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Reading and writing on location with Janie Millman

  • Submitted: 16th August 2018

How does an author create the write atmosphere to write a novel and how does she manage to transport herself to Marrakech whilst living in South West France. Some of the book is set in France, but the two countries are very different as as their landscapes, weather and people….so how does a writer living in rural France conjure up Marrakech on the page?

Skys the limit

Janie Millman..over to you…

Sometimes the problem of writing a novel is not so much as what to write but when.


  I am co-owner of Chez Castillon in South West France. It is a large eighteenth century town house where we offer courses and retreats in writing /painting and photography. It is fully inclusive so I am mostly in charge of cooking for the week, whilst my husband deals with the wine and the BBQ.

    When we don’t have a course or retreat here we have wedding guests from a nearby chateau staying with us. It is fairly full on! No sooner do one set of guests leave then another arrive – as anyone who has ever run a B&B or hotel can testify… it is damned hard work.

(c) Chez Castillon

(c) Chez Castillon

     I spend a large part of my life washing and drying towels, stripping beds, sweeping and cleaning toilets. I’m thinking of bringing out my own home fitness books: ‘Staying In Shape With Sheets’ or ‘Toning Up With Towels’ – frankly the possibilities are endless, but in reality it does give me a lot of thinking time for my books.

     Some of my favourite scenes have been dreamt up whilst plunging my hand down a loo or mopping the long hallway. I talk to myself endlessly whilst making the beds, acting out several different characters at once.

    So I’m not really complaining about the work – though it may sound that way – I love living here and I love what we do, but I have to admit there are times when I wish that I could simply just WRITE. 

    But before I win the lotto or Richard Curtis turns my book into a film, and frankly I don’t know what’s taking him so long I, like many other authors, I have to juggle jobs.

    Discipline and routine are not normally words associated with me. I have had to learn to use some willpower, which, trust me, has not been an easy task.

     I set my alarm for six o’clock and once I’ve hauled my protesting body out of bed I do enjoy the peace and quite. Well I say peace and quiet but actually the street we live on is busy in the mornings and I’ve got to know the routine very well.

(c) Chez Castillon

(c) Chez Castillon

    There is the sturdy young man who drives the lorry for the fruit and veg delivery, he wears shorts every day of the year and has a voice like a clap of thunder; I know the exact time when the mouth watering aroma of fresh baguettes from the patisserie over the road will hit me; I listen out for the clunky green van with the early morning flower delivery; the whistling street cleaner and as for the Monday morning market, it’s like Piccadilly Circus.

     I love all this activity and it certainly helped set the scene when writing Sky’s the Limit, which is set partly in Marrakech and partly in South West France.  The activity energises me, it makes me feel like I am part of this small, select community of early workers and as I sip my tea and munch my biscuit I feel rather blessed.


Wow thank you Janie. It’s even calming just reading about it!


BookTrail Boarding Pass: Sky’s the Limit

Twitter: @ChezCastillon

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