The Latest News from Joanne
1 May 2013 - Literary Bake-Off Competition
The three winners of our Literary Bake-Off are:
You’ll be getting your goody bags very soon. Well done to everybody who entered. (Click Here for larger images and captions)
April 2013 - Good News for Fans of the Rune Books
GOLLANCZ TO PUBLISH MAJOR NEW ADULT FANTASTY NOVEL FROM JOANNE HARRIS
Best-selling author Joanne Harris is joining the world famous Gollancz list with a brand new adult fantasy novel based on Norse mythology. Gollancz, the SF and fantasy imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, has secured world rights, including audio and translation, for ‘The Gospel of Loki’ in a substantial six-figure two book deal struck by Gollancz Deputy Publishing Director Jon Wood and agent Peter Robinson of Rogers, Coleridge & White.
The novel is a brilliant first person narrative of the rise and fall of the Norse gods - retold from the point-of-view of the world’s ultimate trickster, Loki. It tells the story of Loki’s recruitment from underworld of Chaos, his many exploits on behalf of his one-eyed master, Odin, through to his eventual betrayal of the gods and the fall of Asgard.
Her stories of magic, fantasy and gothic horror have already earned Joanne a loyal following among the fantasy community and she will be one of the main Guests of Honour, alongside Richard Matheson and fellow Gollancz author Joe Hill, at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton in October. Usually held in America, this convention will see writers, artists, agents, publishers and readers gather to celebrate fantastical literature in all its forms. Other guests at the convention include China Mieville, Brian Aldiss and Joe Abercrombie.
Fairytale and folklore have always played a part in Harris’s writing from an early age and her previous novels have included elements of magic and the supernatural. It was her particular love of Norse mythology that inspired her to The Gospel of Loki.
Jon Wood said: ‘We are over-the-moon at Gollancz to be publishing this amazing fantasy novel. Joanne has used her expert knowledge of Norse mythology and melded it with an incredibly detailed and imaginative world of her own creation. Loki is brought to life in all his glory with neither humour nor darkness in short supply! We expect this to be a huge success in 2014’.
For further information please contact Jonathan Weir, Gollancz Senior Publicity Manager, on 0207 50 4314 or email email@example.com. Click Here for the announcement on the Gollancz website.
And here come the Ides of March.
This year they’re bringing several festivals, including Oxford (oxfordliteraryfestival.org) (tickets are pretty much sold out, but there may still be a few left here (oxfordliteraryfestival.org/literature-events-2013), and Huddersfield (www.litfest.org.uk) where this Saturday, I’ll be storytelling at Waterstone’s, then talking about my books with James Nash. If you come early you’ll catch the literary bake-off (www.litfest.org.uk/?q=competitions2013) at 7pm, where I’ve been promised food for thought (as well as for the rest of me).
Some of you have started an unofficial literary bake-off of your own – beginning with Megan’s incredible Runemarks cupcakes – which reminds me that we haven’t had a competition recently.
So, folks, here it is; our own online Literary Bake-off Competition.
As always, it’s open to anyone, anywhere, and the brief is as follows.
Bake a cake (or a series of cakes) of any kind in tribute to one of my books, characters or stories. Be as imaginative as you like.
Send me a picture of your cake – and its name, and yours. Much as I would love you to send me actual cakes – please don’t. (I don’t think the post-box could stand it, and neither could my waistline.)
Competition ends May 1st 2013, and the winners will get a goodie bag, including signed copies of Peaches, plus the chance for their photograph to feature in my new recipe book (more details of that coming up soon).
NB: Not being a fabulous baker myself, I’ll be judging your entries on their originality as well as their visual appeal. So go on – get baking!
And there’s lots going on already this spring.
Firstly, the launch of Robin Hanbry-Tenison’s marvellous book ECHOES OF A VANISHED WORLD, for which I wrote the introduction. If you haven’t had the chance to visit this free exhibition at the National Theatre, London this month, there’s still time: it closes on March 10th, and features hundreds of Robin’s stunning photographs of vanished peoples and places, taken over the course of his long career as an explorer. Click Here for more details.
Next month also the launch of BEACONS (Stories For Our Not-so-distant Future); a collection of short stories written especially for the charity STOP CLIMATE CHAOS. It’s a terrific collection, featuring unpublished stories by 20 authors, including Toby Litt, Adam Thorpe and Yours Truly, all looking at different aspects of climate change. My story is called A is for Acid Rain, B is for Bee, and you won’t see it published anywhere else. All author royalties will go to the Stop Climate Chaos coalition.
Click Here to check out the collection .
March also sees the paperback launch of PEACHES. Remember that Waterstone’s will be selling the exclusive edition, with an extra chapter not available in any other edition. US readers may have to wait a little longer for the paperback – which will be published in the US under its original title: PEACHES FOR MONSIEUR LE CURE.
Plus I’m looking forward to the Huddersfield Literary Festival, (Click here for details) re-launched this year and better than ever. Among the guests will be; Kate Atkinson, Jodi Picault, Jeremy Dyson, Annabel Pitcher and lots more.
I’m doing two events: storytelling workshop on March 16th at 10.30 at Waterstone’s, New Street, where I’ll be talking about the process of crafting stories, building worlds and making people listen. (Free entrance: all ages welcome.)
Plus I’ll be in conversation with James Nash at 7.00 at St Paul’s Hall, Huddersfield University (Tickets £4.00/£2.00 concessions).
And don’t forget the Literary Bake Off Cake Competition organised by Tea & Tarts WI, in which you choose a book and represent it in cake form. I’m expecting great things from this (and I’m helping to judge it, too).
Entry is free, but donations to Kirkwood Hospice Capital Appeal welcomed.
Simply bring your cake along with you at 6.30pm on the night.
Here’s one we made earlier. Don’t eat it all at once.
World Fantasy Convention, 2013
Joanne is delighted to have been asked to be a Guest of Honour at the World Fantasy Convention 2013 in Brighton from 31 October to 3 November – details here http://www.wfc2013.org/goh-jharris01.html
First of all, Happy New Year. Yes, I know it’s February, but we all know that January is a no-man’s-land, separating us from the minefield that is Christmas. Second of all, January is my month of deepest hibernation, during which I do little but sleep, eat and occasionally drink too much wine. February, on the other hand, contains at least the promise of something more than snow, ice and darkness.
This year promises to be at least as busy as 2012. The paperback of Peaches comes out at the end of March – and if you support your High Street bookshops (as you should), you’ll find that Waterstone’s is selling an exclusive edition, containing an extra chapter unavailable in other editions of the book (you can read it as an epilogue, or even as the prologue to an as-yet-unwritten story).
Otherwise, I’m working on several things; a new novel set in St Oswald’s, which carries on 12 months after the end of Gentlemen and Players; a little illustrated book about chocolate, co-written with Fran Warde, to be published sometime next year and (Runemarks fans take heed) a book to accompany my Rune series, which re-examines Ragnarók and everything that led up to it, from the perspective of our favourite Trickster.
I’ve come to the conclusion that, far from being a comfortable “brand” (as all publishers would like authors to be), I am a very uncomfortable brand. Some of my readers read all of my books; novels, short stories, fantasy, thrillers, food-lit. If that’s you, then bless you twice for being so accommodating. Other readers prefer to read only certain kinds of book: only the fantasy; only the food-lit; only the darker, more challenging reads. This is where a writer’s job becomes increasingly difficult: should I submit to pressure from one side or another, or should I, in the words of my outspoken ex-agent: Keep swanning around like a pirate, doing exactly what you want and not earning us any money?
A pirate’s life for me, I say.
Which is just my way of telling you that those folk who may be waiting for the next instalment of Vianne’s story may have to wait a little while longer. Still, stories have their own momentum, their own rhythms of growth. Stories do not understand the rules of sales and marketing. Nor do most authors - which is exactly as it should be. So watch this space - or follow my day-to-day ramblings on Twitter, which has become my rumpus room - and occasional testing-ground for stories and ideas.
In other news : I’m delighted to have been asked to take part in the judging of two very different literary prizes; the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books (http://royalsociety.org/awards/science-books) and the Desmond Elliott First Novel Prize, (http://www.desmondelliottprize.org) which I am chairing. A hundred and fifty books into the long-list, I may be cursing my recklessness, but honestly, it’s great to be a part of this, and I’m really looking forward to it.
There are also various other things that I can’t talk about right now, but when I can, you’ll be the first to hear. Just watch this space and make a wish. Who knows? It may come true.
8 December 2012
Click Here for Cioccolato, a recent article (in Italian) by Joanne for D-la Repubblica
Home at last after an amazing three months of touring for PEACHES – and the response has been amazing. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who came to my readings, bought my books, gave me their stories, showed me their artwork, shared their lunches, bought me wine, drove me to the airport and generally helped make sure that I stayed sane and got everywhere I needed to be without getting lost (or arrested).
Thanks also to the many people who have written to me about A CAT, A HAT AND A PIECE OF STRING, who have bought or downloaded the book, or read the stories in magazines this month. I don’t often publish short stories, but it’s great to see how many of you recognized some of the characters in JIGS & REELS, especially Faith and Hope, whose fan club has been vocal in requesting more about them. And for fans of the spoken word, the audiobook of A CAT, A HAT... features Yours Truly reading aloud on CD for the first time – so please be sure to tell me what you thought (that is, assuming you liked it)...
Now I’m home for a little while, hopefully to work on something new. RUNEMARKS fans will be happy to know that I’ve finished the first draft of my Loki book – I’ll post more details when I know them. Right now, I’m working on a new Vianne story – just a short one – to be published exclusively for Waterstones in the forthcoming paperback of PEACHES, and a new novel, which, if things work out as I’m hoping, may carry on from GENTLEMEN AND PLAYERS. Meanwhile, over the coming few weeks, watch out for some of my short stories in newspapers and magazines, and on Radio 4 (they’re all from A CAT, A HAT... so if you miss them, you can always find a copy). Otherwise, fans of my impromptu story-tweets will find the latest one on Twitter under the hashtag #storytime. (I’ll be tweeting another one live sometime very soon, so be warned). Till then, Merry Christmas, all of you, and a happy new 2013.
The next few months are going to be busy, folks; PEACHES is touring all over the world, and there are two more books to promote; the paperback of RUNELIGHT, now out with two alternative (and equally beautiful) book jackets, and my second collection of short stories, A CAT, A HAT AND A PIECE OF STRING.
You can see my tour schedule here, or follow me on Twitter (where I am @joannechocolat) for a day-to-day account of an author’s life on tour. I love it (even though it’s tiring, and it usually means I don’t get much writing time), partly because it allows me to see so many places I wouldn’t have had the chance to visit otherwise, and partly because it allows me to meet and to thank in person some of the people who work to keep my books on the shelves – publishers, subagents, booksellers, bloggers, reps – and of course, you, the readers, without whom we would all be out of a job...
Otherwise, I’m delighted to be able to announce that I’ve just been awarded an Honorary Fellowship from my old college, St Catharine’s, Cambridge. It’s a tremendous honour to be remembered in this way, and I’m thrilled to accept it. I’ll try to behave with more decorum when I visit. No more climbing over the gates after midnight, or illicitly cooking cheese toasties in my bedroom, or sneaking into the Fellows’ Garden – which I suppose I can now visit legitimately.
Meanwhile, at home, I’m busy working on a companion-piece to my RUNE books, which will be, if it works out as planned, a retelling of the Norse myths (with some extras) by the Trickster in person. I’ve always thought that Loki had a rather bad press in the original text, and that he might have a different story to tell, if only he were given a voice. I’m having a terrific time with it so far. Fans of Maddy and Maggie may have to wait awhile longer for the sequel to RUNELIGHT; I find that these books take longer to write than some of my other stories, although in some ways I enjoy them more. But RUNE books come on sunny days, and those are sometimes in short supply. Darker months bring darker tales. I’m glad you understand that.
Soon I’ll be packing for Christchurch, then Brisbane, then South Africa, then the US. I get the feeling that my suitcase and I are going to be close companions for a long, long time. I hope that some of you will be able to come to my readings; if so, please don’t forget to come and say hi. Meanwhile, thanks to all of you for your overwhelming response to PEACHES. It hasn’t come out in the US yet (although it will in a couple of weeks), but at home the support has been tremendous. Thanks especially to those Muslim readers who wrote in to say how much they appreciated reading about the Moroccan community of Lansquenet. It’s always hard for me to know whether or not I’ve got something right; please keep your comments coming in. I read them all, and though I don’t always answer them, they are always appreciated.
10 August 2012
Firstly, and most importantly, a big thank you to all my readers for all the support and enthusiasm they have shown for my new book, PEACHES FOR MONSIEUR LE CURÉ. You’ve been tremendous, and thanks to you, my talks have all been sold out so far, and the book reached Number 2 in the Sunday Times bestseller list. The response from you, the public, has been quite overwhelming. It’s genuinely touching to see how much affection there is out there for Vianne, Anouk and the inhabitants of Lansquenet. I wish I could tell you for certain whether there will be any more stories about those characters – all I can say is that if ever Vianne comes knocking again, I’ll try to tell her story, whatever it is, as best I can.
For the present, however, I’m still touring – I’ll be at the Dartington festival later this month, after which I’ll be heading to Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and the States in autumn. I hope I’ll see some of you there – if you can make one of my talks, please don’t hesitate to come and say hello.
Right now, I’m heading to London to record the audiobook of my forthcoming short story collection; A CAT, A HAT AND A PIECE OF STRING. This will be coming out in October, and it will be the first time I’ve recorded one of my own audiobooks (although in this case I’ll be sharing the credits for those stories with a male narrator). I confess, I’m a little nervous. But so many of my readers have asked me why I don’t record my audiobooks that I thought that in this case, maybe I could give it a try. I hope it works. Perhaps you’ll tell me what you think when the recording comes out.
I’m also working on a companion piece to my RUNE books – basically, a retelling of the Norse myths from the perspective of Loki, the Trickster. So many of my younger readers have told me that he is their favourite character, and so many of you have requested more about the original myths that this seemed like a logical step. Fans of Maddy Smith need not worry, though; there will be a sequel to RUNELIGHT, although I can’t promise just when that will be. These books take time for me to plan out, and I have so many different stories to tell. However, this autumn, RUNELIGHT will be coming out in two different paperback editions – one for the young adult market, and one for my “regular” readership. So many of you have already pointed out the absurdity of RUNEMARKS being sold as a children’s book rather than a crossover fantasy novel that my publishers are re-launching both books, with very different covers. I’d be very interested to see which design you like best!
Meanwhile, I’m hoping to take some time away from work this summer. My garden, my daughter, my family – all have suffered somewhat from my absence over the past few months, and I mean to try to correct that. Till next time, here’s the piece I wrote on PEACHES for the website welovethisbook.com, and just a few of your many reviews:
Online reviews of PEACHES:
I only wish that every book I read had the same power to transport me elsewhere in the midst of characters so vivid I feel I know them. (Amazon)
This is an absolute gem of a book, deftly plotted and beautifully constructed. The pace is measured and never rushed as Harris confidently interweaves the narratives of her main characters. With an interesting twist it could be argued that Vianne Rocher is not truly the main protagonist this time around, as the plot spirals around Father Reynaud as he struggles to deal with the influx of Muslim Maghrebins into the sleepy village of Lansquenet. Set around Ramadan (in itself a clever echo back to the Lenten setting of "Chocolat") Vianne's return to Lansquenet with her daughters Anouk and Rosette finds the village trying to cope with women wearing the niqab and the appearance of a mosque. (Amazon)
Wow. Just... wow. I've just this moment finished reading this book, and it's blown my fucking socks off. (Brighton Plotbunnies, http://brighton.plotbunnies.co.uk/node/232 )
30 May 2012
The transcript of Joanne's recent Red Online Chat (25th May) in which readers sent in their questions can now be read on the Red Website.
Trailer for Peaches for Monsieur le Curé:
This month is shaping up to be a very busy one, starting with the launch of the new book and continuing with a series of readings and festivals, foreign trips and signings. I’m really looking forward to it – to meeting some of my readers and hearing what you have to say about Vianne’s return to Lansquenet. Don’t forget to come and say hello, even if you’re not buying a book. And for those who can’t make it, here’s a clip on YouTube of me, in the shed, reading a chapter from PEACHES ...
Otherwise, fans of my RUNE books may be interested to know that I’m writing another one – not a sequel, but a prequel this time, an account of the events leading up to Ragnarók, written from the point of view of one of my favourite characters. It may be some time before I finish it, but at least it’s on its way. And I’ve finished the final edit on my new collection of short stories, A CAT, A HAT AND A PIECE OF STRING, which should be available in October 2012. Otherwise, I’m not sure. I have a couple of new ideas, too young to launch into the world, but fans of Vianne and Anouk need not worry too much. Though we may not be joining them again next year, I’m fairly certain it won’t be long before that wind starts blowing again.
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy PEACHES: I’m always glad to hear your thoughts, to meet you and to take your questions at readings. Or you can keep in touch with me on Twitter, where I go under the name of @joannechocolat and post all the latest news from the Shed...
With over a month to go before the publication of PEACHES, it shouldn’t be such a busy time. And yet it is, somehow; the raft (more like a flotilla) of interviews and articles seems to have launched earlier than usual (unless I’ve just forgotten, and it happens like this every time). Vianne and Anouk have a lot of fans! Certainly it’s nice to see so much enthusiasm for this project; lots of lovely comments coming in from our advance readers, and so much passion from booksellers. Thank you, everyone. I’m still working on my tour schedule, so keep watching the Events page as details and venues are added. I’ll be doing readings and signings throughout May and June, then going to Australia and New Zealand in September. I hope you’ll come and say hello – especially the many of you who talk to me online…
The first review of PEACHES can be read on the New Books Magazine website.
For my US readers, I’m afraid you get the book a little later than the UK – early in October, in fact, under the title PEACHES FOR FATHER FRANCIS. I’ll try to make sure that Amazon knows, and doesn’t attempt to sell you both!
Other news: you may already know that Cuprinol are sponsoring National Shed Week in July.
A number of well-known shedworkers were asked to design a themed shed, which would then be placed at a beauty spot somewhere in the British Isles.
This is my design, drawn at home in my own shed, and built and painted in a London workshop to my specifications. Thanks to everyone at Cuprinol for making it possible – I had a terrific time making it, and look forward to seeing it in its new location on the Lleyn Peninsula in Wales.
As for my own shed at home, it has attracted more fans on Twitter than I have! Below is my first video blog from the Shed, in which I show you my workspace – Luddite that I am, it has taken me this long to find out how to use my laptop’s webcam – but keep an eye on my YouTube account, where I’ll be adding more videos later.
If you look at this month’s WRITING magazine, you’ll see me on the cover, along with an interview I did with them a while ago, discussing my work and writing routine. I’ll be in GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, too (check out the June edition), talking about my workplace, and shortly I’ll be in YOU magazine, talking about memories and objects of personal significance. Meanwhile, keep watching this space for more news, or follow @joannechocolat on Twitter…
Well, Peaches for Monsieur le Curé is now complete, barring a little proofreading and copy-editing, and ready for launch on May 24th. It’s coming out in the US in autumn under a different title – Peaches for Father Francis. (I think perhaps that acute accent was too much for my US publishers.) You’ll find details of readings and touring on the Events Page of this site – I’ll keep adding details as and when I know them. I already know I’ll be making a trip to Australia in September, to Italy in November, and I’m waiting for confirmation of my US and Canadian trips. Watch this space for further news.
Other than that, for the first time in months, I’ve been enjoying the unusual feeling of not having an immediate deadline hanging over my head. It’s not an altogether comfortable feeling, but I think I’ll try it on for a while. I have an enormous pile of books I’ve promised various colleagues to read, plus a demanding eighteen-year-old in need of entertainment. And, while I’m delighted by the collective enthusiasm that has greeted this latest project, I don’t think I’m quite ready to start writing another novel just yet. Try explaining that to the Press – or even to my publishers, who, in the nicest way imaginable, are already trying to discover when/what the next book will be. I am considering spreading a number of fake rumours: a Western; a steampunk epic; perhaps a confessional memoir. When I know, I’ll tell you. Just keep it to yourself for a while…
Belatedly, a happy New Year to all of you, and thank you for all your good wishes. As you know, I’ve been racing towards the end of the new book, ravelling up plot strands as I go, and I’m happy to say that I have finally managed to get a first draft that I (and my characters) are happy with. Barring a bit of reworking and editing, I think we’ll be comfortably on time for the release date of May 24th (later for the US). I know some of you have been waiting impatiently for the next chapter of Vianne’s story, so here’s a little background to get you in the mood … PEACHES FOR MONSIEUR LE CURÉ
Otherwise, it looks as if 2012 will be a busy year. Apart from PEACHES, Transworld are also publishing a little collection of my short stories sometime in autumn, plus the paperback of RUNELIGHT will be coming out then, too. Watch the Events board for details and dates, or follow @joannechocolat on Twitter…
The winner of the final leg of the Runelight competition is Anna D (sorry, don’t know your last name, Anna).
Here is her winning entry:
Society of Authors' Tweetathon
As you know, the Society of Authors organised a tweetathon in which Joanne wrote the first line of a story which was completed by a number of other writers. This was to draw attention to the short story cuts on Radio 4 and to prove how much we still love our short stories and want them to continue. Here's the finished story read by Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville ... Click Here.
With less than 2 weeks till the publication of RUNELIGHT, I’m juggling too many things at a time. Still, it’s a great game, and I’m very much looking forward to launching the new book and announcing the first of our three winners in the RUNEMARKS competition. As for the other two, well. My publisher has requested that I extend the deadline of the competition to give a chance to enter to some of the schools and reading-groups included in the Random promotion. So, what I’m going to do is this:
I’ll announce the first winner on November 1st, as planned. After that there will be a second deadline of December 1st, after which I will announce the second winner. After that, there will be a third deadline of January 1st, when I will announce the third and final winner.
All three prize-winners will get a RUNELIGHT goodie bag, including a unique silver rune pendant from The Silver Bough. http://www.thesilverbough.com/index.shtml
There’s still plenty of time to enter, so see what you can come up with!
Click Here for more details of the competition.
Runelight was published on 3 November 2011
Meanwhile, it was great to be on the Review Show this week with Germaine Greer, Sam Leith and Dan Stevens. Thanks for all your messages about it.
Thanks too, for your support of Why Willows Weep: Contemporary Tales from the Woods, the book of modern folk-tales in support of the Woodland Trust, to which I contributed a story this month (Click Here for further information).
To buy your copy visit: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/whywillowsweep
I have also made a contribution to the short story anthology Who was Betty?, a whimsical collection of tall stories about Bettys Tea Rooms, with the proceeds going to The Yorkshire Rainforest Project.
The rest of the time I’ve been in the shed, hard at work on the new book, which I’m hoping to finish by the end of the year. I don’t have a title yet, but so far I can tell you this: Vianne’s back in Lansquenet – and facing her toughest challenge yet …
Launched on 14 September 2011 for 5 consecutive weeks, Simon Brett, Neil Gaiman, Joanne Harris, Ian Rankin and Sarah Waters will lead a short story tweetathon in which authors and tweeters will collaborate to write a short story in 670 characters.
In a never-before-attempted collaboration between top authors and tweeters one story a week will be written via Twitter. Five first-line contributions of varying genres will be tweeted by authors Simon Brett (The Feathering Mysteries), Neil Gaiman (American Gods), Joanne Harris, Ian Rankin (the Rebus novels) and Sarah Waters (The Night Watch). Tweeters following the Society are invited to complete the next 4 sentences. Every hour the best lines will be selected and the resulting short stories will be published on the SoA website. Each week’s writer and first line will be announced on Wednesday morning, starting with Ian Rankin on 14 September.
If you have a Twitter account and would like to support the Society's campaing then log in every Wednesday at 11am to take part.
The stories and rules can be viewed at: www.societyofauthors.org/soa-short-story-tweetathon-soatale
or check out: twitter.com/#!/Soc_of_Authors
Summer’s rushing past, and I’m still working hard trying to bring Vianne back to Lansquenet. Gifts of biscuits from my editor have helped enormously –
- and the shed, free of distractions, telephones and Internet, is proving to be a most creative environment.
Runelight comes out on November 3rd, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing your entries for the Runelight Competition. Some of you have already come up with some great ideas, proving that you don’t have to be a film-maker to think creatively and visually. And remember, the winner and two runners-up get a terrific goodie bag, including a piece of handmade rune jewellery from the Silver Bough…
Plus: to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mervyn Peake, I’ve been talking about Peake on TV and radio, as well as contributing an introduction to the new centenary edition of Boy In Darkness and Other Stories, just out in paperback this month. (Click Here for details.)
If you haven’t read anything by this great and woefully underrated author, or if Gormenghast is the extent of your knowledge, then this is your chance to discover one of the twentieth century’s most mercurial voices.
How does an author, faced with several deadlines of the most pressing nature, most profitably spend their time? In my case, they spend it on Twitter; digging the garden; listening to a great deal of musical theatre; re-reading the collected poems of John Donne and The Duchess of Malfi in a vain attempt to help their child revise for their English A-Level; cleaning out the house for the first time in years and making ridiculous amounts of tea.
That said, in spite of this I have managed to finish editing the final, final version of RUNELIGHT, which should be coming out in October. My child is especially pleased by this (although I sense that very soon I may have to start thinking about the sequel). I’m also working on a number of other projects, including a novel, which I’m hoping will turn out to be the third chapter in the story of Vianne Rocher.
In the hope of getting some uninterrupted working time, I have now moved my laptop and desk to the shed (a very posh shed, commissioned by my husband as a phone-free zone to which I can commute every day, avoiding the distractions of Twitter, toaster and fridge). Sadly, the view from the shed is so beautiful that it has become a distraction in itself…
Last month I was privileged to be asked to judge the shortlist of the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award – the shortlist was very strong, but my congratulations to the winner, Jonathan Kemp, for his marvellous novel LONDON TRIPTYCH (see here for details).
Plus, a couple of weeks ago I shared a stage with Tatiana de Rosnay at the French Consulate, talking about what it’s like to be raised straddling two different cultures and speaking two different languages. We found we had quite a lot in common, in spite of our very different experiences. Find out why in this video:
(Click the circle to view, but please be patient as it may take a few seconds to begin.)
Otherwise, I’m watching with interest a couple of other projects – perhaps too new and delicate to dare to give details of just yet, but which may grow into something good over the following six months or so. Watch this space…
Good heavens, where did the time go?
Another day, another deadline. That’s my only real excuse. And I’m increasingly horrified at the number of people I have forgotten to thank, greet, acknowledge or do long-overdue events for - although most of you are very kind, and understand that while I’m doing readings, festivals, book reviews, articles, travel pieces, interviews, tweets, blogs, guest blogs and all the other literary impedimenta that comes with the turf, I’m probably not writing any more books.
To summarize my progress, then. Last month I realized that RUNELIGHT still needed a little work. I’m very close to finishing it now, and it should be published later this year, probably in October sometime.
I do have another current project, too, although I don’t think I’ll tell you much about that for the moment. Suffice it to say that if it comes off, I’ll get Vianne Rocher back to Lansquenet, and you might get to meet a few old friends.
I won’t be locked in my writing shed all the time, though. In April I’ll be at the Oxford Festival for most of the festival week, mostly interviewing other authors, though I’ll also be giving a reading to coincide with the paperback release of BLUEEYEDBOY. (Thank you for all your encouraging messages and comments, by the way. I knew this particular book was going to be literary Marmite, but your enthusiasm was very cheering.)
In March I shall be at the Perth Literary Festival, so if you’re around, please come! It’s my first time at this particular event, and I’m looking forward to it very much (not least because I get to go snorkelling. The writer’s lot can be hard, sometimes.)
I’ve also spent a lot of time this month campaigning to save our libraries.
[See more about Philip Pullman's support for this campaign: click here.]
I know that local authorities are under pressure to make cuts, and that in some ways they have been put into an impossible position by the Government. However, I do urge you to spare a thought for our libraries and what they mean to our communities, to the literacy of our children, our schools, the well-being of our elderly and handicapped and to those who may not be able to afford to buy all the books they want to read.
Last year I went to Togo in Africa with an aid organization called PLAN. One of the many things PLAN was working on was the creation of libraries to benefit schools and the wider community. And rightly so; libraries are one of the things by which a civilization is judged. If we lose our public libraries we will have lost one of those things that define us as a civilized country, and regardless of how much money it saves, we will be the poorer for it.
We take so many things for granted – at least until we’ve lost them. And then we say: Remember when we had -
Free access to books for everyone
Trained librarians to help us with any aspect of research we needed
Storytime for children
Archives of specialist, out-of-print and commercially unavailable books
Study rooms for students
Reminiscence therapy for old people
Comfy chairs just to sit and read
Communal spaces for author readings, lectures and book group discussions
A place for anyone to come and share their enthusiasm for reading
Remember when we had all that? Why ever did we let it go?
We are told that libraries have to close because they are not cost-effective. But how can you quantify the things that a community library provides? What price your child’s literacy? Your passion for books? Your book club? That accidental discovery? That sudden inspiration to do something you might never have thought of, if you hadn’t read about it in a library book?
We are told that closing some libraries will make the others “more efficient.” How? The libraries that are being closed are mostly from the poorest and most under-privileged areas. Do we really think that doing this will help those poor communities thrive? Or are the politicians simply removing one more vital resource from an already impoverished system?
We are told that some libraries can survive if they are staffed by volunteers. But how can this work in practice? Who are these volunteers? Where will they come from? Who will decide whether they are suitable? Who will determine what they do? How can we expect a volunteer to do the job that was previously carried out by a trained librarian with a degree? This plan makes about as much sense as replacing schoolteachers, or nurses, or care workers with untrained, unpaid assistants. It’s a plan that cannot possibly work. And when it is shown not to work, the politicians will blame “lack of interest” for its failure.
Finally, we are told that if libraries are not closed, then other services will suffer. But we should not have to make the choice between the things our civilization considers essential. Care for the old and handicapped; education for the young; hospital treatment for everyone; free access to books for all. These should be universal rights; they should be non-negotiable.
As for those smug, condescending politicians who would have us believe that our libraries can be replaced by Wikipedia (possibly the largest and least reliable public information resource ever created), or by buying books on the Internet (I’m afraid these have to be paid for); or worse still, by downloading books for free on the Internet (which counts as piracy): you can no more replace a proper community library with an online resource than you could replace your loved ones with inflatable dolls. Plastic is plastic, real is real, and yes, we can still see the difference.
So please, support your library. It’s not just about taking books home - in fact that is perhaps the least of it. It’s about the continued survival of a place where books are given their true importance, and where people can discuss their love of books in front of something other than a computer screen. This isn’t a debate about whether physical books are to be replaced by electronic ones. Maybe this will happen one day; technology is always changing, and libraries should reflect this too – at least, if they’re given the funding.
Because whatever the format of a book, it’s the words that are most important. Words are what we care about, whether they appear on a screen, a page, or an electronic tablet. And access to those words is what we’re trying to save - we, the authors, you, the readers, they, the children, the students, all the people who care about books. So don’t give up without a fight. Don’t believe the slick excuses made by politicians and think-tank operatives who think that what is free has no value. Otherwise, we may soon find ourselves having to answer the question:
“Mummy, Daddy - what was a library?”
I’ve reached the conclusion this month that an author can either do things or write things, but not both. I’ve been doing both. RUNELIGHT is finally finished, barring redrafting and copy-editing, and I should be able to give you a publication date very soon. I’m afraid publishers take quite a long time to bring out a book – sometimes almost as long as it takes to write it! – so you may have a bit of a wait yet, but I have done my part (arguably the most important one), and look forward to seeing the results. In October I spent three weeks going to New York and back on the lovely Queen Mary 2; some of you may have followed my tweets http://twitter.com/Joannechocolat , but in case you didn’t, I’m writing a piece for the Daily Mail about the trip, which should be due out in December. Meanwhile, thank you to everyone who came to my lecturres, and to my fellow-lecturers, especially Bill Bryson and David Blunkett, both fabulous speakers and terrific human beings.
Thanks also to Betty’s of Harrogate, (http://www.bettys.co.uk/) who, guessing that I was in desperate need of supplies, last month sent me a care package containing all of my favourite things; cakes, tea, biscuits - plus their new cookbook which I suspect is all set to be one of my new obsessions. Click Here for Details.
Last week I launched BLUEEYEDBOY in Milan, so many thanks to all my loyal Italian fans and to everyone who bought, read and reviewed the book. Italian readers will be able to see a selection of early press interviews and reviews on this site within the next few days.
I’m also still working on my screenplay for THE LOLLIPOP SHOES, in the hope that someone, somewhere, will share my vision of how it should appear on screen. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Either way, I’m having fun. Meanwhile, COASTLINERS is being rewritten as a stage musical by a couple of very talented young musicians, now working with a very talented young producer. I can’t wait to see what they’ve come up with so far between them. This could end up being more fun than any movie…
Did I miss anything?
Oh, yes. Well, I’m still in the early stages of the new book I’m working on, but I think I know where I’m going now. I shan’t say much about it, but if I get my story right, there’s a chance that we will finally learn what happens next to Vianne and Anouk – plus it’s not set in Paris this time, but in a village I think you’ll recognize. Wish me luck. I may need it! It’s going to be a busy few months…