We catch up with Joanne Harris acclaimed British author, famous for writing the award-winning novel Chocolat ahead of her appearance at this years SW11 Literature Festival
Litro: What is your earliest memory?
Joanne Harris: My grandparents’ corner shop in Barnsley, where I lived until I was two. I had a bed in the drawer under the till, and I used to look up at the light shining in like a kaleidoscope through the glass jars of sweets on the shelves in the display window….
Litro: What is the first book you ever loved? Why?
Joanne Harris: Rudyard Kipling’s THE JUNGLE BOOK, which my grandfather used to read to me, and in which I can still hear his voice…
Litro: When was the first time you realised that the world isn’t necessarily as it seems?
Joanne Harris: The year of the first Moon landing, when anything seemed possible.
Litro: What has been the most formative place in your life? Why?
Joanne Harris: The island of Noirmoutier, where my grandfather had a house, and where I spent my childhood holidays exploring and having adventures.
Litro: Which historical or literary character do you most identify with? Why?
Joanne Harris: Scheherazade, whose love of stories allowed her to make her fortune, cheat death and (even more subversively) combat an oppressive patriarchy without its even noticing…
Litro: Which literary character could you be in love with and why? How would you win him/her over?
Joanne Harris: The cold and incorruptible Inspector Javert from LES MISERABLES. Because everyone loves a challenge.
Litro: What do you do when you’re not reading or writing?
Joanne Harris: Long baths; laser tag; watching TV; playing Zombies, Run; going to the theatre; listening to musicals; travelling the world; being with my family.
Litro: Tell us about the worst job you’ve had.
Joanne Harris: I was an accountant for a year. I was the worst accountant ever; didn’t care about money, or squash, or cars, which was all the others seemed to care about. I hated it, and I hated them. I’m pretty sure the feeling was mutual.
Litro: Describe your most defining experience with money.
Joanne Harris: I’ve never been comfortable with debt; have never owned a credit card. When I have money, I spend it; when I don’t, I go without. I remember when I was younger, before I made it as a writer, having to be very careful in order to make ends meet. I’d work out exactly what I could afford to spend on food and household expenses. Once I got the maths wrong (I have dyscalculia, which means I can’t process numbers), and for three weeks we had no money for the electricity meter, and had to live off chips and tinned ravioli, and walk into town instead of getting the bus, but we never went overdrawn.
Litro: If you were to write yourself as a character, what would be your most defining characteristic?
Joanne Harris: Volatility.
Litro: What is the most important piece of life advice you would give a young person?
Joanne Harris: Seize the day, but plan ahead. Oh, and floss. Flossing is important.
Litro: What’s next for you, work- and life-wise?
Joanne Harris: Isn’t not knowing the fun part?
The SW11 Literary Festival is a highlight of the year in Battersea and is organised by the Clapham Junction Town Centre Partnership (Wandsworth Borough Council) and Waterstone’s. This series of literary events, will run throughout the month of September. Joanne Harris will appear with Richard Curtis at the BAC on the 12th September for more information visit www.bac.org.uk