Award nomination for Barnsley lass

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A BEST-SELLING author from South Yorkshire who starred in Channel 4 show Come Dine With Me is up for an award dedicated to the memory of her late friend.

Romantic novelist Milly Johnson is among six finalists for the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance for her novel, Autumn Crush.

The nomination is particularly poignant for the Barnsley writer, who sets her novels in her home town, as she was a personal friend of chick-lit author Melissa Nathan, who died from cancer in 2006 aged 37.

Milly, 48, penned a piece of fanmail to Melissa shortly after reading one of her books, which initiated an email correspondence which lasted for many years.

The pair finally arranged to meet, but Melissa was forced to cancel after finding a tumour on her breast.

For Milly, who became a local celebrity after winning the cook-off on Come Dine With Me in 2010, winning the award would be her ‘Oscar’ moment.

She said: “I wrote to Melissa as a fan first, I’d never contacted another writer before but she wrote back. We wrote to one another through my divorce and her first lot of cancer treatment.

“I didn’t tell her I wanted to be a writer but eventually I did and she encouraged me to go for it. She was a real inspiration to me.

“Because of the history behind it and because she was my friend, it is the pinnacle for me. It would be marvellous to win.”

Milly’s books are about women, friendship and romance.

The winner of the award, sponsored by National Express, will be announced at a ceremony presented by comedienne Jo Brand on June 12.