Novelist Joanne Harris shares her advice on getting into creative writing

Post date: 
Thursday, 12 January 2017
Pictured: Joanne Harris, novelist

Novelist Joanne Harris is a judge on the RNIB writing competition panel this year, so if you’ve entered (or are thinking of entering) she may well be casting an eye over your work. We asked her your burning questions.

What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?

Well, it’s not like being down a mine or anything! Part of it is the state of having to adjust between either being alone and working or being a public figure and being in the public eye - there is really nothing in between. An author’s life is either very slow or very fast, and there’s not much of a gear change between them. I’ve just come back from two weeks of international travelling and being on duty all the time, and sometimes coming down from that is a bit tricky.

...and what’s the most wonderful thing?

This is very similar – it’s getting to connect with so many people all over the world through telling stories, which is an astonishing thing. That these little marks that we make on the page can make such a difference to people you’ve never met, and they can connect you in different ways. They can make people think, laugh or cry or do all kinds of things, react in all kinds of different ways. It’s probably one of the closest things to magic we’ve got.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of entering the competition, but something is holding them back?

Too many people are worried about the stories that they’re going to write and have a fear of the blank page, of being judged… of not being good enough. None of those things matter. On any level of writing, we all have insecurities. Just to ignore them, set them to one side and to make whatever art you can. Make it as good as you can, enjoy it and send it out there. Nothing bad can happen.

You’ve been a judge on several prestigious writing competition panels. It must be difficult, because every person has their own unique style. What are you looking for?

 It’s difficult to say. You usually know when you’ve found it. Primarily, you need to be engaged and to feel that the person is telling you something that you want to hear, in a way that you want to hear it. That can be anything; a beautiful writing style, a great story or a combination of terrific characters. It should, ideally, be all those things, but sometimes something has a charm which is elusive and it’s difficult to say exactly what it is that charmed you – it just did. Sometimes it boils down to the passion of the writer.

You famously wrote the books Chocolat and Different Class. What else are you working on right now?

 I’ve just come back from a tour of Singapore and Italy. I’m about to re-launch Runemarks, which was written over 10 years ago, with a different first chapter and some changes. I’m also co-writing a musical and working on a sequel to my book, The Gospel of Loki.

A range of Joanne’s books, including Chocolat and The Gospel of Loki are available from the RNIB Library.


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