Interview with Jean Gill

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My father was a soldier and the longest we stayed in any one place was 2.5 years. I lived in Berlin, Hong Kong and different parts of England, always the outsider. I explored this lack of roots in my autobiography 'How Blue is my Valley' as well as the ways in which Wales became my adopted home, followed by a love affair with the south of France, where I now live. Perhaps it's because in compensation for my childhood that places are so important in my books and are real places, usually ones I know intimately.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote a tedious novel in school when I was 11 called 'Jill's Stables'. If I'd finished my work before the other children, I was allowed to continue with my masterpiece, which ran to several chapters. The teacher's only comment, preserved in red ink, was 'This would be better with more illustrations'.
When did you publish your first novel?
I started as a poet in my twenties and turned to prose at 40. That was a big year - I became a Headteacher, wrote my first novel (not counting 'Jill's Stables') and gave up sugar in hot drinks. You can guess which was hardest to do! In 2001, a highly respected Welsh Press, Gomer, accepted my novel and I couldn't believe I'd 'made it'.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When a reader tells me how much s/he liked something I've written. I've published 15 books, and it doesn't matter whether it's a recipe for goat cheese, a prisoner-of-war story, a poem or a love story, the thrill for me is the same when I get positive feedback. It's as if my books live again each time someone reads them and I re-live the experience of writing them. I need the creative act itself but when someone reads and enjoys my work, that is the fulfillment.
What led you to write a book from a dog's viewpoint?
Through online happenstance I met and trained with top French dogtrainer Michel Hasbrouck and translated his book 'Gentle Dog Training'. I'm part of the online dog world, with a special interest in Great Pyrenees and one particular true story of a rescue Pyr haunted me and demanded to be written. True dog stories expressed through all that I'd learned from Michel turned into 'Someone to Look Up To' and as I saw the story from the dog's viewpoint, that's how I wrote it. It felt odd when I finished the book and stopped being a dog, and my favourite review was from the reader who told me, 'By the end of it I WAS a dog and nearly barked at the postman.'
Describe your desk
My desk is at one end of the living-room, facing a window onto the garden and the Provencal hills behind. The collection of oddities on my 'inspiration window-sill' includes a flamingo feather from the Camargue, an antler and a skull found in our orchard, and my grandfather's microscope. I change around the pictures clamped in his little scientific bench clamp that has two clips and a magnifying glass. At the moment I have a picture of a humming-bird and a Victorian postcard showing women crossing an Alpine bridge across a ravine, in floor-length skirts and fussy bonnets.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I love the freedom, was tired of trying to find a publisher with each new book and I hated the rejections more than I loved the acceptances.
Who is your ideal reader?
Someone who lives my book as s/he reads it and tells me how much s/he enjoyed it. I think my husband is the only person who has read everything I've written and even he doesn't like all of it - poetry worries him :)
What are you working on next?
I've almost stopped the research for the third 12th century novel about Dragonetz and Estela. You could research forever but at some point you have to say 'Enough!' and start writing. It's 1152 and as always I've discovered some amazingly strong women that I'd never heard of before. Stephania/Etienette of les Baux and Queen Petronilla of Aragon will definitely figure in the story.
How do you approach cover design?
I design my own covers. I'm a photographer with a portfolio at www.istock.com/jeangill and I usually use about 6 photos to make the cover art. I will use my own if I have something suitable (as on 'Someone to look up to) or by the ones I need from istock. One of my conventionally published books had the same jacket design as another book because two publishers had chosen the same image. I really dislike that! I love designing covers and I like knowing mine are unique.
What are your favourite inspirational quotations?
At the moment I like 'Don't be sad it's over; be glad it happened'. I keep quotations on my inspiration windowsill and at one time I had a quote from French singer Francis Cabrel

'Faut pas dire à qui je ressemble,
Faut dire qui je suis'

My translation - 'It's not about who I'm like, it's about who I am.'

I don't mind being likened to others but my own aim, as a writer, photographer and human being, is just to be me.
Published 2013-08-24.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Bladesong
By
Series: Troubadours, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 101,420. Language: English. Published: January 25, 2013. Category: Fiction » Historical » Medieval
Historical thriller/romance Book2 of The Troubadours Series but stands alone 1151 – the Holy Land during a fragile peace. Estela, the troubadour, following the destiny of her beautiful voice, and Dragonetz, her passionate knight; divided by the times they love in and fighting to be together.
Song at Dawn
By
Series: Troubadours, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 109,520. Language: English. Published: October 21, 2011. Category: Fiction » Romance » Historical
Winner of Global Ebooks award for Best Historical Literary Fiction (medieval category) 1150 in Provence, where love and marriage are as divided as Christian and Muslim. 'Believable, page-turning and memorable' - S.P.Review
Crystal Balls
By
Series: Jamie and Ryan, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 41,330. Language: English. Published: March 18, 2011. Category: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Adventure
Jamie’s Mum is hooked on fortune-tellers and running into debt, so she and her friend Ryan decide to investigate the psychic world but instead of rescuing her mother, Jamie is drawn into a supernatural world herself, where a warrior princess is doomed to revisit a medieval battlefield until she finds what she's seeking. Will friendship be strong enough to bring Jamie back from the shadows?
Faithful through Hard Times
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Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 71,420. Language: English. Published: March 17, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » History » Military
This is not a WW2 memoir. It is a riveting reconstruction from an eye-witness account written at the time in a secret diary, a diary too dangerous to show anyone and too precious to destroy. The true story of four years, 3 million bombs, one small island out-facing the might of the German and Italian airforces - and one young Scotsman who didn't want to be there.
San Fairy Anne
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Series: Llanelli Saga, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 96,950. Language: English. Published: March 16, 2011. Category: Fiction » Romance » General
One year is nothing; one year changes everything. Jump? Don’t jump? One year’s job swap in another country – who wouldn’t jump at it? Neil discovers the French ‘education of the senses’ in Alsace while his swap partner Anne tracks down a family secret in south Wales. Both of them find more than they bargained for and have tough choices to make.
With Double Blade
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,970. Language: English. Published: March 15, 2011. Category: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
poetry; makes you feel you're caught on barbed wire and yet makes you smile about it; very funny A delicious book full of the unexpected. Highly emotive contents. Writing Magazine
From Bedtime On
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 4,470. Language: English. Published: March 15, 2011. Category: Fiction » Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
poetry; a wide range of subjects including adultery, divorce and motherhood;strong, fresh vivid poems Jean Gill’s spiky humour makes you feel as if she’s caught you on barbed wire and yet makes you smile about it – Mike Sharpe, Haverfordwest Journalist
How Blue is my Valley
By
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 66,510. Language: English. Published: March 15, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » Travel » By region
The true scents of Provence? Lavender, thyme and septic tank. There are hundreds of interesting things you can do in a bath but washing dishes is not one of them, nor what writer Jean Gill had in mind when she swopped her Welsh Valley for a French one. Discover the real Provence
Someone To Look Up To
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Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 60,020. Language: English. Published: March 14, 2011. Category: Fiction » Adventure » General
It's a dog's life in the south of France. From puppyhood, Sirius the Pyrenean Mountain Dog has been trying to understand his humans and train them with kindness. How this led to divorce he has no idea. Through all his trials, even in an animal shelter, Sirius doggedly keeps the faith. One day, his human will come.
On the Other Hand
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Series: Jamie and Ryan, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 30,590. Language: English. Published: March 13, 2011. Category: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Adventure
A mix of gripping story with fascinating facts on left-handedness.Everyone should think left-handed - or so 14 year old Jamie thought when she tied her hand behind her back for a day-long protest in school, against persecution of left-handers over the centuries. When her friend Ryan faces bullying at its most deadly, their research into prejudice takes an unexpected and dangerous turn.
Snake on Saturdays
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Series: Llanelli Saga, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 89,620. Language: English. Published: March 12, 2011. Category: Fiction » Women's fiction » General
Helen Tanner lives alone and likes it that way. She runs her own business, spends her evenings out with friends, and tries to think as little as possible about the tragedy she has left behind. Until, that is, a dark-haired vet walks into her life. Her first unpromising encounter with Welsh vet Dai Evans turns into a tumultuous affair which brings about irrevocable changes for both of them
4.5 Years
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Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 24,190. Language: English. Published: March 11, 2011. Category: Nonfiction » Biography » Military biography
The true story of a young Scottish soldier stranded in France during WW2 and sent to a Prisoner-of-War camp. With his forced companions, he fought his own war to stay alive and keep his humanity,in a world where one egg is an illegal treasure, where knives are hidden and get used, where Jewish prisoners are glimpsed and, inexplicably, disappear. This book is a tribute to the human spirit.