Janice Horton recounts her adventures in the idyllic French countryside…
France is an evocative location in anyone’s book. The country immediately conjures an image of romance in the mind of the traveller. If that traveller also happens to be a writer of romantic adventure novels, then surely there is no better place to hunker down for six months and write that novel.
Last year, I signed a contract with London publisher HarperCollins, to write a novel combining romance and travel for their romance imprint, Harper Impulse. The book, published in July 2018, entitled The Backpacking Housewife, was written in a beautiful and ancient chateaux near Bordeaux.
The chateau was in a quiet countryside location, surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards, and so there was a plentiful supply of peace and solitude and scenery and erm… wine.
The wine, of course, was only ever consumed as a reward for a successful word count at the end of each day and was usually partaken outside on the terrace with a plate of fromage and a few olives.
Wow. How fabulous. How idyllic. I hear you say!
I suppose by now you are wondering if I’m extremely wealthy just to be able to write in France for six months in a beautiful chateaux? You might be thinking I have a rich French family? Or a friend with a chateaux and their very own vineyard?
But no. This perfect writer’s retreat is one I stumbled across purely by chance and without any cost to myself – which is why I thought I’d tell you how it all came about – so that perhaps you can do it too!
I’m a world traveller. A digital nomad. I travel and I write about it.
I write for lifestyle features for magazines and also I write fiction. I have been living this roaming around the world lifestyle with my backpacking husband for the past five years. We don’t own a home anywhere. In fact, I don’t actually own anything, except for the clothes I’m wearing and the contents of my backpack. As I was previously a housewife – I really have become the title of my own book – The Backpacking Housewife and that’s also the name of my website at www.thebackpackinghousewife.com.
Just before landing in France, we’d been travelling in Asia for a couple of years. I was in Vietnam when I heard the wonderful news that I was to be offered a book contract by HarperCollins publishers to write a romantic adventure novel loosely based on my own travelling experiences. As I’d been writing romantic adventure novels and self-publishing them for many years already, I was very happy to be noticed by an editor – she’d been following me on social media – at this esteemed publishing house.
But YOU don’t have to be a world wanderer to write in a fabulous chateaux in France. Or indeed a hut on a Caribbean beach or in a lodge in the Alps or an apartment in New York or somewhere else in the world. Because for a few days or several weeks or for many months – you can simply sign up to become a ‘housesitter’ and stay somewhere for free but in exchange for conscientiously looking after someone’s property and/or pets and other animals while they are away.
There are lots of websites on the internet offering these housesitting opportunities.
And this is exactly what I did in order to write in France. We arrived in Bordeaux at the end of September and, as the months flew by and sitting on the terrace in the late summer sunshine became sitting by the fire in the sitting room, the words flowed and my deadline was eventually met. Once the book was submitted, my housesitting assignment ended, and we were free again to travel.
We flew from France to Singapore and spent some more time in Asia before flying over the Pacific to San Francisco USA and onto the Caribbean – where we spent the summer – before flying back to the UK to visit both our family in England and Scotland and then my editor at HarperCollins in London.
After a lovely editorial lunch and a visit to the offices I left on an evening flight back to France. Why? France again? I hear you ask! Well, that’s because I’d just secured another two book deal!
With tight deadlines, I knew that once again, I really needed to be somewhere conducive to sitting down every day to focus on my writing. I’m sure you can appreciate that writing a whole book is very different to writing a short travel or lifestyle feature. I find I simply can’t concentrate on writing a fictional storyline, establishing a plot, and creating characters, with all the distractions that come with being transient. I knew I need to be settled for a while and to establish a writing routine.
Through a housesitting website, I’d secured a new housesitting assignment of a four month stay at a beautiful old ‘Bastide Farmhouse’ in the South of France. I’d have the company and the responsibility of looking after the home and some animals while the homeowners were away – but I’d also be writing the sequel to The Backpacking Housewife – The Next Adventure!
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Janice Horton, also known as the backpacking housewife, writes contemporary romantic fiction with a dash of humour and a sense of adventure. Once her three children had grown up, Janice and her backpacking husband sold their empty nest in Scotland UK along with almost everything they owned and set off to travel the world. Since then they have been travelling full-time and have explored over 50 countries, living out of an apartment, a hut, or wherever they happen to find themselves.
Janice works as a writer wherever she is in the world. When not writing bestselling romantic adventure novels, she writes lifestyle and travel features for her website and her work has also featured in national and international magazines like ‘Prima’ in the UK and ‘Friday’ in Dubai. She has also been involved in BBC Scotland’s Write Here Write Now project and has been interviewed on many podcasts and radio shows including Loose Women’s Kaye Adams’ prime time BBC Radio Scotland Show.
Look out for her latest romantic adventure novel and escape to a tropical paradise in this epic story of hidden pasts and family secrets: ‘Island in the Sun’ (published January 2019)
Janice writes for HarperCollins Publishers. Look out for ‘The Backpacking Housewife’ (published July 2018) and two more backpacking romantic adventure novels including a sequel ‘The Next Adventure’ (July 2019) and a third title to be published later in 2019.
Her backlist of bestselling romantic adventure novels include: ‘Bagpipes and Bullshot’ and ‘Reaching for the Stars’ and ‘Castaway in the Caribbean’ – a #1 Kindle Bestseller shortlisted for the prestigious Love Story Awards.
Janice also writes under the author name of Janey Travis. Look out for her fun romantic comedy ‘I Need a Doctor’. “Just the right sprinkling of romance and humour” says Brook Cottage Books.
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