Tag Archives: Joanne Harris

Cumbernauld’s Coolest Son

I wonder who came up with that heading?

It’s Book Week Scotland next week, and there are events at some venue near you. There’s bound to be. Assuming you’re in Scotland, naturally.

Book Week Scotland, Kirkland Ciccone

Good authors will be traipsing all over the country to appear ‘everywhere’ from Glasgow to Kirkwall. Many of the events are free. Such as the one featuring the cool Cumbernauld chap, aka Kirkland Ciccone. He will be appearing in Grangemouth, of all places. For free. (It’d have to be… 😉)

On Thursday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and author Maggie O’Farrell will be in conversation at Stirling Castle. I’m afraid this is sold out, but you can join the event online. The First Minister and Maggie O’Farrell will discuss what being a feminist means to them, and how their reading lives have shaped their identities.

And according to Scottish Book Trust, super-author Joanne Harris will visit McLaren High School in Callander on Monday 19th November, at 16.30. Free, ticketed, event.

There is lots more happening. I found a few things I liked the look of, at a reasonable distance from Bookwitch Towers. Unfortunately they are in the evenings and in a week when the Resident IT Consultant is spreading numeracy throughout Central Scotland. So I will simply sit back and pretend I’m there, and don’t anyone feel sorry for me! I won’t allow it.


How would you feel about having a luxurious weekend at a hotel in the Scottish countryside, hanging out not only with likeminded people who want to learn to write better, but with the authors who are there to give talks on how to learn?

Yeah, I know. Me too. It sounds lovely.

The Society of Authors is organising a weekend at the end of September, at a hotel not too far from me. ScotsWrite at the Westerwood Hotel seems like a most worthwhile couple of days.

You know how it is. You read the programme and you try to decide what you’d choose if you were going. Well, I’ve done that. Tried, I mean.

Joanne Harris as keynote speaker with dinner the first night… In fact, when I’d got that far I wasn’t sure how they could better that offer.

But Saturday manages to look pretty good too. Denise Mina for a session in the morning. Except, well, at the same time there is Daniel Hahn and Ruth Martin talking translations. So that would have to be me.

Then another keynote talk just before lunch from Charlie Higson. They know how to keep those ravenous writers under control. And after lunch the not so easy choice of science fiction, how to charm a publisher, or ergonomic workspaces with Caro Ramsay. I’m so charming already, that it’d be a toss-up between sitting nicely or hearing about science fiction.

Before coffee there is no question but going for Emily Dodd and Celia Rees. For me, I mean. If I go. If I can. And between the coffee and the gin tasting (yes, really) a debate with Joanne Harris, Sam Eades and John Jarrold.

After which free time might well be required as there is dinner and a ceilidh before the day is over.

Sunday morning – after breakfast and Tai Chi – we have Joanna Penn talking about How to Make a Living with your Writing, followed by mental health for writers, graphic novels, commissioning, writing for radio and television, children’s books, poetry, plus some insider secrets before you go home.

Well, that sounds all right, doesn’t it?

Stealing and borrowing

Some people put it better than others. That’s why I am borrowing someone else’s words to talk about stealing. Simply because they said it so well.

First it was Nicola Morgan who discovered that ‘pirates’ were offering her ebooks online. She has worked hard to bring them out, so wasn’t terribly pleased to find that people were that keen to avoid paying the mere £2 she’s asking for her books.

Nicola reckons ‘pirate’ sounds much nicer than ‘scummy thief’ and that it’s time we stop thinking of these book thieves as rather loveable pirates. She’s right.

Then came Joanne Harris who discovered her fans tweeting happily about how and where to best steal her books. Except if you use the word download it sounds rather better to those who do it.

She wrote a great blog post about it, and she doesn’t just mention her own – lack of – income, but that of everyone else in the book business, who will not have the money to feed their families or pay the bills.

It’s worth noting, too, that this is the way to lose the publishing business, and anything else connected with it, like libraries. Which is just as well, really, as there will be no books written, that could be published, or that might be borrowed from your local library.

For free.

Oh my gods

As they keep saying in The Sleeping Army. They have more than one, because Francesca Simon bravely did away with Christianity and gave us modern Britain with Norse gods.

She has filled her new – longer – book with Joanne Harris’s characters. Or so it seemed to her. Francesca and Joanne were on Radio 4 this week (or was it the week before?), talking about their respective Norse gods stories, and how weird it was that the ‘other one’ had used ‘her’ characters. And I’m quite grateful for that, because ‘Norse’ witch that I am, I have always had the most tremendous difficulty keeping track of who’s who and who did what. Must be that I didn’t apply myself properly at school.

So, having my recent read of Runemarks to assist me, I felt almost at home with the Sleeping Army. Or the part of it that woke up again, and their gods. They were in a dreadful state, those gods, when Freya arrived in Asgard. And she wouldn’t have, had she not had a Horrid Henry moment and blown Heimdall’s Horn in the British Museum. You just don’t do that. That woke them up. Them being siblings Alfi and Roskva and the berserker Snot. Plus Sleipnir the horse with the surplus legs.

When you’re a modern 21st century London girl, you’re not always ready to save the old gods. Especially when you’ve suddenly been transported out of your comfort zone of pizza and stuff. But true to her name Freya rises to the occasion and does great things.

I’m glad I had met the Harris gods first. They are nicer looking and smell better. This way I could adapt to quite how awful Francesca’s gods and giants and trolls were. The question is which version is the right one?

Snot of the lovely name turns out to be quite a good friend to have, despite his violent berserking tendencies. (I believe that when she came to Manchester recently Francesca said his name is actually pronounced Snote, but she couldn’t resist him being Snot. I suspect he’s neither, actually, being a bit Norse, but who cares?)

Francesca Simon, Manchester Literature Festival

I’m looking forward to the next story about Freya. I was pretty sure Francesca had said there’d be more, but I checked just to be certain. So Tony Bradman who wrote in the Guardian might get his wish, and there could be more about Freya’s parents next time. I want more Snot.


Yes, the eagle eyed among you will think I’ve got the wrong book here. I know that Joanne Harris has just published her second Norse gods novel, Runelight. But a witch has to catch up first, hence the reading of book one. My usual Norse rash is nowhere near as bad as I’d been afraid.

I had never read any of Joanne’s books. Until now. I am reasonably pleased with what she’s done to those old gods. (Except for the word ‘Gødfolk’, which makes me think of broilers.) I have always had some difficulty keeping track of who’s who in Norse society, and I now feel I know them a little better. Unless Joanne has been lying through her teeth and none of it was ‘true.’

Runemarks is about Maddy who has never fitted in with her family or her village. Well, there was a reason for that. Accidentally running into Odin – as you do – she has learned all sorts of new things, like magic. And inevitably there is a war between the gods and normal people and ‘the church’ coming. Maddy has to learn who to trust, which is hard among so many tricky characters.

The best bits are the dialogue, which is clever and funny, and the action. I did find some of the back story a little slow. But as I said, the dialogue is witty and satisfying. Of the characters I grew fond of Ethelberta. And Sugar-and-Sack (who I renamed Sugar-and-Snack) is a nice goblin who will go far, if only literally.

For all Joanne Harris fans in the northwest, there is an event tonight  arranged by Formby Books at Crosby Civic Hall. Well worth going to for anyone not yet succumbed to travel fatigue.