Gillian Mears grew up in north coast towns of New South Wales. She began the study of Archaeology at the University of Sydney but did not finish her degree. She took a position as a laboratory assistant in the university and, in 1982, began to write fiction. Her writing benefited from writing classes at the University of Technology, Sydney, in which she had the assistance of writers such as Susan Hampton, Drusilla Modjeska and Stephen Muecke (qq.v.). Mears completed a Bachelor of Arts in Communication at that University in 1985 and returned to Grafton to her close-knit family. She travelled to Africa on a grant to research a novel on her father's English grandmother and mother. The work was abandoned. Mears spent six months in Paris at the Keesing Writers' Studio in 1991. She has suffered from a form of locomotor ataxia which deepened as she turned thirty-five. Mears continued to live quietly on a farm outside Grafton, New South Wales.
Writing since she was twenty, Mears has received many prizes and awards including the Australian/Vogel Literary Award in 1990 for her novel The Mint Lawn. Writing with a joy and a passion, Mears draws heavily on her own experiences, bringing alive the Northern rivers region of New South Wales. Mears has always had a strong connection with landscape and place, expressed through her fiction and her involvement in Green politics. Her collection Fineflour (1990) attracted notoriety as it was removed from the Higher School Certificate syllabus in New South Wales on the grounds that the stories failed to meet the Higher School Certificate Board's criteria of 'literary merit, broad community, ethical and moral standards'.
(Source: Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2005; Emma Sorensen, 'A Map of Mears [Interview]', Meanjin 61,3 (1999): 72-80; Emma Sorensen, 'The Unflinching Gaze: In Conversation with Gillian Mears', Antipodes 16,2 (December 2002): 125-131.)
'The sound of horses' hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn't totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn't died to the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop. At the very least he should stand at the road by the river imagining that he's pushing a horse up the steep hill that leads to the house on the farm once known as One Tree.
'Set in hardscrabble farming country and around the country show high-jumping circuit that prevailed in rural New South Wales prior to the Second World War, Foal's Bread tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family and their fortunes as dictated by the vicissitudes of the land.
'It is a love story of impossible beauty and sadness, a chronicle of dreams 'turned inside out', and miracles that never last, framed against a world both tender and unspeakably hard. Written in luminous prose and with an aching affinity for the landscape the book describes, Foal's Bread is the work of a born writer at the height of her considerable powers. It is a stunning work of remarkable originality and power, one that confirms Gillian Mears' reputation as one of our most exciting and acclaimed writers.' (From the publisher's website.)
A Map of the Gardens : Stories2002selected work short story 'Combining the wisdom of nature, ancient Taoism and Christian saints with the mysteries at the heart of human relationships, these parables speak of love and loss and renewal - and examine the mercurial bonds between man and woman, siblings, parent and child.' Publisher's blurb on back cover.