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Powell's Q&A

Joanne Harris

Describe your latest project.
I have two. The first one, Runemarks, is a fantasy book for young adults (and the regular kind), set in the world of the Norse gods.

The second is called The Girl with No Shadow, and it's a rather darker, more complex sequel to my earlier novel Chocolat. Vianne Rocher and her two daughters, Anouk and Rosette, are now living above a chocolate shop in Montmartre. Four years have passed since Chocolat, and Vianne has made a number of personal sacrifices in her effort to become like everyone else. Anouk is starting school, and faces problems with bullying and integration; and Rosette, now four, has behavioural problems of her own. Into this little scenario arrives Zozie de l'Alba, free spirit, bohemian and sometime witch — to shake up their world and to rearrange their lives. But it soon becomes clear that the newcomer is not quite what she seems. And as Zozie's agenda reveals itself, Vianne finds herself facing the greatest challenge of her life...

  1. The Girl with No Shadow
    $3.95 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

    The Girl with No Shadow

    Joanne Harris
    "[An] engaging sequel....Readers will savor every page of Harris's sensuous tale about the dark arts, dark chocolate, and lives both bitter and sweet." Booklist

    "[T]he three female characters come alive with Harris's trademark shifting narrations. Although it's a bit darker than Chocolat, readers will drink up this pleasurable tale of love. Highly recommended." Library Journal

  2. Runemarks
    $10.95 Used Hardcover add to wishlist


    Joanne Harris
    "[H]ighly successful....Harris demonstrates a knack for moving seamlessly between the serious and the comic, and her lengthy book moves swiftly." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    "[Harris] brings a lot of wit and scholarship to this endeavor and delivers an adventure that will please a wide array of readers..." San Francisco Chronicle

  3. Chocolat (Tie-In)
    $2.95 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist

    Chocolat (Tie-In)

    Joanne Harris
    "Harris blends her unique family background into this irresistible confection." Entertainment Weekly

    "[A] truly excellent book, one of the best it has been my pleasure to read in the line of duty for years....In short, this is what we call a rave review." Library Journal

  4. Gentlemen and Players: A Novel (P.S.)
    $5.95 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist
    "Constantly surprising and wickedly fun..." The Washington Post Book World

    "[R]iveting....This is verbal magic of the highest order, the kind every author deserves but doesn't always get." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  5. Five Quarters of the Orange (P.S.)
    $4.50 Used Trade Paper add to wishlist
    "Tragedy, revenge, suspicion, and love are the ingredients for [Harris's] latest offering....Like the oranges whose fragrance so tortured Framboise's mother, the ending is bittersweet, and readers will love it." Library Journal (starred review)
If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Hooked Into the Dream Machine: An Idiot Savant's Guide to Books.

What fictional character would you like to date, and why?
Benjamin Linus, from Lost. Mysterious, complicated, intelligent, ruthless, and fiendishly manipulative — but I bet he'd know which wine to choose, and we could always discuss literature...

What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
This one, by far.

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Everyone ought to read the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake — a truly unique gothic masterwork; paranoid as Kafka, colourful as Dickens; complex, multilayered, brooding and strange.

Writers are better liars than other people: true or false? Why, or not?
True: but then again, I could be lying...

Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
My mantra during my years of teaching: "Every skool is a bit of a shambles" from Down With Skool by Willans and Searle.

Oh, and my favourite toast, from Neil Gaiman's graphic novel Season of Mists (one of the Sandman series): "To absent friends, old gods, lost loves and the season of mists, and may each and every one of us always give the Devil his due..."

How do you relax?
Long baths, with candles, bath oils, music and a book.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
I'm a judge this year for the Prince Maurice prize, so a lot of books have come to me by that route. Right now I'm reading Salley Vickers' The Other Side of You, a beautifully written psychological love story.

Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
I once went to the town of François Mauriac's birth — and no one there seemed to have heard of him!

What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
They are bright orange, and as comfortable as being barefoot. I got them from Chinatown in San Francisco, and I wear them all the time.

What is your astrological sign? If you don't like what you were born with, to what sign would you change and why?
Cancer — but I prefer my Chinese dragon sign...

Describe the best breakfast of your life.
Burnt toast, cold tea and jam over the bedclothes, courtesy of my daughter, aged five, at 4:00 a.m. on Mother's Day in 1997.

What is your idea of absolute happiness?
A snowball fight on a sunny winter's day, then back home for hot chocolate.

What is your favorite indulgence, either wicked or benign?
Going to LaserQuest with my daughter. I drink Coke all night, eat sweets, talk about sci-fi, and shoot teenagers with a laser pistol. It's very therapeutic.

Why do you write?
Because I must.

Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
I get interesting, off-the-wall questions at a lot of my Young Adult reading events. But recently I did an event at a school for autistic and Asperger's Syndrome children. Their questions were hysterical — all seemed to be related to trains and aeroplanes, somehow. I gave up the book talk and ended up giving a short lecture on the Sopwith Camel instead...

Fahrenheit, Celsius, or Kelvin?
Whichever goes the highest.

Name the best television series of all time, and explain why it's the best.
My formative years were spent watching and obsessing over Kung Fu. Martial arts movie, Oriental philosophy starter's kit and spaghetti Western all rolled into one — what could possibly be better than that? Well, possibly Lost — which, although not always a perfect show, still dares to take risks and to explore well off the beaten track.

Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
Rock bands. Authors drink alone.

On a clear and cold day, do you typically get outside into the sunshine or stay inside where it's warm?
If it's bright, I don't feel the cold. I am very light-sensitive. The light created by sunshine on snow makes me hyperactive.

Talk about your vision of the ideal life.
If the amount of attention that we give to ourselves could be lavished on other people instead, then I think the world would be on its way to being a much better place.

Who are your favorite characters in history? Have any of them influenced your writing?
I'm not sure how much any of them have influenced my writing, but in no particular order — Copernicus; Voltaire; Nefertiti; Vercingétorix; Rimbaud; Piero della Francesca; Freud; Perrault; Joan of Arc; La Fontaine; Botticelli; Jung; Boudicca.

Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
I'm very drawn to painters and other visual artists, especially; Bosch, whose Garden of Earthly Delights was a source of endless fascination to me as a child; Breughel, whose Triumph of Death now has the same effect on me; the Pre-Raphaelites, especially Millais and Rossetti, whose work and lives inspired several of my early books, including Sleep, Pale Sister; the Brotherhood of Ruralists, who have since picked up the torch of Pre-Raphaelitism; Brian Froud, the best fairy painter since Richard Dadd; Wyeth for his strange, hyperreal landscapes and the wonderfully energetic pencil drawings of Mervyn Peake.

Do you read blogs? What are some of your favorites?
I only read non-celebrity blogs. I find that real people are far more interesting...

If you could have been someone else, who would that be and why?
I would have liked to have been a Shaolin monk (that Kung Fu influence coming out again!) and to have kicked ass whilst understanding the mysteries of the universe.

Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?

In the For-All-Eternity category, what will be your final thought?
Hopefully — "No regrets."

Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.

Great books on magic and myth:

Patricia Crowther: Lid Off the Cauldron

Robert Graves: The White Goddess

Jan Fries: Helrunar

Kevin Crossley-Holland: The Norse Myths

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Joanne Harris is the author of seven previous novels — Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Sleep, Pale Sister, and Gentlemen and Players; a short story collection, Jigs and Reels; and two cookbook/memoirs, My French Kitchen and The French Market. Half French and half British, she lives in England.


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