Milly Johnson’s has always loved to write and her latest book A Summer Fling is in stores now. We got to know Milly a little bit better:
How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve always written stories, since I was a child. I’ve had a lifelong passion for writing but I didn’t know what I should be writing about to earn me that much coveted ‘published’ status. It was only when my children were born that I knew I should be writing about my home town and friendships, love and life here. I can’t remember life before I had a pen in my hand.
Tell us about your book, A Summer Fling…
It’s the story of five women of very different ages and backgrounds who bond at work. I used to work with some much older ladies and learned from that how friendship pushes aside all boundaries of age – I wanted to pay homage to them. Grace is the oldest woman in her mid-fifties who feels far too young to retire, although her husband is pressuring her to hand in her job.
Widow Christie is in her forties, the boss of the department, and the force who unites them. Anna has her fortieth birthday in the book and is in a very low state having been dumped by her philandering boyfriend for a much younger woman. Then a mysterious stranger promises to replace her mojo (I had a lot of fun with this vampiric hunk).
Then Dawn, in her thirties, is about to marry a most unsuitable man after falling in love with his family more than the man himself. And young Raychel in her twenties seems to have an idyllic set up with her husband Ben, but there are dark secrets with long shadows in her life. I loved writing this book – it was my biggest challenge yet because of the huge cast.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Summer Fling took me well over a year – but some books only take a few months – although I was working through the night like a mad woman!
Now I’ve dropped the day job and am just writing books so I anticipate I’ll get a first draft done in two-three months – and take another two -three months on editing and re-editing. I’m on two books a year now so I need to as streamlined as a Ferrari.
How did you get your “big break”?
One day I was cleaning out my house and filling up a skip and suddenly thought ‘what would happen if a woman didn’t just stop at clearing out her house but started clearing out people from her life?’ I sent a synopsis to an agent and they rang me wanting the full story.
When it was finished, I also sent in another part finished book I had been working on about three women friends who became pregnant at the same time – to show them that I wasn’t a one-trick pony. Pregnancy was a hot subject at the time and my agent asked me to finish that book also because it was a much stronger storyline to present to publishers. It was hard work having to write another book I can tell you – but luckily it paid off because the publishers bought it and my ‘skip’ book became number 3 – A Spring Affair.
Do you have any advice for those wanting to write a novel?
Don’t procrastinate – if you want to be a writer, write, write and keep writing as often as you can – don’t say ‘I’m going to write a book one day’. And read a lot! You’ll absorb so much style and vocabulary through your enjoyment of reading.
Stand back from your work too – read it aloud and see how it sounds, that gives you another perspective on what you have written. Read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ also – it’s full of sensible, easy digested advice. Writing is not a fluffy glamorous career – it’s hard work and not for the faint-hearted. We work for many years before we can even get a decent wage from it – so have realistic expectations. Develop a backbone of steel and prepare yourself for a lot of rejections. But if you are determined this is your calling – keep going because it’s the best job in the world.
How would you describe your writing style?
‘Natural’. Words flow out of me and feel very much as they come from my core. I don’t necessarily write the best English in my dialogues, but then people don’t speak like textbooks in real life.
Who are your favourite authors right now?
I love Lynda La Plante and Mo Hayder and Sophie Hannah. I’m waiting for Emma Kennedy to write another book because I just adored ‘The Tent, the Bucket and Me’. And of course the Brontes and Jane Austen will always be amongst those authors I read year after year.
What are you currently working on?
As from now I’m on two books a year. I’ve just finished ‘Here Come The Girls’ about four women who win a cruise and I’ve just started ‘Autumn Crush’ which will be published next Autumn. The book after that will pick up a thread from Summer Fling and then I’ve got a Winter book to do to complete the season series. Plus I’ve just been signed up to be a presenter on BBC Radio Sheffield so I’m walking around the house talking to myself – practising – a lot.
What’s one weird fact about Milly Johnson?
I have slept through two earthquakes. The first in Wales in the eighties, when I thought the noise was a chambermaid vacuuming the stairs – they evacuated the hotel and I was snoring happily away in my bed. The second in the last couple of years – I thought it was a lorry passing down the street.
How does it feel when you see each of your books in print for the first time?
I feel like a very proud mother and want everyone to love ‘my new baby.’
What does being a woman mean to you?
I wouldn’t want to change and be a man. I have loved everything about being a woman, the comradeship we find in other women, being pregnant, having roller coaster emotions (you take the rough with the smooth) – and having my hair done in wacky styles. I think men have a much easier time, but not necessarily a better one!
Beauty and Lace is an online magazine for women. We hope you enjoyed this article!