The Unpredictably Predictable Bus by Milly Johnson
I get the word ‘predictable’ thrown at me sometimes. I think anyone does who writes books that guarantee a happy ending. It’s like calling Mills and Boon books predictable. The whole reason they are so successful is because readers know the formula and like that. Footglove shoes from M & S are predictably comfortable, although the styles may differ, you are assured a bouncy step. I hope that I have mastered predictability because the balance has to be right. If I started being unpredictable now, I’d be lynched. People pick up one of my books and expect the happy ending and so I am obliged to provide it. And I want to. The hero and the heroine get together in my books. I don’t hide that – I flaunt it. It’s my selling point: an uplifting read with maybe a few nasty surprises in the body of the book…but I’ll leave you with a smile on your face. Really, I will. Honest.
I like to think of myself as an away day bus trip. But one where you know you are going to end up in Blackpool without any doubt, so just sit back and enjoy the ride. You may think ‘I’ve just seen a sign for London, Johnson’s taken the wrong turning!’ Don’t fret though, it’s all part of my master plan. I am predictable insofar as I’ll get you to Blackpool. I promise. But I am unpredictable in how I get you there, because you can be sure as anything, I won’t be using the boring motorway.
I am not a mystery tour sort of bus. If you want that, you’re on the wrong vehicle, love. I’ve told you I’m driving to Blackpool, so if you had high hopes of ending up in Skegness, don’t moan that you can see a big tower out of the window.
You can be too unpredictable in writing though. Imagine an Agatha Christie story where there are six main murder suspects, and your brain is busy chewing on the evidence, trying to work out which one of them did it. Then on the last page, a character you’ve never heard of zooms in and takes full credit for the grisly doing. You feel cheated, because the writer has deprived you of the chance of solving the case. A writer should leave a faint trail of breadcrumbs to tease you – enough to hint that there is something bubbling under the surface, but not too much that you guess outright what she is trying to keep from you.
So even on my predictable journey to Blackpool, you will encounter some things you might not expect. A possible drive through a safari park so that a tiger may leap at your window and scare the proverbial out of you. Perchance, a treacherous ride along Snake Pass in thick fog, and other stuff you wouldn’t expect on a gentle day out. But if I’ve said you’ll be in the Pleasure Beach by lunchtime, you will be. I just never promised I wouldn’t make you feel as if I had lied about it.
The new book by Milly Johnson - THE QUEEN OF WISHFUL THINKING – is available to now in eBook and Library Hardback format. The paperback edition will be available to buy in all good bookshops on 4th May 2017.