VIDEO: “I get lovely perks - but it’s still a job” - Milly Johnson

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As she taps away at her keyboard, Hernán Crespo slips through Milly’s ankles and rubs himself against her leg.

I should mention at this point that Hernán Crespo is her cat - not the retired Argentine footballer.

Author Milly Johnson. Picture: Andrew Roe

Author Milly Johnson. Picture: Andrew Roe

Nearby Teddy the Eurasier dog yawns as he settles himself by the kitchen door, and brother cats Vincent and Theo look on curiously.

They say writing can be a lonely occupation - but clearly not if you’re Milly Johnson.

“It’s a bit of a madhouse here, but we’re all family,” smiles Milly.

Given that the Barnsley author’s most recent book - her 12th - is set in a Yorkshire animal sanctuary, Milly’s bustling kitchen seems highly appropriate.

Author Milly Johnson. Picture: Andrew Roe

Author Milly Johnson. Picture: Andrew Roe

“Strangely, three of our pets have been accrued since I started writing ‘Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage’,” muses Milly.

“Vincent and Theo are rescues from Yorkshire Cat Rescue and our rabbit, Alan Rickman - who we found the same day Alan Rickman died - just appeared on the street outside our house. After weeks of trying to find his owner, he came to live in our dog crate and couldn’t be happier having become bosom buddies with Hernán.

“I often find that happens, life imitating art. So often in my life I’ve written about something and it’s as if putting it out into the universe attracts it to me. That’s why my next book is going to be about a woman who wins the lottery. She’s from Barnsley. And quite short.”

Milly was born and bred in Barnsley and still lives only a stone’s throw from the house where she grew up, along with her partner and two sons. She insists writing was the only thing she ever wanted to do and started out writing jokes for greeting cards when she was just 23.

Milly Johnson

Milly Johnson

“It was one of the best jobs I ever had,” she grins, recalling clearly fond memories.

“It paid for my house, my car, dressed my kids and put food on the table – I owe it everything.”

She always dreamed of writing books and her dream came true when in 2006, aged 42, her first novel, The Yorkshire Pudding Club, was published. Milly says it’s been a steady conveyer belt ever since.

“I write a book a year,” explains the 52-year-old.

“One book a year allows me to do what I love and still do all the other things I want to do. I have a family, I have two boys, aged 16 and 17, so they’re going to be off in a couple of years, and I want to be around to spend time with them. My other half is an antiques dealer so we like to scuttle around antique shops at the weekends. One book a year allows me to still have a life. Plus I don’t like to rush a book, I like to finish it, leave it to rest and then come back to it fresh so I can see all the mistakes. I think you can tell when you read a book and it’s clear somebody was rushing the ending to meet a contract. I can always tell, and I never wanted anybody to say that about my books.”

And my questions about writer’s block elicit only a shrug.

“I don’t really get when people talk about writer’s block,” she says.

“At the end of the day, this is a job. It’s a lovely job with a lot of perks but it’s a job all the same, and the job is sitting on your bottom and writing a book. If you don’t do that, you don’t get the other stuff.

“I’ve never sat and looked at a blank screen and thought ‘I don’t know what to do’ - there’s always something to do. If I’m not sure what’s next, I just start writing and see what comes. If a particular chapter is giving me trouble, I move away and write a different one for a bit, to get me going again.

“I’m also my own worst boss, I have to be. When everyone leaves the house on a morning, I sit and I write until they get home later that day, demanding dinner.”

And Milly’s very favourite ritual is popping the cork on a bottle of Peller’s ice wine, which she does every time she finishes a book and hopes to be doing for many more years to come.

“There’s always a new idea, a new plot; I’m already deep into my next book which I’m going to have completed by August,” she reveals.

“Sometimes it’s something I personally want to explore further that sparks a plot. Being a Barnsley girl, I always adored Kes and absolutely love birds of prey, particularly owls, so when I started playing around with ideas for ‘Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage,’ I enrolled in a falcolnry course in Thirsk and it was just incredible. I got to fulfil a lifelong dream in the name of work, so along with the ice wine and pretty stationery, I honestly just have the best job in the entire world.

“Apart from maybe a professional owl handler.”