I'm a Welsh writer and photographer now living in the south of France with a Nikon D750, two scruffy dogs and a man. I've published 18 books and been lucky enough to win some awards. My claim to fame is that I was the first woman to be a secondary head teacher in Wales. I'm mother or stepmother to five children, so life has been hectic!
SIX MINUTES WITH JEAN GILL:
Joining LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author is Jean Gill, author of the Looking for Normal series. She was the first woman to become a secondary head teacher in Wales. When she’s not writing, Jean is a beekeeper and photographer. Her writing is as eclectic as her hobbies, and her published books include poetry, novels, books on dog training and goat cheese.
***How did you get started writing?
I’ve always loved writing stories. I wrote my first novel when I was 11, a dramatic adventure in 10 chapters, titled Jill’s Stables. My teacher let me write it in school if I finished my work before the other pupils.
***Who influenced you?
All those authors whose books whisked me off into other lives and other worlds. I used to think authors were as magical as their books, superhuman beings who were dead or distant. Now I have many author friends, and I’ve been influenced by every writer who’s had tea or a glass of wine with me, shared their thoughts and their books. So I’ll pick three people to represent thousands: Tolkien, Colette, and my friend Karen Maitland.
***Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
When I was a little girl, I read and re-read The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (not at all like the Disney cartoon). A black panther and a bear would have suited me as parents. My favourite theme is the Arthurian legends, in many versions, from Sir Thomas Mallory’s medieval to Mary Stewart’s Crystal Cave trilogy.
***What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Find out what kind of writer you are by writing what you enjoy writing. Do it for yourself first. Then learn everything you can from writers you respect. If you want to make your work public, when you’re ready, show it to somebody you trust and ask what they think. Nobody writes a brilliant book without hard work editing it, so an author has to take criticism and use it to make the book better – or ignore it. All successful writers have to cope with criticism and rejections, so you have to believe in yourself.
***Where is your favorite place to write?
I live in Provence, France, and have a beautiful view of my garden and the hills behind it through the window as I sit at my desk. The window ledge has a collection of objects that motivate me – a pheasant’s feather, a paper rose, a shrew’s skull, photos. If the weather’s nice, I take my laptop outside and write in the garden.
***What else would you like to tell us?
The thing I’m most proud of in the last three years is learning to be a beekeeper. Honey tastes better when you know the bees who made it, and I feel I’m doing just a little bit to help this planet I have loved so much.
I’ve also worked with a top dog trainer, and my favourite breed of dog is the Great Pyrenees. I’ve been owned by six of these wonderful giants and loved them all.
Every time a reader says he/she liked one of my books, I feel happy. I feel like Tinkerbell in Peter Pan when somebody believes in fairies – my book is alive. Good reviews are so important to motivate authors.
Jean, thanks for joining us. The view you have while writing sounds spectacular. May we come visit?
Be sure to check out the YouTube animated review videos: