Joanne Harris is the internationally acclaimed author of… Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, The French Kitchen, The French Market and a handful of other books.
Her books are available from all good bookshops, or from the carousel Amazon bookshop thingy, somewhere on this page.
She has a very nice web site at the cunningly named… The Joanne Harris Website and is the poshest author we’ve interviewed so far at A Taste of Garlic (and probably will be for a long time – unless Peter Mayle ever gets round to answering his email.)
I was very surprised to find out that Joanne Harris doesn’t live in France.
I assumed that anyone who wrote so beautifully about France must be a resident. But, then again, even though she has a French mother, Joanne was born in Yorkshire and, as we all know, Yorkshire lasses can be a bit proud of their place of birth.
I decided to ignore the Yorkshire bit and ask Joanne Harris for an interview anyway.
In a way, I sort of blame Joanne Harris for my move to France. As I’ve noted on my own blog… www.BretonDiary.com I remember writing the following in the book section of my blog in April 2006…
Harris, Joanne – Blackberry Wine – Read 06/04/2006
I first read it in England when it came out. A story of a man who, I seem to remember, drinks some old wine, drops out and moves to France to write. Hmm….. I have now re-read it and all I can say is ‘Blackberry Wine tastes delicious!’ My favourite Joanne Harris is Five Quarters of the Orange followed closely by the luscious Chocolat. I remember sitting on the Docklands Light Railway one rainy Thursday evening after a horrible day at work (everyone else in the carriage seemed to be reading their copies of Chocolat as well, it was that kind of book – a bit like Harry Potter) and missing my stop. I got off at Beckton and went to the restaurant – too busy reading to cook.
For the first time ever, the chef got my steak right – this is steak, this is grill, this is plate – i.e. hardly cooked at all. The chef came out to ask if I had liked the steak. I bought him a drink!
That is not a normal thing for me to do! That really is not a normal thing for me to do! It must have been due to the book!
Having dealt with George East and Stephen Clarke in a fairly light-handed way, I was determined that this interview would be more serious.
I was also determined to sneak in all that Incest and Morris-Dancing stuff!
I immediately booked a flight, packed an overnight bag and headed off for the airport.
Unfortunately the car wouldn’t start and so I had to ask Joanne if she would mind doing the interview by email.
She agreed and I went to “my private office” to have a sit down and consider what to ask. I did what I had to do and had a good wipe before washing my hands.
I knew that I’d have to be careful because, not only had Joanne got millions of fans all over the world, she also had a PA and they’ve always scared the hell out of me!
Joanne’s PA advised me to take a look at the frequently asked questions on Joanne’s website http://www.joanne-harris.co.uk so that I could avoid repeating them. I took a quick look and realised (to my surprise), that no one had ever asked the sort of questions that we like to ask at A Taste of Garlic.
I suggested that Joanne Harris might find the whole interview process slightly less painful if she followed the example of the other writers that I’ve interviewed here at a Taste of Garlic and downed a glass of wine (or two), prior to starting.
And, then, without further ado, we started…
1). As I’ve noted in my blog (www.BretonDiary.com), I read Blackberry Wine as soon as it came out. Less than 15 months later I found myself jacking in a perfectly good (and rather well paid) job to move to France where I spent 9 months living in a caravan and 6 years working in the local pig abattoir. Do you, in any way, feel guilty about this?
Joanne Harris - Not in the least. Caveat lector, dude…
2). Do you have any advice for people who, upon reading your books, up sticks and move to France (or the North of England even, bearing in mind the location of your new novel?)
Joanne Harris - Well, it’s always wise to bear in mind that although fiction is often controllable, real-life generally isn’t. I’d say first of all, learn French. And second, learn to write really good formal letters. You’ll need them for all the planning applications…
3). Your maternal grandparents came from Vitre in Brittany. What do you say to those people who claim that France is full of two sorts of people; The Bretons and those who want to be Breton?
Joanne Harris – Sounds like those wannabe Bretons again. Real Bretons are a little like Yorkshire folk; if they’re the real deal, they’ll soon tell you about it. If they’re not, don’t ask them – they’ll only be offended….
4). Barnsley or Brittany. Where does it rain most?
Joanne Harris – Both get plenty of rain, although I think the Bretons discuss it rather less…
5). Has any book ever changed your life?
Joanne Harris – Many books, including; Lolita; Perfume; On The Road and Down With Skool…
6). If you could be re-incarnated as another (male) writer’s underpants – whose would you be?
Joanne Harris – The poet Arthur Rimbaud – though I bet he went commando…
7). Ricard or Pernod?
Joanne Harris – Both taste equally revolting to me, I’m afraid. I know. So shoot me.
8). What do you say to the people who believe that Elvis isn’t dead but lives in a one roomed cottage near Lansquenet-sous-Tannes and is planning on giving up wine for Lent?
Joanne Harris - It’s absolutely true. Not only have I met him there, but he gave me his deep-fried bacon-and-peanut-butter sandwich recipe…
9). Where is your favourite place in the whole world?
Joanne Harris – The village of Kona, on Hawaii’s big island.
10). Your new novel, due out in March, isn’t set in France but the North of England. Does this have anything to do with Thierry Henri cheating a little in the World Cup qualifiers?
Joanne Harris – No, it has to do with me liking to mix it up a little….
11). You mention (in Who’s Who) that you play bass guitar in a band first formed when you were 16. The author Stephen Clarke also plays bass guitar. Do you think that this is an essential skill for any aspiring novelist?
Joanne Harris – It’s a well-known fact that all novelists secretly want to be rock musicians. Kinky Friedman, Stephen King, Charles De Lint, Albert Camus…
12). Johnny Depp acted in the film of Chocolat (a film, I must say, that was almost as tasty as your book.) He also lives (for at least part of the year) in France and is thus eligible to be interviewed by A Taste of Garlic (indeed, most visitors to A Taste of Garlic are rather keen that we interview Johnny Depp.) Do you have his phone number?
Joanne Harris - Yes. But you’re not getting it…
13). There have been no overt displays of either incest or morris-dancing in any of your novels to date. Will this change with your new novel or do you prefer to leave those subjects to other authors?
Joanne Harris - So far, neither incest nor morris-dancing have suggested themselves as potential subjects for a new novel. I am open to bets, however, as long as the odds are in my favour. Do you feel lucky?
14). Do you want to answer any more questions or shall I just make up the rest of the answers?
Joanne Harris – Why not? Everyone else does…
So, there you have it. An interview with the absolutely most famous person yet to be interviewed by A Taste of Garlic. And, for a Yorkshire lass, she comes over as quite a nice burd as well.
If you’ve not yet read any of Joanne Harris’s books, now is a good time to start. Either check out the carousel Amazon bookshop thingy at the top of this page or trundle over to Joanne’s own website at… http://www.joanne-harris.co.uk
All the best