1 May 2009
Author Interview: Milly Johnson
1. How did you get started writing books? Were you writing for long before you became published?
I’ve been writing books for as long as I can remember! I was always making my own with paper and staples and writing stories. I realised I wanted to make it my career when at University doing drama – (it shifted from being a hobby to a passion). Trouble was – I hadn’t gained enough life experience at 22 to write the sorts of books I do and my early attempts were doomed to failure. But all that ‘practice writing’ I did just helped me hone my craft, albeit that happened unconsciously. It took me 15 years from taking it seriously to getting published – but on and off, because sometimes I would abandon all attempts at trying to get published, only to resurrect my ambitions again later. 40 was the perfect age for me to get a book deal – my writing had matured and I had a lot of perspective of life – and had done a lot of living to write about. It sounds a long time, but it was worth the perseverance, I can tell you!
2. You've said that Lou Winter in your latest book "A Spring Affair" is loosely based on yourself. How did you feel about putting in a character that was so much like you into your book?
Characters have a habit of starting off quite closely based on a real person and then becoming their own people. Lou was a character that stayed quite close to me and I liked that because I could write about what happened to her with total conviction. The clutter-clearing adventure I had, which changed my life, inspired the book and so I could counter anyone that might say that what happened to Lou was nonsense (although no one has yet!) I didn’t mind exposing myself so much in her because both Lou and I are typical women, always moaning about our bum-size, but loving her food too much to diet and an awful lot of women out there relate to that, and that’s a big reason why my books sell. Lou is a decent, kind woman and it was a joy to write her the happy ending she deserved. I’m hoping she’ll leap out of the book and write one for me.
3. Could you choose any of your books as your favourite?
It’s a bit like saying ‘which is your favourite kid’ – honestly, because they’re your creations too and I love both my sons, even though they are very different (and I want to bash anyone who belittles them). I’m proud of my books because I put my heart and soul into all of them but I love them for different reasons. The Yorkshire Pudding Club is the grittiest and it was right that I wrote it first because it has a raw style that suits the book – and it was a celebration of my lovely friendships. The Birds and the Bees was the best fun to write. I spent a lot of time trying to make that plot believable with all its twists and turns and weaving birds and bees imagery into it. Plus the hero is THE one I would love to encounter in real life. And A Spring Affair is the book I feel ‘closest’ to and one I felt I had to write, if that doesn’t sound too up-myself!!
4. Who inspired you to start writing?
I don’t think anyone did initially – it was just always there in my make-up! My parents are totally non creative but my Nan was always reading and bought me lots of books and my Grandad was a miner who loved to write poetry and draw – I got their genes and their hips! My Grandad loved women with a bit of meat on them… can you spot an influence?
5. What is the best thing about being a published writer?
It’s not the wage, I can tell you! There are a few things that stand out. I’ve achieved my flag in the top of Mount Everest – whatever else happens I will die ‘a published author’. For less maudlin reasons, I love that I can bring people a bit of enjoyment (the way I get enjoyment from my fave authors) and I love the fact that $my life is so unpredictable – one minute I’m ironing, the next I’ve got an invitation to go to Milan. I’m not made for a quiet life… it’s the full Alton Towers for me. I could get a phone call from America to say they’re making a film of my book – it hasn’t happened yet, but it could. And it’s so exciting to get letters from people asking when my next book is out – that means I’m building up a readership and how nice is that? And I’m a total star-spotter. I get more and more invites to places where I can fill my sons’ autograph books. Plus I get free tickets to see WWE wrestling matches and get backstage to meet wrestlers. Which means I get major brownie points off my sons – for a couple of hours at least!
6. Will you be writing a fourth book, given that "A Spring Affair" has received such fantastic reviews? (please say yes!)
Book 4 is finished! My ladies of the Yorkshire Pudding Club make a brief return in it. I didn’t want to write a sequel because they have the potential to be disappointing, but I did want to revisit them again. Book 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are plotted too. One thing I don’t get short of is ideas.
Thank you so much to Milly for taking the time out to answer these questions for us!