Joanne Harris

How did you become a writer?

I've always written. As a child and an adolescent I began by copying the writers I most admired, then I began slowly to find my own style. Until Chocolat, it never crossed my mind that I could make a living from writing books; I was a teacher and liked my job; I enjoyed writing in my spare time, and until then the two things had been perfectly compatible. With the success of Chocolat, I had to make a decision to either carry on with teaching or to become a full time writer. Writing is an uncertain profession at best, and I had no indication at that time whether or not my subsequent books would also be bestsellers. As it happens, they were. I got lucky, but I would have written regardless of whether I was even published at all.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

All kinds of people in all kinds of ways. From inspirational writers such as Victor Hugo, Mervyn Peake and Ray Bradbury, to people I meet when I’m travelling and places I see.

When and where do you write?If I’m at home, I write in my shed at the bottom of my garden. If I’m there, people know not to disturb me. If I’m travelling, which I do a lot, I write when I can, in hotel rooms, at airports and on trains. I use a laptop so that I can use any available time, and I carry notebooks around with me so that I can jot down thoughts and ideas. My optimal writing conditions are: an empty house; a tidy desk; an endless supply of tea and biscuits; fine weather and no deadline. Needless to say these rarely, if ever, occur.

What are you working on now?

I never talk about projects in their early stages. Most of the time I rarely even know myself what’s going to happen next and I tend to have a couple of things ongoing at any one time.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

I always get stuck about three-quarters of the way through a book, and panic that I'm not going to be able to finish, but usually within a week or two the problem has worked itself out

What’s your advice to new writers?

Write what you want to write and not what you think you ought to write or what other people think you should write. If you enjoy your writing then it’s likely other people will too.

Joanne Harris gave up teaching in 2000 to become a full-time writer and has written thirteen novels, including Chocolat, which was made into an Oscar-nominated film, two books of short stories and two cookbooks with Fran Warde. Her books are now published in over 40 countries and have won a number of British and international awards. She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16 and still lives in West Yorkshire, a few miles from where she grew up, with her husband.