Joanne Harris (MBE) was born in Barnsley in 1964, of a French mother and an English father. She studied Modern and Mediaeval Languages at Cambridge and was a teacher for fifteen years, during which time she published three novels, including Chocolat (1999), which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.
Since then, she has written fourteen more novels, two collections of short stories, and three cookbooks. Her books are now published in more than fifty countries and have won a number of British and international awards. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and has been a judge for the Whitbread Prize, the Orange Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize, and the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science. She works from a shed in her garden, and lives with her husband and daughter in a little wood in Yorkshire.
Today, Joanne answered a few of my questions about The Gospel of Loki, and more!
Kristin Centorcelli: I’m very excited that The Gospel of Loki will be published in the states! Loki is the epitome of a complex hero/anti-hero, and you’ve had a fascination with Norse myth from a very young age. Do you consider The Gospel of Loki the ultimate culmination of all that “unofficial” research?
Joanne M. Harris: No: I don’t think that kind of research is ever really finished. The Gospel of Loki is part of a series of books exploring different ideas that have come out of my interest in Norse myth; but there’s still plenty left to explore.
KC: You’ve mention that you are planning more books in the series. Will each book feature a different mythological figure?
JMH: I don’t know: so far all my fantasy books have been built around the Norse gods, and I don’t feel drawn to writing any other first-person narrators within that pantheon. That doesn’t mean I won’t explore other mythologies, though. Watch this space.
KC: You’ve been writing since you were very young. What’s one of the first things you can remember writing?
JMH: A little book (of about 15 pages, with illustrations) when I was nine. It was called Flesh-Eating Warriors of Magic Mountain. I got my best friend to help me copy it out a dozen times, and we sold it for sweets, to the kids in our class. It was the best publishing deal I was to get for 30 years.
KC: There are quite a few Trickster figures in mythology. If it came down to a battle between them, how do you think Loki would fare?
JMH: I have a theory that all Trickster figures in mythology are just different Aspects of the same individual. Either way, I think Loki would give all of them a pretty good run for their money…
KC: Have you read any good books lately? Anything you’d recommend?
JMH: I really loved Ken Liu’s latest book, The Grace of Kings. Elegant, original, lovely.
KC: Your favorite read of all time is the Gormenghast trilogy. I’ve eyed this one up a few times, but am a bit intimidated by it… What book, or books, do you think would make an accessible starting point for an “epic fantasy newbie.”
JMH: I think the first thing for any reader anywhere is to forget the expectations, ditch the labels and just read what appeals to you. There is no starting point: Gilgamesh is epic fantasy. So is Beowulf. So are the Norse myths. Enjoy them.
KC: You mentioned Hawaii as a favorite place of yours. Where in the world would you like to go that you haven’t been yet?
JMH: Iceland. It seems strange to me that I’ve written about its mythology so often and yet never actually been there…
KC: What’s something you know now that you wished you’d known when you got published for the first time?
JMH: How much longer everything takes than anyone ever expects.
KC: What’s next for you, this year and beyond?
JMH: I’m working on several things: an illustrated story book for adults; a psychological thriller; a mini-opera, some musical projects and a TV drama series. Plus a follow-up to The Gospel of Loki, in whatever spare time that leaves…