Name – Jill McDonald-Constable (or – Gil McDonald. Or – Amos Carr. Or – Jill McDonald. Depends on which of my books you are reading!)
Age – As old as my tongue and older than my teeth.
Where are you from?
Liverpool in Lancashire, England, but my family travelled around a lot so I lost my Liverpool accent quite early on.
A little about yourself, i.e your education, Family life etc.
Ok, Education – I left school with absolutely no qualifications/certificates, went back into education as a ‘mature student’ and plodded through all the certificates, eventually in 2001, gaining an M.A in Writing Studies (a combination of Eng Lit and Creative Writing.)
Family life. – My husband passed away four years ago, so now I live with my two Miniature Schnauzer ‘girls’ who keep me busy. Although my daughter and family live nearby so I often get visits, especially from my 13 year old granddaughter who is very keen on writing!
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My latest release ‘The Gypsy’s Kiss,’ under the pen name Jill McDonald, came out in February. I am working on four more books now all in different genres.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I had a grandfather who would write me long letters when I was quite young, he illustrated them with little pictures of animals and people, I tried to make my letters back to him as interesting. It’s a shame that letter writing seems to have gone out of fashion, isn’t it? Once I had started doing that, I began to write poems and stories, and had my first poem published in a paper at the age of 13. When I saw my name in print, I knew I wanted to be a writer, hold a ‘real’ book in my hand and say, ‘I did this.’
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think that would be when my lifelong ambition was realised and in 2011 I finally got to hold a copy of my first ‘real’ published book in my hands, a traditional, ‘shoot-em-up’ Western, ‘The Ghosts of Poynter,’ published under the pen name of Amos Carr, by Robert Hale in London. They have since published two more Amos Carr books – ‘Crazy Man Cade’ and ‘The Secret of the Silver Star’. They are all in hard back and have also been brought out in Large print. They are available in local Libraries throughout the UK (and possibly further afield?)
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Well, I had written one or two (very bad Romances over the years, but hidden them away.) My first published book came to me in a dream. I woke up one morning with a ‘film’ running around in my head, characters, names, etc. including the title. I just had to write it down. It was my first traditional Western.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t think so, style is hard to define, isn’t it? I write in a variety of genres, therefore the style has to be different for each one.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For my first one, or the latest? I’ll go with both. The first one was there in my head when I woke from my dream, so that was easy, and the publisher didn’t change it either! The latest one, ‘The Gypsy’s Kiss’ is simply because the heroine thinks the hero looks like a gypsy and they share one very passionate kiss.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Don’t judge a book by its cover (or a person.)
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
‘Mere Hall’ (actually just a large cottage) is loosely based on a combination of one where I lived with my parents, which was 300 years old and came with a ghost, and one where my husband and I lived, which, when we first saw it, was just as dirty and derelict as the one in the book, but it gave me the same warm and welcoming ‘hug’ that Sofia experiences when she first enters Mere Hall.
Fiona: What books have influenced your life most? A mentor?
I think the main influence on me has been ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ (But most definitely not the Disney versions! Talking crockery? No! Just NO!) I fell totally in love with the original story as a child, and that has stayed with me ever since, I always try to see the good inside a person, no matter what they might look like. I think if I did have a mentor it would have been my grandfather, with his lovely letters.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest, who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’ve read so many now, I can’t even remember most of them. My favourite author though, is Tim Bowler, technically a YA author, he creates incredibly beautiful and poetic prose, it’s as if he writes everything from the deepest personal experience. Oh, I wish I could write so well! It’s something I am aiming for.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members?
The Internet! It’s invaluable for research. Especially for two of the books I am working on now, one set in the 1920s and one Medieval. There is a lot of research to do for them!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Well, I’m retired now, so it’s probably a second career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I don’t think so.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
That goes back to my earlier reply, the letters from my Grandfather. Illustrated manuscripts really! And I actually still like to look at real illustrated manuscripts.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Of course I can, Fiona. – This is from Chapter 4 when Sofia is first confronted by Jake in the house.
“Well, Miss Sofia Marchant, I guess you are entitled to be here after all. I do apologise. Please, forgive my attitude. I’ve been sort of – well, keeping an unofficial eye on the old place for the last couple of years. I’m quite fond of it. Oh, sorry, my name’s Jake, Jake Hartley.”
He held out a broad hand for her to shake.
His hand was hard and warm in hers.
Hers was smooth, soft and cool in his.
Neither one seemed to want to let go, as their eyes locked and something passed between them. A tingling shiver almost like a bolt of electricity arcing from one to the other, made them jump and they pulled their hands apart in a hurry.
Jake frowned and shook his hand as if trying to get rid of something on his fingers.
Clenching her fist, Sofia pulled her hand in to rest on her stomach. Right where there was a large nest of butterflies doing a jig.
Around them, the sudden thickening of the atmosphere stole the breath from her lungs.
“Right, yeah, erm – well, I’ll get out of here, Miss – Marchant, leave you to your sorting out. And there’s a hell of a lot of sorting to do, by the look of it. Staying around here for a few days, are you?”
Sofia grimaced. Her hand was still tingling from the sensation his had left behind.
“Oh! Good grief, no! No way! It was simply a condition of the will, that I had to come in and look around. Which is all I’m doing, then I’m going back to my job, my boyfriend, Edward and our river front apartment; I will then sign this place over to the solicitors and leave it all to them to sort out. They can bulldoze it to the ground as far as I’m concerned.”
“That would be a real shame.”
The crease beside his mouth deepened as his luscious lips curved up into a broad smile and his dark eyes twinkled mischievously. Sofia cursed to herself. Why on earth had she felt the need to tell this – this scruffy – gorgeous – gypsy pig man, any of that?
“Did my… did Eleanor – not have any friends? Or – household help of any kind?”
Her voice was weak with emotion as she tried to imagine a frail old lady trying to cope in a house like this, all alone. Jake shook his head slowly. Sofia felt a deep and burning shame for not having visited her old Aunt when she could well have done.
“Don’t think so, no.”
She was beginning to feel a certain strong empathy for the old woman for some reason.
“Poor, poor Great-great.”
A warm, fat tear whispered down her cheek, she swiped it away with impatient fingers.
‘So – o – f -.’
Sofia looked up at Jake, judging by the startled look on his face, he’d heard it too.
‘- f – ia – h.’
“Bloody hell! What was that?”
He looked around, his eyes wide and startled, ‘he looks like a scared deer in a car’s headlights,’ she stifled a smile.
You can get ‘The Gypsy’s Kiss’ as e book or paperback from Amazon and other online book retailers now. Link: http://amzn.eu/92RprwM
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes! When ‘real life’ intervenes and I have to drag myself back to the real world to go shopping or do the ironing.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Only in my head and my dreams.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The publishers have designed all my covers. Thanks to you all.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I think it is making myself write something every day, and trying to keep my writing life and real life apart in my head.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
To revise and revise again, no matter how many times you do it, there is always bound to be something not quite right somewhere that others will spot.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead?
Oh, now I’m going to descend right into the cliché bog here. Sorry! I would like the part of Jake in ‘The Gypsy’s Kiss’ to be played by Aiden Turner! I think he was in my mind as I wrote the book.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Never give up. Believe you can do it!
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Yes, when you read my books (or indeed any author’s books) please, please do go and leave a review. That is the main way we can tell how people feel about our work, and reviews help other readers to decide if the books are going to be to their taste or not. So please review. Thank you.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
No one book, I read the way I write, multiple titles on the go at once. I am quite into Time slip/Time Travel romances and medieval romances. And others!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I believe it was Treasure Island. I was a real tomboy and almost always read ‘boys’ books.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My dogs and my family for both.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I think, Shakespeare, so I could show him that his works are still as popular now as they were when he first wrote them.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
‘She did it!’ because it took me a lot of time and patience to get published, but at last, I did it!
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Watercolour painting, gardening, my dogs, and facilitating two writing groups.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Archaeological programmes, true forensics, and ‘heavy’ costume dramas, like – The Musketeers, Desperate Romantics, Poldark, The Last Kingdom, etc.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music. Foods
Salmon, Eton Mess, ice cream. Colours – Orange and blue. Music – Bon Jovi, Meatloaf, James Blunt, Jack Savoretti, Classical guitar and lute music. A real mix!
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Artist. I did go to Art school for a couple of years and gained some certificates, but as always, life got complicated for a while and I couldn’t carry it on. I’d like to go back to that.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website?
If so what is it? I do have a website, but not a blog. The website is my given Native American name, and for that particular story, you’ll have to go to the website! Go to – www.womanwholeads.webs.com
My Amazon author page is ‘Gil McDonald,’ where you will see all of my books under all 3 of my author names.