‘A voice in­spired my first book’

Au­thor Milly John­son tells Sa­man­tha Giles how her be­lief in fate and the spirit world helped her write 13 best­selling nov­els

Spirit and Destiny - - Editor’s Letter -

Au­thor Milly John­son on how her spir­i­tual be­liefs help her pen her best­selling nov­els

‘I have a strong be­lief that what goes around, comes

around’

Where do you get your in­spi­ra­tion for the spir­i­tual themes and events in your books?

The spir­i­tual el­e­ment is of­ten based on some­thing or some­one I’ve read about in sto­ries in the news­pa­pers, or from my life.

For ex­am­ple, in The Teashop on the

Cor­ner (2014), there’s a ma­tron who sees peo­ple who’ve passed. She has to give up nurs­ing be­cause she knew when some­one was close to death be­cause she would see the spir­its who had come to take them away.

I knew a nurse who had to give up nurs­ing, be­cause she kept see­ing peo­ple sit­ting next to the pa­tients who were about to die. She was quite high up in her pro­fes­sion and fought against her psy­chic abil­ity, but in the end, she em­braced it and be­came a pro­fes­sional psy­chic – a very good one at that, help­ing peo­ple in a dif­fer­ent way. I went to see her my­self, and she told me things that came true.

What sort of things did the psy­chic tell you?

Well, my Aun­tie Bella had just passed and the old lady who lived next door to her, and her niece, asked me if I wanted any­thing from the house. I said that she had al­ways promised me the big book of post­cards that she and her sis­ter had sent to each other over the years.

Then I saw the psy­chic a cou­ple of weeks af­ter Aun­tie Bella had died, and she said ‘I’ve got a name com­ing through who’s giv­ing you a lot of love. Nelly is it? She’s very faint, has she just passed?’ I did have an Aunt Nelly, but she was still alive… Then the psy­chic said, ‘It’s Nell, Nelly, Nella, some­thing like that, and she’s con­nected with a big book of post­cards.’ Amaz­ing!

She also told me I’d get to­gether with a guy who is ‘quite gypsy look­ing, thick, curly black hair,’ and that I would have two sons, but only one ‘proper birth’. I did go on to marry a guy (now my ex-hus­band) with thick, curly black hair and I did have my two sons, both now teenagers, one a nat­u­ral birth and the other a Cae­sarean. I won­der if that was what she meant by only one ‘proper birth’.

I un­der­stand you’ve been to an animal psy­chic too?

Yes, I have. Af­ter my beloved dog Teddy, and an­other dog I had, died. I wanted to know that they were there, in heaven, so I vis­ited an animal psy­chic who said, ‘Of course they’re there. They visit, they walk around you, some­times it'll feel like a waft of warm air.’ She also told me Teddy had slipped into one of my dreams to tell me he was okay.

The psy­chic told me that she felt Teddy had been ill around his stom­ach and lower ab­domen – he died from cancer of the blad­der. She also said that she could see him ‘stand­ing and wee­ing but he’s not wee­ing’. That was Teddy! He’d stand there for ages, but not wee! It’s like when you have cys­ti­tis and you feel you want to wee, and your blad­der’s full, but you can’t.

I’ve draped my hand over the bed and thought ‘just brush past me once…’ but you know it can’t be as easy as that be­cause of­ten when peo­ple re­ally miss their loved one, they don’t ap­pear.

But you firmly believe in the af­ter­life?

I do. I think there are too many peo­ple who have ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing… been revisited by loved ones who’ve passed on.

I read about a sci­en­tist who’d been a scep­tic all his life, then had a near death ex­pe­ri­ence and is now a huge ad­vo­cate for the idea of life on the other side. It was a huge switch for him, and it’s sto­ries like this that make me think if I had ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing sim­i­lar and some­one

told me that it couldn’t pos­si­bly have hap­pened, and must have been just a dream, noth­ing would con­vince me that it had been ‘just a dream’.

Do you believe that some­times peo­ple know when it’s their time to go?

I believe Teddy knew it was his time. Three days be­fore he died, my other half, Pete, and I took him to the park and, al­though Teddy was ill, you wouldn’t have known any­thing was wrong with that dog at all. He was jump­ing around, run­ning af­ter the ball – which he never did – and we both thought ‘this is so weird be­cause he looks so full of life’. He was eat­ing bis­cuits, some­thing else he didn’t nor­mally do, and then he stood at the top of the hill in the park, turned his head in one slow arc, just look­ing, and I thought, ‘he’s say­ing good­bye to the park.’

I didn’t say any­thing to Pete, be­cause he’s a very broad Barns­ley lad, tough as nails, and not into this kind of thing at all. When we got back to the car, Pete said, ‘Did you see him on top of that hill? It was just like he was say­ing good­bye, wasn’t it?’ And I said, ‘yep, that’s ex­actly what I was think­ing!’ We took Teddy to the park the day af­ter, but he couldn’t man­age it. He died a few days later.

You wrote The Queen of Wish­ful Think­ing when Teddy was ill?

I poured ev­ery­thing into the book, emo­tion­ally, be­cause of ev­ery­thing I was go­ing through with Teddy. It was like ther­apy. I hope this book has the breath of Teddy be­hind it. He’s on the back cover, and the main char­ac­ter in it has a dog.

Talk­ing of death and what­ever, I wrote The Teashop On The Cor­ner for Pete’s mum, be­cause she was such a lovely woman and her world was her house and fam­ily. She never re­ally went any­where or did any­thing. I called my hero­ine Molly af­ter her, and my hero Har­vey af­ter Pete’s dad. Sadly, Molly died be­fore I fin­ished it. The Teashop on the Cor­ner changed my for­tunes, it just sold and sold. Pete said to me, ‘that’s got the breath of me mum be­hind it that book,’ and I’ve al­ways thought Molly is very much in it.

Have you ever had a psy­chic ex­pe­ri­ence your­self, or seen a ghost?

I haven’t seen a ghost but I'd love to. I had a strange ex­pe­ri­ence when my Nana died though. She’d been in a coma for a year and we were very close. One night I was in bed asleep when it felt like I’d been pushed awake. My first thought was ‘Nana’s gone,’ and then the phone rang, with the news that Nana had died. I’ve had a few in­stances like that…

There’s been a cou­ple of times when I’ve thought I’ve got a let­ter and I’ve gone down­stairs and the let­ter’s been there. Then when I was preg­nant, two of my friends were preg­nant at the same time. I couldn’t find my way with my writ­ing, and had kind of given up on it. One day, we were in my front room chat­ting when it was like there was a whis­per­ing in my head. ‘Why don’t you write about this?’ It was as if some­one had said it into my brain and that was my first book, The York­shire Pud­ding Club, about three women who are preg­nant at the same time.

You were 40 be­fore you wrote your first novel, did it feel like des­tiny?

Yes, I do believe that fate played a hand in me be­com­ing a writer. It was a long and wind­ing road to get where I am, and ev­ery time I gave up, feel­ing like I was chas­ing smoke, some­thing would hap­pen to nudge me back on the path.

One time I gave up, believ­ing that peo­ple who wrote books didn’t come from work­ing-class towns like me. I’m from Barns­ley, and still live there. Then, I came across the writer Cather­ine Cookson, and it was the first time I grasped that a work­ing-class woman could be­come a writer. She’d had her first book re­jected at, I think, 25, and was about 40 when her first book came out. I know I’m in the right place, writ­ing is what I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can re­mem­ber.

And what about karma? This idea crops up in your books.

I’ve seen karma in ac­tion quite a few times. For ex­am­ple, I worked at a place that was a hell­hole, the worst place I’ve worked in my life. The boss sacked every­one and hu­mil­i­ated peo­ple. That boss ended up los­ing his job. But the group of us who had been sacked by him, we stood to­gether and we’ve still got a good friend­ship. We’ve all gone on to bet­ter things.

I cer­tainly have a strong be­lief that what goes around, comes around.

It took a long time to re­alise my dream of be­com­ing a writer

the psy­chic told me my beau­ti­ful dog teddy was fine in heaven

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