Roz Skinner reports from the second day of The Skye Book Festival.
Pictured is Raasay-based author Roger Hutchinson with novelist Joanne Harris
The audience at the Skye Book Festival may have been surprised to learn that least three of Joanne Harris' books were written to annoy people.
The author herself admitted this when she appeared at the Aros Centre (on Friday September 2), saying: "My two early novels were called The Evil Seed and Sleep, Pale Sister. One was a vampire novel - written to annoy my mother. She wouldn't let me read any horror, science-fiction or fantasy, as she considered them a waste of time."
In spite of having two novels published, Joanne had difficulty getting accepted anywhere else. "My agent thought I should have one last try, so he sent one of my books to an expert," Joanne explained. "He replied with a letter around 40 pages long about all the things I was doing wrong. It was quite good, as I was making a sculpture out of all my rejection letters and his helped to finish the head of my sculpture nicely!"
Part of the advice Joanne was given was to set books in cities, add younger characters and avoid the topic of food. The result was Chocolat, a book deliberately set in a small community, with a variety of age groups and centred around chocolate. The book was later turned into a successful film, starring Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche.
At the Skye Book Festival, Joanne presented her latest book, entitled Different Class. This is the third book in a series set in a boys school in the fictional English town of Malbry. Although Different Class is set after her books Blueeyedboy and Gentleman And Players, all three can be read as stand-alone novels.
Different Class sees the school on the brink of a number of changes, which deeply concerns the protagonist, Roy Straitley. "He is constantly on the brink of disgrace or retirement or both," Joanne explained. "He doesn't like change or technology and in Different Class he has to deal with a new head and a new deputy, bringing in PowerPoint and email. This is coupled with the fact that the new head is a boy he used to teach in his own form and one that he disliked enormously."
Joanne also revealed that it was likely she would return to the school in future works, saying she wanted to revisit various characters.
After inviting the audience to ask questions, Joanne signed books in the foyer of the Aros Centre.
No matter what the inspiration behind her book, each novel is a reflection of Joanne's personality - fascinating, indomitable and humorous.