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Joanne Harris shares her thoughts on mixing tradition with Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

Joanne Harris was born in Barnsley in 1964, of a French mother and an English father. She studied modern and mediaeval languages at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and was a teacher for 15 years, during which time she published three novels: The Evil Seed, Sleep, Pale Sister and Chocolat, which was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.

Since then, she has written nine more novels; Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Gentlemen and Players, The Lollipop Shoes, Runemarks, blueeyedboy and, most recently, Runelight.

Her books are now published in more than 40 countries and have won a number of British and international awards.

Her hobbies are listed in Who’s Who as: “mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion of the system”.

She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16, is currently studying Old Norse and lives with her husband Kevin and her daughter Anouchka, near Huddersfield.

Joanne’s latest book for children Runelight, a sequel to Runemarks, is published by Doubleday.


Q: Describe your home style.

A:  The house dates back from 1840, although much of the interior was refurbished in about 1910. There’s a lot of dark oak panelling, decorative plasterwork and stained glass, and we’ve tried to keep furnishings in keeping with the general Arts & Crafts feel of the place. There is a scullery and a butler’s pantry with all its original cupboards and the kitchen has its old stone-flagged floor, though the granite work surfaces are new. There’s a big cellar, with a well in it. The bathrooms are great – the main one has its original fittings and tiles, plus a bath big enough to swim in.

Q: How do you decorate for Christmas?

A: Quite sparingly, and traditionally. Every year I buy a big Christmas tree for the parlour, which we decorate mostly in silver and red. We’ve bought a Swarovski crystal snowflake for every year we’ve lived here. This year will be the 12th, so we now have a little collection. Otherwise, I use natural decorations; holly, ivy, etc. in vases and on garlands for the doors.

Q: Where and how will you spend Christmas this year?

A:  We always spend Christmas at home. Christmas Eve belongs to me and my family, Christmas Day to my husband’s family, who usually come for lunch and stay overnight. We have the traditional mulled wine and mince pies in front of a log fire on Christmas Day, but on Christmas Eve my daughter and I make nachos and watch Kill Bill!

Q: What is your favourite piece of furniture and why?

A: I have an old oak book-press in the library, which I love. It’s such an eccentric shape (and doubles as a coffee-table).

Q: Where do you shop for homeware?

A:  I usually buy things from antiques shops, and I have a soft spot for Andy Thornton’s reclamation yard in Elland, near Halifax, www.andythornton.com, where you can sometimes find the most extraordinary pieces taken from old churches and schools.

Q: What and where is your ideal home.

A:  My friend has a huge glass penthouse overlooking the Albert Dock in London. There are days when I’d happily swap with him.

Q: What’s the best item you’ve ever bought for your home?

A: I’m very fond of our stained glass, some of which was original, but some we commissioned ourselves. It gives a beautiful light in the downstairs rooms, and I love the way the sun plays with the colours.

Q: What’s on your Christmas wish list this year?

A: REN rose otto bath oil, cashmere from Brora and lingerie from Agent Provocateur.

Q: How do you relax at the end of a busy day?

A: Long baths, box sets and a little glass of red.