At Hay Festival – Joanne Harris on Writing and Voodoo

To me, books are their own type of magic, transporting us to someplace else.  When I hear an author talk about formulas, and how books just don’t happen, write themselves, open themselves to you, I find myself a bit disappointment.

Joanne Harris does not disappoint.

She was at the Hay Festival to talk about her newest book, “Peaches for Monsieur le Curé”, the third book in the “Chocolat” series.  She was funny and personable, and a delight to listen to. Talking with Paul Blezard, he commented that Vianne was a character that has always haunted him and wondered if she visits Harris as well. “The difference between writing and madness….is a very fine line”, she responded, laughing, adding that Vianne pops up from time to time, often in stories that are not her own.

In this latest book in the series, Vianne returns to Lansquenet – something that author Harris had never envisioned. She commented that, however, “you can’t cheat in books. You can’t make a character do something they wouldn’t do.” However, she did admit that she likes to push the envelope, and put herself in a place that isn’t comfortable – she asks a lot of “what if” in her writing.

She went on to say that sometimes characters pop up and you don’t know who they are – they are puzzles that  need to be unravelled, and they will reveal themselves the more you explore. She also said “writing is magic – it’s like voodoo”, explaining that the writer puts words on paper and across the globe it makes readers laugh, cry, maybe throw the book against the wall in frustration.


There was definitely more than an undertone of magic and mystery running through Chocolat, and that feeling, the darkness and mystery that surrounds Vianne, still exists.  There was something about Vianne in Chocolat that was distinctly uncomfortable, whether her way with Anouk or the sense of unknowing you had with her.

Needless to say, I’m anxious to dig in to “Peaches for Monsieur le Curé” and meet Vianne once again.

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