Worth Reading

Wicked River – An interview with Jenny Milchman

Tell us about your personal inspiration for this book. We hear your own honeymoon may not have gone as planned!
My husband and I were young, and didn’t have a lot of money. So we decided to cut costs by going camping near the inn where we got married. But what we didn’t know was that June is black fly season in the Adirondacks. We got chased out of the woods in a much more ignominious way than my characters did—but I always wondered, What might have happened if we hadn’t left? How bad could things have gotten? That question led to Wicked River.

This book has been called a “thinking woman’s thriller.” How does that separate your work from other mysteries or suspense novels?
I actually think that a lot of crime fiction makes people think, but the reader who said that about Wicked River was talking about two specific things. First, the novel opens up a question that doesn’t have one right answer: should Natalie and Doug stay married? And second, several of the characters, both the “good” guys and the “bad” believe they are doing the right thing, acting out of pure motives. This book gives the reader different levels to read on—there’s a fight for justice, but also an examination of human motivation and psychological damage.

Have you always been a writer?
According to my mother, since before I could write! Seriously, she tells stories about how I used to dictate words to her and ask her to write them down. I can definitely say that I always wanted to be a writer. But it wasn’t until I was working as a psychotherapist and got this really frightening case—a tiny, cherubic five year old girl who had just killed the family pet—that I realized I was meant to write crime fiction, and began my career.

Has writing this book been a different experience from your previous titles?
Wicked River has more ‘thriller’ in it than my other suspense novels—it’s cat stalking mouse through the woods where the mouse ultimately turns on the cat. But in many ways it’s a story similar to those I always write: a heroine gets thrust into a situation where she has to face the most damaged, frightened parts of herself—and overcome them to live the life she was meant to lead. My books end on a note of victory, and Wicked River is no different.

Q: Wicked River is a psychological thriller set in the wilderness, but it’s also the story of a marriage. Why do you think so many recent thrillers, from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl to Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, focus on different stages of the marital relationship?
A: Marriage is a crucible. It’s two people in one of the most pivotal, yet vulnerable, relationships of their lives. What better platform for the drama inherent to a good story? In Wicked River, I wanted to look at one of the most dramatic periods of this dramatic
relationship—the initial few weeks. So I sent my characters on their honeymoon.

Q: It’s not certain throughout the novel whether your characters, Natalie and Doug, should have gotten married in the first place. What is your personal view on couples who find their relationship in trouble?
A: I am grateful to have been raised by parents who celebrated their 55th anniversary last year, and are still going strong. That kind of example casts a long shadow, and I feel it in my own marriage. It’s about getting lucky—not every relationship can or should last—and then, once you’ve found the right person, being willing to delve into dark places, even when it hurts. I think Natalie and Doug learn how to do this in the woods.

Q: What do you hope readers will gain from reading Wicked River?
A: A bookseller once told me that she feels stronger as a person while reading one of my books. I hope readers will feel that way after they’ve rafted down that river with Natalie. That if it came to it, they would do what they needed to survive—and triumph.

Learn more and get your copy of Wicked River on Amazon

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Tags: ,

Comments are closed.