The Reading Writer

Writers are always readers. Or if not, they have no business writing. This interview asks authors about both their reading and writing, because I’m curious how one affects the other. Today’s guest is Jean Gill, author of Queen of the Warrior Bees.

Which book most influenced you when growing up?

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (nothing like the Disney film). I knew that I belonged with a wolf pack and that my real parents were a black panther and a bear, rather than the more traditional mother and father who had to put up with me. The scene where Baloo and Bagheera vouch for Mowgli so he can join the wolf pack still makes me cry. I was a soldier’s daughter so two years was the maximum in any one place and I was often lonely. Books were my friends.

Tell us which books are your go-to comfort reads.

The Once and Future King by T.H.White and The Lord of The Rings . I need to struggle like Lancelot, torn between love and duty, to win every tournament. I need to carry the burden of the ring like Frodo and to save the world from evil.

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure?

Yes ?

Oh, all right then, seeing as it’s you… but don’t tell anyone ? Laurette Long’s French Summer novels, starting with Hot Basque are funny, sharp, a little bit sexy and she really knows her France. For lazy reading in the garden with a glass of rosé.

What makes your hero(ine)/storyworld/concept special?

I don’t know of any other novel where the heroine shape-shifts into a bee.

I want you to fly with Mielitta on a queen’s mating flight, to fight invaders in the beehive, to be deceived by the mages and their self-serving politics, to walk on the artificial grass of the Citadel and to compare purified water with that fresh from the stream in the forbidden Forest:

“Bubbles burst on her tongue like a liquid giggle. Then the water told its history, from snow-capped mountains through forests and meandering pasture, to this small deviation.”

I’m a small beekeeper (in every sense!) and it is so much fun to shift shape and go into a beehive! At the moment, I have three beehives, named by my husband: Endeavour, Diligence and Resolution.

Which part of the writing process do you enjoy most: drafting or editing?

I hate editing so much that I’ve wanted to give up writing to avoid editing. But I love writing so much I can’t give it up. ‘Drafting’ sounds like a horse trudging the furrows in a field, hard work. For me, writing is never a slog but a creative flow, its own fulfilment, like a bee turning nectar into honey.

Will you give us a hint about what you’re working on next?

Book 2 of Natural Forces. I can see and hear the characters from Book 1.  The war between Citadel and Forest is not over yet, not while those devious mages can find a way round their agreement with the Queen of the Warrior Bees. I also have an idea for a historical standalone short story in The Troubadours series. And if a poem insists, I have no choice but to write it down.

Has being a writer affected your enjoyment of reading? How?

I am ambivalent about writing reviews. I know how important they are to writers and how they help readers find books. But as a reader, I feel like I’ve been set homework if I ‘should’ write a review when I finish a book. To resist this pressure, I read many books and write few reviews. I want to enjoy my reading so reviews are the exception, not the norm. Please, writers, forgive me the reviews not written.

Which book(s) did you expect to like/hate but had your expectations overturned?

I bought Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code before it became popular and thought, from the blurb, that I’d love it but I found it very silly that so much should happen in 24 hours. I thought it badly written and was very surprised when it became such a hit. But hey, what would I know?!

How far has your reading affected your writing?

It sets my standards, inspires me and encourages me to take risks. I’m a rule-breaker anyway as you can tell from how many genres I’ve written. I’ve learned from Guy Gavriel Kay’s epic sweep of history and lyrical style; Jane Davis’ range and depth of viewpoints; Sheri Tepper’s world-building; Dorothy Dunnett’s grasp of medieval politics; Colette’s sensuality, defiance of gender expectations and beautiful prose.

I discovered Colette when I was eighteen and I have a framed poster of her above my desk. She was the first woman to be accepted into the French Academy, despite her wild lifestyle. She inspired me then and, now that I have read her work in French too, she inspires me still.

If your book was a dish on a menu, what would it be?

Goat’s yoghurt, unpasteurised and fresh from an ethical farm, with home-made muesli, wild strawberries and local forest honey drizzled into it. Did you know that it was once believed that forest honey fell from the stars? And it sort of does…

Jean’s latest novel, an eco fantasy for nature lovers, takes the original viewpoint of bees as central characters. At special pre-order price here and the Publication Date is 7th June. Grab it now!


Jean Gill is an award-winning Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two big scruffy dogs, three beehives, a Nikon D750 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.

Publications are varied, including poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.

Sign up for Jean’s Special Readers’ Group at for exclusive news and offers. If you review one of Jean’s books you can add a dog to Jean’s Readers Dogs Hall of Fame on her website. Contact Jean at with comments or questions. She loves to hear from readers.



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    4 replies to "The Reading Writer – Jean Gill"

    • Jean Gill

      Thank you for inviting me onto your blog and surprising me with your questions – and my answers 🙂

    • Alison Morton

      Such an interesting and forthright interview! I felt the same intense disappointment about The Da Vinci Code. there was a terrific story in there, but it was poorly executed.

      Back to Mielitta…
      A lovely story, full of determination and complexity. I will post a review because I enjoyed the book 😉

      • Jean Gill

        Thank you, Alison! I’m so glad you enjoyed your walk on the wild side! And I so much appreciate you taking time to write a review as that helps other readers find my books.

    • Laurette Long

      Thank you Small Bee Keeper Jean and Author-Blogger J.J. Marsh (love the author photo) for this interview, felt like jumping into the conversation, fascinating! Pity we can’t yet be beamed up into a Readers’ and Writers’ Local where people could drop in and chat, drink rosé and eat goat’s yogurt with that magic ‘miel’. Many thanks for the ‘guilty’ shout-out, that was really kind!! Also the tantalising news that a Troubadour short story may be on the horizon…Let’s hear it for Mielitta and Estela!

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