Joanne Harris: Life in the middle of nowhere

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

'Chocolat' author Joanne Harris loves the fact that her house is in the country: there's silence to write, and she can make loads of noise without the neighbours complaining

I'm not fond of cities: the constant activity and swarms of people. Where I live now is in the same rural area in which I grew up, and I can't imagine living anywhere else. There's a wide diversity of people in the village, which is just the right size. There are a few shops and conveniences: a post office and a little supermarket, so I don't have to go far afield, but there is also the sense of being in the middle of nowhere.

I first fell in love with the house for its outdoor space; it's surrounded by grounds of five acres, including a Japanese garden with a waterfall, ponds, orchards, a vegetable garden, a landscaped area and a little woodland at the back. For someone who was used to living so close to the street, it's nice to finally have a barrier from the rest of the world. I have a huge greenhouse where I take my laptop and work, surrounded by a multitude of gold trees; it's one of my favourite places to be.

We moved here at Christmas time, and it wasn't warm, comfortable or dry. When we bought it, the place was the result of an accumulation of decades of neglect. There were buckets strategically positioned all over the place. It wasn't in a shocking state aesthetically, but it still had Victorian wiring and outdated plumbing. It took an age to finish the basics – you know that when your electrician starts sending your daughter birthday cards, the work has gone on too long.

From the outside the place looks a lot bigger than it really is. Inside, there's a lot of clutter. I got into collecting paintings in a small way recently, so there's a portrait of our daughter in the main bedroom, and a few nice little things scattered about. My husband's far tidier than I am. I tend to accumulate debris, but in the confined space of my library/study, not covering every surface. I like to think of this as creative clutter.

It's nice to have my space filled with a collection of things that mean something to me. I get ideas all over the place, but the library is the nicest room to work in; it's the warmest in winter, which is important. Given the incredibly high ceilings, it can get chilly in other parts of the house. As I spend so much time in here, it's important that this space is comfortable. A statue of the Virgin Mary which belonged to my grandmother is kept in here. It's the one thing she treasured throughout her life. I have a few things from the set of Chocolat: objects that seemed like a good idea at the time.

A book press dominates the room – when I found it I had gone out in search of a coffee table, but these things happen. For instance, I was going to get a proper desk with a blotter, but instead I picked out a Victorian child's desk. I'm not sure what I would have done with a real writer's desk anyway; after years spent as a teacher, I feel much more comfortable with the one I now have.

Our dining hall has very little furniture, but it does have a vast fireplace with extraordinary woodwork and a statue, which was possibly pulled out of a church. It's all a bit grand in some parts of the house. But, overall, the place is a true hybrid, given how much renovation and extension work has taken place since the original house was built in 1840. There is plenty of art-deco detail, such as deep bay windows, stained glass and wood panelling, as well as elaborate mouldings in the ceiling, which I love to gaze at; these date from around the same time.

There is a music room at the side of the house which has no heating. This is where my husband and I get together with friends on a Saturday night and make a noise. Kevin plays the drums, and we have a band area set up on a permanent basis. With the luxury of having no neighbours, we can make a racket until 2am. Our daughter has a suite to herself, so she isn't bothered by the noise. In all, this house suits us perfectly, although it is too big for our purposes. We are not remotely interested in moving – we're very happy where we are.

Interview by Charlotte Philby

Joanne Harris, 44, is the author of 14 novels, including 'Chocolat', 'Blackberry Wine' and 'Gentlemen and Players'. She lives near Huddersfield with her husband, Kevin, and their daughter, Anouk, 6. Her first novel, 'The Evil Seed', has been reissued, published by Black Swan, priced £6.99.

Joanne Harris: Get the look

Four-poster bed: Prices vary (0121-777 0836; www.samfurnishingltd.co.uk )

Victorian mahogany desk chair: £1,500 (01202 718 618; www.stocksandchairsantiques.com )

Moroccan leather pouffe: £95 (0845 257 1104; www.cocomale.co.uk )

Tiles: Prices vary ( www.maerimceramic.com )

Drum kit: £849.99 (0161-480 5252; www.drummin.co.uk )

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

SharePoint Administrator/Developer (C#, VB.NET, VISUAL STUDIO 2

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SharePoi...

European HR Director, London

£80000 - £95000 per annum: Charter Selection: A leading Global organisation Ja...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit