• Debbie Howells

Something ventured, everything gained

In the weeks before moving to France, my stress levels skyrocketed, while I had an almost constant internal dialogue with myself. You live in a gorgeous place. In so many ways, life is good. How do you know you won’t miss everyone – too much? The familiar sights and faces, the comfort of living with what you know? But my inner voice didn’t falter – not once. If you stay where you are, nothing will change. There are different ways to live a life. You want peacefulness, mental space, you can’t find here. You can’t not do this. And that’s the thing. If you keep doing what you’ve always done, nothing changes.

So much in life is about timing. After deciding we were going to do this, we enquired about a house in the Dordogne, which as it turned out, wasn’t available, but the owners put us in touch with someone else in the area, who was just about to rent out their house – the house I’m writing this blog from. It was an easy decision, though we were taking a leap of faith - we wouldn’t see the house until we got here. But sometimes, you can sense you’re doing the right thing and somehow, we knew it wasn’t going to be a mistake.

We didn’t know how long we were going for, more than a vague ‘few months’, however long that might be. Having set a date, we had to pack and put our stuff in storage, find homes for two sheep and livery for a horse, but it fell into place – that was when the flow started.

When it flows, I think you know you’re on the right track. And coming here, as I’ve said before, there was a flow. A mill pond English Channel crossing, followed by an easy drive to a house that exceeded expectations. It’s about now, not forever; a window while my children are living their own busy lives; while I have no grandchildren and while the family animal count is at an all time low, though that can only be temporary. In many ways it’s strange not to have a base in the UK - at times, we’ve both felt slightly displaced, coming to a part of rural France neither of us know. But it’s an adventure.

Aside from the beauty of where we’re living, not to mention the cats (!) it’s the first time in as long as I can remember, that I’ve had the luxury of uninterrupted time. Time that’s uncluttered, with days I keep empty, the kind of time that couldn’t be better for writing.

The publication of my fourth book, Her Sister’s Lie, is about a month away. Later this year I’ll be going through the editing process with my fifth, The Stepdaughter, with my editor in the US. It means at the moment, I’m working on my sixth, have an outline for a seventh, both of which as yet have no publisher, and in spite of this, I’m driven, to the point I’m having trouble switching it off. It’s a long time since I’ve felt like this about a book - and it means I’m rubbish company, because even when I’m not writing, I can’t stop thinking about it. And a lot of that has to do with being here.

Change may not be easy, but the best, most worthwhile things rarely are. We don’t have a long term plan – we are living in the now, which you might say is foolish, but in reality, the ‘now’ is all any of us have. Ahead are precious months to fill with people and books and nature’s beauty; with writing the next chapter in every sense.

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