~~~Portrait of a Woman: I read on your website that you've always had a fascination for Norse Myths, but what attracted you to them at first?
Joanne Harris: I've liked them ever since I was seven years old, and read a library book called THUNDER OF THE GODS.
PoaW: If Runemarks was set in a very organised and regulated world, Runelight, which takes place three years after the first book, starts off in a chaotic, violent and grim setting - what can the reader expect from this new story and which challenges will await Maddy and the other characters?
JH: The girls are in some ways very alike; independent, imaginative, strong. But Maggie has been brought up in the Universal City, among the Order, and her beliefs and attitudes have been shaped by her upbringing. In some ways Maggie can be very naive, and her fear of magic and of her own powers puts her into danger, both physical and emotional.
PoaW: How did you approach the writing process in Runemarks? Did you have to make a lot of research on Norse myths or learn runes?
JH: I didn't really do any specific research. My knowledge of Norse culture is the product of many years of interest and study; I've been learning Old Icelandic for 5 years, have a reasonably knowledge of runic systems and have brought a lot of what I've learnt into the books.
PoaW: Also, how different was writing Runemarks and Runelight from your other books? Do you plan on writing more fantasy books (not necessarily in the same world)?
JH: It's the first time I feel I've had the freedom to write out-and-out fantasy; imaginary worlds, alternate realities, other races; magic as a part of life. It's liberating to be able to do that, and on such a large scale; although I think that thematically my fantasy books and my mainstream books still have quite a lot of themes in common. Alienation; the outsider; tolerance; the power of words. There will almost certainly be at least one more book in the RUNE series - I'm having such fun writing these books that as long as people want to read them, I'm more than happy to keep writing them.
PoaW: Are there some aspects of Norse myths that you changed to suit the story or did you try to stay as close as possible to the myths?
JH: I have stayed fairly true to the original myths, but these stories are new, set in a post-Ragnarok world to reflect the changing roles of the gods in a society that has mostly forgotten their legends.
PoaW: Your interpretation of Loki is one of the best I have ever read and he is such a fascinating character in your books - which aspect of his famous personality did you want to put forward in the story?