Category Archives: News

December in the Shed

And it’s starting to look a lot like December in the Shed: there’s snow in the air, and a scent of smoke, and a sense of expectation.

On Twitter, from December 1st, #Shedvent begins, with a little surprise or gift behind each door.

On Kofi, I’ll be posting a new chapter of my serial story every week, as well as a few little seasonal extras.

On Bandcamp, I’ve reduced the price of both STORYTIME and A POCKETFUL OF CROWS to a piffling £5 each, so there’s no excuse not to indulge.

And if you’ve had a look at HONEYCOMB and decided how gorgeous it would look under a loved one’s Christmas tree, I’ll be sending out signed bookplates to anyone who would like one. Just buy me a coffee (or two, if you’re outside the UK) to pay for postage, e-mail me your address at enquiries@joanne-harris.co.uk – plus any name or message you’d like included – and I’ll pop one in the post for you.

Otherwise, I’ll be mostly hard at work in the Shed, surrounded by books, SAD lamps, blankets, hot water bottles and cashmere socks and fingerless gloves. Winter doesn’t stand a chance: I’ve got this.

And here, just for you, is my ultimate winter hot chocolate recipe, best enjoyed during the dark months, with all the sprinkles and whipped cream and brandy and marshmallows you can fit into one giant mug…

Recipe:  Vianne’s Spiced Hot Chocolate (serves 2, or 1 if you’re in the mood)

  • 1 2/3 cups milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 hot red chilli, halved and seeded
  • 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet (70 percent) chocolate
  • brown sugar to taste (optional)
  • whipped cream, chocolate curls, cognac or Amaretto to serve
  • Place the milk in a saucepan, add the vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and chilli and gently bring it to a shivering simmer for 1 minute.
  • Grate the chocolate and whisk it in until it melts.
  • Add brown sugar to taste.
  • Take off the heat and allow it to infuse for 10 minutes,then remove the vanilla, cinnamon and chilli.
  • Return to the heat and bring gently back to a simmer.
  • Serve in mugs topped with whipped cream, chocolate curls or a dash of cognac or Amaretto.

NOVEMBER

Here comes November; and with the dying of the light, I’m bringing out my SAD lamps, my big jumpers and cashmere socks, and my favourite comfort-food recipes.

Here’s one: my easy chocolate cheesecake recipe, available, like all of my other recipes with Fran Warde, on the CBK app.

And this week I have a nice piece of news: I’ll be a guest on Radio 4’s DESERT ISLAND DISCS on November 7th: if you’re not able to tune in, you can find it in the archive.

Also, HONEYCOMB has been chosen by Publishing News as one of the best books of 2021! More details here.

Check it out on Bookshop.org! Or find it here on Amazon UK (and don’t forget the audiobook, narrated by Yours Truly…)

Also, A NARROW DOOR has earned a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly; good news for my readers in the US, where the book is being published on January 4th.

Pre-order a copy here!

And I wrote a piece for Certain Age about the Shed – find it here!

 

October

And here comes October in its cloak of leaves, and I’m starting to think about warm slippers, hot chocolate and delicious things made with spices.

I’m also hard at work on my two works-in-progress – I have no idea which one will be finished first, but it feels like having two children, both vying for my attention. Plus I’m still waiting, five months down the line, for the results of the genetic tests which will tell me if Mr C is likely to be just a casual visitor, or a repeat offender. I know it’s not a priority for doctors right now, but I’m on the edge of my seat…

Last week I went back to live events in Ely, Edinburgh, St Andrews, Todmorden and Charleston – thank you so much to everyone who came. And there are more lined up for this autumn, including Murder One online – please check out my Events page to see if there’s one that suits you.

And if you can’t make a reading, don’t feel left out – here’s a seasonal recipe from my French cookbook on CBK: Vianne’s spiced hot chocolate, just like in the movie. Enjoy!

 

September

I always think of September as a time of new beginnings. Maybe that’s why I keep starting new projects. I’ve been working almost simultaneously on at least three things recently, including this one on ko-fi,  a companion-piece to HONEYCOMB, which I’m posting on a  chapter-by-chapter basis as I go along.

Looking to the future, I’m starting to take bookings for Storytime, mostly for next year, but there might be something this Christmas, too.

And it’s also a time I associate with going back to school – as an ex-teacher, I still always feel that urge in September to buy new diaries, notebooks, pencils and pens. Which is quite appropriate right now: the leaves are turning, the mists are setting in, the blackberries are ripe, and the world of St Oswald’s feels very close. I’m  starting to do in-person events for A NARROW DOOR, so maybe watch my Events page to check if there’s one you can get to.

And if you’re in a reading group, under Extras, you’ll find reading-group guides to A NARROW DOOR as well as almost all my books, including background, questions for discussion and recipes for themed snacks  and cocktails (because all books are better with snacks, right?).

Invitation

You are cordially invited to attend

ST OSWALD’S ACADEMY

OPEN DAY

Formerly St Oswald’s Grammar School for Boys, we invite you to join us to celebrate our long-awaited merger with our sister school, Mulberry House.

We are now extremely proud to welcome both boys and girls to our forward-thinking Academy.

Take a tour around our magnificent new sports hall, the Gunderson Building. Pay no attention to the body on the site of the new swimming-pool; be assured it will have been dealt with by the start of Michaelmas Term.

Have a cup of coffee with the new Head, Ms. Rebecca Buckfast. Yes, she is a woman, but you shouldn’t underestimate her.

We look forward to welcoming you on:

Wednesday 4th August 2021

On Wednesday, we smash the patriarchy.

Click on the picture to know more!

Dear Friends,

I am delighted to invite you to our very first Open Day as a co-educational Academy. Those of you who first knew us as St Oswald’s Grammar School for Boys may wonder what such changes will bring to an institution that has barely altered since the sixteenth century.

But the past three years have brought us a number of difficult challenges. We have lost two Headmasters, one of whom was a personal friend. We have seen the name of our School dragged through the pages of the Press. We have experienced scandal, disgrace and even murder in our ranks.

However, all that is behind us now. The introduction of girls to the School has given us new opportunities. Opportunities for change. Opportunities to build over the decay of the past. Did I say decay? Well, yes. I suppose that old business is preying on me. Every School has its skeletons, just as every Head has their secrets. Mine are rather darker than most, and will, I hope, stay buried. But I think my ability to survive makes me a better Head. Don’t you?

To make progress, it is sometimes necessary to face the need for radical change. To tear down, before we can build anew. Our new motto, Progress Through Tradition, reflects our commitment to build our new School over the bones of the old one.

It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Besides, tearing down complacent men, their values and their monuments is what you might call a hobby of mine.

Yours faithfully,

Rebecca Buckfast

(Headmistress)

 

Pre-order A NARROW DOOR here!

A NARROW DOOR

I’m so looking forward to the release of A NARROW DOOR! Only four weeks to go – and just look at those glorious endpapers!

“A psychological thriller you can’t put down and an antiheroine you won’t forget.” (Harlan Coben)

“A masterful narrative voice, and a compulsive thriller from one of our greatest writers. I absolutely loved it.” (Alex Michaelides)

I devoured the whole thing – it’s the first proof I’ve ever read on my tiny phone-screen, because I couldn’t put it down! (Bridget Collins)

‘A Narrow Door’ is a compulsive journey through the dark places of the human mind, where memory, truth and fact melt away like mirages. It’s irresistibly readable, dark and brilliant with a masterful emotional punch. You won’t regret opening it, and walking through.  (Catriona Ward)

Read an introduction to the book here!

Pre-order the signed Waterstones edition here!

Can’t wait? Here’s the Kindle of Gentlemen and Players for only 99p….

Love audiobooks? This one’s narrated by Stephen Pacey and Alex Kingston…

 

 

 

 

 

HONEYCOMB

Thank you so much to everyone who bought, reviewed or listened to HONEYCOMB – I really do appreciate all your comments and feedback.

Remember that the Storytime Band and I put some of the stories to music in our Storytime CD: you can buy a physical copy here, or download it from Bandcamp here

  

And just for you, here’s an unpublished story that could have made it into the book, but found its way somewhere else, instead. It’s called:

The Cat Child.

In the days of the reign of the Lacewing King, there lived a woman of the travelling folk. She had travelled very far, so far that she did not remember which land was the land of her birth. She had been many people: travelled under many names. And she had travelled into the skins of many different creatures, flying as an owl by night; running as a wolf by day. But secretly, she longed to find a place where she could settle down, and live in her own skin forever, and be just like other women.

This woman had two daughters, who travelled with her, wild as the wind. One was made from the feathers of a white-headed crow on a summer’s day; the other, from the footprints of a tabby cat in the fallen snow. One travelled as a mad March hare, and sang like a skylark, and laughed like the sea. But the youngest never travelled, or laughed, or sang, or even spoke at all.

Her mother said that this was because once, she had gone into a cat. And she had spent so long in that skin that part of her had never returned, leaving her with no memory, no voice, – and, some might say, no soul. But her mother loved her all the more, and forbade her to leave her skin again, for fear that this time, she would never come back.

And so, while her sister played as a hare, the second daughter would stay beside her mother, and watch, wide-eyed, as her sister grew in beauty and in courage. But she, the younger daughter, stayed just as she had always been: a child, with no language, no memory, whose only cry was the cry of the cat.

Time passed. The mother grew fearful of travelling, and tried to find a place to settle down. But there was never anywhere that seemed to be quite right for them. Time passed. One daughter grew up, and fell in love, and moved away. But the youngest one stayed just as she had always been; a wild thing, half-child, half-cat, fated never to grow up. But secretly the mother was glad, for a child that would never grow up would never one day leave her.

But the cat-child was not happy. Every day she would walk alone in the woods, and climb trees, and chase birds, and lie for hours in the sun. Every day she would dream of when she could be wholly in her skin. But her mother had forbidden her to ever travel like that again, for fear she would never return to her human form. And so she stayed obedient, neither one thing nor the other. Until one day a strange wild girl came to live in the woods by the village.

The wild girl was unlike anyone the child had met. Like her, she liked to walk alone, and climb trees, and chase birds. She too never spoke, or laughed, or sang, or played with the other children. But the mother was anxious, afraid that the wild girl would lead her daughter astray. And so she kept her in the house, and closed all the doors and windows. And when the wild girl came knocking, she said: “There’s no-one there. It’s only the wind.” And when the wild girl threw stones at the glass, the mother said: “There’s no-one there. It’s only a shower of summer hail.” And when the wild girl stood outside in the moonlight and called for her in her wordless voice, the mother would say: “There’s no-one there. Only the wolves in the forest.”

But the child knew that her friend was there. Watching through her curtains, she saw the wild girl standing there, waiting for her to come out and play. For three nights she stood there, waiting. For the first night, as a girl. For the second, as a wolf. And for the third, as a tabby cat that sat on the lawn in the moonlight.

And on the third night, the child climbed out of her bedroom window and went to join the tabby cat. Together they ran through the woods, and played, and hunted, the whole night long. And when dawn broke, the girl went back to her home in the village, and greeted her mother with a smile, and spoke to her for the first time –

And the mother wept, because she knew that her daughter had found her soul again, and that now she would grow like other girls, and one day fall in love, and leave, as her older sister had done. For the soul of a child is a wild bird, that always keeps on singing. And the love of a mother is like a cage, that may keep the bird from flying away, but can never stop the song.

 

June 3rd

It’s HONEYCOMB release day on June 3rd!

Follow my virtual indie book tour to reveal stories, interviews, special content and a piece-by-piece reveal of one of Charles Vess’ illustrations…

Want to hear an excerpt from the audiobook? You can listen here…

And there’s a competition on Instagram!

To celebrate the publication of the HONEYCOMB, the entrancing mosaic novel of original fairy tales from bestselling author Joanne M. Harris @joannechocolat and legendary artist Charles Vess, @gollancz and the lovely people @beefriendlytrust are offering you the chance to win a hand-illustrated print and bee-friendly wildflower seeds along with a hardback copy of the book!

 To be in with a chance of winning you must do ALL of the following:

  1. Leave a comment telling us how much you love bees (and what you’re doing to protect them!)
  2. Like this post
  3. Follow @gollancz and @beefriendlytrust

 T&Cs:

  • Must be 18+ to enter
  • UK only
  • See bio for full T&Cs

 The T&Cs are here http://bit.ly/HoneycombBeeFriendly and the giveaway closes on 22nd June.

There is a story the bees used to tell…

There is a story the bees used to tell…

At last, HONEYCOMB is almost ready to hit the shelves! However much you may adore e-books, I can guarantee that this book –  tactile, gilded, embossed and gloriously reminiscent of classic Golden Age fairy tale books, with its cover by Sue Gent and internal artwork by Charles Vess – is one you’re going to want to hold.

To celebrate, Hachette are offering UK readers the chance to win this fabulous rose-gold bee pendant!

Click on the link to find out more….

Tempted? Click on the link to pre-order!

Description:

Eerie, dark and opulent, cocooned in silk and shadows, this is a novel unlike any other: a honeycomb built from a hundred cells, each cell a story in its own right. Gorgeously Illustrated by Charles Vess, it follows the tale of the Lacewing King, magical trickster and ruler of the Silken Folk; his misadventures, his treacheries and his pursuit through many Worlds by both the vengeful Spider Queen and the deadly Harlequin. On his journey  through the Worlds of the Folk, of the Sand Riders, the Undersea, the River Dream and even the Kingdom of Death itself, he encounters a multitude of characters – a clockwork woman, a watchmaker’s boy, a huntress with a mechanical tiger, an undersea Queen in love with the Moon, a princess who dreams of a library – but none more magical than the bees, the little builders of honeycomb, taking their nectar of dreams to the hive, and spinning them into stories. 

As you know, pre-orders don’t just help drive sales; in an increasingly risk-averse industry, they help to ensure that publishers continue to support and commission authors to write more of what you love; so if you’ve enjoyed my Twitter stories and my fantasy work as Joanne M. Harris, please consider pre-ordering HONEYCOMB for yourself, or a friend, or ordering it at your local library.

There’ll be some online events, too, including the chance to win copies of the book, plus bookplates and and signed postcards by Charles – so keep an eye on my Events page, and see if there’s something you’d like to tune into.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thinking of reading HONEYCOMB with your reading group? There’s a reading group guide with questions, background and a honeycomb recipe, here….

Here’s a quick Q & A to get you started.

Q: This all feels quite familiar. And yet it feels new. How much does this book owe to Grimm’s fairy tales and the Child Ballads?

A: I owe a lot to our traditional folklore in terms of background, theme and style. I also owe a debt to The Thousand and One Nights, at least in terms of the book’s structure. But Francis Child and the Brothers Grimm were collectors of traditional tales. Their names are known because they transcribed folk stories and ballads from the oral tradition. Because all but one of the stories in HONEYCOMB are original, I feel I owe more to writers like La Fontaine and Anouilh, whose fables were often based on contemporary events and themes, but whose style took inspiration from the tales of the oral tradition.

Q: Why do you think we still need fairy tales in 2021?

A: For the same reason we’ve always needed them. Some things are easier to articulate and explain to ourselves through metaphor. We live in dark and difficult times; fairy stories help us to believe that our monsters can be defeated; that love can save us; that change is possible; that a kind of magic exists, and sometimes they even help us to laugh at the things that frighten us.

Q: Some of these stories are very dark.  Would you say they’re suitable for children?

A: I think that’s up to the individual child. In my experience children are very good at knowing what will suit them. But I didn’t write them with children in mind, so if you’re buying this book for a child, feel free to discuss the stories and make sure they’re not upsetting.

Q: Did you ever take inspiration from current events for these stories?

A: Very often, yes. The King’s Cuckoo was written when J.K. Rowling was revealed to have been writing as Robert Galbraith; The Teacher, when Richard Dawkins made his derogatory remarks about fairytales. Some reflect things that were going on in politics, or  in the world of publishing. Some came from personal events, or items I saw in the news. But that’s true of all stories; and to me it’s not really the birth of a story that’s the most interesting; it’s where the story can take you.

Q: I’m pretty sure some of these tales have a message or moral; I’m just not always sure what it is. Why didn’t you put in explanations, like La Fontaine’s fables?

A: I thought about including footnotes, and decided against. I prefer my books to ask multiple questions, rather than to provide just one answer; and I’ve realized that readers will interpret – and benefit from – stories in all kinds of very personal ways. I didn’t want to take that opportunity away from them. Besides, messages in stories change with time: what was written with a specific event in mind ten years ago may find a different relevance now.

Q: None of the characters in this book have names. Was that a choice?

A: Yes, it was. I wanted to give a sense of universality to the themes in these stories, which is why I’ve deliberately not given official names to countries, either. All of them take in the same multiverse I started to build in RUNEMARKS and THE GOSPEL OF LOKI – a universe of Nine Worlds, which has proved itself to extend over a lot more. Recurring elements, like the Night Train and the River Dream run through all these books, and are of my own invention, although concepts like the Land of Death, or the World of the Fae are already very familiar to all of us.

Q: Your portrayal of the Silken Folk is quite a bit different to most portrayals of the Fae. What’s with all the insects? 

A; I wanted to draw on traditional aspects of fairytale, whilst adding elements of my own. The Silken Folk, who are shapeshifters, but can also appear as humans, is part of that: and it ties in with one of my favourite themes, which is that of perception. We look at the Silken Folk as we look at so many of the things that frighten or disturb us; sometimes from the tail of the eye; or some  cases, not at all.

Q: The Lacewing King is such a difficult character. Spoilt and cruel and arrogant – why make him the hero?

A: He isn’t exactly the hero, but he does drive the story. As for his cruelty and arrogance, I needed a character who was capable of change over the course of the book. If I’d made him nice from the start, he wouldn’t have had such a long journey.

Read an early review of the book from Publishers Weekly!

Read the review from LOCUS mag!

Plus there’s a lot more background – about the book, the illustrator and the process of putting stories to music – on my HONEYCOMB page, here.

Pre-order it here, or maybe check out the audiobook, narrated by me….  

The Strawberry Thief is out in paperback now!

Finally, after a year’s lockdown delay, the new paperback of THE STRAWBERRY THIEF is now available in shops and online, with a gorgeous new spring jacket design by Sue Gent and a brand-new introduction from me (including the tale of my Strawberry Thief tattoo)!

Here’s where you can buy it!

Check out virtual events on the book!

 

 

 

 

And here’s some background on the book, including a link to my reading group guide…

March on…

Hey everyone!

So session 1 of 12 of my chemo is done, and I’m back at work on something – not quite new, but which I had set aside for a while, awaiting the opportunity to pick it up again. It’s my new LOKI/RUNE book, and I’m actually having a blast with it. The concept is nuts, which is my favourite kind of concept, and because it’s so different to everything I worked on last year, it feels like a bit of a holiday. Subscribe to my newsletter for details and snippets of work-in-progress, or follow my weekly one-minute video diary on YouTube, for a more intimate, day-today glance at What is it Writers Really Do.

And in cautiously optimistic news (or do I mean wildly optimistic news?), I’ve just sold the film and TV rights to my very first novel, THE EVIL SEED. Of course, things like this have happened before without a show ever being made, but it’s nice to know that a book I began forty years ago when I was at university still has the power to make people dream.

And here’s a piece of good news for you. For a whole month before the publication of THE STRAWBERRY THIEF in paperback, the e-book will be available on Kindle for only 99p. Treat yourself. You deserve something nice…

Happy New Year!

Happy new year, everyone! 2020 was tough for many of us, and 2021 may yet have its challenges. But there’s nothing like a fresh start, a brand-new diary and a positive mental attitude to help shake off the doldrums.

There’s a lot to look forward to this year – the launch of HONEYCOMB in May, the paperback of THE STRAWBERRY THIEF in April, and my new St Oswald’s book, A NARROW DOOR, in autumn. Plus, hopefully, there will be in-person events as well as online happenings, as well as some gigs with the Storytime Band.

This month I’m inviting you to join me for a 30-day writing challenge – just 300 words a day, every day, to help you get into good writing habits and set you up for the coming year. You don’t have to be a would-be professional to benefit from creative writing; nor do you need to have any kind of experience. Just start off gently, on whatever topic you like, and see where your ideas lead you.

My new self-help book, TEN THINGS ABOUT WRITING, is now available in hardback and audio to help you get started, with hints about how to manage your workspace, how to get into your headspace, how to make the most of your time, and what to do when the Muse won’t clock in.

Read more about it here,  or buy a copy at bookshop.org. And don’t forget to follow my little writing seminars on my YouTube channel

Christmas 2020

It’s okay to be merry this Christmas.

It’s also okay to be sad, or to grieve, or to feel anxious or lonely.

It’s okay to drink, or not to drink, as you prefer. It’s your choice.

It’s okay to be risk-averse, and to stay in your own home.

it’s okay to be kind to yourself, as well as to other people.

It’s okay not to celebrate at all, or to celebrate something else altogether, or to postpone your celebrations until the world is a safer place for you and yours.

It’s okay to look inward, instead of looking outward.

It’s okay to  eat what you like, or not.

It’s only one day. And it’s yours.

Love,

TEN THINGS ABOUT WRITING

TEN THINGS ABOUT WRITING comes out in hardback and audiobook on December 10th! It’s a terrific, chunky little hardback with a purple silk bookmark, artwork by Moose Allain and a striking jacket design by the excellent Claire Skeats; perfect for anyone who needs  encouragement with their  writing,  or  tips on  how  best  to  get started.

See here for more details.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished the first draft of my new thriller, and I’m waiting for my editor’s reaction – always an anxious time for an author, regardless of the number of bestsellers. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this one – it’s not quite the same as my other Malbry books, and I really hope she likes it…

 

November

I’ve just received the advance copies of TEN THINGS ABOUT WRITING, and oh my, they look tremendous! With Moose Allain’s clever, funny artwork, a purple silk bookmark and a conveniently wipe-clean surface (blood, coffee, writer’s tears), I can’t wait to see it in bookshops. You can pre-order it here, just in time for Christmas, but if you just can’t wait till then, it’s already available in e-book form. Oh, and if you’re an audio fan, the audiobook (with me as the narrator) will be coming out on December 10th…

This month’s offer on Amazon Kindle UK is GENTLEMEN AND PLAYERS: available for just 99p till the end of the month. Catch up on St Oswald’s before A NARROW DOOR comes out next year…

 And if you’re already looking at ideas for Christmas, you might want to consider the following bookish gifts:

SWALLOWED BY A WHALE: How To Survive the Writing Life: a beautiful, lavishly-produced book of essays on writing by members of the writing community, ably edited by Huw Lewis-Jones.

The Grimm Novel-Tea Box: You must know how much I love Grimm & Co: their lovely writerly gift box comes with a copy of one of my novellas.  Plus every sale helps support one of the most exciting, magical children’s literacy projects in the world…

Or if you’re feeling flush, you can bid for the chance to give your name to a character in my forthcoming novel, A NARROW DOOR – or offer someone you love a Christmas gift they’ll never forget! All proceeds to the charity Freedom From Torture.

Happy Halloween!

This is my favourite time of the year, and to celebrate, here are a few seasonal treats.

Until the end of the month, Amazon Kindle is offering both THE BLUE SALT ROAD and BLACKBERRY WINE for only 99p each. Get them while you still can!

The Folklore podcast is out! Listen to me discussing Orfeia, the Child Ballads and the importance of folklore for free here.

Check this out: SWALLOWED BY A WHALE: essays on how to survive the writing life, featuring me and lots of other authors.

Storytime fans; I’ve uploladed the Storytime Band’s version of A POCKETFUL OF CROWS on to Bandcamp for you to enjoy (although if you prefer physical CDs, you can still buy your copy here.)

And if you’re craving something delicious in a hurry, here’s the EIGHT-MINUTE MUG CAKE from my good friend, David Greenwood-Haigh

Ingredients

  • 30g plain flour
  • 20g caster sugar (Fairtrade)
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/4 tspn baking powder
  • 30 g butter
  • 40g chocolate

Method

Using a microwaveable mug, melt the chocolate and butter togther in the microwave in short 30 second bursts.

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well.

Add the egg and mix thoroughly

Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high).
If the cake rises over the top of the mug, don’t worry – more for you to enjoy!
Allow to cool a little, and either tip out onto a plate or just eat it straight from the mug. Enjoy!