Meeting Joanne Harris at Emirates Lit Fest’14

It’s the season of Lent and I am off meat and desperately trying (but failing miserably) to cure my sweet tooth. Rich, silky, nutty, soft and flavoured — chocolate is a passion. A decade ago French actress Juliette Binoche brought alive the dark delights of chocolate in the movie Chocolat. It was again during lent that her character Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk move to a French village and open a chocolaterie tempting the fasting residents. I had loved that movie that also starred Johnny Depp but never got around to reading the book it’s based on by Joanne Harris. So, when the Emirates Lit Fest 2014 featured Joanne as one of the guest speakers I did not waste time to book a place.
Looking cheery in a pastel skirt and top Joanne Harris looked just the sort of person who would pop in chocolates while writing from her desk (but I read later that she prefers cheese and chillies over chocolates).

During the talk Joanne spoke about her writing schedule, views on publishers and her inspirations. A widely loved author since Chocolat became a famous movie she has written several notable books.

Writing from a shed in her garden Joanne’s books have a fair share of witchcraft and food as integral parts. A typical writing day for her starts with a big breakfast and reading aloud portions she had written a day earlier. She also prefers to write in chunks. Her 15 year old association with the close knit academic community greatly inspired her books initially. After she quit her job as a teacher she admits travelling to book fairs, meeting people and listening stimulate her creativity. She also got a hypnotherapist friend teach her to remember her dreams. Not one to listen to audio books and bow to pressure from publishers she says, “Publishers want to make money. I want to write because I want to.” A charming and friendly author she made me break my vow of not buying more books until I finish the ones on my bookshelf. Here she is posing with my signed copy of her latest short stories collection titled A cat, a hat and a piece of string.


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