Meet Jean Gill

Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with a big white dog, a scruffy black dog, a Nikon D700 and a man. For many years, she taught English in Wales and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic.

I met Ms. Gill on twitter after I had left the offer for interviews blindly floating around.  She was intrigued enough to accept.  So, without further ado, I will turn most of the talking over to her, so we can all get to know this young-at-heart lady a little better.

Starting with the easy questions, can you tell us a little about what part of the world you call home?

  • Tricky question! I adopted Wales as my homeland and lived there longest so I call myself Welsh.
  • My father was a soldier so the longest I lived anywhere when I was a child was 2.5 years. Being a nomad meant that I was always an outsider, which is good for a writer, and each of us four children has a different accent, education and background. We do share the same Scottish parents and Scottishness was a big feature of childhood. I even went to school there for 6 months in between postings and was bullied for having an English accent.

Do you remember what started you writing?

  • I loved reading and I wrote down my own stories from the moment I could write. My hamster featured in some of my early masterpieces.

Do you remember what led to your first book?

  • My first book was poetry and expressed personal angst. I write a lot of poetry when I’m miserable. I write less poetry now.

With everything you had written, do you remember what gave you the feeling that you were a “real” writer?

  • When my first book was published by the National Poetry Foundation – but my ego took a bashing when a ‘friend’ said ‘It’s nice to have a little hobby, isn’t it.’

Can you describe your writer’s voice or writing style?

  • Many different ones as I write in a wide variety of genres but I have been told I have a distinctive sense of humour. I’ve also been told I’m not funny J

After talking to you a little behind the scenes, I know you are passionate about your work.  Can you share anything about your current project?

  • ‘Someone to Look Up To’ is being serialized in a new international print magazine for the Great Pyrenees breed of dog and my photo will be on the cover of the very first edition.
  • I’m nearly half-way through ‘Plaint for Provence’ the third book in my 12thC Troubadours series with publication date of 1st November.
    Question:Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.I’ve mentioned my close network of writer friends but I’d also mention the wider networks of writers online supporting writers. BooksGoSocial is one that has offered good advice and really helped me understand how to reach my readers more effectively – and here I am, your guest, thanks to us meeting online.

What an interesting title.  What inspired you to use that one?

  • ‘Someone to Look Up To’ is the answer to a question which runs through the book and I can’t tell you any more without giving away secrets J

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

  • I want readers to care what happens to the dogs in the story. People have told me that the book has helped them to understand and relate better to their dogs. That pleases me immensely.

Do you base any of the elements in your book on reality?

  • All the events in the book are true stories, gleaned from either my own experiences or those of the many dog owners I’ve met via work with top dog-trainer Michel Hasbrouck or my involvement in forums.

Do you have any favorite books that have influenced you?

  • Thousands! Stevie Smith’s poetry had a big impact because she made me realise that it wasn’t only important dead men who were ‘writers’. Colette was another writer who fascinated me when I was 19 and served as an antidote to ‘the canon of English literature’.

What about authors?  Any that served as your mentor, even if you didn’t know them, or favorites that have helped shape your writing?

  • I am lucky in having a close network of writer-friends and they ARE my mentors. Each of them offers something different in helping me create, improve and market my work. They know who they are 😉
  • I have many! One who springs to mind is Terry Pratchett, not only because I love the Discworld but because I went to his reading at the Hay Festival one year. Some writers make it clear they are there from duty but he loved his audience, his readers and his work. A writer having fun is an inspiration and I feel personally affected by his deteriorating health.
    Question:Who designed the covers?I’m a photographer and I design my own book jackets, often using my own photographs. I also designed the book jacket for ‘Blue Amber’ by William Burton McCormick (a wonderful novella) because we started talking about jackets and I can’t help expressing myself in pictures.

What book is currently occupying the top spot on your to be read list?

  • I’m reading a novel on which I promised pre-publication feedback and also David Duchemin’s ‘Vision and Voice’. I’m a photographer as well as a writer and love reading photography books, which have to be print versions so I can study the photographs.

Are there any new (or established) authors that have claimed a place in your heart?

  • Many! I don’t know which are new authors and which are just new to me but I’ve been really impressed by all Jane Davis’ work. Jackie Mallon’s ‘Silk for the feed dogs’ stayed in my mind as one of the most entertaining books I’ve discovered off the beaten track. I don’t like horror (I get nightmares) have a limit on violence (I get nightmares) and avoid vampires J but otherwise I read so widely that if you say to me which genre you like, I can recommend some books for you that you might not have read.

Is writing your career?

  • Yes – but one that doesn’t pay me. My first book was published in 1988 and I’ve had a writing career alongside a very fulfilling paid career in education. I had two separate CVs. If I’d tried to earn a living by writing (as some people do) I would never have had the freedom to write what I want when I want, so I have no regrets. Now, retired from education, I can write full-time without worrying about the rent.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

  • My last book ‘One Sixth of a Gill’ was a collection of illustrated shorts and I could improve the technical side of including photos and illustrations in a print book if I did it again.

What challenges did you face and over come while writing your book?

  • For ‘Someone to Look Up To’ it was easy for me to think like a dog J but difficult to find the voice that fitted. Readers have said they love the part where the dogs in the refuge tell their stories because there is something truly dog-like in the pack chorus, even though it is in words.
  • When I finished I still felt as if I was a dog and my readers have said the same.

I’m sure you have something new in the works.  Can you tell us anything about it yet?

  • 1152 in Provence. Dragonetz and Estela, the troubadours – and lovers – are caught up in civil war, trying to turn the truce between Barcelona and les Baux into a lasting peace. Treachery, coin-minting and pigeons all play their part in shaping events.

Are there any different challenges to writing fiction than your non-fiction?

  • Weaving my fictional characters and story into real historical events is always a challenge and I spend a year researching the background before I start one of my historical novels. Eleanor of Aquitaine makes my life difficult, frequently!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

  • Don’t get it right, get it written. Then go back and re-write as often as you have to until you know it is the best it can be.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

  • Every time I know that someone has read one of my books, it comes alive again for me. Thank you, especially for the reviews and encouragement.

For those who would like to keep in touch, or follow you, where can they do this?


If you would like me to host an author/character combination interview for you, please go here, and get in contact with me.


2 thoughts on “Meet Jean Gill

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I’m trying to make the author/character interviews a weekly series. Still having a little trouble getting them to fall on the same day, but I am getting one per week.

      Hope you are enjoying them.


Comments and questions welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s