Category Archives: News

Ten Things About Writing

Over twenty years of being a full-time writer, I’ve experienced many things. Changes in the industry; the rise of digital publishing; the changes in our reading habits and our interactions with readers.

But what never seems to change is the number of people who want to write.  Online or off, and in all genres, the passion for writing continues to spread, and with the new opportunities offered by the internet, writers now have many new ways in which to reach their audience.

Six years ago, on Twitter, I started to post frequent little ten-tweet threads  on the subject of being a writer. I did this in response to questions from both readers and writers about my process, my techniques and what being a professional writer entails.  Rather than repeat myself, I would hold these mini-seminars – after fifteen years in teaching, it seemed the easiest thing to do – and the short-form medium allowed for a degree of light-heartedness that I and my audience enjoyed. I took requests, and chose the topics that seemed most interesting and relevant to me.

Together, my followers and I explored a multitude of topics, from editing, to getting an agent, to festivals, to describing the weather, to how not to write about women’s breasts. For six years, I fielded requests to compile all of my #TenTweets into a single online resource. I liked the ephemeral nature of Twitter, and the feeling of having an audience, instead of just a readership.

But lockdown has changed our landscape, and after many requests from writers for help and advice in this difficult time, I decided to launch this project. I chose to go with a small press to show my support for a sector of the publishing industry that is under particular stress, and to bring out the book as an e-book at first, to enable those who need it most to access it immediately. It will come out later this year as a hardback, with some added material, including illustrations from master punster Moose Allain, whose cartoons on all aspects of the creator’s life have never failed to made me smile.

Whether you’re an experienced writer, or whether you’re still looking for the confidence to begin your writing journey, I hope this book can offer you something new and worthwhile. We’re all on a learning trajectory, and sharing our knowledge can only help make us stronger and more connected. My experiences as a writer may not be the same as yours, but we can all learn from each other. So take what you need from these pages; and most of all, enjoy what you do. Joy is such an vital part of creative writing – because if you don’t enjoy what you write, how can you expect anyone else to?

Buy the e-book right now!

Pre-order the hardback here. (Comes out December 10th)

Joanne Harris’s Ten Tweets are a constant source of pleasure, equally welcome to writers and readers. Her tips are not only hard-earned and well-considered but they also spark debate and creative thought. Frankly, they are marvels in miniature. (IAN RANKIN)

Joanne Harris’s Ten Tweets have been tiny islands of sensibleness and wisdom in the sea of lunacy that is Twitter for a long time now, dispensing advice and distilled observation to those who follow her. I’m delighted they are going to be collected in one place and, selfishly, am looking forward to catching up with all the ones I’ve missed. (NEIL GAIMAN)

Joanne Harris’ #TenTweets series is an invaluable, no-nonsense and honest resource. Her pithy, often very funny, advice demystifies writing the publishing industry for new and aspiring writers. (CRESSIDA COWELL)

Joanne is not only a master of her craft but has the rare gift of being able to explain that craft, and offer peerless advice, in the clearest, no-nonsense, practical and entertaining of ways. Wherever you are in your writing voyage, Joanne is the perfect navigator. Learn, absorb, and enjoy! (MATT HAIG)

Orfeia Cover Reveal!

After weeks of lockdown cancellations, here’s something to look forward to!

Here’s an exclusive look at the cover of my upcoming book, ORFEIA, designed by Orion’s talented Sue Gent.

It’s another novella based on a couple of Child Ballads (Ballad 19: King Orfeo and Ballad 2: The Elphin Knight), and will be coming out in autumn, with interior illustrations by the wonderful Bonnie Helen Hawkins, who also illustrated A POCKETFUL OF CROWS and THE BLUE SALT ROAD.

And here I am, on YouTube, reading from the first chapter

Click on the image to read more!

 

Author on Lockdown: Beginning Month 2

 

I’ve been self-isolating for a whole month now – to protect my elderly parents living in the village – and life in the Shed has fallen into a kind of gently anxious routine. I try not to look at my diary, which is filled with events, readings, signings, gigs, parties, meetings, festivals, charity galas, interviews – all of them crossed out, of course. Some of them will be rescheduled. Today should have been my paperback launch, the start of a three-month book tour. A part of me still wakes up expecting to have to catch a train to a book event, a festival, a TV show. After thirty days of this strange limbo, I’m still a little surprised to be here.

Instead, and for the first time in years, I have an actual daily routine: an early-morning run, before the rest of the village wakes up; then food preparation; breakfast with my husband, then writing  time, gardening time, internet time, Zoom and Skype meetings for the SOA and the ALCS, FaceTime with my daughter; planting; seeding; watering; Netflix in the evenings. In twenty years, I’ve never had such an ordered, simple, predictable life – except for the obvious, of course, which brings its own daily surprises. I’m very aware how lucky I am in comparison to many: I have a space of my own, and a garden, and access to open countryside. I have a local greengrocer who delivers essential food supplies. I’ve started to find pleasure in things I would never have thought of before – the arrival of a fresh vegetable box; a chance conversation on Twitter. Tidying cupboards pleases me now: my sock drawers have never been so ordered. I try not to worry too much about those things that are beyond my control: the health of my friends and family in Italy, France, or America. So far – at least as far as I know – I have not yet lost anyone who is close to me, although there have been some narrow escapes. I try not to dwell too much on this. The crisis is far from over.

But I am actually writing too, although many of my friends tell me they are finding it hard to concentrate on work. I find that work is what anchors me; gives me something to cling to. Tea helps – and so does wine. Fortunately, we have plenty of both. Other people have other ways of coming to terms with this new reality. I’m writing blog posts; chapters of my new book; articles for the papers. It’s really the first time that writing has seemed to me almost like a full-time job: before this, so much of my time was taken up by touring and publicity.

And this month, I’ve finally got round to putting together my #TenTweets on writing into something that’s starting to look like a book. It’s going to be available pretty soon for you to download, with, hopefully, the chance of a nice print version sometime later this year. More news of that as it breaks, but for now, a few words for the ones of you who may be feeling lost or disconnected in the face of current events. I get it. We don’t all thrive on  balcony singalongs. Some days are better than others, of course, but on the days when all you want is to go back to bed and watch Netflix under the covers until the world goes back to what it was, know you’re not alone in this. We can’t always face each new day with a smile, or start a new language, or transform our bodies in twelve weeks, or bake artisanal sourdough bread. For some of us, just carrying on is a daily act of courage. If this is you, remember this:

Are you afraid that what you do doesn’t matter? Don’t be. If you help just one person, save just one life, make one sad, lonely person a little happier and less lonely, then it matters. Even if that person was you. 

Stay safe, everyone.

 

 

2020 events cancelled

IMPORTANT NOTICE:

IN THE LIGHT OF THE CORONAVIRUS CRISIS, ALL PUBLIC EVENTS BETWEEN MARCH AND JUNE HAVE BEEN CANCELLED.

That means all book events, readings, festivals and gigs with the #Storytime Band until June, and possibly later. Paperback publication of THE STRAWBERRY THIEF has also been cancelled, which means that instead of coming out this Spring, it will be coming out next year instead, and the launch of HONEYCOMB is likely to be put back till the autumn of 2121.

So far, publication of ORFEIA is still going ahead for this autumn, though this too may change.

Obviously I’m disappointed, both on my own behalf and on yours, but I completely understand the need to do whatever we can to combat the spread of Covid-19. I hope most of the cancelled events will be rescheduled in time: in any case, if you have tickets for a cancelled event, please get in touch with the organizers, who will arrange a refund.

Meanwhile, I’ll be doing various things online instead, so follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to take part.

And the e-book of THE STRAWBERRY THIEF is at 99p on Kindle for the rest of the month, so check out this link if you’d like my book for the price of a cup of coffee… 

HONEYCOMB

Great news!

After a long period of gestation, the lovely Charles Vess is hard at work finishing the illustrations for HONEYCOMB in time for a book launch next year. These are just rough drafts so far, but they’re already giving me the chills…

The Stunners’ Opera

Most of you weren’t able to attend the very short run of THE STUNNERS’ OPERA at Mountview last month: it was amazing, and Howard and I are already working on the next stage, in the hope of bringing it to a larger audience.

Meanwhile, here are some of the awesome photographs taken  by the wonderful Katherine Leedale…

December

As Christmas approaches, a lot of you have been asking me for gift suggestions. Here are my Top Ten ideas for the readers and writers in your life:

  1. A #Storytime Band CD! Each one is signed, and comes with an exclusive signed bookplate.
  2. A Grimm & Co Novel Tea gift box. Contains tea, a copy of either THE BLUE SALT ROAD  or A POCKETFUL OF CROWS and various magical accompaniments to ensure the perfect reading conditions. Plus, each sale goes to support the fabulous Grimm & Co: changing the world, one story at a time.
  3. For the writer in your life, a subscription to the Society of Authors (if you’re not published yet, you can still be an associate member), to keep them abreast of all the publishing news.
  4.  A box of personalized pencils. Inspirational mottos, in all the cute colours.
  5. Drink tea whilst improving your grammar with a set of grammar mugs!
  6. The Writer’s Map: an atlas of imaginary lands. Lavishly illustrated; edited by Huw Lewis-Jones, with contributions from many (non-imaginary) authors.
  7. Offer them the gift of a professional manuscript evaluation, a one-on-one Skype tutorial or, if you’re feeling flush (and they’re feeling ambitious), a whole manuscript editing service.
  8. Cashmere fingerless gloves from Brora. For those Dickensian winter days.
  9. Writers Tears whisky. Because we’ve all been there. (Although you may have to add in the apostrophe yourself…)
  10. Or, for the scent-addicts in your life, you could try Dzing! from L’Artisan Parfumeur, which recreates the smell of new books…

A Pocketful of Crows

To mark the the start of my favourite month, the CD of A POCKETFUL OF CROWS, by me and the #Storytime Band, is finally ready to order!

This piece, based on the novella by the same name, is longer than any of our storysongs, but it works in a similar way; blending narrative, music and songs into a thirty-minute suite. I guess you’d call it a concept album: you can listen to it alongside the book, or treat the two as independent works.

And doesn’t it look marvellous, with artwork by Bonnie front and back? Lyrics are all printed inside, and the first 100 copies will come to you with a signed bookplate from me.

Here’s an early review

Want one? Get yours here – we ship anywhere. But there are only a limited number of copies, so hurry before they all fly away!

 

 

 

The Stunners’ Opera

Oh, my beating heart.

Once upon a time, a writer and a composer met on Twitter, and bonded over a hashtag.

Under the hashtag #NeglectedWomen, I spent over two years showcasing some of the female artists, adventurers, scientists, architects, inventors and warriors, neglected by historians in favour of their male contemporaries. Among them were a number of female artists reduced to the status of “Muses”.

The Stunners of this story are the models who sat for the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – some of them artists in their own right; all surprisingly diverse. Lovers of Pre-Raphaelite art may already know of Lizzie Siddall, Janey Morris or Fanny Cornforth; but what about Fanny Eaton, the Jamaican model, or the tragic figures of Ellen Smith and Sophy Gray? Mostly, all we see of them now is the work of those artists who chose them, posed them, idealized them, and dressed them in the costumes of an imaginary age.  Through the lens of the male gaze, their true faces are seldom seen. Silent in their attitudes, they have no voices of their own.

Or have they? 

A lockdown in a gallery brings five very different women together. These women – all of them strangers – find themselves sharing the stories of those long-dead Stunners, and finding that their own lives are not as different as they think…

THE STUNNERS OPERA, by Howard Goodall and Yours Truly, is holding rehearsals this month, and there will be five performances in November.  Even the poster looks fabulous, and tickets are already on sale right here

Blackberry time…

And here comes golden September, with an early harvest of blackberries as well as a bumper crop of new projects for me to work on.  There might not be much time for making jam, though: I’m about to head off to Principe, off the coast of West Africa, for a series of local chocolate-related events, then I’ll be touring for The Strawberry Thief, stopping at various festivals, as well as doing #Storytime with the band at Cheltenham on September 13th. The new CD of A Pocketful of Crows (with artwork by Bonnie Helen Hawkins) is on its way from the printer’s: we should have copies in time for Cheltenham, and we’ll make it available to buy from the website, too.

Subscribers to my newsletter will already have seen that I’m working on multiple projects, including The Battlebridge Fairies on ko-fi, available to all my supporters. Last week I was at a terrific event in Edinburgh for the ALCS, where I spoke to an audience of mostly Scottish writers about the importance of  copyright; the drastic fall in authors’ incomes, the drop in the study of English at A-level and the debt we owe to the next generation of writers: you can read more about one of them here.

Scenes From an Author’s Life:

Right now I’m doing that thing whereby you’re going for a 10-day trip to the jungle, on which you’re only allowed to bring one cabin-sized bag. Ever done that? Neither have I. It goes like this:

Pack bag for the twentieth time. Transfer contents to a different bag. Underwear; check. walking shoes; check. Malaria meds; check.  Jungle formula; check. First aid kit; check. Mosquito net; check. Spend hours agonizing about whether or not to bring laptop. Have small panic attack at thought of being without a laptop for 10 days. Laptop; check. Now for the camera: should I take the good one or the small, snappy, portable one? Luggage space suggests the small, snappy portable one, but if I leave some clothes out of the bag, maybe the bigger one will fit? Decide to take both cameras. And the laptop. And the chargers for the laptop. Who needs more than one outfit, anyway?

Prediction: I’m going to arrive at the venue to find that everyone is dressed to the nines, including tiaras and evening attire.

Wake up in the middle of the night wondering whether I need an extra charger.

Repeat every day for three weeks.

 

August

It’s all set to be another busy month, in fact, a busy autumn. Next week, it’s WorldCon in Dublin – I’ll probably be wandering about looking a bit lost, so if you see me, do say hello. Then I’m off to Principe to see chocolate plantations, open a boutique chocolate factory and to work with a handful of lucky eco-visitors to this amazing, unspoilt island. Then I’m going to Antwerp to publicize THE STRAWBERRY THIEF there, and afterwards to Italy, to celebrate the Italian launch.

The band and I will be performing one gig this autumn: we’ll be at Cheltenham Pump Rooms on September 13th, and with a bit of luck, the CD of A POCKETFUL OF CROWS should be ready by then.

Meanwhile, THE STUNNERS’ OPERA is taking shape; there will be a performance at Mountview Academy in autumn, and you can bet I’ll be looking in on researsals like a crazy helicopter parent throughout.

Plus, in the Shed, I’m working on several writing projects at once; a follow-up both to RUNELIGHT and THE TESTAMENT OF LOKI, and on rainy days, a weird little story of urban fairies in London (which I’m posting chapter-by-chapter online for anyone who has ever bought me and the band a cup of tea on ko-fi). 

I’m also still touring, both for THE STRAWBERRY THIEF and for THE TESTAMENT OF LOKI, which makes for an interesting schedule, but I’m really enjoying it. And for those who asked me last month (with a certain amount of concern) how I’m managing to get time to relax, I’ve discovered a dangerous new addiction, which may well turn into a story one day. My friend Anthony Scala, who makes beautiful things in glass, very kindly offered me and my daughter a day in Peter Layton’s London glassblowing studio, where, under supervision, we learnt how to shape and blow glass. (You can find out more about these workshops here. But beware – you may get hooked!) I’ve always found the process of working with glass fascinating, and I’d watched glassblowers at work (you can do that at the studio, too. Just drop in anytime), but had never thought I might be able to do it myself – as it happened, both of us were able (with Anthony’s help) to make lovely glass objects on our very first try.

Glass is a marvellous substance. It’s perhaps the first time I’ve worked with a medium as fascinating as chocolate, and they do have rather a lot in common: they are uniquely malleable, almost magical substances: they both have a rich folklore and an amazing, ancient history: they are both increadibly beautiful, sensuous and relaxing to work with.

And the process of working with glass is nothing short of magical. The furnaces; the instruments; the colours; the lights; the scents; the sensations – all are part of the multisensory charm of glass. It’s another kind of everyday magic, one that comes from sand, rather than the cacao bean, but equally transformational and (the end product, at least) marvellously tactile.

These pictures were taken during the day –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And these are the things we made!

 

So yes: I think I can say with some degree of certainty that one; I’ll be going back, and two, that there may well be a glassblowing story of some kind in the indeterminate future. Just let me finish the current raft of projects first…

Strawberry Season

And the strawberry season is in full swing, with new editions of THE STRAWBERRY THIEF coming out this summer all over Europe as well as in the US. American readers can find it here. And if you can live with my accent, you can hear a sample of the audiobook, too. I know a lot of you have already ordered it from UK suppliers, but your online comments, reviews and feedback are still greatly appreciated on Amazon and Goodreads.

I’m sorry I’m not touring the US this year – I have so many commitments this autumn – but if you want signed copies, Goldsbro Books in London’s Cecil Court has a stack of signed first editions, and they ship anywhere. If you’re a blogger, Tuber or interviewer who would like an interview, a Q & A or a call, do get in touch via the website’s CONTACT form, and I’ll do my best to oblige.

Also, the band and I are now taking #Storytime bookings for 2020. If things go to plan, the new novella will be out by then, as well as (maybe) the illustrated HONEYCOMB book, and we’ll be doing a small number of special gigs to celebrate them. If you think your festival would be suitable and would like to book us for an event, check out our tech requirements here. They’re simple, but essential – we need to put on the best show we can. We’ll be playing one gig this autumn at Cheltenham Pump Room, where we’ll be playing the whole of our Pocketful of Crows CD, so get your tickets here…

And finally, THE TESTAMENT OF LOKI is out in paperback this week! It ties in with my RUNE books, too, although it can easily be read as a stand-alone. And as it happens, I’m writing the continuation, so please support it if you can. Every sale helps to ensure that the publisher sticks with the series…

 

Update on THE STRAWBERRY THIEF

GREAT NEWS! The Strawberry Thief is in at Number 1 in the Times in its first week of publication!

Thank you so much to everyone who pre-ordered the book from the publisher, or who bought it from bookshops or online. Thank you for your enthusiasm, your reviews, your applause, your presence at my readings, your messages on social media and your encouragement on and offline.

You did this.

Thank you.

And if you still haven’t been to one of my readings, you could maybe check these out. Is there one near you? If not, keep an eye on my Events page. I’m adding venues all the time…

Or if you prefer audiobooks, and you’d like to hear me read for 10 hours and 23 minutes, you can buy the audio version of the Strawberry Thief right here on Audible…

Book Tour Dates

Finally, after what seems like years of waiting, here it is. THE STRAWBERRY THIEF will be out in shops on April 4th – although for those of you wishing to buy it for Mothers’ Day, you’ll probably be able to find it in shops a few days earlier, and they’ll be available to buy at all my readings, of course.

Check below, or on the events page to see if there’s one near you.

Waterstones has a special limited edition: it comes signed, and with an introduction and a short story from me: there are only 3000 of them, so don’t hesitate to order yours here!

Or if you prefer audiobooks, mine will be coming out at the same time – and as with CHOCOLAT, I’m the narrator.

If you can’t make any of my readings, you might prefer to check out my blog tour – with reviews, Q & As and additional input from me throughout the buildup to the launch.

And to mark twenty years of CHOCOLAT, my publishers are re-issuing the book with its original cover (as seen below with Juliette Binoche), and a special foreword by me. Look for it now online and in bookshops…

Twenty years of CHOCOLAT!

Twenty years ago today, CHOCOLAT launched in the UK. It wasn’t my first novel, but it was the first time any of my books had had so much attention. This is me at my book launch (the first one I’d ever had) at Fortum & Mason’s, not even trying to look cool, but just enjoying every minute of it…

Here it is, twenty years later, back in its original jacket, with a new introduction by me, as part of the anniversary celebrations.


Of course I had no idea at the time how much that little book would come to mean to me and to my family: how many chocolate shops would be opened in Vianne’s name, how many people would read it and find themselves suddenly craving chocolate. That funny little book did so much for me and for the literary world: even its cover sparked off a fashion for jewel colours and sensuous imagery, rather than the sensible, dull book jackets of old. People from all over the world have written to me, telling me how much my book has meant to them.

Chocolate brings us together. It sweetens our celebrations. It links us with a past that is filled with magic, and folklore, and history. It has come a very long way: from obscure tribal concoction to one of the the most popular flavours in the world. And over the past twenty years, my book has had a similar journey, crossing over continents; taking me to places I’d only ever dreamed of seeing. Many, many people have given it their seal of approval: thank you so much to them, and to you.

Also, on the 20th anniversary of CHOCOLAT: how amazing does this sound?

A holiday of a lifetime on a paradise island, with glorious beaches, chocolate plantations, guided walks, internationally acclaimed gourmet chefs, chocolate tasting, chocolate-themed menus and a writing workshop with me –

Tempted?

For booking details and more, click here!

February

There’s going to be a lot going on over the next few months! You’ll be able to read more about all of this in my February newsletter (if you haven’t signed up yet, what are you waiting for?), but here are some of the things to watch:

The STRAWBERRY THIEF proofs have now gone out to reviewers, critics and bloggers – and don’t they look amazing!

The hardback edition isn’t quite the same – in fact it may be even more beautiful. Sign up to the newsletter and you’ll get the chance to win one, too, as part of our monthly competition – as well as a sample of the perfume created for me by CPL Labs to celebrate the return of Vianne Rocher

There are a great number of STRAWBERRY THIEF events coming up for March, April and May – and they’re already selling  fast. So take a look at where I am, and get your tickets early.

Author news: I am now officially a member of the Board of the ALCS: the organization that collects secondary rights payments on behalf of authors: if you’re an author and you’re not a member,  they probably owe you money. Join today to claim it!

I’m also coming to the end of my term as a member of the MC of the Society of Authors: I shall be standing again later this year for another three-year term, so please consider voting for me if you’ve noticed what I’ve been doing to help the cause of fellow-authors. And if you’re an author, and you haven’t yet joined the Society, please consider doing so now. It’s worth it just for the contract advice, the liability insurance and the networking opportunities…

Also coming soon , there’s this: A song recorded by women from all kinds of backgrounds to celebrate women’s achievements for International Women’s Day in March – and it will feature a cameo from me! Follow the hashtag #Twentyfirstcenturywomansong on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to find out more…

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! 2019 is already shaping up to be a busy one, with lots of new and exciting plans. December 2018 was busy too, so here’s in case you missed these:

The #Storytime Band and I were on Radio 3’s Christmas Verb, recording live from Huddersfield’s Vinyl Tap, with a story and two of our songs. If you missed it, you can download it here….

I also did a show with Howard Goodall for  Radio 4’s Only Artists, in which we discussed all kinds of things, from our working methods, our heroes, inspiration and the future of the arts. We talked for hours! But you can listen to the edited highlights  here…

If you’re not yet a subscriber to my newsletter, know that it comes out every month, with news, exclusive previews, competitions, art, giveaways and writing tips. Sign up now to stay in the loop…

December

December!

And as Christmas approaches, we enter the season of #Shedvent, in which, from December 1st, the Shed opens to reveal a different surprise every day! Follow the hashtag on Twitter to collect them all…

And, for the bookish folk in your life, here are my top ten Christmas gift recommendations…

  1. Chocolate lover? Student of Life? Get this Chocolate Therapy app, and find out what your favourite chocolate says about you…
  2. Need a bit of magic in your life? Grimm & Co’s Novel Tea Box contains all kinds of magical goodies – including a copy of either THE BLUE SALT ROAD or  A POCKETFUL OF CROWS – your choice. And all the proceeds go to helping children’s literacy and creativity…
  3. Everyone knows that writers (and readers) flourish best on tea and cake. Botham’s of Whitby provide hampers to suit any budget. Look out for the terrific plum bread, and the phenomenal ginger brack… 
  4. These personalized pencils are great for the storyteller in your life – or for a favourite teacher…
  5. Why not offer a writer friend a professional assessment of their manuscript, synopsis or first 50 pages? 
  6. Or what about a custom piece of jewellery with their favourite inspirational quote?
  7. Of course, you could always give them a copy of our very own #Storytime CD – only available from this website. Four original story/songs, written and performed by me and the #Storytime Band..
  8. If you’re feeling flush, you could buy them a pair of Dickensian fingerless gloves (in luxurious cashmere, of course) for those long, cold days in the garret…
  9. Too polite to tell your friends and family to leave you alone? Let this existentialist doormat deliver the message for you.
  10. Or you could buy them a subscription to the Society of Authors, and help them invest in their future…Also:  This Christmas, BookTrust has launched a scheme to help give vulnerable children access to books. If you’d like to know more, check out this link…