About Joanne Harris:
Joanne Harris (MBE) was born in Barnsley in 1964, of a French mother and an English father. She studied Modern and Mediaeval Languages at Cambridge and was a teacher for fifteen years, during which time she published three novels, including Chocolat (1999), which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche.
Since then, she has written 15 more novels, two novellas, two collections of short stories, a Dr Who novella, guest episodes for the game Zombies, Run, the libretti for two short operas, several screenplays, a musical and three cookbooks. Her books are now published in over 50 countries and have won a number of British and international awards.
Joanne is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, has honorary doctorates in literature from the universities of Sheffield and Huddersfield, and has been a judge for the Whitbread Prize, the Orange Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science, as well as for the Fragrance Foundation awards for perfume and perfume journalism (for which she also received an award in 2017).
Your latest book, The Strawberry Thief revisits Vianne Rocher and the town of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. Can you tell us a bit more about the book?
Vianne has returned to Lansquenet. Finally, she seems to have settled down, and has even made friends with Francis Reynaud, the priest who was so hostile to her when she first moved in, over sixteen years ago. But the death of Narcisse, the florist, and his surprise legacy of a parcel of land to Vianne’s youngest daughter Rosette, as well as the arrival of a newcomer to the village, in circumstances that echo Vianne’s own arrival, many years ago, cause a rift in the community, and threaten to blow her life apart.
This is the fourth book in the Chocolat series. What inspired the idea behind this novel?
I’ve been writing about these characters for years. The central relationship, the one between Vianne and her daughters, echoes mine with my own daughter, who got married last year. I wanted to write something about how it feels to have a grown-up child, and how parents come to terms with change.
Despite being fictional, many readers connect deeply to Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. Is there an actual place that inspired this village?
A number of places around the region of the Gers, including several small towns along the Garonne river.
What’s your daily writing routine like and what are you working on at the moment?
I don’t have a daily writing routine, especially not when I’m touring. But I try to write a little every day – even if it’s only 100 words or so. Right now I’m working on a new novella, based on a Child Ballad, and a new book in my RUNE series.
Your research for the series must mean you’re now something of a chocolate connoisseur. In your opinion, what chocolate is the best?
Within a certain quality range, it’s largely a matter of taste: but I like Schoc chocolates, a New Zealand brand that does very interesting, even experimental taste combinations, and very beautiful colours and textures.