Lollipop Shoes and a dash in the rain

By Martha McKenzie-Minifie

Despite being something of a superstar author since her smash hit Chocolat, Joanne Harris isn't afraid of getting wet in an Auckland downpour.

Before her appearance at yesterday's sellout NZ Herald-Dymocks Literary Lunch, Harris spoke of how she escaped to Rangitoto Island on her last visit, just as it was "chucking down" so much that the ferry crew didn't want to leave her there.

Not that the weather bothered the writer.

She said being the only person toughing it out on the iconic Hauraki Gulf island was a relief in the midst of a whirlwind of touring.

Chocolat was a life-changing book for Harris, 42.

The success of her third book meant she could trade her day job as a teacher for a fulltime writing career.

Since then, she's had chocolates named after her in Italy and, thanks to her latest book Lollipop Shoes, a glamorous pair of red shoes designed in her honour.

Harris said she had so many invitations to make appearances, she would be booked up for five years if she accepted them all.

But the payout from the Oscar-nominated Chocolat film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp wasn't enough to set her up for life, she said.

Harris did meet Depp - one of the questions most frequently asked by her fans - and ran around "like a two-year-old" on the movie set while a woman in the corner constantly brewed hot chocolate.

"Everything smelt like chocolate, even the sawdust, people's clothes, their hair," said Harris, who lives in Liverpool with husband Kevin and daughter Anouchka, 13, and who in cold weather huddles in possum-fur clothing she bought in New Zealand.

"Everyone was so sick of chocolate, nobody wanted to eat it."

While Harris was not sure if the Chocolat sequel, her just released Lollipop Shoes, would make it to the big screen, she said moviemakers were interested.

She would welcome the "shed of cash" and the greater audience her work would get should it happen.

The new book picks up on the story of Vianne and her daughter Anouk five years after the events in Chocolat.

Vianne has had another daughter, Rosette, and the three of them live in a rented chocolaterie in the Montmartre district of Paris.

While Harris was loath to give away too much about her latest book, she said elements in it were very different to Chocolat.

"It is about people who have changed quite a lot and have in a sense reversed the direction that they were going in," said Harris.

"This book is not about what makes you happy, it's about what makes you afraid. It's a dark fairy tale, whereas Chocolat was really quite a light-hearted story."

Launched this month, Lollipop Shoes has sold more than 10,000 copies in New Zealand, according to publisher Random House. Harris' next book Runemarks is due out in September.

The Auckland Writers and Readers Festival features An Hour with Joanne Harris from 12.30pm today.

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