One of the things I like about Twitter is the way it connects you with people unexpectedly and the way that unexpected people are connected. Most recently it has led me to Joanne Harris, an author I was already familiar with although wasn’t aware was on Twitter and who (to me) appears to be doing it exactly the right way, or at least a right way. She uses the medium to connect with her audience by doing her best to answer anyone who asks her a question, talking about her life as well as her work (and more importantly, being interesting about the latter as well as the former) – even using Twitter for writing practice. This discovery before long resulted in me buying her latest novel, Peaches for Monsieur le Curé, having not even realised there was a third book in the Chocolat series until then; proof, if any were needed, that what she does works very effectively.
She is an open enigma, delivered in tantalising 140-character parcels of wonderfully down-to-earth and often pithy observations
Drunken, abusive old Irishman who randomly spat at me outside Euston Station: I'm putting you into a story. And it WON'T be a nice one.—
Joanne Harris (@Joannechocolat) May 04, 2013
intermingled with other-worldly micro prose about anything from her Shed
And this morning, the Shed is an airy platform over a jungle canopy, its roof lined with frangipani blooms and bird-of-Paradise feathers.
— Joanne Harris (@Joannechocolat) May 3, 2013
to the Lacewing King, with whom fellow Twitter followers will be familiar from her sporadic but eagerly awaited #storytime. My personal favourite to date was her unique interpretation of the mundane London rush hour, where she perceptively observed gazelles and lions prowling the city streets on the daily commute. Her advice for aspiring writers is to stop aspiring and just write; possibly the best no-nonsense advice I’ve ever seen.
Twitter aside, she has become, rather by stealth, one of my favourite authors for her evocative writing style; she has the gift of imparting the sheer feel of her story to the reader, the atmosphere being so beautifully and unselfconsciously crafted. Her books feature food and drink prominently with sensuality unlike any other; the chocolate that Vianne makes melts over the page and the titular peaches are ripe and juicy, sticky with warm sunny flavour. From following her on Twitter, it has occurred to me that Vianne and her daughter Anouk are none other than Joanne and her own daughter, Anouchka; I find myself wondering curiously who the second daughter, Rosette, is. The fact that she doesn’t speak seems incredibly poignant, as though she is a ghost from Joanne’s life.
Barely a page into Peaches I am already hooked, finding myself drawn in from the first few sentences which brought the harsh dry Paris summer into my room, the wind caressing my face as I read. I look forward to Vianne’s fate unfolding with just the slightest tinge of disquiet, knowing as I do Joanne’s tendency to explore unflinchingly the darker side of the everyday world. And between times I digest her Twitter morsels, enriching my own everyday world with just a little touch of magic.