BookLore Interviews
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BookLore Interview
Joanne Harris

1. I absolutely loved your short stories in Jigs and Reels, did you set out to write a set of short stories or did they come in dribs and drabs, as the urge took you?

I write short stories at irregular intervals, often when I’m away from home. I don’t write a lot of them – not more than five or six a year – and they’re usually quite spontaneous reactions to something I have seen or experienced. That’s why they span so many genres – sci-fi, Westerns, satire, nostalgia – I write them when I need a quick fix of something completely different…

2. I have read several other interviews with you and you appear to be a lady with a passion for fashion – or is it just shoes? What are you wearing right now, and is it something you would like to immortalise in print?

I actually don’t care much about fashion at all, although I’m very interested in the psychological effect of clothes on the individual. Right now I’m in my usual at-home gear; jeans, Converses and a grey cashmere jumper…

3. What is your favourite colour?

Bright red.

4. Runemarks has many references to Norse mythology. Is this something you researched in depth?

It’s something I’ve been fascinated by since I was a child. I’ve always been interested in folklore and myths, but I find the Norse legends especially human and accessible, with characters that really seem to come alive. There’s lots of irreverent humour in there, too, which is something I tried to get across in my book.

5. Have you been tempted to auction a character in a book for charity? Terry Pratchett and James Herbert have done this for different charities and if so, what might you offer the highest bidder? A chance to be a Lord or a frog, for example?

I did this with GENTLEMEN AND PLAYERS for a charity that helps victims of torture– the winner got to be a glamorous school secretary – although it’s not as easy as you might imagine, finding a character to fit a name! My next one would probably be a fantasy character – maybe a werewolf or a goblin…

6. What careers advice were you given in school? Was there anything that you fancied at all, and what have you done that afterwards you have looked back on and thought urghh?

My school gave all linguists the same advice – try to get into banking. I knew I wasn’t made for finance, although I did spend one disastrous year as an accountant (I needed to be in full employment so that I could get a mortgage on my house). I hated every minute of it, and all my colleagues hated me. I finally got fired when my boss realized that I didn’t give a **** about accounts, audits, statistics, law - or, in fact, anything to do with money…

7. Do you think that books should come with age restrictions? Did you wait until your daughter was old enough to enjoy Runemarks with you?

I don’t think books should come with any kind of restrictions at all. I’ve always let Anouchka read whatever she liked. If it isn’t suitable for her, she’ll know it by page 5 anyway…

8. Should men have to go shopping?

No, but they should be forced to buy their own underpants.

9. How you record sudden bouts of inspiration when out and about? Paper, computer, etc.

I travel with my laptop. I have been known to write on planes, in cafes and in railway stations. I also like Moleskine notebooks, although I tend to lose them around the house…

10. Have you ever turned down an opportunity to do something because of the safety gear or clothing you would have had to wear?

I don’t think so. I’d rather be safe than glamorous…

11. People often describe your work as sensory or sensual, does that apply to you in real life?

Yes – I’m very aware of all kinds of sensations, especially scents and colours, and I think it probably shows in my work.

12. What are your favourite treats?

Long baths; cashmere blankets; Diptyque candles; Jo Malone bath oils; lazy afternoons at home with my daughter, some junk food and a stack of DVDs.

13. Would you ever consider appearing on a celebrity reality TV show?

Never. I hate reality TV (though I’d kill to be an extra on LOST).

14. Do you like hotels when you are on the road promoting your books, and which of the special toiletries do you not mind taking home with you?

My publishers always put me up in the most wonderful hotels when I’m on tour. My favourites are the Park Hyatt in Chicago, the Four Seasons in LA and the Shangri-La in Shanghai – and although nowadays I don’t take all the toiletries (I used to, but now I stop myself) I can’t resist certain things, like Space NK bath tablets and Burt’s Bees body lotion…

15. Have you ever interrupted someone in public when you have disagreed with something that they have said or done?

Not often, but yes. On shows like QUESTION TIME, you have to do it or you never get a word in…

16. What was the reaction from people when you wrote a children’s book after such success in adult fiction?

I think they felt it was typical of me – I don’t seem to be able to stop taking risks.

17. What kind of older person do you envisage yourself becoming? Do you catch yourself saying things to your family that were said to you by your parents?

I think I’m getting less mature. My mother has long since given up hope of my ever growing up completely…

18. What type of music do you prefer?

Lots of 70s progressive music; some post-punk and indie bands; quite a few modern alternative bands introduced to me by my daughter.

19. What makes you mentally raise your eyebrows and cross your arms?

Litter; rudeness; stupidity.

20. Do you have time to read for pleasure? If so, is there a special place that you settle in to read? What increases your enjoyment of reading?

I read for pleasure all the time. My favourite places are; the bath; in summer, the garden, and in the hammock in my daughter’s playroom…

21. Do you think Christmas Cracker joke writers should be given lessons in writing?

No, but they shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce…

22. Do you have a completely impracticable opinion on something that would work, but for human nature?

I think you should be able to commit retrospective crimes and pay for them in advance. This would make people think deeply about the consequences of their actions. For instance, if you wanted to murder someone, you’d declare it to the magistrate, who would put you in jail for X years, during which time you would either (a) decide it wasn’t worth it, and ask to be let out again, or (b) do the time, and afterwards, have the chance to kill whomever you chose…

23. Have you ever had a psychic experience or a whoa-type deja-vu?

Lots of times.

24. What is your favourite Christmas decoration? Do you collect special bits when you see them, or do you ascribe to Christmas decorations as Interior design fashion?

I like Christmas decorations to be quite simple and natural-looking. I use a real Christmas tree decorated with white lights, red ribbons and pine cones. I also like Swarovski’s glass snowflakes, and holly and ivy wreaths on the door.

25. What is your favourite book of all time (not an easy question we know)?

Mervyn Peake’s GORMENGHAST trilogy.

26. What is your favourite drink?

Château d’Yquem.

27. Is Children’s fiction something you are going to continue to write?

Definitely. I’ve already promised Anouchka a sequel to RUNEMARKS.

28. How long does it take you to write a novel? Do you undertake in depth research for example.

Anything between six months and six years, depending on the novel. I often work on two or more things at a time, and sometimes I leave a project to rest for six months or a year before going on with it, so it’s hard to know when something will be ready. Because I tend to write about things I already know something about, I don’t have to take months off to do research; I usually research as I go along, finding out information as and when I need it.

29. What would you prefer, The Red Shoes or a copy of Lolita?

Definitely LOLITA.

30. Have you ever declined to answer an impertinent question in an interview?


And finally, how long do you think that Brussels Sprouts should be boiled for? Do you ascribe to the Togs opinion that they should have gone on in the summer (yellow and melted), or are you planning to show them to the boiled water and have them green and crunchy?

I’d rather not even boil them at all. They’re so much nicer stir-fried…

by Chrissi - 18th December 2007

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