Jodé Millman Interview (Hooker Avenue)

Today we journey to the scenic Hudson Valley in New York, and interview Jodé Millman, a Poughkeepsie native, whose 2nd book in the Queen City Crime series, “Hooker Avenue” was published in April of 2022 and is available online and at all leading purveyors of books. Jodé has had a wonderfully varied career and we are really pleased to present her interview here on ViewsonBooks.com.

Interview

Jodé, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions. I think you have a fascinating life story!

Let’s start at the beginning, you went to law school in New York but then went to Michigan to obtain a Masters Degree in English Literature. What prompted that move from Law to Literature and when did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?

My two advanced degrees occurred at very different points in my life. I attended Syracuse College of Law and NYU Law School directly after college.

I was interested in Intellectual Property, and at that time SU didn’t have the advanced courses, so I transferred to NYU. I went on to practice law, including music and publishing law, for many years in New York. When my husband received a job transfer to Michigan, closed my law office when our family relocated to Ann Arbor. At that point, my focus shifted to writing and reading. Ironically, that is when I continued the SEATS guidebooks and sought my Masters degree in Law and Literature. You see, the pieces all fit together like a puzzle or solving a mystery.

Have you ever practiced law? I see your grandfather was a criminal defense attorney. Was he the only lawyer in the family?

I’m still practicing law! Just on a very, very part-time basis. I’m concentrating on writing my Queen City Crime Series. My grandfather, R. L. Bainder, Esq. set the stage for the legal profession in our family and unknowingly inspired his grandchildren to follow in his footsteps. He reminded me of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” kind, intelligent and just. We have three attorneys in my immediate family to continue his tradition: two first cousins, and myself. 

Before you began writing novels you wrote a highly successful New York Theater guidebook. What was your thought process to begin your writing career by authoring such a guidebook?

Actually, I inherited the SEATS theater guide series. My father, Sandy Millman, was the original author and innovator of the book. He unexpectedly passed away shortly after the book’s release, and his publishing company, Applause Theater and Cinema Books, asked me to step in for the promotional book tour. SEATS became an instant bestseller and Applause suggested that I in take on the series. The rest is history.

In addition to the guidebook, you also have a podcast “Backstage with the Bardavon”, could you tell us this project? 

In Poughkeepsie, New York where I live, we have the oldest continuously operating theater in the country—The Bardavon 1869 Opera House. Luminaries such as Mark Twain, The Barrymores, Frank Sinatra, John Legend, Santana and Aretha Franklin have graced its stage. My co-producer, Pat Watson, and I came up with the idea to help preserve the history behind the theater, by interviewing artists, entertainers, and musicians who have had a relationship with the Bardavon. We’ve interviewed musicians like Danny Louis from Government Mule, John Hall of Orleans, and Folk Singer Dar Williams, and the Mummenschantz Puppets, and Phillip Petit, who walked the wire between the Twin Towers. It’s been exciting to meet such diverse and interesting people who have contributed to the success of the Bardavon. And it’s inspiring to meet artistic people from outside the literary genre.

What prompted the move into writing novels? And, you are one in a line of attorneys turned author, who are your favorite authors?

I felt I had stories to tell. I believe that attorneys are storytellers. It is my job to convey my client’s story to a judge, a jury and opposing counsel and writing novels was a natural progression from legal storytelling to fiction.  And the novels I write are a blend of both.

My favorite authors range from Mark Twain to Ayn Rand to Don DeLillo to Elmore Leonard. In my genre, I’m addicted to Ann Cleeves, Louise Penny and M.C.Beaton. For historical novels, I prefer Diana Gabaldon and Geraldine Brooks. As you can see, I try to be well rounded when I pick up a book. You never know what you will find inside the covers.

Are all the crimes in your Queen City Crimes series inspired by actual crimes in Poughkeepsie? 

Yes. The Hudson Valley has been the setting for numerous thrilling crimes. In my first two novels, I had a personal connection to the crimes. The teacher who inspired “The Midnight Call” was my junior high school history teacher, and the missing women from “Hooker Avenue” were actually sex workers who were solicited on the steps of my law office. Pretty chilling, right?

Because of the Queen City Crime Series, readers contact me with their story ideas based upon local crimes. People really get into it! They love true crime!

Do you have a favorite character in your series? As a reader, I really like Ebony Jones. 

Since I consider all of my characters as my kids, I would be a bad mother if I chose one over another. But, Ebony is a bit of a kick-ass. She has a cameo in “The Midnight Call,” and when I wanted a female detective with a trunk full of issues and a fighting spirit, Ebony was the natural choice to take on one of the leads in “Hooker Avenue.” Being bi-racial, a female and the only detective on the force, she has to work harder than anyone else to prove herself. Sometimes her methods are ruled by her impetuousness, but she has keen instincts and her heart is always in the right place.

Give our readers a bit of an overview of the plot and characters in “Hooker Avenue.”

Attorney, single-mom Jessie Martin is seeking redemption after being unfairly associated with the killer in “The Midnight Call.” One summer night, Jessie is driving down the road during a storm, and spies a person drowning in a storm drain. When she rushes to help, she’s unaware that being a Good Samaritan will thrust her in the path of a wily sex-worker, a serial killer and her estranged best friend, Detective Ebony Jones. Ebony is investigating a string of cold cases involving missing sex workers, and believes that the woman in the ditch could be the key to unlocking her cases. However, she and Jessie become embroiled in professional, ethical and personal conflicts when the sex worker becomes Jessie’s boss’s client. Can they overcome their issues to catch a killer?

Have you begun writing your next book? Will it be the 3rd book in the series or are you moving in other directions?

I’m currently working on “Book Three” of the Queen City Crime Series. Ebony, Jessie, Hal and the gang return, with Hal’s former assistant, the newly minted DA, Cindie Tarrico takes the stage. Without revealing any spoilers, one of the characters will lose someone near and dear to them, and the action shifts from the land to a boating accident on the murky and mysterious waters of the Hudson River. Was it an accident, suicide or murder?

Do you have a daily writing schedule? When do you usually make time to write?

 I write every day. It is part of my daily routine, and I’m at the computer from noon onward. Sometimes I get so caught up in my writing, that I lose all track of time. That’s when I know I’m onto something big!

I find it refreshing that your books are set in your hometown of Poughkeepsie, but do you get any pushback from people in the area because of crimes you write about?

Certainly, there is a degree of sadness associated with these tragic crimes, but mostly, my readers have been extremely supportive and fascinated by my novels. They enjoy discussing the true crimes behind the scenes and their personal experiences with the true life “villains.” During my recent “Hooker Avenue” book tour, I met folks who worked with Kendall Francois, the real-life serial killer, who inspired the novel, a woman who worked with his mother, and someone who when to college with him. 

These personal experiences, like my own, make the novels seem real to my readers.

What I try to accomplish in my novels is to take the seed of the actual crime, and insert my characters in the plot, in a “what if” fashion. “What if” Jessie saved a mysterious woman who was actually a survivor of a serial killer?

And in “Hooker Avenue,” Ebony gives a voice to those victims of missing persons cold cases, who cannot speak for themselves. I hope to do that for the victims of crimes, too.

So you have Podcasts, Theater Guidebooks, and best selling crime novels, are there other areas you want to write or podcast about?

There are so many delicious Hudson Valley crimes to write about that they will probably occupy my writing life for a while. However, sometimes, I daydream about writing a Rom-Com or Sci-Fi novel, but there would probably be a crime in them, too!

I just want to say thanks for spending a few moments with us, but before we go could you please tell us about the educational program you created, “The Writers Law School.” 

I developed “The Writer’s Law School” because I recognized the need to instruct writers and artists on protecting their legal rights. I had done this work with my law clients, but I wanted to “give back” to the artistic and writing community, which has been supportive of me in pursuing my publishing career.

Writers don’t think about copyrights, trademarks, Fair Use, defamation in their daily writing lives. Also, they often enter into publishing contracts in a blind fashion. I hope that through my short program, writers will grasp the legal basics in easy to understand language, so they can wear their business and writer hats simultaneously.

And I provide a list of great references to send them along their road to publication and legal protection.

I love the questions that attendees ask, and their questions often guide my revisions of the programs. I want to my presentations to be up-to-date on the current state of the law, and I revise it quite often. 

I guess I’m a writer at heart. WRITE, REVISE, REVISE, REVISE!

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