« Desert Island Discs

Joanne Harris, writer

2021-11-07 | 🔗
Joanne Harris is a writer who is best known for her novel Chocolat, which was made into an Oscar-nominated feature film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. The daughter of an English father and French mother, Joanne was born in Barnsley and her first few years were spent living above her grandparents’ sweet shop. Her parents were both teachers, and her first language was French. She went on to read modern and medieval languages at Cambridge University and taught French for 15 years, writing fiction in her spare time. Her first two novels were not successful and initially Chocolat looked set to follow suit: some publishers thought it was too indulgent to appeal readers in any great number, but the story’s combination of food and magic won many fans and it became a word of mouth hit. Since then, Joanne has written 18 more novels, along with novellas, short stories, the libretti for two short operas, several screenplays and three cookbooks. Her books are now published in over 50 countries and have won a number of British and international awards. Joanne lives in Yorkshire and works from a shed in her back garden. DISC ONE: I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash DISC TWO: Ballade des Dames du Temps Jadis by Georges Brassens DISC THREE: At Seventeen by Janis Ian DISC FOUR: Here Comes the Flood by Peter Gabriel DISC FIVE: Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits DISC SIX: Letting You Go by Philip Quast DISC SEVEN: When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease by Roy Harper DISC EIGHT: Little Plastic Castle by Ani DiFranco BOOK CHOICE: The Collected Works of Victor Hugo LUXURY ITEM: Joanne’s own shed CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Previously sounds music. Radio broadcasts, hallo unlearn event, and this is the desert island discs. Podcast. Every week I ask my guest to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island for rights reasons the meat It is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening I. the My castaway this week, the writer Joanna Harris for over twenty She's been bringing everyday magic into the lives of her readers publishing over two dozen books, in addition,
The only diverse range of generous her creative explorations have encompassed fantasy short stories, historical fiction, nonfiction, musical theatre, thrillers and fairy tales its arguably to this last category that her own story belongs. She was abundantly born french teacher with a writing career that was strictly extra curricular and had been told in no uncertain terms that her style was neither commercial nor fashionable enough to succeed. It was also pointed out to her that there was no market for books, et in rural fronts, filled with quote self indulgent descriptions of food, but she couldn't resist writing Shaka one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine Pacella catapulted her into the big league so fast it was adopted to Oscar nominated film before she had time to resign from her teaching post. When she did, she was clear on her creative direction and who was quoting the shorts she says
in my heart. I knew that I wanted to be something more than just a finger on the page following the printed lines. I wanted to drive the dream machine more than that I wanted to own it join. Her is welcome to Desert island discs. Thank you. It's wonderful to be here, John, you very helpful to other writers, and one of your pieces of advice to them is to give yourself a story prompt every day based on. You can see on the way to work or in the street outside. I wonder about your day. So far, have you seen anything that might be creatively promising? Oh, I see lots of things all the time I mean- and I sense that writing stories is just about observing things and and seeing that things are happening, and I give myself a little story prompt every day in that I described my shed wherever I am. The shed comes with me
this is your writing shared it's. My writing shed. It's actually a real shed. My husband had it built for me in the bottom of our garden, but it is also a version of house moving Castle and it has a personality and it goes to different places. It changes aspect every day and so one day can be a flying carpet. The next it can be a rocket ship, and that is my story prompt the little zen exercise I set myself every day before I start writing. Sir John MAGIC is a word that you use a lot. I think you ve described both words and music is magic and supernatural forces play a part in much of your work to wait it out, fascinations that you have with magic come from. I think I've always had it my great grandmother who died when I was three was known in the village, the little french village, where she lived as which. and she had all sorts of spells which she would cast. I remember them, some of them to do with food, some of them to do with the flowers.
You were allowed to bring into the house of the ones that you weren't allowed to bring in. Some of them were little rituals about how you had to cut bread. For instance, Undig must have stuck to me. It must he wouldn't cut the end of the bread would shake. Why was that again, but apparently the devil is in the bread. If you cut both ends of the bread at once, okay, so he was one of the sinister thing, one of the crusts on there. You absolutely do yes, music is all incredibly important to you, you're, the floating vocalist in the story, time band, which is the latest iteration of abandon, if I think been in with your husband Kevin since your both teenagers. Absolutely yes, I was sixteen and when I try bandit I was afloat is, but I didn't really know what that band would be able to do with a flautist inside that would do they have. Oh, they ve got tat. They ve got no based player, so high suddenly asked my parents for a base for my birthday my Sixteenths birthday and enjoying this band, because basically, I was in love with the drama you ve didn't know that time better well
let's stick with music. Then what's he first choice to date you on, and why you taking it with you will. This is, One of my old time feel good songs I associated with the time at which my daughter was born. I was still working as a teacher, but I had a sense of the future opening up, as I've never really had before and it still makes me feel that way it is. I can see clearly now by Johnny NASH. In the rain the, It's gone
Johnny NASH, and I can see clearly now do on Harris you While there is English, your mother is french and you've said that you yourself have a french identity and an english identity. How do they compare? I wonder when and how does it work shifting between them? Will it's strange because when I was a child, I didn't realize that some people didn't speak french and other people didn't speak English later. I realized that I was a slightly different person when I was in France when I was with my french family. I think I was more outgoing, then I was more concerned with cooking. Nowadays I tend to tell people that my french side, cooks and my english side write stories and I think that's pretty accurate. Actually, so French was your first language when you were small, I think did that set you apart from your classmates when you started school, the fact that perhaps your mum would be speaking to you in friendship at the school gates. My mother remembers speaking to me
friendship, she wanted to pick me up from school and the other mothers waiting by the gate, drawing away as if there was something that they could catch a meal vastly this was bonds, the in the sixtys. It was slightly different then, but it did, it did feel as if I was I was very foreign. Of course I didn't actually speak very good English. When I got to school. I picked it up very fast, but I was that little foreign girl for quite a long time to that sense of otherness was planted early on. Oh, yes, I think I was quite out. There were lots of other things about me. It wasn't just the fact that I was french, although I am sure that was the main part of it. I think I was generally quite an old child. I was introspective I was very imaginative and I expected people to understand what I was talking about when I said, let's play this game, let's do that. I expected them. Sharing. What I was imagining and I think probably they didn't, and they felt that I was peculiar outside, is off
feature in your story, stone and the power that they have to disrupt d feel kinship with them being French and English- it meant that everywhere I went. I was at least fifty percent foreign and denounced scientist perspective is not quite the same as an insiders perspective, and so I think I was able to observe groups of people interacting in a different way, but I think also outside, as are the catalyst for the stories that happen in these communities. It's always the outside. That comes and makes a difference either to help.
Like the unforeseen, shall color or or sometimes ready, to put a bowman to thee the quiet community and to see what happens and that's that's always been fascinating to me during its term view a second piece of music today. What are we gonna hear next and why? This is one of the songs of my early childhood. We didn't have a radio, but we did have a big real to real player, and my mother played the songs that she had loved when she was at home in front, since she was sometimes a little homesick and I think music really bad home back to her, and she was a great fan of George Presence, and so I ended up with a kind of encyclopedic knowledge of his songs, and this one is it's a song about vanished beauty. it was translated by Dante, Gabriel Rossetti, as the snows of yesteryear Why do not get it
men, they hello, Amanda, Anita go barreling gobble your man know those who see red tongue. He bought the rookie. Men may Zeus only narrow down the tongue, the birthday to prick you, men may Zeus, only natural downtown, George and his biological don't do tomes
join her singing along with every word, Sir John you're, born in nineteen sixty four in bonds. Lee where you Father Bob, is from how did he come to meet your mother Jeanette? While he was studying languages and she was training to be a teacher and they met on some kind of teaching exchange? As far as I understand so, they both became language teachers. They did he ever very handsome couple. I've seen photographs in they looked very well seated. They were they alike in terms of personnel. Seal on, like the very different my mother is forceful and passionate, and very french. In that way, my father is much more careful and introspective, but China they work really well together. I think, and obviously educated and educators did their commitment to learning pay out home. Did you grow up, surrounded by books? Always, yes, we have more books than we had furniture. They were all in French. I didn't really have any children's books in English. I went to the library instead and I think, because there were so many books in the house,
it's the walls of books. I was just fascinated by the idea that every one of them was written by somebody. Every one of them contained a story, and it was. It was just so important to me. I I wasn't particularly sociable. I didn't really have a lot of friends. among the other children books were my friends every one of them, however, your father mesh with his breath on in laws. I wonder where they welcoming to this, northern who wanted to marry that oughta, though they were very welcoming, but they also very french, in what way my great grandmother lemme me, who was the matriarch if the family, she had some reservations about him, because she knew that her favorite granddaughter would be taken away with
I have to go and live in a foreign country if she married this young man, and so she kind of laid a trap for him and and invited him to dinner, and I my dad really has a problem eating late at night. He still somebody who is a little cautious about foreign food. He doesn't like to overdo things. Knowing all this, let me make invited him to a dinner in the evening If multiple courses, twelve courses, twelve wines, that went on for hours and hours, the whole family was there, everybody must have been talking at once, because that's what my french family does when they all get together and at the end of it after midnight, when he'd managed to acquit himself reasonably well and had eaten some of all the twelve courses and drunk sum of all the twelve wines, She went into the kitchen with a gleam in her eye and said I hope you've left some space
and she came out with an enormous stack of Breton pancakes slap, two dozen of them onto his plate and set enjoy, and I think he understood that this point this was the crunch. This was the moment at which he would be judged worthy or not, and so he managed to eat the pancakes and the pancakes. So what my mother makes for everyone's birthday every time we have a celebration, its we don't have bet day, cake, sweet. We have pancakes and my dad is always very, very cautious about how many he's going to eat it's time, visible, music to an hour as this is your third choice today. What is it and why you taking it to the island with you? This is a song that I should have heard when I was fifteen. I didn't. I heard it when I was in my twenties because I didn't have a radio when I was growing up and I didn't discover a lot of pop music sometime later. But this is really the story of my adolescence and it is at seventeen by
seeing those of us that space is lacking in social graces. This the one inventing love a phone call to say the sanity. It isn't seen at seventeen Janis Ian at seventeen John Harris when you were born, your parents had set up home with your paternal grandparents in the corner shop. That Bay Run in Barnsley. What were those early years like for you? It was unused agents and and in a shop and therewith sweets in the window in glass Jaws. I remember this very well as a small out. I had some sort of bed in the drawer under the tail and I could look up and see them
Colors of the sun shining through the sweets in the glass jars- and I remember this very- very keenly- my parents went working at the time. My mother still couldn't speak English. My father was finishing his his degree, I think, and so we must have spent three years living at the shop with my grandparents who spoke. No French, it must have been quite tough. I think for my mother, particularly, but my grandparents were wonderful and they adored me and they loved having me there and I remember my grandfather taking me for walks when he went to deliver the newspapers and he would let me ride in the bag that had the newspapers in it, and I thought that was wonderful. did he give you any for dialogue living among several generations of, family and and among the low stories. I think it is very important for a child to have access to different generations. I think
It's it's important in terms of their maturity in their thereafter killer, see, and it's important also for child to understand what things were like for their their parents and their grandparents I used to love listening to two stories of my grandfather when he was a minor. He was from afar, leave minors, but his real love was was gardening and I have a picture of him aged about seventeen standing in a garden full of cabbages, If you look underneath the capitalist arose roses growing that because he was told us a boy that he should only make things that were useful for the family, but he liked growing flowers, you've, written, very vocal fifthly, about the smells of the shop as well and sent is extremely important to you. What part does it pain? You writing? Will it to me time to understand that my sense of smell was slightly unusual. Ios smell colours and I realized when I learnt about sex
it's easier in my thirties that actually this was what I had, and so I do tend to says the world through colors and scents of every important to me they tent. The things that I notice most. For the moment, I'm sitting in a studio with some red lights and those light smell of chocolate to me, because the color Red Spock's, the smell of chocolate, as I understand it, joined you to stop smelling that you have to close your eyes where I would have to do that and then I would smell whatever was actually to smell in the in that the studio which I don't think is very much.
Keep your eyes open his all in one. Incidentally, I shall do that during it's time for your next piece of music, what it can be and why, while this is a piece of music that reminds me of when I was in sixth form college- and I met my husband to be- he was in the year above me, and we both had lessons in the same mobile classroom, which was full of these rather old wooden desks, and I noticed that there was some. graffiti, with song lyrics on there and I started to answer it and so little by little week by week, we developed a kind of dialogue on this desk. and eventually we met and we met because I heard somebody playing the piano in the hole, and now is this this boy.
sitting next to it singing along, and I just knew that it was him when the unreal all strange the warnings, the here comes the flood by Peter Gabriel, so do. I knew was still at school when you met your husband's Kevin and also when you started writing fiction, but we are only stories about for a long, time. I copied other people. I wrote muscular boys,
paper stories at the age of seven or eight. In fact, I think the first thing I remember writing that I let anybody else. Reed was cold cannibals. If the forbidden forests or something like that- and it was a kind of right- a haggard prestige- and I was. I was about nine and I wrote it out in a little booklet with illustrations at school, and I got another girl at school to help me to copy it out the dozen times, and we then sold these copies to our friends school for sweets, which we then eight without telling our parents, and it was the best book deal I was likely to get with an exit. Oda is coming from a family of teachers. It could have gone either way, but you became a teacher yourself. Your first job was at Leeds grammar school for boys, were you told French? I did you find it most of the teachers were men of a certain age, so it was quite a patriarchal and
and I was fine with the boys with the members of staff, not always quite so fine. I had some teething troubles meticulously with what I wore completely equally, I d sooner that it would be fine for me to wear a trousers suit. I had this Navy blue trousers seat, which actually looked a little bit like the school uniform. Unfortunately, I was constantly being mistaken for a boy and shouted at being in the wrong place, but I was also pulled into the deputy heads office. He was horrified that was wearing trousers, and I said well what should I wherein he said, ladies, where a frog or a skirt cipher all right. I've got a choice. It's here, I can either do what he's saying or I can actually exercise But will parents so I came in to school the next day and a red pvc middle skirt and libraries and walked into his office rather early before the boys were there and sent them I've taken on board your advice about the dress code of algae S, but actually
if you felt like modernizing the dress code to include trousers. I have brought the trouser suit and I had it in a dry cleaning bag and he looked at me horror and said her where the pants- and I never heard anything about it after that- and I know it sounds like it beginning in my new job and it was a bit, but once I settled down, I got really fond of the place and- and you know I still look back with a lot of affection- it's time for your next disc John, but it can be and why you taking it with you today. It takes me right back to my university years and my base teacher who told me all sorts of things about music- and I remember, sitting in a coffee shop with him and listening to this song on the radio and tv it one of those golden Uncomplex happy memories that I carry about with me. It is dire. Straits. Sultans of swing
Get me a man exit the dire straits, sultans of swing
all the while you teaching you were writing to and in ninety ninety nine you third novel shockoe out was published. Now history tells us that it became an international best seller, but initially the response from publishes wasn't so good. Why didn't they like it? It was difficult to categorize in such difficult to sell. Lots of people said they loved it before they then rejected it, and also, I think, because it was so immersive because it was so full of description and color and sound and sent and taste. It went completely against what the popular things in literary fiction were doing
was stripped back narrative with absolutely no self indulgence and usually quite quite a bleak tone. There were a lot of very minimalist books coming out and the idea that this, this splashing self indulgent book about feelings and tastes and indulgence could just exist alongside those things. I think some publishes found that difficult, but it is also, I think, what made it popular, because it wasn't, because the publishes had put a lot of money into promoting it. It was because the people who read it talked about it to other people, and it became a word of mouth success to everyone's surprise, and a few years later it was made into a film starring, Johnny, Depp and Juliet banal shoe. I think, was delighted to find out that you were how french, oh yes, she was great. I met her before the movie was shot. She wanted to to get some insights onto the book and how I saw the,
script, and so she came and stayed with us and in our little house in Barnsley and slept in our daughter's bed, because we didn't have a spare bedroom and we cooked together, and we read the the screenplay together and- and I gave her my ideas and she even took some things from from our house and put them on the on the set. This one point where she's hanging some bells and some little red charm bags onto the top of the door of the shop and- and she took those from the kitchen and said. Could I put these in the shop at at Shepparton? And so when I watched the movie- and I see that I just think back to our our house and and how strange it was to have her the film of course, was a huge success. As we said, Asgard Omen ate it and that must have taken things to a new level. For you, in terms of press, it and chin and and demands on your time from the media became quite disruptive. I think at its height all that's what factors have on you
I remember at one point I was down in London for something and my husband daughter were being pestered by various journalists to just basically parked outside the house and and they were demanding to see me and I wasn't there, and so with following Kevin to school, with a new sugar and shouting questions at him, and I found it profoundly uncomfortable and then, of course I went. I went to the states for the premier and to do promotion around the movie and although I enjoyed it, it was deep. Please surreal and I started having these panic attacks. I didn't realize exactly what they were, because I would just pass out suddenly and without any warning, always at some kind of glitzy venue. So we just be failing fine thinking. This is going well and then suddenly you're on the floor, exact
at a premiere or in a royal palace or something, but I would be out there like tony soprano and and and it was it was very strange because I didn't feel that I wasn't coping with hope fiercely. I wasn't because it never happened again after that year. I managed climate ties and and managed to achieve a new normal. We gotta way for the music disk number six now placed one. What's it going to be, Well, when my daughter reached her teens, she started to get a kind of interest in musical theater and we went to a lot of shows- and this is one of my favorite musical fit performance in one of her favorites, and this is letting you go by Philip Quest closing the door feel the cracks ten square.
off the wall, changing the lock a key letting here from letting you go performed by Philip Quest Harris last December, every diagnosed with cancer. You delivered the news of your diagnosis on social media and you ve kept your followers up to date with your treatment. Why was important for you to share what you were going through online. What if she had so much on line- and I feel so connected to the world because if the social media that I use, but it seemed like a natural thing to do, partly because I knew that I would have to explain to an awful lot of people are the wise individually and I felt in our eldest. Tell everybody in that way will make it easy
for me, but then I realized that actually, as I was getting more feedback from people, I realised that there were a whole load of people who were also going through the same experience and who felt empowered by the fact that I come out and and talked about that. You know people are very afraid to say I have been diagnosed with cancer and I realized tat if I could just get something positive out of this experience and it hasn't been an entirely negative earrings for me. It was diagnosed early because I went to routine mammogram and I have been telling people on social media. Don't cancel your mammogram go for it. It could save your life, it could have saved mine, and you know if I can have some good come out of this, then why? Wouldn't you use whatever platform you have, as as a person with a platform to to give that message.
Some of the posts are very funny as well John did you expect to fines, humor and jokes in the midst of something so stressful and difficult, but they get one of the coping meccans. Is that the human mind has to poke fun at something which, which is terrifying And so I started doing various tweets in which I brought out the funny side of some of the things that were happening because a I thought they were ludicrous, but also because every time you do this psychologically the the fear gets smaller and smaller Mkc anything to him, oh well, I I decided that I would give my cancer a name. I called him. Mr see, I created a hashtag good, my mister c
and am- and I would basically tell jokes about losing my hair, losing my eyebrows losing my eyelashes. Looking like a potato all of these things that people thought might matter, but actually in the face of what is actually happening to you, you don't feel they matter all that much. You feel that there is actually quite a lot of fur of amusement, to be taken from the situation. You diagnosis and treatment hasn't held you back. You continue to right, and you say that work helps how exactly it's always been an escape from me. I've always that I was able to write myself a door into another reality, and if this reality is a bit grim than if it becomes easier for me too, to create another one. That's what I'm doing and I feel tremendously privilege to be able to do that. It's time for
next disk John. What can it be and why you taken it with you today? It's a beautiful song and I left the middle section, particularly because it features the grime felt calorie band and because I'm from bonds lead and my husband's family was from Grime Thorpe. That band has been so much a part of my life and the soundtrack to my childhood that I am really happy to be able to take this, and it's when an old cricketer leaves the crease by Roy Harper the
the cricket and leaves the crease Roy Harper, as a child. You on how join Harrison. Oh, that you were fascinated by islands, which is Andy as I am about to cast you away to our up solidly? What do you imagine about what lies ahead, but when I was a child of course I took this programme absolutely literally. I was convinced that it was a real island and efficient list. It in fact it's. It is a pacific island somewhere just off the coast of her it's quite large, they're, all wonderful, green canyons- and
trees and vast swayed of bamboo and as little beach, just big enough for me to string a hammock between two palm trees and sit and listen to the waves and watch the beds. The albatross fly overhead and and make up stories and I'm not afraid of being alone I find. That being alone is, is creative and I shall enjoy that. It's lucky that it's Pacific, because I think you're very affected by the weather is it change? What you right? Have you write very much? Yes, I ten, to get a say d in winter, and I have a lot of lamps to try to counteract that. On my it is full of bright colorful objects and the common Asian of the lights and the colors, that I wake up just a little bit more than I would normally so. Yes, I do. I am a sort of plant that responds well to light, and in summer I write twice as fast and
as well as I do in winter in winter, it often feels like I'm, I'm quite sluggish, and I have to to really dragged myself to the shed. One more disk before we send you there of course, number eight what's gonna be. This is one that I associate with my daughter, one of the last days before the well change with cove it. I remember us both of us sitting in a bubble t place in the West end, and this song brings me back to that and to me it's a portrait of her and me sitting together in a cafe on a beautiful sunny day, having bubble tea on the edge of the world. and it is little plastic castle by only two franker. They signal is have no memory. I guess there lie
so much like mine and the little plastic castle is a surprise every time and it's hard to say if they're happy, but they do seem much Ani, Difranco Little Plastic castle. So John, I'm going to send you away to the island. Now I'm giving you the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare to take with you, you can also take one other book. What would you like the collection of Victor Hugo's poetry? He was the first poet I knew as a child. My grandfather, loved him and the arc of his creative energy starts with the poetry of it
man. Then it goes into love and tremendous loss and pain, and then the joy and fun of being a grandfather, and so it encompasses his whole life, and that, I think, is something good to take on. and you can also have a luxury item. What would you like that to me? I would like to take my shed interesting. Well, people have taken buildings before what it's full of things that remind me of times and peace, but he may have its two an hour since finally, which one of the eight tracks that you shed with us today. Would you save from the waves? If you want to? I think it's to be. I can see clearly now by Johnny NASH, because that is the track. That would always whatever I'm feeling like make me happy to unhurt
thank you very much for letting us hear your desert island discs. Thank you. I hope join my conversation with John. Let's leave us soaking up their raise in a hammock Shelly too many writers, including Matthew, Feral, Terry Pratchett, benefiting every stone, Stephen King and Manchu next time. My guest will be the engineer Danger on it a silver I do hope. You'll join us. everything think of my mistake, I'll just pause and try and read it again, so you can get your mechanic as you ve never heard him before you ready ravine. The stories behind his life and music. We hear about superstardom when the show selling three million people watched us drugs, what we are get into our lives. It seems
was marijuana falling with John and Yoko. The thing is so much What the hell to breaches was crap his grief after Lenin stand I just sitting there in this little bird room. Thinking of John and realizing, I lost him and his sense of wonder some I'd Prince myself think where we, the all ten episodes from BBC Radio full. Just search for Paul Mccartney inside the songs on BBC sounds.
Transcript generated on 2022-03-19.