Milly Johnson Picks Her Top “Joyful” Books

Author Milly Johnson

Bestselling novelist, Milly Johnson – now working on her 20th novel – is one of our favourite writers here at My Weekly. In between writing her wonderful books, she often takes the time to write a short story for My Weekly (find one in the My Weekly on sale now!) and of course, she’s a regular in the pages of the My Weekly Special, too, as she writes her popular Finding Molly column.

Here, she shares with us the power of words and the importance of books that bring joy and hope, plus some of her top ‘joyful’ book recommendations…

Milly writes for us logo for Finding Molly“If ever there was a time when we needed some hope and joy, it’s been over the last couple of years and I (and my peers) have been more than happy to supply the demand. This strange sci-fi era has made all of us realise how many small pleasures we took for granted when they were taken from us: meeting up with a friend for a coffee, a trip to the cinema, dropping in on an aged relative, a hug. Because they were deprived of these, people short-circuited to the next best thing: finding a reliving of their favourite experiences in books and as a result our figures soared. Last year romantic fiction sales were up a whopping 49% from the previous year – that’s some rise and very telling.

I love to write books that uplift, they raise me as I write them. And because we fall in love with our characters as we create them, we want the best for them as we would dear friends. They become spookily real, those fictional portraits.

“Readers write to us all the time to tell us how our books have touched them, affected them, changed them. I’ve had letters from women who’ve said they didn’t realise they were living in abusive relationships until some of my storylines were like a mirror held up to them. They’ve told me how they’ve left their partner, how liberated they feel and wished they’d had the courage to do it years ago. They’ve thanked me for being the catalyst that made them take action. A woman wrote that she and her friend had bitten the bullet and started up a cleaning business after being inspired by one of my stories. Another, desperately sad, from a lady who was about as low as one could get. I can’t begin to tell you what she’d been through because it was beyond heartbreaking and she wanted me to write a character in a future book based on someone like her but one who got a break and achieved some happiness.

“We only set out to entertain, but such is the power of words we often find we’re seen as a guide which can be intimidating because ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ so said Spiderman’s uncle.

Since the pandemic, however, the volume of post and emails has multiplied. It is clear how much we have had an impact on people’s mental health when the only company they could keep was with that of a book.

“We’ve given our readers somewhere pleasant to go when their thoughts are heavy as bricks and they’re frightened, and they’ve emailed us because they want us to know how much we’ve helped them and cheered them, maybe even saved them.

“Presently I’m working on my twentieth book which is about three sisters who are convening to dismantle the family home after the death of their mother. It might not sound like a book bursting with joy, but what I find is that when you tackle darker subjects, you have to counterbalance it with a lot of humour. Life is often like this, tossed between light and shade, and if we didn’t have humour as a valve, we’d explode.

“Top literary agents are predicting a rise of joy infused books submissions this year to offset these weird and not so wonderful days. I do hope they’re right.”

The Woman In The Middle book cover

Milly’s latest book, The Woman In the Middle is out now in hardcover (Simon & Schuster, HB £16.99, PB out from March 3 £8.99, eBook £8.99 and audio). Available from Amazon.

Five books which have given me joy:

The Summer That Changed Us book coverThe Summer That Changed Us – Cathy Bramley

Three women strike up an instant bond on a beautiful beach and a friendship sprouts that becomes invaluable.

It shines with hope and sunshine.

Summer At The Comfort Food Cafe book coverSummer at the Comfort Food Café – Debbie Johnson

A café is the central hub in a lovely Dorset village.

The first in a series, all of which make you laugh mostly, cry a bit and raid the fridge at unsociable hours.

Worst Idea Ever book coverWorst Idea Ever – Jane Fallon

An absolute hoot of a book. A well-meant deception warps and grows to mammoth proportions.

Jane has a wicked wit and a brilliant way in making you cringe as you read.

Dumb Witness book coverDumb Witness – Agatha Christie

My go-to ‘comfy pair of slippers’ books are Agatha Christies.

I’ve read this one more times than any other and it doesn’t matter than I remember whodunnit. Plus, it has the most adorable Fox Terrier in it.

We Were On A Break book coverWe Were On A Break – Lindsey Kelk

Adam and Liv go on holiday. Liv is expecting a proposal, Adam is ready to make one. Suffice to say a series of misunderstandings drive the couple apart, but is it forever?

I was listening to the audio of this and had to stop the car at one point as I couldn’t drive for cry-laughing. Then again, she’s a fellow Yorkshirewoman so I expect nothing less.