IN THE SHOES OF… Jasbinder Bilan

What's life like in someone else's shoes? This month Deputy Editor Françoise Price invites Jasbinder Bilan to tell us about her day. 


If you’re in my shoes, every day is different — as it is for most writers — depending on where I am in my schedule. I could be creating, editing, finding my next story, be out on the road doing events etc and each day will be shaped by its particular activity. But let’s take today… here’s how it goes.

It is the dead of winter and since we have just come out of the 2022 festivities, as light creeps around the edge of the blinds in my bedroom, I know I must get up. Most often my loyal husband will tempt me out from under the warm covers with the enticement of a cup of tea. And yes, it’s here. Next my adorable dog Enzo, a roguish miniature Schnauzer, leaps onto my bed for cuddles. The mornings are my reading time. I’m currently reading Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, New Skin For The Old Ceremony by Arun Sood and a children’s book, an early copy of the amazing Candy Gourlay’s latest, Wild Song.


Tea slowly drunk, I begin to think about today. The first day back after actually giving myself a proper break since the summer. For the first time in an age, I have managed to dodge the deadline looming over Christmas, pinged my out of office email on and let myself relax.
Mornings are my reading time

This year has been jammed with writing opportunities and of course I am hugely grateful for this but the result was a year of juggling deadlines. Julia Green, my professor at Bath Spa, used to call these your bread and butter projects — shorter pieces you can squeeze between your main work to keep you going between advances.



Walk Enzo. It’s raining. I use this time to mentally get myself into gear for the day ahead. I run through my to do list and decide I’ll begin with answering an easy email to ease myself in gently. The email relates to a short story I am writing as part of a horror anthology edited by the wonderful Jennifer Killick called Read Scream Repeat which publishes in August 2023. I only need to accept a few tweaks from Sarah our lovely editor so it will make me happy when I can tick it off. I’ve never written horror before so it was so exciting to give it a go. When I was still an English teacher my students loved horror so, when I wrote this story, I tried to channel all the things that would make their hearts race.

'I am drenched, so is my miniature Schnauzer, Enzo'


Arriving back from the dog-walk, I am drenched as is Enzo. His paws are pretty muddy too — sorting him out is the kind of thing that delays my day. That and also the box of groceries that are waiting on the step and must be put away. If only I had some proper magic to wish the chores done and dusted.



I have been yearning for a writing shed of my own for some time. I tell myself when I have my own private space it will be filled with creativity. I will only need to step inside and all my deadlines will sort of write themselves. I collect Pinterest images of my ideal shed so that when the day arrives I’ll know exactly how I want it to be. Until then my sitting room doubles as my workspace.


'My sitting room doubles as my workspace'

I love it in here. It’s cosy, with a wood burner, and I can sit by the fire with my lap-top on my knee and get on with the task ahead.


My main job today is to read through editorial notes for a project I’ve been working on for a while. I’m not allowed to say too much for the moment since it is yet to be announced, but it’s been such a wonderful project and I feel very grateful to have the chance to write this story, which will also be fully illustrated.


Editing can start as a sort of bombshell. So many thoughts and ideas splattered both across the MS as well as in your head. The task seems impossible. How to bring everything to order? I spend some time with good old-fashioned pen and paper — this is always my go-to when I want to work things out and I finish the day bringing it all together in a plan which I type up for my editor so we can have one final chat before I dive in again.


Having gone through the process a few times I know that the finished product will be better for this deep dive. And I also know from experience that all writing is re-writing. To have the opportunity to make the story sing from the page is really what’s going to make the difference in the long run.

A promotional banner of Jasbinder's fiction


That went quickly! It’s time for the dog walk again and thankfully the rain has stopped so I’ll dash out over the fields with a bouncy Enzo at my heels.


Returning home, I am in charge of supper. My boys are back from university and I want to spoil them before they head back but it’s amazing how these domestic jobs cut into my writing day.


I rarely work late into the evening. Writing is hard and tiring. Also, I have to curb my 'get the job done' instinct left over from teaching and be disciplined in not continuing on with the task in hand until it’s finished, however long that takes. What I’ve realised is that in the writing world you can never quite draw a line under things, there’s always going to be a deadline, always going to be something on your desk. So you have to look after yourself and stop work before your creative brain keeps whizzing way past bedtime.


All Jasbinder's books displayed on her mantelpiece


Since the boys are home, after supper we sit down in the cosy lounge and watch a film. It’s so comforting to have them back and we all snuggle on the sofa with a glass of left-over fizz watching Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio.



I don’t do late nights and with this wintry weather I’m keen to head up to bed with the blanket switched on, read a few more chapters of my book and float off to sleep.

*Header image: Alex Crump;

All other images courtesy of Jasbinder Bilan.


Jasbinder Bilan is the Costa Award winning author of Asha and the Spirit Bird, Tamarind and the Star of Ishta and Aarti and the Blue Gods. India Incredible India is her first non-fiction title. Her latest book Xanthe and the Ruby Crown publishes in March 2023.
In her writing, Jasbinder loves creating magical worlds inspired by her love of nature and wild places. She lives in a wooded valley close to Bath.


Alex Crump is an illustrator based in Wiltshire, with past careers as both a teacher and a zookeeper, as well as other current side-lines of storyteller and charity/museum educator.
Instagram: @alexcrumpillustration


Françoise Price is Deputy Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact:
Twitter: @FranGPrice

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