOOKER AVENUE, when a mysterious woman darts in from of Jessie Martin’s car during a spring thunderstorm, Jessie and Detective Ebony Jones are thrown together to investigate a series of missing women in the Hudson Valley. The story was inspired by the mystery surrounding the disappearance of eight local women in the late 1980s. An FBI task force led to the eventual arrest and conviction of a serial killer, Kendall Francois, who solicited prostitutes, murdered them and buried them in his house. Once again, I have a personal connection to the crimes as Francois resided with his family about five blocks away from my home, and he solicited some of the women at the curb outside of my law office. The story is another chilling chapter in the bizarre history of the Hudson Valley, and I’m excited that my characters can bring the tale to life.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Readers can contact me at my website, www.jodesusanmillman.com. I love hearing from readers and always reply to emails. My website has news, reviews, newsletter sign-up, contests, and sneak peeks on what’s happening in my writing life. My life is an open book!
If you’re a member of Sisters in Crime, I write a regular publishing law column for their quarterly newsletter, InSinC, and I’m a book reviewer for Booktrib.com.
Also, I’m active on social media on Facebook at JodeSusanMillmanAuthor and on Instagram, Goodreads, and Bookbub at JodeMillmanAuthor. I lurk on Twitter @worldseats, but if you want to check out my artwork, garden, book reviews, and my legal column, Facebook’s your best bet.