FILM writer-director Jessica Fox was working as Nasa’s storyteller when it occurred to her that her future might lie in a small town in Scotland.

“I kept on having a vision of a girl working in a bookshop in Scotland. I thought, ‘this is going to be an amazing rom-com I’ll write but I could see myself in a woolly jumper and it was raining – little did I know how accurate that part would be,” she said.

Now, as her debut feature film Stella, shot in Galloway House on Wigtown Bay, Dumfries and Galloway finds success, she tells The National how a woman born in Boston and living in California found herself living and making movies in Scotland.

Fox told The National: “I typed in ‘used bookshop, Scotland’ into Google and Wigtown came up.

"I contacted the first shop on the list and came over on holiday. I fell in love with the place, got married and then divorced but I ended up staying after setting up my own production company.”

As she puts it, “come for the beauty, stay for the community”.

Fox explains she’s not the only one with “crazy visions” of working in a bookshop. Wigtown has started a “bookshop holiday” where, as Fox explains, “you can come for a couple of weeks and play bookshop”.

“It just about broke the Airbnb website. It’s a sort of cultural immersion experience. You can do what you want with it,” she said.

“Some people come with window displays from around the world or you can close the shop and just cycle around the countryside.”

Growing up in the US, Fox said she always loved “playing pretend”, a habit she admits she never really grew out of.

“I’m a little dyslexic so I loved being read to and that’s like creating a movie in your mind. A lot of people grow out of it but I just didn’t and I realised film-making is a whole field where you never have to stop playing.”

Her role as a Nasa storyteller saw her helping to improve communication among those going on missions and not, as some of her friends jokingly put it, “reading bedtime stories”.

Prior to breaking through in the film industry, Fox was “stuck in cubicle land”, endlessly researching for TV shows she would rather have been making than producing.

She was eventually approached by Amanda Palmer of Boston musical duo, The Dresden Dolls who wanted to hire her to go on tour and make a documentary about the band. Excited at the opportunity, Fox made her way to a coffee shop in upstate New York to meet Palmer.

One hour went by. Then two. Then another half hour before Fox finally decided she’d either been forgotten or Palmer had changed her mind.

“Just as I was leaving, she came in, ordered her coffee and then left. I ran after her and she either hired me out of pity or because we did talk a lot about film.”

Fox continued: “I ended up selling everything I had, moved out of New York and went on the road with them. It was awesome, I loved it. I think it was so nice having the same community all the time but in a different location. Amanda gave me a huge amount of freedom.”

The end product – The First Last Tour – ended up being a major breakthrough for Fox.

Fox’s debut feature, Stella, tells the story of a German-Jewish refugee working in a stately home owned by supporters of fascist leader Oswald Mosley. It was a story which resonated with Fox, as much of a personal journey as it was a job, given she is the grand-daughter of Holocaust survivors.

“I’m not overly keen in chatting about it to be honest,” Fox says, pausing. “It’s not so much that I don’t want to, it’s more that I don’t know how.”

She explains how understanding the trauma of what her family went through was something that was lost on her in her youth.

“It didn’t occur to me that other kids didn’t look on the wall and see all your family members that were murdered, but I just didn’t know any different, I just thought that’s what happened to your ancestors. I didn’t know it was so unusual.

“Only later as I grew up did I realise there are all different kinds of inheritance that come with being a grandchild of a Holocaust survivor or somebody with just a huge amount of trauma.”

Fox’s grandfather was imprisoned in Auschwitz. She says he didn’t talk about it much but that he was a watchmaker: “The story goes that the Nazis would steal jewellery and he would fix it for them in exchange for medicine.”

Her grandmother, meanwhile, went on the run with her sister under false documents and was eventually imprisoned in a work camp. The pair eventually met in a rehabilitation centre in Berlin after the war.

Part of what made the film such an exciting project for Fox was that its themes continue to resonate today. However, she explains its subject matter was easier to look into when “looking back at the past”.

She said: “I think it’s a lot more comfortable talking about anti-Semitism when you look at it through the lens of history.

“It’s more difficult, I think, to talk about when you point it out in the culture you’re living in and engaging with it because people become defensive.

"Stella intrigued me because that time period reflected a lot of what has happened now from economic depression to anti-Semitism to scapegoating.”

Recently, the work claimed the Best Drama prize at the Melech Tel-Aviv International Film Festival and has also picked up a nomination at Montreal’s Independent Film Festival.

Fox smiles as she turns to the future, in part because, although she loved working on Stella, she explains her next film won’t deal with such heavy themes.

Speaking about her next project, she said: “I love my team so much so I’ve got the same group working on a food, drama-comedy-adventure. Hopefully there will be a little more humour in this one.”