I love Milly Johnson's fabulous, down to earth writing and can't wait for her new book A SUMMER FLING to be released on the 29th April – yay!
1 – What is your average writing day like?
I start work as soon as the children are in school and the dog is walked – just after 9am. I ease myself into it by answering emails and then, when I’m in ‘the zone’, I stop periodically for a coffee and a stretch and then at 12am I promise myself ‘I’ll stop for a lunch in a few minutes’ but I get too involved in what I’m doing and before I know it, it’s 3.25pm and time to pick up the children – and I’m starving! I don’t work when the kids are around and needing my attention, but if they’re at their friends’ houses or ‘doing their own thing’ I’ll pick up where I left off. I find it very hard to switch off and relax – I’m a workaholic, but I love that. I always have a notepad around because inspiration can strike at any time. At the moment I work, on average, three days a week on my books, two days on being a copywriter for greetings cards. When I have spare time at the weekend, it’s spent on the books.
2 – In A Spring Affair, you conjured up Tom Broom, the most delicious love interest I have read about in a long time. Is he based on anyone you know?!
Alas – no, if only! Like all my heroes they are fantasy men but I did want my reader to feel they were ‘real’ and not too perfect and ‘attainable’. I have every confidence that there are real Tom Brooms out there. I like big men though and I want to find them sexy if I’m writing about them – if my hero can’t turn me on, he won’t turn my readers on.
3 – Can you tell us about your writing process – are you a planner or do you dive into the story and hope for the best?
When I wrote book 1, I went back and edited every single word I wrote in the first chapter and it took me a fortnight to finish! It didn’t help as I ended up scrapping it completely because it didn’t fit in when I’d written the rest of the story. When I think of an idea for a story, I more or less know the ending and a few key markers along the way, but I try and get the first draft down as quickly as possible to give me a framework – it doesn’t matter too much about detail at this stage. I head towards a marker but let the story develop a few twists and turns along the way, which is always a fascinating part of writing a book. Then the fun starts. The editing is the meaty bit and the moment for detail and an accurate time-frame.
4 – When you’re writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as visual inspiration for the characters? If so, have you got any examples?!
Sometimes characters are very loosely based physically on real people as a starting point, but characters have a very annoying habit of becoming their own person. In ‘A Summer Fling’ there is a guitar man who I visualized as very Chris Isaak in the beginning, but by the end he’d developed into someone even more gorgeous – and very much his own man. But I did want to keep that ‘flavour’ of Chris Isaak who always looks so much fun and warm as well as being so downright sexy. I could write about him then with conviction!
5 – What is your favourite women’s fiction book of all time and why?
I’m not a big classics reader but reading Jane Eyre had a major influence on me. I loved that Rochester was imperfect and not classically handsome but still incredibly sexually attractive. And that the heroine was plain and more identifiable with than beauties in books. It’s always been my favourite book – it’s got everything in it that I want – winning against adversity, heightened emotion, passion, a hero I find sexy, a big house and, of course, the happy ending!
6 – What do you think of the chick lit label? Are you happy for your books to be grouped into that category?
I’m split on this… I write literature for ‘chicks’ so I suppose the shoe fits and I don’t mind the classification. But I tend to think of ‘chick lit’ as concentrating on the fun and frothy aimed for young, footloose city girls and my stories sometimes contain very dark elements and involved storylines. Plus I’m lucky that my readership seems to reach from 20 to over 80 – so long as the label doesn’t put my older readers off, I’m not too concerned.
7 – How was your journey to getting published?
A long and winding road! I was 25 when I started sending books off for publication – but I was struggling to find a genre that fitted – and it showed. I got rejected a lot. I abandoned all dreams to write for a living a lot too, only for the yearning to see my name in print make me pick up my manuscript and have another go – many times. It wasn’t until I was 40 and full of life experiences that I realized I should be writing about friends and lovers in my home-town. But the name of the game is ‘persistence’. Once I had found my voice, I was determined not to give up until I was published.
8 – Can you tell us a bit about your plans for the future?
All I ever wanted to do was write books and that hasn’t changed. I want to carry on writing and building up my readership and public profile and I’ve got plenty of storylines waiting in the wings. But I have plans to write other genres too – I’m fascinated by the paranormal and I’m itching to have a crack at a crime novel – I have ideas simmering for those too. I’m also working on two factual projects – an anecdotal history of wrestling in our area and I’m writing the biography of my giant ‘Jaws’ lookalike and artist friend Gary Tiplady. But my romcom takes priority for now.
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