January 18th, 2008

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Joanne Harris visits Bellingham

I've been a Joanne Harris fan since an early review copy of the paperback edition of "Chocolat" fell into my hands back in early 1999 - I wrote a glowing review of that, followed by another of "Blackberry Wine" (I honestly believe this is one of the few authors who can make a bottle of wine a character - nay, one of the protagonists - of a novel and get away with it).

When the time came for blurbs to be sought for "THe Secrets of Jin Shei", I suggested Joanne to my publishers, they approached her, and she DID give me a blurb, a fantastic one - she called my book "magical".

I've been an even greater fan of this exquisitely eloquent and gracious writer ever since.

She has a new book out, "Runemarks", promoted as YA; she is on her US tour for this, and one of her stops, today, was Village Books in Bellingham - where, of course, I immediately went, together with a large audience of adults and some thousand and one kids from the local middle school, to hear her give a talk and a reading from the book.

I learned that all writers' mothers are the same (they worry about their progeny's chosen profession, and mutter warningly against its potential catastrophic collapse Some Time Soon...)l that she writes much the same way that I do (by the BCC method - Barely Controlled Chaos - and she too frequently doesn't know how her novels are going to end ("where's the fun in THAT?" she asked); that she is a gifted speaker with a sharp wit. She and her publisher's escort were gracious enough to linger afterwards for a cup of coffee with rdeck and me, and we talked of fanfic, of travels to exotic places and strange signage therein, of the peculiar terror and sinking-stomach feeling when your escort tells you that it's "an *intimate* crowd out there this evening", which usually means (as she put it) that the audience consists of an old man and his dog.

Fabulous day out. I'm glad her itinerary included this small part of the Pacific Northwest and gave me a chance to meet her.

The book's called "Runemarks". Look out for it in a bookshop near you. As she herself put it - the book is marketed as YA, there's a "lower age limit", but there isn't an upper one, and like all good fiction it's to be enjoyed by "children" from 12 to 95. (In fact, she told a lovely story about how, at a signing queue for "Runemarks", an old lady who was in fact so frail that she had to be offered a chair while she waited in the queue approached her with a copy of the book. Joanne asked if the book was for a present, and the old lady said, "No, it's for me. I've never read a fantasy book before and I think it's high time I started." Two weeks or so down the line Joanne received a lovely letter from the old lady, telling her how much she enjoyed the book. "I hear you're writing a sequel," she concluded, "and I do hope you do it quickly because I don't have all that much time left." You can't, as Joanne Harris said, beat faith like that.)

And now I'm off to see about supper.

Later, LJ.