With multitasking and multitalent written in her bones, Jean Gill cannot just talk about her books, so feel free to expect various topics covered in this interview. Her book topics themselves have a wide range, so let her guide you into her wonderful world of imagination.
1. You have a wonderful new book with an unusual main character – a dog. You’re a dog owner and have lots of experience in this field. Still, was it difficult to get into the mind of a dog?
What’s worrying is how easy it was! Finding how to express it in the right voice was more difficult.One of my readers told me that she was half-way through the book when the postman rang the doorbell – and her instinct was to growl. That’s exactly what it’s like. Re-morphing to human is harder;)!
2. You also write historical texts. Which period, person or event would you like to write about?
I’ve never told anyone else this but I have some research about Robert Recorde, the 16th C Welsh mathematician who invented the equals sign – I would love to write a novel based on his life but I need to finish the 12th C Troubadours Quartet first.
3. Your publishing experience is linked both to traditional publishing and self-publishing. Could you share with us the best of both worlds?
It is a magical moment when the Editor of a reputable Press says he/she loves your book and is going to publish it. Your work is good! Then there are disappointments: delays/ a book jacket you hate/lack of marketing/lack of support at a festival at which you’re appearing – because the publishers have their own constraints and aims. I write in many genres so with each book I had to start over to find a publisher and the rejections left me miserable, unable to write, convinced my work was awful. Now I waste no time on rejections. I have a network of critical, pro friends who make sure my work is good before publication, I can still write whatever I like and publish it looking exactly as I want it to. I love the control over my work – but of course it is all my responsibility too. If I’d ever found ‘Editor Right’ who loved everything I wrote, I’d have been hers for life. It didn’t happen and self-publishing suits me.
4. When you think back to all your books, what’s the one thing you most love about each and why?
You don’t really want me to talk about 18 books J but I like to think that each one has a little magic in it, a story that wanted to get out into the world.
5. How do people react when you tell them you are an author?
If it comes up, the reaction is better than when I said I was a poet, which is how I was first published. Being a woman poet is very low status J Numbers impress people so if I want to be impressive I say 18 books. The same applies to my photography. If I say, ‘I made 800 dollars from one photo’ (which is also true) people will be impressed. In fact, none of this matters because a) it’s not profit and b) it doesn’t mean my books or photos are any good – which is still what I care about. When people read one of my books and ask me questions about it because they liked it, that is what matters. Money is a bonus, a sign that I am getting better at the business aspects. But then, I had a day job long enough to support my writing/photography addictions.
6. One of your many interests and occupations is also photography. Do you think it is important for a good photograph to tell a story, or is it all in the eye of the beholder?
There are many different genres of photograph and I sell commercial images that are boring and useful as well as more artistic/story-telling ones. Sometimes I’m aiming to show a mood, a sense of place; sometimes I want to surprise the viewer with a concept. My galleries show a selection of my photos that I really like.
7. What makes a story good in your reader’s mind? Give us examples of your favourite authors or stories if you wish?
Complete involvement. I didn’t read the Narnia books as a child, I lived in them and my favourite books take me completely into their world. I see and hear the characters, care what happens to them, live their adventures. More recently, I felt like that about Helen Macdonald’s ‘H is for Hawk’, about Jane Davis’ ‘An Unchoreographed Life’, about China Mieville’s ‘The City and the City’
8. How did it feel the first time you held your printed book in your hand?
A mix of pride, disappointment and nerves – when I had no say in book jackets, the ones chosen left me cold and spoiled the pleasure of publication. You’ll find the old jacket for ‘Snake on Saturdays’ still on amazon and I remember thinking, ‘But the main character is a red-head’. The nerves come from feeling exposed and wondering whether any reader will like the book – I still get publication nerves but now, I always love seeing the printed book – and the jacket – no disappointments!
9. What do you love and hate most about writing?
I love disappearing into my own world. At the moment I live in the 12th century. I also love hearing from fans, which happens regularly now and is so encouraging. I hate the redrafting and editing but no external editor can make your book the way you want it to be so it’s part of the work.
10. Which famous book character would you like to meet and why?
Aslan. I would like to curl up between his paws and sleep. It was a huge disappointment when I realised as an adult how much Christian imagery was in the Narnia stories but now I have come full circle and what I like has nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with a huge furry friend, who is protective and understanding.
11. Would you like to add anything about your current work or send a message to the readers?
Readers – if you review one of my books, your dog can feature in the Hall of fame on my beautiful new website.
I am half-way through the third book of The Troubadours Quartet, set in Provence, 1152. Today I wrote part where the nobles come to Les Baux to pay allegiance to the Comte de Barcelone (and really to choose sides during this supposed truce between him and his host/reluctant vassal, the widowed ruler Etiennette – all real historical characters). Estela and Dragonetz (our fictional troubadour heroes & lovers) are playing the political balancing-act when Estela is confronted by the very people who abused her as a girl, who turn up among the nobles swearing fealty…so today’s scene had lots of poisonous references and insults, attempts to undermine a young woman’s confidence and threaten those she loves.
‘Plaint for Provence’ is due out on November 1st so you have time to read ‘Song at Dawn’ (Bk 1 which won the Global Ebooks award for Historical Fiction)