Never quite brave enough to fully pursue the career she wanted – ie to be an actress – she hedged her bets with an academic degree. But at Uni, after spending summers in Wales with a load of actors, she realised that acting was not the glamorous career she was hoping for so she turned more to her equal love of writing. That said she didn’t actually believe, for a second that ordinary girls like her from northern working class backgrounds and no connections ‘made it’.
She turned to teaching which she didn’t enjoy and began training as an accountant – which had to be the worst job mismatch in history. Other boring jobs followed which were never going to satisfy as she knew that only writing books would make her happy.
In 1986 Milly rang around greetings card firms hoping to earn some pin-money by writing jokes and poems for the industry. She was contacted by a firm who set her on writing four-line humorous verse on a range that they foresaw being very successful – Purple Ronnie. She was one of the first writers on the project and worked occasionally writing copy until it became her full-time job in 1998 when she was made redundant whilst a month pregnant.
She had no success with the manuscripts she was sending in (the first one was a paranormal romance – she was ahead of her time it seems). She knew she could write, but couldn’t find her niche. And she kept giving up to concentrate on the day job, only for the urge to reappear and she would start again.
Milly married in 1995, but despite having two sons it wasn’t a happy marriage. It was a very abusive and destructive relationship from which she broke free in 2000. She was a single parent of two small boys writing rude jokes, poems and ditties for a living – and a very good living it was too. Milly joined Hallmark as a chief copywriter but it was rife with workplace bullies – something which she is now involved in highlighting and advising people on what to do if they find themselves in a similar situation.
In the year of her 40th birthday she decided to give the book thing one last crack and started penning a story about three pregnant friends, as she had been pregnant with both of her best friends. Milly sent off the manuscript, an agent snapped her up and found her a deal with a publisher immediately, and 2013 sees the release of her 9th book.
Like any astute author she has learned to be very PR savvy. Milly befriended her local newspapers, wrote free columns for them in exchange for advertising lineage. She is a regular on BBC Radio Sheffield for whom she occasionally presents for, it was also where she built up her following. She then appeared on BBC Breakfast news discussing Valentine’s Day greetings cards for the first time in 2007 and in 2010 she applied to do Come Dine with Me in Barnsley, got through the audition and ended up winning it. In 2012 she was invited to appear with Keith Lemon on his prime time TV show LemonAid – where she was hoisted up in a chair to appear for the full length of the show thirty feet up.
Milly has had many short stories printed in magazines and appeared in countless local, regional and national newspapers, and she writes a column for the local glossy. She’s an avid Twitterer and networker and is in much demand for speaking at functions – from charity events to Bishops’ Breakfasts, commanding large audiences and appearing on Radio Sheffield almost every week. She absolutely loves speaking – which appeals to the now-much-braver-actress in her.
Her books are available worldwide and she is one of the Sunday Times top ten list of bestsellers.
'Milly Johnson' is now recognised as a brand by her publishers and last year she was shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan Romantic Comedy Award.
Milly continues to live in the heart of Barnsley around the corner from her parents and next door to her children’s school. She shares her life with a household of furry animals, found her Prince Charming last year and still has many of the same friends she had at school.
The long and winding career path of wannabe writer Milly took her to the middle of Wales with a bunch of drunken actors, to careers in teaching, accountancy, telesales, furniture selling and joke-writing before she landed her first publishing deal. But, as she explains, she never would have become the locally recognised ‘Yorkshire Pudding Woman’ had the path been straighter.
SO WHAT IS IT THAT INSPIRES YOU?
The question Milly is asked more than any other – which she answers in this speech. Where she finds inspiration and how that translates into a story: expect tales of pregnancy, mad Glaswegians, Gypsy brides, war-brides, vampires - and her beloved Barnsley.
ME ME ME!
The weird, wonderful – and fun – world of self promotion as being an author isn’t just about writing books these days – it’s about being your own PR guru. Which is why Milly ended up talking about love poems on Breakfast TV, doing – and winning - Come Dine With Me and being hoisted up to the roof of a TV studio by Keith Lemon in an effort to gain publicity.
SO YOU WANT TO WRITE A BOOK DO YOU?
An intensive hour long Powerpoint supported lecture on all the writing tips which have worked for Milly and taken her career forward. There’s a lot of information to take in (giveaway handouts supplied with a précis of the main points) so a speech best suited to a lecture hall rather than an after-meal occasion.
CRUISING AND OTHER WAYS TO PUT ON THREE STONE IN A WEEK.
After years of thinking that a fortnight on a ship would be hell, Milly is now a die-hard cruiser and regular speaker on P&O ships. She couldn’t resist writing a book set on a ship after having such wonderful holidays on them. This speech will have cruisers nodding their heads in recognition as Milly shares her many spot-on observations of life aboard a cruise ship, which include missing it in Spain and being stranded with two children, no passports or clean pants.
BEING FIT AND FABULOUS AT FORTY-ODD… AND ALL THE OTHER STUFF I HAVEN’T MANAGED EITHER
Milly’s jolly observations about ageing, men, diet failures, gym memberships, middle-age dating. All the stuff of life that go into her books.
THE WEIRD AND WONDERFUL WORLD OF GREETINGS CARDS
For many years Milly was one of the country’s leading copywriters for the greetings card industry. This fascinating talk explains the secrets of writing copy for the industry, what works and why – expect jokes, surprises and daft poetry galore.
Milly will also tailor-make speeches if you have a particular theme you wish her to talk about. Past themes have included: Superstitions, The Joy of Friendship, Would you be Reincarnated as a Man or a Woman? Books which have been markers in my Life.