by Timothy Pike
In 1979, in Poughkeepsie, New York, a teenager was tortured and brutally murdered after wandering into an older neighbor’s backyard.
For attorney-turned-thriller-author Jodé Millman, that heinous killing hit close to home. Very close. “The tragedy stuck with me,” Jodé says, “not only because I knew the killer, but I knew the victim’s family and the attorneys and judges involved.”
It also served as the inspiration for her debut thriller novel, The Midnight Call, published by Immortal Works and released just last month.
Here’s a taste:
Late one August night, the phone rings, shattering the silence of the night. Jessie Martin, a pregnant attorney, answers it and hears what she never expected to hear: her mentor admitting that he’s just killed someone, and pleading for her help. Jessie rushes to his aid, unknowingly risking everything—her career, her relationship, her life, and her unborn child—to help save her friend’s life.
If you’re already intrigued, just wait until you read the first chapter.
Telling stories has always come naturally for Jodé, even if she didn’t always consider herself a writer. “As an attorney, I honed my skills as a storyteller since I was an advocate for my clients,” she explains. “It was my job to relate my client’s story in a convincing way to a judge, jury, or my adversary.”
From there, she learned to write fiction. She developed an interest in middle grade fiction—stories for kids ages 8–12—and even wrote a pre-teen novel about time travel, but it never saw the light of day.
“Although I’m mostly retired at this point, I still consider my occupation to be an attorney,” Jodé says, “but I like to say that currently, writing is my day job.” She also co-hosts a podcast, writes a blog, and stays actively involved in her community through philanthropy. “I believe in giving back to the community that has supported my family for generations,” she says, “so it is important to support such worthwhile causes as our library, schools, civics groups, and theaters.”
Her family has deep roots in the Hudson Valley, and Jodé even did a stint in the late 1970s as a rock ‘n’ roll DJ on a local radio station. “I’m basically a rock ‘n’ roll groupie at heart—always have been, always will be,” she says. “I have seen all of the Beatles in concert—but not together—and I’ve met everyone from Elton John to Ringo Starr.”
“I spent years outlining, researching, and thinking about my characters and the plot,” Jodé tells me. “I became so swept up in the pre-writing process that I was afraid to actually sit down and write the damn book.”
It was in 2009 that Jodé discovered thriller writing and got the idea for The Midnight Call. “I attended workshops, writing classes, and even started a critique group to start me on the path to publication,” she tells me.
Although there was plenty to learn, it all clicked not long after she started. “The thriller light bulb really went off at Thrillerfest in 2010, when I was introduced to the craft of pacing, story structure, characterization, and dialogue specifically designed for thrillers,” she says.
But even after all that, Jodé admits that The Midnight Call didn’t just flow out from under her pen. “Before I sat down to write the book, I spent years outlining, researching, and thinking about my characters and the plot,” she says. “I became so swept up in the pre-writing process that in retrospect, I think I was afraid to actually commit to the writing process by sitting down and writing the damn book.”
At that point it was sink or swim, so Jodé rose to the occasion. “There were days when I felt like quitting,” she says, “but I always felt that I had stories in me to tell, whether or not anyone ever read them. I wanted—and needed—to write them. So I kept writing. Many of my writer friends tell me that it was not until after their fifth, seventh, or eighth book was written that they became published.”
Knowing that she was now in it for the long haul, Jodé hunkered down and got it done, one day at a time. “I know it’s a cliché, but writing is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” she says. “It took me ten years to have a novel published. It’s difficult to know when to finally put the pen down. I could rewrite the book forever, but realistically, I had to let go and send the manuscript off to the publisher.”
“There were days when I felt like quitting,” says Jodé, “but I always felt that I had stories in me to tell, whether or not anyone ever read them. I needed to write them, so I kept writing.”
Letting go is just one fear among many for writers, and when it comes to fear, Jodé knows she’s not alone. “I think that all writers are afraid of failure,” she says. “Failure to finish writing the book, failure to produce an enjoyable book, failure to become published, failure to sell any copies except to your family. The trick is not to let the fear paralyze you. Face fear and overcome it. Let fear inspire you to try something new, like writing. Take the hurdles one at a time and proceed forward. Most of all, have fun! That was the mantra that propelled me along.”
It’s clear that Jodé’s persistence, especially on social media, paid off. “On a lark, I entered a Twitter pitch contest,” she explains. “Immortal Works liked my work, asked for a few chapters, and then the full manuscript. After so many struggles, I was so happy and proud that they took a chance on my work and me.”
As she celebrates her book launch—a major milestone in her writing career—Jodé continues to focus on what she sees as the real prize. “Having readers read and enjoy The Midnight Call is the absolute reward,” she says. “It’s thrilling when I receive an email from a reader saying that they’ve connected with my material.”
It’s that connection with her readers that keeps Jodé going, and not surprisingly, she’s already working on her next book, which is about eight local women who mysteriously vanish. “My work-in-progress, Hooker Avenue, is inspired by true crime in Poughkeepsie,” she tells me. “Living through the investigation along with the community, I was struck by the sadness of the story and the resolution of the criminal investigation.”
As difficult as it may be for Jodé to immerse herself in the horrifying details of these events in order to craft her narratives, local crime stories have provided her with a wellspring of material, so expect more books from this talented author.
“As long as Poughkeepsie has juicy crimes,” she promises, “I’ll continue to write.”
Start reading The Midnight Call on ChapterBuzz right now, and become Jodé’s next Fan. You can connect with Jodé on her website or Facebook page, and be sure to pick up a copy of The Midnight Call on Amazon!
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