With countless novels and short stories to her credit, Joanne Harris is perhaps best-known as the author of Chocolat. Her most recent novel is The Gospel of Loki, which she spoke about at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai last week. We caught up with her on the last day of this vibrant annual literature festival to ask her about her first impressions of Dubai and the festival.
Could you tell us about your experience during the Literature Festival in Dubai? We’ve had an unusual amount of free time and activities. It’s often quite rare to get to do things except for what you have come to do in terms of work. It has been genuinely fun. The volunteers are extraordinary.
So you would come back? I would come back! I hope I’m invited.
How have you found the audiences and people different from other festivals? I think the people are great. In terms of being different, I usually find that festival crowds are really good. I have seen lots more younger people here than in some other festivals. Some festivals tend to alienate the young. This one has not been like that. And it’s been very well organised. Everything seems to be going by clockwork. The staff are extremely good at coping. They are wonderfully cheerful and unruffled.
What about the questions during the sessions? I have done incredible amounts of media before arriving here and I think people have been extremely well prepared. They all come out with different kinds of questions. Some of them are fans of my French books, some of my thrillers, etc and some have read them all. This diversity makes for an interesting discussion.
What is your favourite festival? There are many festivals that I enjoy. Some international ones and some at home. It is never the same experience twice. But I think one of the nice things about festivals is the audiences and the opportunity to meet and thank some of the people who have helped keep that book on the shelf.
This is your first trip to Dubai. What are your impressions of this city? I have liked it enormously. I have seen Egypt and Tangier, and it’s not like either. I knew it was modern – I didn’t realise how modern it was. I didn’t realise quite how multi-cultural it would be. So the chemistry is quite different to what I thought it would be. People have been enormously welcoming and friendly regardless of what ethnic group they were from. I have liked the sight of girls veiled and in local dress chatting to girls from other countries animatedly about books. Because books have brought them to together at this festival.
And your favourite part of Dubai? What I really was looking forward to is going out to the desert. And we had a lovely event in the desert. This was something I had never experienced before. It was such a magical scene.