"No magical formula for love. Only human qualities" - Joanne Harris

Prerna Shah brings you an interview with the bestselling author Joanne Harris, who talks about love finding its way in her novels and the universality of human experiences

Prerna Shah | Posted on 20 Jun 2016
Bonobology | Joanne Harris Interview | On Her Books, Her Life & Her Relationships
Picture credit: Kyte Photography

Joanne Harris wears many hats. She is a prolific writer, with more than 15 novels to her credit, two collections of short stories, and three cook books. A lot of us fell in love with her craft with her best-seller Chocolat which was later adapted to the big screen. But she also plays bass on Saturday nights in the band she first joined when she was 16 and guess what? After making all of us drool over Chocolat, says that she doesn’t like chocolate ice cream or cakes (though she rarely turns down any other kind)!

Intrigued? Bonobology has more!

Love, in its many forms is a theme that runs through many of your novels. Chocolat, Coastliners, and Holy Fools, just to quote a few. Is that one of the magical ingredients that makes your work so endearing and universal?

Love, like all strong human emotions, tends to find its way into stories, whether they’re love stories or not. We tell these stories to help us communicate and to share what we have in common: given how universal these human experiences are, it would be impossible to ignore one of the most potent driving forces we have....

There is also love that is unpredictable, unconventional. Like the one Soeur Auguste has for Guy LeMerle in Holy Fools. Is love that is a bit edgy, or forbidden also more attractive? In fiction and in real life?

We all find attraction in different things, and we all find different ways to love: it’s one of the things that make people so interesting.

But ultimately, there is also the sort of love that builds a family, a love that many of your characters also arrive to. Is a love like that important for us to find our moorings?

There are so many different kinds of love. What matters is not who we love, but simply that we do.

Your novel Chocolat was made into an Oscar nominated film, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. That introduced your writing to newer audiences across the globe. Any stories/experiences to share on that account?

Many, many stories. Since Chocolat, my travels have taken me all over the world; up the Congo river in a canoe; to see a solar eclipse in Alexandria; to the Great Wall of China; elephant safaris in Botswana; parties in Hollywood; surfing in Australia and camping out under the stars in the land of the midnight sun. Everywhere I have travelled has brought me new adventures, and has given me new ideas. The world is filled with stories and storytellers; I count myself fortunate to have had the chance to explore some of them.

On your website, you write: ‘I first met my husband when I was 16, through graffiti on a school desk.’ Do tell us more!

In those days, internet message boards hadn’t yet been invented. The low-tech version involved a series of school desks, on which we left messages for each other (mostly in the form of rock band lyrics). It went on for some weeks before we actually met...

You have been married for twenty-five years. What are the things about love and relationships that you have gleaned from your personal life and observations and passed it on in your writings?

I don’t pretend to teach anything through my writing. People find in there what they need, or not. It’s their process, not mine.

There is a lot of ‘magic’ in your novels. If you had to give a young couple, a magical formula for keeping the spark and love alive in their relationship, what would it be?

There is no magical formula. There are only the very human qualities of trust, kindness, respect and patience.

You had an interesting post on your blog about how women (characters) in crime fiction need to be represented in better ways…

Yes; I believe that in fiction, and especially crime fiction, women tend to be portrayed as either victims, side-kicks or the love interest of the main character. I’d like to see more women in fiction with agency, independence and personality.

A little romantic trivia from her website

‘I lost my wedding ring over 20 years ago. My husband had his own melted down and had two new ones made.’


Prerna Shah

Prerna Shah is a former journalist and now works with Bonobology as an editor. She holds degrees in English Literature, Mass Communication and Journalism and also in Creative and Life Writing. She loves the written word, and would read just about anything, even labels on shampoo bottles!

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