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 It wasn't in a shocking state aesthetically, but it still had Victorian wiring and outdated plumbing.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; )

Victorian mahogany desk chair: £1,500 (01202 718 618; )

Moroccan leather pouffe: £95 (0845 257 1104; )

Tiles: Prices vary ( )

Drum kit: £849.99 (0161-480 5252; )

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'