"Deep in my heart, I know there’s no promise I’ll be free from trouble in this life. In fact, I’m usually either getting out of trouble, currently in trouble, or about to meet trouble around the next corner."...... I hope you'll stick around for my "Lucille Ball/Gracie Allen" adventures. It promises to be a wild ride.
'Song at Dawn’ won the Global Ebooks Award 2012 for Best Historical Fiction (medieval). It is available in print from
lulu and bookshops. It is is a historical thriller/love story set in Narbonne just after the Second Crusade.
1150 in Provence, where love and marriage are as divided as Christian and Muslim. On the run from abuse, Estela's musical talent finds a patron in Alienor of Aquitaine and more than a music tutor in the finest troubadour of the age, Alienor's Commander of the Guard. Weary of war, Dragonetz los Pros uses Jewish money and Moorish expertise to build that most modern of inventions, a paper mill, drawing the wrath of the Church down on his head. Their enemies gather, ready to light the political and religious powder-keg of medieval Narbonne.
Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with a big white 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.
I am lucky. The
children are grown up, I no longer have to go out to work, and I can write or
take photos whenever I want. But it wasn’t always like this…
Twelve books ago, I
was forty, with a nine year old son, an adopted eighteen year-old daughter, two
dogs, seven cats and occasional kittens. They all lived with my husband and me.
I also had three stepdaughters, a bit older than my adopted daughter, who came
over from time to time. As if that wasn’t enough, my husband and I had
demanding full-time jobs too.
In fact, I’d just been
appointed Headteacher (Principal) of a school for 11-16 year-olds, to see the
school through its last two years to closure. Parents don’t like to send their
children to a closing school. This meant that we had a high number of
disadvantaged youngsters in our school and teachers didn’t stay long. It was a
So that was the year I
decided I’d write a novel. Perhaps it takes a demanding distraction to balance
a stressful job. Or I was nuts. In the car, on the way back from a family
camping holiday, I’d scribbled the outline idea on the back of an envelope. I’d
already written poetry for a few years, and had two poetry books published, but
poetry fits quite nicely into small amounts of time. This is what you want to
know, isn’t it; where did I find the time?
Answer; weekends and
school holidays. I’m a morning writer (afternoon at a pinch, never evening or
night) so I wrote for three hours on either a Saturday or Sunday morning, while
the family got on with their lives and ignored me. Of course, life interrupted
occasionally, but there is something comfortable about a routine. Everyone gets
used to it. Everyone knows you’re writing. They get better at not interrupting
you, although I never told anyone not to. They probably just figured it out
from the blank other-worldly look as I didn’t really listen to them.
holidays, I took more three-hour mornings. I even took my laptop on holiday
abroad, to a rented cottage in the French Vosges mountains and sneaked some
writing sessions while the rest of the family went out walking. I found that
one session of about three hours gave me time to get into my work, whereas
sessions of an hour were just a waste of time, so it was better to make sure I
could settle down once a week rather than achieve nothing five times.
There’s a lot of talk
in women’s magazines about ‘me-time’ and when I listen to people who ‘can’t
find the time to write’, I notice all the things they do find time for, that
didn’t matter as much to me as writing that novel. I rarely saw my friends
outside work and I didn’t have endless phone calls; I didn’t spend hours at the
hairdresser/gym (a half-hour dry trim once every three months did for the hair,
and walking dogs was plenty of exercise); I didn’t have a social life outside
my family and pets; I made contact with my son’s school only when we (he and I)
thought it was important; we were very well organised for shopping and did
minimal housework (and I mean minimal).
Fast forward to the
last five minutes of your life; you’re going to be thinking, ‘I just wish I’d
vacuumed the sitting-room more often’. Right?
I don’t think so! Think about what matters to you and do it, trying your
best to fit it into your relationships and responsibilities. If your people
don’t understand, and you can’t help them to see what is important to you,
maybe you need to re-think who you’re with (or how you bring them up!)
My first novel got
written. A couple of years later ‘Snake on Saturdays’ found a publisher. I felt
good about myself and what I’d achieved. I never played the ‘Great Writer’ (you
know the type; ‘my novel is a work of genius that must reach the world, and you
must support me financially, emotionally and by making my dinner’). I did let
my family know that writing mattered to me, whether I ever found a publisher or
Yes, I had a very
supportive husband. Yes, I was selfish. But I just don’t buy into the idea of
the ‘perfect mother who sacrifices herself’. I think my kids preferred having a
mother who was happy and fulfilled, if sometimes absent or absent-minded,
rather than one who was miserable and martyred, but always there. You’d have to ask them, of course, but I think
all that sacrifice results in blood at some stage, usually starting with, ‘How
can you do this after all I’ve done for you?!’ I don’t do sacrifice and I don’t
do emotional blackmail.
Finding time to write – Jean Gill’s tips
What worked for me:-
avoids arguments and self-justification. Make a writing session of about 3
hours into a weekly routine – more often if you can.
the time it takes. One step at a time climbs the mountain. Who says you have to
write a novel in twelve weeks? I still take a year.
you do with those you live with but don’t bore them with the creative detail.
Now, I have online writer-friends for that.
stop writing when you know what’s coming next so you can get straight into it
when you sit down again.
Details of the Christmas Giveaway
Free Christmas book
Global Awards winner, historical novel ‘Song at Dawn’