Joanne Harris Interview!

Hello book lovers!

Today I am deeply honored to welcome the one and only Joanne Harris on Portrait of a Woman to talk about her fascinating fantasy series of which the second book, Runelight, is out today!
Very different from her more contemporary novels, Runemarks and Runelight tell the tale of feuding gods, long forgotten prophecies and feature some feisty heroines.


Hi Joanne,

I have literally devoured Runemarks and Runelight in just a few days and have fallen for your fantastic characters (Loki!) and fascinating story! Thank you so much for answering a few questions about them!

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: If RUNEMARKS was about self-discovery and the power of stories, RUNELIGHT is about finding out how we fit into the world, the power of friendship and community. Maddy has grown into young adulthood, and must now face the responsibilities of her new role among the old gods of Asgard.

PoaW: In Runelight, we meet Maggie Rede, how different a heroine is sh
e from Maddy?
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?

JH: Loki is is such an ambivalent character - by far my favourite among the Norse gods - that I wanted to portray his complexity rather than (as most interpretations do) simply set him up as a villain. He's a very modern antihero in some ways; an outsider; rejected both by his own people and the community he inhabits and permanently conflicted about his role in the world. He's also a natural comedian - using his profound insight into human (and god) nature to find the best ways to ridicule and to upset his fellow-gods. And unlike the others, he is not a fighter; his weapons are not swords, but words. That's a theme that runs very strongly through both books; the power of words.

PoaW: The book has some very serious themes woven in the fantasy story - why did you want to illustrate the fact that "Not kings but historians rule the world"?
JH: We're back to the power of words again. I wanted to write about the nature of history and that of story, and how we, as a culture, are defined by what we choose to celebrate and the stories we pass onto the next generation.

PoaW: Last but not least, if you could invite one of the characters of Runemarks and Runelight, which one would it be and what would you cook?
JH: I'd invite Thor, who wouldn't care what I cooked (as long as there was a lot of it), but who I sense would be a fun drinking companion...


Stay tuned for reviews of Runemarks and Runelight on the blog if you haven't already been convinced to read them!

Where you can find Joanne Harris:
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Thanks a million to Joanne and RHCB!

1 comment:

  1. Isn't she fab. She is on my blog next week. I am loving these books!