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…
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…
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!
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…
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.
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…
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…
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.
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…
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 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 –
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, 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…
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…
Out now! THE BLUE SALT ROAD, online and in bookshops.
“The Blue Salt Road is a tale of discovery, a story of entrapment, an account of terror and a poem of unconditional love. Joanne M. Harris is a wondrous writer who can spin the darkest tale and still leave room for hope. I was captivated by this story. I don’t usually do fairy tales but this one had me hanging on every word. I thought that usually the dark and gritty essence of a fairy tale was implied or hidden between the lines but not here. I was under the impression that this would be a charming love story but again I was very wrong.
Harris has created a tale that shocks to the core, that drives the reader to the conclusion with haunting yet courageous prose and leaves people like me unsettled by the capabilities of man. Harris has a deep appreciation for nature and that only serves to enrich the story telling. It immersed me fully into the narrative as Harris describes the sea life, the sea itself and the boats that sail on its surface.”
(Stuart, for Goodreads.)
Want to give a reader or writer friend a really special present? Grimm & Co are now stocking THE BLUE SALT ROAD and A POCKETFUL OF CROWS as part of their magical gift box! Details here – all proceeds go to Grimm & Co, helping to promote literacy, creativity, and magic: changing the world, one story at a time…
…is out on November 15th! And doesn’t it look lovely…
The ocean has many voices. It sings in the voice of the pilot whale; the voice of the dolphin; the waves on the beach. It sings in the voice of a thousand birds; it cries in the wind that howls through the rocks upon the distant skerries. But most of all, it sings in the voice of the selkie; those people of the ocean clans that hunt with the seal, and dance with the waves, and, nameless, go on forever.
With cover art by Sue Gent and internal art by Bonnie Helen Hawkins, this novella is an object of beauty as well as (I hope) a great story. I’ll be doing some readings and signings to celebrate its publication, but if you can’t get to one to get your book signed, I’ll be sending out a signed, dedicated bookplate to anyone who supports me on Ko-fi during the month of November. Just buy me a coffee, tell me to whom you’d like the dedication, and I’ll send one to the address provided by PayPal…
October is the month in which the reader’s heart turns to mulled wine, and hot chocolate, and pumpkin spice, and the chance to curl up under a blanket, by a fire, with a book that makes you dream of different worlds from the safety and warmth of your own hearth.
If distant countries make you dream, you can now buy copies of THE WRITER’S MAP, with chapters from me, Philip Pullman and many other wanderers through the landscapes of the mind. And if you’re starting to feel the cold, you can also pre-order copies of THE BLUE SALT ROAD, to be published this November. Or if your heart craves the comfort of audiobooks this autumn, I just recorded the introduction and the epilogue to the new audiobook, and from what I’ve already heard, I know it’s going to be fabulous…
Readers may be interested to check out this lovely book of essays and maps of imaginary worlds (I’m in there with Philip Pullman and a number of other marvellous contributors), available now for pre-order…