Joanne Harris was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England, to a French mother and an English father. Her parents were both academics. French was her first language, and she began writing at an early age. She was educated at Wakefield Girls' High School, and then read modern and medieval languages at Cambridge University. For 15 years, she taught modern languages, mostly at Leeds Grammar School, and taught French literature and film at Sheffield University. During this period, she wrote fiction. Her debut novel, The Evil Seed, was published in 1989. It was followed by Sleep, Pale Sister (1993), a literary ghost story. In 1999, she published her third novel, Chocolat, which became a bestseller. It was later adapted into a film that brought her worldwide recognition. Subsequent works have included two sequels to Chocolat; several psychological thrillers, including Five Quarters of the Orange (2001); two French cookbooks co-written with Fran Warde; and two collections of short stories. She received the MBE in 2013.