Milly Johnson

We are delighted to announce writer Milly Johnson as the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Achievement Award, in recognition of her extraordinary contribution to the field of romantic fiction. Milly will be presented with the trophy on Monday 2nd March at the annual Romantic Novel Awards at Leonardo Royal London City Hotel.

RNA President Katie Fforde said, “Milly Johnson is such a deserving recipient of this award. She is one of the shining stars of our industry.”

Milly Johnson was born, bred and still lives in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. She loved writing stories and dreamed of being an author, but thought that girls from a working class background could never aspire to those heights, until she discovered books by the great northern writers Catherine Cookson and Barnsley’s own Barry Hines.

She studied Drama and Education at Exeter University before deciding to follow her writing dream instead, encouraged by actress Shirley Stelfox of Emmerdale Farm fame.

After studying script-writing at university, Milly became a trainee accountant and at the same time began to write for a greetings card company, ghosting the hugely popular Purple Ronnie cards. Numerous other jobs followed, including sales, working in a furniture company, a mill, a plastics company making pooper-scoopers, and the offices of a cruise company where she was sacked for ‘having an accent better suited to the textile industry’.

Newly married following a whirlwind courtship, Milly moved to the Head Office of Asda in Leeds where she ran the Customer Suggestion scheme, until she was made redundant in the same week that she found out she was pregnant with her first child.

Milly went back to writing greeting cards, which she loved. But her marriage was becoming increasingly violent and abusive and after the birth of her second son, she found the courage to move back home to Barnsley and finally end the marriage. Her experience during this time gave Milly much insight into abusive relationships, which has informed storylines for several of her books.

At this point, Milly decided to write about what she knew. Whilst at Asda she’d been pregnant alongside two friends, and they’d created a community of women bonded by their bumps. She submitted a story based on her pregnancy diaries to agent Darley Anderson and was told ‘this is the one we’ve been waiting for’. It was 2004, the book was The Yorkshire Pudding Club and Simon & Schuster snapped it up. Milly had just turned 40.

With her readership building steadily, Milly found her way on to TV’s Come Dine with Me – and won. Her book sales rose 30%, she received hundreds of marriage proposals and a friend of a friend, called Pete, took her out for a coffee. They’ve been together ever since. 

Now one of the Top 10 Female Fiction authors in the UK, having written 17 novels and with millions of copies of her books sold across the world, Milly’s star continues to rise. Milly was chosen as one of the authors for The Reading Agency’s Quick Reads 2020 campaign. Her novella The Little Dreams of Lara Cliffe, published 20th February, is a story of hope, resilience and the importance of community, kindness and friendship. 

Milly’s life, like her writing, show that with drive and an indomitable spirit, life really can be magical.

Milly Johnson will be presented with the RNA’s 2020 Outstanding Achievement Award on Monday 2nd March at the Romantic Novel Awards at Leonardo Royal London City Hotel. Congratulations, Milly!

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