Gillian was born in England in 1954. Her father was in the Royal Air Force which meant that the family moved every two or three years, traveling all over England and spending three memorable years in Germany. Before the age of eleven, she went to five different schools and she quickly discovered that a good book was a useful thing to have until you settled in and made new friends. The pace slowed down once she became a teenager and she only went to two high schools. Although there is a family story that she announced her intention to be a writer when she was only five, Gillian’s intended career changed constantly throughout her childhood and teenage years and was normally influenced by whatever she had just read. By the time she was sixteen, she narrowed it down to two possible careers – an archaeologist (she still has a passion for Vikings) or an English teacher.
When Gillian didn’t get into university to study archaeology, she decided to work for a while before trying teaching. She had a variety of jobs which included working in stores, in banks, and in restaurants, all of which have provided material for her writing. In 1976, she started teacher training, graduating with a degree in English and Education in 1980. In her last year of university, Gillian worked as a bar tender which was useful in two ways: first of all, she made enough money to live on; and, secondly, she met her husband, Henry Chan whom she married in 1982.
Gillian taught English for ten years in high schools and then came to live in Canada in 1990, settling in Dundas, Ontario where she still lives.
Ever since she can remember, Gillian has always written – she has a drawer full of really embarrassing poetry that she wrote when she was a teenager – but never thought about getting her work published until 1991 when she took a course on writing short stories and people really liked one story she had written about a boy who watches a bully pick on another kid. Everyone who read the story kept asking questions about the characters and this gave Gillian the idea of writing a series of linked stories in which the same characters kept appearing. At a Blue-pencil room, run by Hamilton and Region Arts Council, she met an editor from Kids Can Press who liked the story and said she might be interested in publishing it. A year later in 1994, Kids Can Press published Golden Girl and Other Stories.
In 1995, Gillian’s son, Theo, was born and this slowed her down a little, so her second book of stories, Glory Days and Other Stories took two years to write and came out in 1996.
Theo is now in grade eight, so Gillian has much more time to write. The Carved Box an historical fantasy, featuring two of her great loves – Dundas and dogs – was published in 2001. A Foreign Field was published in the fall of 2002. In 2004 Gillian contributed to the very successful Scholastic series Dear Canada with An Ocean Apart – the Gold Mountain Diary of Chin Mei-ling. Gillian’s latest book, The Turning, came out in March of 2005. It is about a Canadian boy living in England for a year who is drawn against his will into the world of English legends. She has recently completed and is revising another YA novel with a supernatural theme. This one features a boy who slips through time. She is currently researching several historical novels and has also promised Theo that, at some time, she will write a book about baseball.