Joanne Harris @ Edinburgh International Book Festival

'Our fiction writing' / CC
Photograph: 'Our fiction writing' / CC

With: Joanne Harris and James Runcie

Joanne Harris talks to writer, director, and film/documentary maker James Runcie at the Edinburgh Book Festival about her latest novel, The Gospel of Loki which tells the tale of the Norse Gods with Loki as the unreliable narrator.

Harris is a highly regarded author with an impressive array of books under her belt yet there is no air of pretension as she enters in her leather jacket carrying an orange rucksack. Runcie gives her wonderful introduction that sets up her personality brilliantly by listing her hobbies as ‘mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting, and quiet subversion’. Harris is a writer of novels, short stories, cook books, and also a Doctor Who novella for the BBC.

The conversation, while centred on her book, is varied in its rich content. The main theme being the Norse Gods of which Harris has always had a great interest. She talks of how her mother was protective of the things she read or watched and Norse myths were suitable, thus her love of them was born. Her favourite being Loki, she wrote The Gospel of Loki as an adult book that is almost a prequel to her childrens Rune book series.

She talks of how Loki’s voice is not known and is such an interesting character, full of mischief and torment toward everyone he meets who has a trick of getting under everyone’s skin. Despite his unreliable point of view Harris believes “you can tell more about a person in the lies they tell” which is an interesting concept to consider. She describes Loki as a modern guy who is relatable and is also androgynous. Loki changes his form to any gender and at one point even gives birth. He is a perpetual outsider, which is a theme among her books and Harris writes keflex online often of the outsider who enters and disrupts the order of things.

Of course Chocolat is discussed, her most well known novel that was made into a very successful film starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche. She talks of her time on the set and how, while she had input into the making of the film, most of her ideas were ignored, which is what happens when you sign over the rights to your book.

Reading from her book Harris proves herself to be an expressive storyteller, I don’t think anyone would have complained if she had simply read for an hour as she is a captivating reader. She admits The Gospel of Loki was meant only to be a bedtime story for her daughter, but from her daughter’s love of it, and her powers of persuasion, Harris took up the challenge of making it more than that.

Fairytales are raised as a topic with Harris suggesting that: “fairytales are the secret language of the unconscious” and something we all need in our lives. She rightly says that at one point adults shied away from such seemingly childish things but now they have been reclaimed as the dark, adult stories they always were. Religion is also raised and in answer to a question from the audience regarding her own faith she answers with great diplomacy stating that her beliefs “don’t fit into others churches” which is a brilliantly loaded answer.

James Runcie is an excellent interviewer and is a great match for Harris herself; the conversation is natural and fun, full of humour and intelligence. Joanne Harris proves her worth as a wonderful writer and as a wonderful person.

The Gospel of Loki published by Gollancz is available now.

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Christine Lawler 42 Articles
Christine has a passion for literature and has been a closeted writer since childhood. Other passions include theatre, film, and all things geeky. She lives in Glasgow with a cat named Molls and a tortoise named Haruki Kabuki.

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