Mila Johansen: Cinderella Goes to Hollywood – Exclusive Interview
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Mila Johansen is a professional speaker, writer, and published author.As the founder of Pen to Published, she works with authors each step of the way to make their book publishing experience memorable and with ease. 

She is the author of twenty-two plays and musicals that circle the globe, along with two teaching manuals, 101 Theatre Games and 50 Scenes to Go.

She has written just under ten screenplays and enjoys the process. Mila has one Young Adult historical novel, The Four Thieves, finished and ready to publish, along with several children’s picture books. She also has three provocative upmarket women’s fiction novels almost completed.

Mila also teaches social media, screenwriting, creative writing, public speaking and herbology at a local adult education school.

Mila recently completed a book about her famous suffragette grandmother, Jessie Haver Butler, for the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in August, 2020.

In December, Mila will be launching the second edition of her signature book series, The Cinderella Monologues, featuring the stories of several amazing women who struggled to finally find success.

Mila Johansen As Cover Story – November 2023 Edition

Please share your background. 

I finally made it to Hollywood—or at least got my foot in the right doors! From the age of eight, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I started writing my first novel and after a page and a half, I quit because I was eight. My mother later tricked me into becoming a dedicated writer. She told me to write one sentence a day for a month.  I thought, I can write one sentence a day, but I couldn’t. It was like potato chips, you can’t just write one sentence and by the end of the month I became a writer.

Now as a teacher and writing coach, I trick my clients by telling them to write for just twenty minutes a day—even five minutes a day can add up to a book. Many of them have come back and told me I tricked them, because once they sit down to write, they can’t stop.

Childhood to Adulthood – How was your transition from childhood to adulthood and what are the bad and good things you remember?

I grew up in a very meager, poor home with a single mother. My mother was a third-grade teacher, which is part of the reason I’m a teacher. She would leave at six in the morning and drive forty minutes to set up her classroom. So I, at a very young age, had to get my younger brother up, make sure he got breakfast, and move us both out the door to walk a mile to school. After school, I cleaned the house and made us dinner. My mother unwittingly landed us in a house right in the middle of gangland. I was extremely naïve and walked through unscathed, but my brother, Bobby, got caught up in the local gangs and didn’t make it out. He later died in the street, homeless. 

I remember often going to bed with no dinner. Then when I went to school, most days, I went without lunch and watched as all the kids who sat in front of me feasting on sack lunches. But I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, because I later married an organic farmer and have all the food I need. Instead, please try and help children in your own neighborhood that may not have enough to eat. In fact, we donate 10,000 to 20,000 pounds a year of citrus to our local food banks. Now I appreciate every single thing that is given to me. 

My saving grace was my famous suffragette grandmother, Jessie Butler, who partially raised me. Jessie came from a tragic childhood on a Colorado cattle ranch but went on to be on the front lines of many historical events. Jessie’s first job was to put together the Pulitzer School of Journalism. Then she became the first woman lobbyist in D.C. and worked closely with Alice Paul to get women the vote in 1920. Then she became Bernard Shaw’s speaking partner in London, and later taught public speaking to thousands of women including Eleanor Roosevelt. In her 90s, she shared the podium several times with Gloria Steinem and Marlo Thomas and took me along. 

What do people usually not know about you? 

Besides being a nine time best selling author and a thriving book coach, I love to write and film screenplays. I have written several and produced some of the shorter ones to enter into film festivals. My longer one, the one I love most is my humorous version of four women who are aging and struggling to find their footholds in an ever-changing world in cyberspace and off.  A take off on the “Odd Couple”, Trudy and Yvonne, long time friends, move in together only to find out they are “oil and water” and have to learn to live with one another’s differences. Yvonne, a recent widow, stuck in her ways tries to put up with Trudy, a true bohemian who wears too much purple but is a wiz when it comes to business endeavors. 

I love to think out of the box and create contemporary fantasy stories. In my short film, “Manifest”, Kate paints her dream home in art class. One day, as she turns the key in the lock of her tiny cottage, she enters into the mansion of her dreams, complete with an outdoor Mediterranean pool.

In another one, that I call a revenge comedy, set in the 1920s, Olivia Standish, a very rich woman decides to teach her shallow friends a lesson and invites them to “The Invisible Feast”.    

What sets you apart from your competitors in the industry and in life?

I make the writing and self-publishing process super easy, fun and accessible. We get it done! I give tons of strategies; resources and info to help each author I work with become a success. I know the entire process step-by-step from A to Z, even secrets major publishers don’t know. 

My very unique offering is the “how to” write screenplays, using the winning 15-step format of “Save The Cat”. Navigating the requirements and plot structure can be confusing for neophytes trying to write their first few screenplays and I love to make the process easy and accessible. 

What are your upcoming major events – Unforgettable Moments or products/services that you want to promote/inform?

In December, we are launching the second edition of my signature book series, The Cinderella Monologues, featuring the stories of several amazing women who struggled to finally find success. These stories inspire other women that no matter where they came from or what has happened to them, they can become anything and make all their dreams come true. 

I’m excited to have been invited to present my work in January 2024 at the sought-after “Monster Pitch in Hollywood” which hosts many of the popular studios and production companies, including Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. I’ve the honor to present three table reads of my projects, read by professional actors, which include both my screenplays and bestselling books. I look forward to pitching my grandmother’s memoir From Cowgirl to CongressJourney of a Suffragist on the Front Lines for a movie or a television series. It’s every woman’s story of winning the right to vote – she was there! 

What are your food preferences and physical attributes? 

In college, as a starving student without extra change in my pocket, I quit eating red meat because chicken was half the price. That summer, I splurged for a roast beef sandwich and doubled over in pain for two hours and never ate red meat again. And the irony is that I married into a slaughterhouse and could have had free meat the rest of my life. Instead, I’ve always had a steady supply of bones for my dogs. Now I’m glad I haven’t eaten any “red meat” for decades. I think it has helped me keep my youthful skin and optimistic attitude in life. I call myself a “red meat vegetarian”. 

I am 5’ 10” and always towered over the other kids at school, even most of the boys. In my younger years, that got me some jeers and verbal jabs, but as a woman in the business world, my height has served me and given me a certain steady confidence.

Your love life, relationships and family? 

I met my husband in college at Chico State in Northern California. We were the only two members of our intramural baseball team to show up for the first game of the season. Abandoned by our teammates, we went out dancing and began dating. The rest of the team showed up for every game after. He dropped off boxes of oranges from his family’s organic ranch on my doorstep, which my roommate and I devoured with our meager dinners of Cream of Wheat and popcorn.

That summer, he offered me a job working picking and selling organic peaches. He lucked out, getting a “real Cinderella”. I had done all the housework, cooking and shopping at home before college and didn’t mind the long hours in the 105-degree weather. He taught me to drive a tractor and a forklift and for decades after, I performed all the jobs a man would. I became the citrus ranch manager hiring, firing, selling and loading semis headed north. Since we mostly worked during harvest, the rest of the year left me free to pursue my passion in theater and writing. I could work the 3-month harvest and come away with enough money to fund the rest of the year. 

What expert advice would you like to give?

Don’t wait! Start today. Start you book, your dream, your new career. Just start! If not now, when?  Oprah says, “We have to reinvent ourselves until the end.”

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