Joanne Harris’s first novel was the phenomenally success Chocolat, which became a trilogy, and an even more famous film, but you’d be mistaken to simply refer to her as ‘the Chocolat author.’ Versatile doesn’t come close to describing her output.
She has written big-scale fantasies based on Norse myth, and three (so far) novels of psychological intrigue, set in the fictional town of Malbry – the latest Different Class, is out now. Joanne has also written a Doctor Who story called The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller (you can read about it here.)
Her writing isn’t always sandwiched between hard or soft covers. You might have seen her #storytime tales on Twitter, or maybe attended an evening of where Tweets have been set to music and accompanied by original songs?
But maybe the answer to the question ‘How do you make a writing life work?’ is to not just write. Joanne has invested huge amounts of time and energy into campaigning for authors’ rights, speaking out about sexism in publishing (with respect to the way authors and readers are treated) and fair terms for festival speakers.
She also has a musical life – she’s been in the same band since she was a teenager – as a bass guitarist, flautist and occasional vocalist.
Here she answers my questions. It’s no surprise to read that she’s working on more than one project right now – and that not every project is a book. And just as she is surprised by readers’ responses, I imagine she’s capable of being surprised at the next book which will demand to be written. It’s interesting to note that she jumps between genres – several years passed before she revisited the world of Chocolat for its sequel, and, as you’ll see, she returned to her first book many years after it was written to prepare it for publication. Maybe that goes to show careers aren’t planned … Over to Joanne!
What was the first book you wrote?
A fantasy novel called Witchlight, set in the world of post-Ragnarok Norse gods, which I later rewrote as Runemarks.
For which book would you like to be remembered?
I don’t care much about being remembered for my books.
Is there a book you abandoned partway through?
No: I tend to allow long intervals between starting and finishing a piece of work, but I always go back to them in the end.
Is there a book you know you’ll never write?
Which book do you believe should have fared better?
I don’t judge the worth of a book on sales.
Have you been surprised by readers’ reactions to a particular book?
I’m always surprised at what people see in my books, and what they don’t see.
What book do you wish you’d written?
I don’t aspire to other people’s books. The one I wish for is always the one I haven’t thought of yet.
What are you writing now?
A sequel to The Gospel of Loki; a pilot to a TV show; a collection of short stories. Lots of songs.
You might be interested in the following profile from last year.
Read the previous post in the bookbybook series, featuring Adele Geras here.