EiSJ Interview with…Jen A. Miller

Back in 2009, we were asked to do an interview for njmonthly.com about our blog. The person conducting the interview was Jen A. Miller, a prolific writer on the subject of South Jersey and the Jersey shore in particular. Jen took an interest to our blog early on and was very supportive of our efforts. So it is great to be able to finally return the favor and give Jen some time on our site. The second edition of her book “The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May” is now available, and it is a fun, enjoyable and informative read. Even if you know the shore area, there’s information in the book that you can appreciate as well. We’re very glad that Jen took some time to answer a few questions.

EiSJ: So…lots of research and two editions written over four years. Would you call this experience a pure labor of love, or did you find it tough going at times?

Jen: The amount of work that has gone into each book means that it can’t be a pure labor of love – and the same thing goes with the blogging. I tell aspiring authors that they better really love the topic they want to write about because it’s going to be their lives for the duration of the writing and editing process, and then for the publicity you have to do after that.

Writing, especially travel writing, can also be very isolating. Most of the time, you’re by yourself. It gets lonely. Then again, that makes it easier to see as many places as possible in one day, and there’s no one to argue with except yourself. I learned a lot about restaurants dining solo, too. Plus, if you sit at the bar and talk to the bartenders, they’ll give you inside information that you wouldn’t get otherwise.

EiSJ: Has this four-year journey changed your perspective regarding the Jersey shore? Do you appreciate it even more?

Jen: Let me put it this way: I’m tired, as you can imagine. With the new book and my actual real job, it’s pretty busy. I’m also writing about the Jersey Shore, answering questions from readers, doing interviews – for a stretch there, it was Jersey Shore all the time. But last weekend, I hit the shore for a book signing and decided to take some R&R on the beach. Those three hours were pure bliss. I keep finding things on every visit, and it astounds me how fascinating one small area of one small state can be. I’m also going on vacation in Avalon. You’d think I want to get away, right? (though I am going on a non-shore trip in September. Shhh…)

EiSJ: Do you consider “down the shore” part of South Jersey, or is it in its own little world?

Jen: It’s part of South Jersey, but I’d think of them as cousins. Related with a lot of share genes but still different. The shore communities have different geography, and face different challenges. I think you can further divide up the shore, too. The barrier islands of Strathmere/Sea Isle, Avalon/Stone Harbor and the Wildwoods have very different make ups than, say, Cape May, which is attached to the mainland.

EiSJ: What’s one shore town that gets overlooked food-wise?

Jen: Atlantic City. I know, and you guys know, how absolutely stunning AC’s dining scene can be, but out-of-towners just see casinos and think “steak house, seafood and noodle bar, that’s it.” But since the early part of this century, casino dining has really stepped it up. I mean, have you been to Izakaya?{EISJ: Yes, we have! You can check out our review of it back in 2009 here.} It’s unbelievable. I think out-of-towners also overlook the fantastic non-casino restaurants that have been there forever, like Dock’s, Knife & Fork, Angelo’s. There is a very vibrant scene there, but since it’s Atlantic City with its own issues and problems, a lot of people will skip it over. I wrote about this extensively for the summer issue of Edible Jersey Magazine, which will be out soon.

EiSJ: If you wanted to blow the doors off someone who might think the shore doesn’t offer any really good dining experiences, where would you go, and why?

Jen: Cape May, and I’d take them there in the fall so they would see that not only are there fantastic restaurants down the shore, but that the area doesn’t button up after Labor Day.

EiSJ: You’ve been pretty adamant in your dislike of the “Jersey Shore” TV show. Are there any other stereotypes about the shore you would like to see obliterated?

Jen: That it’s dirty. Far from it.

EiSJ: What’s your favorite restaurant in South Jersey right now?

Jen: The Rusty Nail in Cape May. I’ve eaten there twice already this summer and it’s not even really summer yet. They do great things with simple meals. Have you had the fried pickles? PLEASE get them.

EiSJ: Which South Jersey town do you think is the best for food: Cape May, Collingswood or Atlantic City?

Jen: They’re all awesome. I could have been a politican, right?

EiSJ: Be honest: how much input did Emily {Note: Jen’s little doggie} have in the book?

Jen: She made sure that included a photo of her in the book. She did so by staring at me while I put the book together. She’s very convincing.

EiSJ: Bigger thrill: seeing your book in print for the very first time, or the Phillies winning the World Series?

Jen: I was actually on assignment when the Phillies won the World Series, covering the aftermath of victory (which was really tame, especially compared to what just happened in Vancouver). I’d say for the flash moment of it, World Series. But what gives me greater joy? Not really seeing the book in stores, but getting emails and tweets from people who bought it and loved it. That’s the biggest thrill.

Jen is currently in the middle of a book promotion tour. If you want to say hi, get a copy of the book, or both, you can see her at the Haddonfield Library tonight at 7PM, at the Shamrock in Wildwood on Saturday (6/25) from 5PM to 8PM, or at The Pop Shop in Collingswood next Monday (she will he hosting trivia that night).


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