J.K. Rowling on “Richard & Judy”

Richard: Now at some point over the last ten years or so, J.K. Rowling quietly became apparently richer than the Queen. So is the woman who created Harry Potter now in the position to say, “Off with his head”? And how has becoming one of the world’s wealthiest people affected somebody who barely a decade ago was a single mother struggling on £70 a week in benefits? Well, we’re going to find out now because J.K. Rowling, or Jo as she likes to be called, is giving us one of her incredibly rare interviews, and it’s live. But first: the fruits of her extraordinary imagination.

[Clip from Goblet of Fire is played]

Richard: And Jo joins us now. I love that clip because it epitomizes for me what’s really good for me about the nature of your books. I mean we’ve [Judy and Richard] just left this, this valley of pain and distress, which is bringing up adolescents…

J.K. Rowling (JKR): [laughs] Oh, good…

Richard: You’re about to enter it, aren’t you?

JKR: Yeah, something to look forward to then.

Richard: It’s just as bad as you think it’s going to be. But that’s what’s lovely about the sequence of books is that you see Harry turning into a grumpy adolescent and all the others around him going through these adolescent things. You’ve drawn up very accurately, and you don’t have adolescent kids yourself. I mean, is that just based on friends and conversations with friends who have got them?

JKR: Well, I taught teenagers for a while.

Richard: Of course, of course you did.

JKR: They were my favorite age group to teach, in fact. So I think I drew on a bit of that, and I drew on memories of how grumpy we all were when we were teenagers. We weren’t…

Judy: Absolutely.

JKR: My sister’s here to watch this, and she was very grumpy, so I drew it on her.

Judy: Is she older than you or younger?

JKR: No, she’s younger, two years younger than me, yeah.

Judy: Right. I mean, what I want to end… to happen at the end of the whole Harry Potter thing. I want Harry to marry Ginny, and I want Ron to marry Hermione. And all that and… no, I don’t. Yes, I do. I want Ron to marry Hermione. That’s fine. And I will be so upset if it doesn’t happen, but of course the last one is at the moment residing in your safe, yeah?

JKR: The last, the final chapter is hidden away, although it’s now changed very slightly.

Judy: Is it?

JKR: Yeah, one character got a reprieve.

Richard: Oh, really?

JKR: Yeah.

Judy: I mean, you are… I just…

JKR: But I have to say two die that I didn’t intend to [kill].

Judy: Oh, no. Two much-loved ones?

JKR: Well, a price has to be paid.

Richard: Significant?

JKR: We are dealing with pure evil! So they don’t target the extras, do they? They go straight for the main characters… or I do.

Richard: We don’t care about extras. You told your husband, obviously. You confided in him all things, and you told him.

JKR: Well, not everything. That would be reckless.

Richard: Well, yes, let’s be honest. That would be stupid. But you did tell him which ones were up for the chop. Apparently he shuddered, and said, “Oh, no, not that one.”

JKR: He did on one of them, yeah.

Richard: Listen, all the papers who have been promoting this interview today clearly want us to ask you, “Do you kill off Harry Potter?” It’s a ridiculous question because are you likely to say yes or no? I mean, obviously not. You couldn’t possibly answer that, but have you ever attempted to do him a little more harm than he’s suffered? I mean, in the same way that…

JKR: He’s already suffered enough. I mean, what… ?

Judy: He’s already suffered. He’s been through the mill.

JKR: How could I? Every year of his adolescence and childhood he’s saved the wizarding world. And no one believes him, and he spends his entire life saving the world, and then next term he’s just back at school being bullied. He’s Harry Potter, and he’s just saved your entire school. And everyone thinks he’s just a bit annoying.

Richard: You know how Doyle just got sick up there with Sherlock Holmes, so he pushed him off the cliff?

JKR: Yeah.

Richard: I’m not asking if you’ve done that, obviously, but have you been tempted to bump him off because it’s just huge…

JKR: No, I’ve never been tempted to kill him off before the end of Book 7 because I’ve always planned seven books; that’s where I want to finish: on seven books.

Judy: Yeah.

JKR: But I can completely understand the mentalitiy of an author who thinks I’m going to kill him off because then there can be no non-author-written sequels so they call it. So it will end with me. And after I’m dead and gone, they won’t be able to bring back the character and write a load of…

Richard: That never struck me before…

JKR: Well, I mean, Agatha Christie did that with Qwerrow, didn’t she? She wanted to finish him off herself.

Judy: So you say you completely understand it, but you’re not going to commit yourself?

JKR: No, I’m not going to commit myself… I don’t want the hate mail apart from anything else.

Judy: Absolutely. When you started off, when you first thought of the idea of Harry, what started off first? Was it the idea of the magic or the character or boarding school? When you were young, were you a big keen reader of boarding school stories?

JKR: I read a few when I was younger.

Judy: Angela of Brazil?

JKR: I never read Angela of Brazil. I read Malory Towers, and they really don’t bear reading, do they?

Judy: No.

JKR: When I was six I really liked them. But I think Harry and magic came together, so the essential idea was a boy who was a wizard but didn’t know. That was the original premise. So I worked back from there, and that’s where all the backstory came from. And there’s a LOT of backstory. In fact, now [that] I’m in Book 7, I realize JUST how much backstory there is because there’s a lot to explain and a lot to find out.

Richard: But you must have had to invent the backstory further down the line because you couldn’t possibly have thought about this massive… in one go…

JKR: Oh, no, you couldn’t. I’ve got I don’t know how many characters in play. Something ridiculous… around 200.

Richard: But did you ever think as you were writing the subsequent books, “Oh, why did I write that in Book 2? That’s screwed me now. I can’t write such and such now”?

JKR: Yes. I don’t think I’ve ever done that on a really major plot point. But certainl, a couple of times I’ve hit a snag and thought, “Oh, I’ve boxed myself in. If only I’d left something open earlier, and I would have been able to find an easier way to wriggle through that hole.” And I’ve always found a way. It is a complicated plot.

Richard: The last book’s finished now. The last chapter, as you said, is in your safe?

JKR: No, the last book’s not finished. But I’m well into it now.

Richard: But you’ve written the finale already?

JKR: I wrote the final chapter in something like 1990.

Judy: Really? So you knew exactly how the series was going to end?

JKR: Well, yeah. Pretty much.

Judy: Gosh!

JKR: Yeah, I’ve been lambasted about that by a couple of people. I think they thought it was very arrogant of me to write the ending of my seven-book series when I didn’t have a publisher and no one has ever heard of me. But I mean when you’ve got absolutely nothing, and no one knows you, you can plan whatever you want. Who cares?

Judy: Absolutely. And the other thing before we ask how you started writing was what struck us all, especially our son who is a mega Harry Potter fan, was when things started to get darker in the books. I think it started in the second one with the Mudbloods, but it really got very dark in Book 3 with the Dementors and all the of that. Was that something you intended all along, or did it just develop?

JKR: It is something I intended because as Harry is growing up, these parallell things are happening. He’s getting older and older and more and more skilled as a wizard, and simultaneously Voldemort is getting more and more powerfu,l and he’s returning to a physical form because, of course, in the first book he’s not even a physical entity. But I’ve always said when people say that to me – and I agree that the books have gotten a lot darker – that the imagery in the first book where Voldemort appears in the back of Quirrell’s head I still think is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever written. I really do. And also the image of the cloaked figure drinking the unicorn blood and slithering across the ground, which was done very well in the film – The Philosopher’s Stone – I think those are very macabre images. So I don’t think that you could say from the first book that I wasn’t setting out my stall, really. I was saying that this is a world where some pretty nasty things can happen.

Judy: Yes. But what I’m saying is that I started to see some parallels from Book 2 between racism, apartheid, and genocide and all that sort of stuff.

JKR: Yes, of course. That was very conscious. Harry is entering this world that a lot of us would fantasize would be wonderful. I’ve got a magic wand, and everything will be fabulous. The point is that human nature is human nature, whatever special powers or tarnets you have. So you walk through – you could say – the looking glass. So he walks into this amazing world, and it is amazing. But he immediately encounters all the problems he thinks he’s left behind.

Richard: You can run, but you can’t hide.

JKR: Yeah. Yes.

Richard: You talked about having a plan for seven books from the word “go” before you even had a publisher. And you must’ve been doing backhand screams of delight when Philosopher’s Stone got published.

JKR: Yes, unbelievable.

Richard: What pleasure and optimism.

JKR: You can pretty much say nothing has come close actually. That’s testament to the amount of euphoria that was…

Richard: Well, when did the euphoria change from something… ?

JKR: … sheer terror.

Richard: At what point in the books did you think, “Hold on, this isn’t just a best-seller. This isn’t just quite a nice series, which I’m enjoying and the readers… this is unprecedented”? It’s been said that if you put all [printed Harry Potter] books in a big vault, they’d go around the world, around the equator, nearly one and a half times, and we ain’t finished yet. When did you wake up and think, “This is historic”? Because it’s historic. I mean, you will go down in publishing history for the next few centuries.

JKR: I honestly don’t think of it in those terms. I’d say for the first three books I was in real denial. I really lived in denial…

Judy: About the fame?

JKR: … for a long time. Yeah, totally. And I think that’s when my reputation for being somewhat…

Richard: Recluse.

JKR: … came from because I was like a rabbit caught in headlights. And the only way I could cope was “Ah, it’s not really that big a deal,” but things keep on happening. They start door-stepping you, and you pick up a paper, and there are casual references to Harry Potter. That’s the freakiest thing is it permeates all the stores, and it becomes… that’s an indication to me how big it’s become more than anything else. I remember there was a phase where I wouldn’t buy the papers because it was becoming a bit strange to me. And normally I devour newspapers, and then it was Wimbeldon – just a few years back – and I thought, “It’s safe to read Wimbeldon. Stop being so… get over yourself.” So I picked up this paper, and I turn to this account of this match with Venus Williams, and they said… I just saw a picture of Harry Potter staring at me, and they were talking about Bludgers, the balls in Quidditch. They were saying her serve was so powerful it was being compared to a Bludger with not much explanation. But that was very cool. Things like that are wonderful.

Richard: That’s the fame thing, and that’s entering the lexicon of sort of ordinary dialogue and stuff and what they call water-cooler conversations. And that’s not just to deal with reading the latest book. It’s a continuous thing with you now. What about the wealth? Now I don’t want to be [unintelligible] about that because it’s just what it is. But you are unbelievably wealthy beyond the dreams of actors, really. How’s that changed life for you?

JKR: Hmm, well, it’s great, frankly.

[JKR and Richard laugh]

Richard: Thank you for saying that.

JKR: I mean, not to crack out the violins or anything, but if you have been through a few years where things have been very tough – and they were very tough – and it’s not so much romanticized, but it’s dismissed in half a sentence: “Oh, starting in a garret.” And occasionally I thought, “Well, you try it, pal. You go there, and you see. It wasn’t a publicity stunt. It was my life.” And at that time I didn’t realize there was going to be this amazing resolution. I thought this would be life in twenty years.

Richard: But did you ever feel guilty about the amount of money you won because… ?

JKR: I did! I absolutely did because it came to the point where.. because initially people were reporting, and they still do frequently report much more than I got, and I’m not pretending I’m hugely wealthy because I am.

[Everyone laughs]

JKR: But sometimes they print figures that certainly my account wouldn’t recognize. But in the early days they were saying that I was a millionaire, but I was nowhere near a millionaire. So that’s weird and mind-boggling when you’re used to counting every penny.

Richard: 70 pounds a week you were on.

JKR: Yeah, yes, that’s right.

Judy: So what was happening to you was that basically there you were, just the same as you’ve ever been, writing this book that you’ve been thinking about writing for ages. And suddenly it took off – just this one book. And suddenly the next book, and then you suddenly realized this person – you, actually – had taken on a life of her own, which wasn’t new at all. And you were completely…

JKR: I think that’s completely accurate, and I think that you sit there thinking, “But I’m still the same idiot I was yesterday, and suddenly people have an interest in what I’ve got to say.” And my response to that is that I clammed up as well because I suddenly felt that this light had been shined on me underneath my stone, and it was a time of real turmoil when I first became subjected to that kind of scrutiny because I felt a loyalty to the person I’ve been yesterday. And I don’t want to say, “Oh, it was dreadful,” because it really hadn’t been dreadful. We’ve been doing okay, and I’d been teaching, and my daughter would still say – and said to me yesterday in fact – “We’re happy.” So I didn’t want to sit there and say, “Oh, it’s dreadful. Oh, now it’s fabulous, darling. Now we got a bit of money.”

Richard: Yeah.

Judy: And is your daughter… your two new ones are still too little, but Jessica who’s been there with you right from the beginning, really… has she adapted to it okay?

JKR: She’s been phenomenal. And it hasn’t always been easy for her because, well, you can imagine, with your mother being J.K. Rowling. At one point I remember her being, metaphorically speaking, up against the school railings. [makes fist] “Tell us what the title of the next book is!”

Richard: Oh, really?

JKR: Yeah. It’s not terribly easy.

Judy: Up against the school railings?

JKR: By other children, trying to get titles out of her. So she was amazing; she was very cool.

Richard: But what about… it’s not so much to do with the wealth – well, it might have been actually – but certainly the fame thing. Before you met your lovely husband…

JKR: He is a lovely husband.

Richard: He’s a reliable sort and with sort of pop star/rock star looks. [laughs]

[A picture of Jo and her husband, Neil, is shown]

JKR: There he is!

Richard: Before that – the dating between the relationship which lead to your lovely daughter and him – there was this period where you found this immense wealth and success, and you said that dating was really tricky, really hard. Was that because you expected guys to be coming on to you because of who you were?

JKR: It wasn’t so much that. To be perfectly honest with you, dating is just tricky if you’re a single mother. That’s it. And the other business was a vaguely complicating factor. But by the time you’ve got a babysitter it’s just… it is the reality of life. I didn’t have a nanny for quite a long time. I didn’t have properly organized childcare because I think I was just, again, in denial about it when I needed it. And then there came a point when I clearly needed it. I couldn’t cover all my professional obligations even though I was trying to keep them minimal.

Richard: You wanted to say, “I can cope, I can handle this.”

JKR: Yeah, I did, which is very much in my personality to pretend I can cope with things and not ask for help – until I’ve cracked up a bit.

Judy: So looking at where you are now – I mean personally as well as career-wise, professionally, and all the rest of it – you’re in a very good place, touch wood. If there is any wood around here to touch. Because you’re very happy. You’ve got a lovely family.

JKR: I’m really lucky. And I think that every day, I swear. Every day I think how lucky I am.

Richard: Just looking at the constant theme… we’re going to take a break in a couple of minutes, but then you’re back, and we’ve got some children who have questions. But, as you’ve said yourself, the theme of the books is death, isn’t it?

JKR: Yes, largely.

Richard: Largely. It’s a hugely powerful theme. And you were writing the first one when your mother died at 45, and you were very close to her. Had you envisaged that death would be such a powerful theme before her death, or did it inform a sense of loss?

JKR: Definitely informed

Richard: Did it?

JKR: In the first plot… I’d only been writing Harry for six months before she died, and in the first draft I really finished off his parents in quite a flippant way, and then Mom died, and I just couldn’t. I couldn’t finish off his parents in that flippant way.

Richard: No.

JKR: I couldn’t – not now knowing what it felt like to lose your parents.

Judy: So that’s why Harry’s parents maintain this presence.

JKR: They do, yes.

Judy: In the photographs.

Richard: And in the mirror, of course.

JKR: And in the mirror, yeah.

Richard: And when you wrote that I wouldn’t be surprised if you were to say that you have shed a few tears when you wrote those sequences, when Harry sits in front of the mirror, lost…

JKR: That’s my favorite chapter in the first book.

Richard: It’s a lovely chapter. It’s a lovely chapter.

JKR: Mm. One of my favorite chapters in the whole series.

Judy: Well, that’s what’s so reassuring about the books because they are… they do deal with straightforward evil and death. And you always seem to leave a thread somewhere even though they’re in sight. I mean, I love all the Headmasters – the past Headmasters and teachers. I’ll tell you what – just to end this particular section – I always loved that… what was his name? What was the one [who] was always putting his hair in curlers? The professor.

JKR: Gilderoy.

Richard: That’s right, yeah.

Judy: Yeah. I love that – the idea of him in the evenings… he’s sitting in this thing just taking his curlers out and putting them in and everything. So there’s a great deal of humor in the book as well. Particularly that’s just part of your character. I mean, that’s how you do…

JKR: Yeah, I think so, though you wouldn’t always imagine it that way.

[Everyone laughs]

JKR: I’m just trying to do the old cumudgeon. But yes. I think so.

JKR and Richard: Yeah.

Richard: Well, as you say, the last chapter is in the safe. You’re tying up the rest of the manuscript. But this is the last of the books. That’s it. That’s seven.

JKR: Yeah. Well, I’ve always said I might do a kind of encyclopedia of the world for charity.

Richard: Okay.

JKR: Just to round it off.

Richard: So that’s not the same as the creative…

JKR: No, absolutely not. No. It’s not the same as the stories.

Richard: Can you live without Harry?

JKR: Well, I’m going to have to learn. It’s going to be tough.

Richard: Why not extend it to nine then? I mean, seriously. Why stick to the seven? Is it just too much to ask you?

JKR: Because I think that you’ve got to go out when you’ve…

Richard: You’ve done it.

JKR: Yeah, you have. I admire the people who go out when people still want more, and that’s what I want to do.

Richard: But I’m also told – well, actually I read this in the pamphlet, or maybe it was an unguarded comment you made – that you’ve already completed children’s book, a younger children’s book.

JKR: Oh, yeah. It’s not completed, but it’s pretty far on. It’s about halfway done, though.

Richard: How long has that been on your mind for?

JKR: Not nearly as long as Harry. A few years.

Richard: I mean, are you happy with it?

JKR: Yeah, I really like it. It’s for younger children, so it’s kind of a fairytale. It’s a much smaller book.

Richard: All right.

JKR: So that’s not… that would probably be a nice thing to go through after Harry – not another huge tome.

Richard: So is that in the future then? I mean, can you envision yourself picking up another huge idea like Harry Potter and running it over?

JKR: Yeah, if I liked the idea enough I definitely would, but I don’t think that I’m.. I don’t think I’m ever going to have anything like Harry again. I think you just get one like Harry.

Judy: Well, I think most people will be hoping that at some point in your life you will come back to him in some way, shape, or form. There will be something. ‘Because you’ll have generations.

JKR: Harry Potter’s Midlife Crisis.

Judy: Yeah.

Richard: Should he survive to see it.

JKR: Right.

Judy: Now just a little statistic here: More people than the combined population of Britain, France, Germany, and Italy – more people – have bought a Harry Potter book. It’s an astonishing literary success story. We’re delighted to have J.K. Rowling on our show today, the creator of the most magical but also surely – health and safety people please note – the most dangerous school in the history of British education, Hogwarts.

[Clip of Goblet of Fire is played]

Judy: And the kids are here, Jo’ is here. Just before we get to you lot, I mean, it is true about Hogwarts. I mean, it’s terrifying. How do they get away with it?

JKR: It’s all fantastic.

Judy: And what was the other thing I was going to say? Oh, yes, Draco! Draco. The guy who plays Draco Malfoy is much fancied by…

JKR: By everyone.

Judy: By everyone. Do any of the girls here fancy Draco in the films? Do you?

JKR: They’re not going to say it, surely.

Judy: You’re not going to tell me, are you? No. Okay, right.

Richard: Where’s Luke sitting? Luke? Luke! How old are you, Luke?

Luke: Eight.

Richard: Eight. Have you read all the books?

Luke: Not really… no.

JKR: ‘I don’t know who Harry Potter is.’

Richard: Not all of them.

Judy: So you’ve got a good question for Jo then. So what is it, Luke?

Luke: If you were a character in your books, who would you be?

JKR: Probably Hermione because she was loosely based on me when I was younger. I was quite annoying like that, so…

Judy: Were you very much a booky, a booky-schoolgirl?

JKR: Yeah, I was, I was that. And that sort of annoying person who underneath is very insecure? Well, I… Hermione is a combination, I think, of my sister and me.

Judy: Yeah.

JKR: Yeah.

Judy: So you were the one who’d put people in their place with quotations and things that you’d learn.

JKR: Well, I don’t know that I’d go that far. But I was snotty, I was snotty.

Richard: And she’d deck them with a left hook.

JKR: She was more of a house-elf then. She was a bit more clueless and a bit more hysterical about…

Judy: Aww, how sad!

Richard: Were you Head Girl?

JKR: I was Head Girl.

Richard: You were Head Girl.

JKR: That meant being voted least likely to go to [unintelligible] if you went to my school. That wasn’t a massive accolade to be bragging about.

Judy: Sorry, school, if you’re watching.

JKR: Oh, yeah, sorry.

Judy: Now your favorite character is… Luke?

Luke: Harry Potter.

Judy: Definitely Harry, is it?

JKR: Ooh, that’s interesting because not a lot of people like Harry best.

Judy: Really, really?

JKR: No, in fact it’s a tiny percentage. I remember seeing a poll on one of the unofficial fansites, something like 2% of people liked Harry best.

Judy: I love Harry!

JKR: No, Ron i’s much more popular.

Richard: Okay, where’s Ella sitting? Ella, how old are you please?

Ella: I’m thirteen.

Richard: Okay, I’m not going to ask you if you’ve read every single book, but I am told you have. You want to ask about a Boggart?

Ella: Yes.

Richard: Just remind us of what a Boggart is.

Ella: You say a spell to… sort of a cupboard, and then what you most fear comes out.

JKR: Right.

Richard: Right. So in my case it might be a sort of huge spider?

Ella: Yeah.

Richard: Or in Judy’s case it might be me. Okay, fine. Boggart.

Judy: So what do you want to ask Jo?

Richard: So what’s the question?

Ella: I was wondering if you stood in front of a Boggart what would it… what would you see?

JKR: I’d see what Mrs. Weasley sees in Order of the Phoenix. She sees – this is a bit awful – but she sees her children dead.

Richard: Oh, my God!

JKR: I know it’s a bit disturbing.

Richard: Oh, my God. You are dark, aren’t you?

JKR: Sorry. Well, I mean, I think for any mother, probably, that’s the worst thing you could possibly imagine, and that’s what she sees as the war is starting, and she knows her sons are going to be involved…

Judy: Right.

JKR: … and that she worries about them.

Richard: And how do… I’ve forgotten it. How do you counter a Boggart? What’s the counter-spell?

JKR: You have to learn to laugh at it, and it’s hard to laugh at that one. I mean, perhaps you can’t. Someone else saves her from it [because] she can’t. She can’t manage that image.

Judy: [To Ella] And you love Hagrid best, don’t you?

Ella: Yeah.

Judy: I love Hagrid.

JKR: Yeah, Hagrid’ has got a huge fan base, yes.

Judy: Yeah, I wonder if Hagrid’ is up for the chop.

[Jo laughs]

Judy: It’s a shame, ain’t it? She won’t tell us, so there’s no point asking it. Who else [have] we got? George, George Lynch?

George: Yeah.

Judy: That’s you, George L., there. What do you want to ask Jo, George?

George: My question is, “‘Are any of the characters based on people you know?'”

JKR: I did mistakenly say that Lockhart was based on someone I had known.

Judy: Oh, really?

JKR: Yes, and that got rather an annoying lot of newspapers specs [because] they thought it was the wrong person. They went after the wrong person.

Judy: He’s the very vain one [whom] we’re talking about?

JKR: Yeah, and I barely exaggerated believe it or not.

[Judy laughs]

JKR: It was someone I knew a long time ago.

Richard: Was he in television?

JKR: [laughs] No, there are a lot of Lockhart’s knocking around, so…

Judy: I love him.

JKR: Yeah, so that was the only time where I sat down and consciously thought, “I’m putting ‘X in as a character,” and I did.

Richard: And did you like ‘X?

JKR: No, I absolutely loathed ‘X,’ as I think probably comes across by making Gilderoy Lockhart.

Judy: Do you think ‘X knows?

JKR: No, I think ‘X’s egotism is such that ‘X is probably wandering around saying, ‘”We were like that.” [crosses fingers]

[Everyone laughs]

JKR: ‘”She wanted to marry me. I turned her down, believe me.”

Richard: We should… you know Carly Simon? She had a very private dinner for charity with the person who donated the most, and she told them who was the character of ‘”You’re So Vain,”‘ her first hit song. You should do the same thing in a few years. You should say, ‘”I’ll tell you who…”

JKR: But I don’t want to ruin ‘X’s life.

Judy: No, No.

Richard: But it sounds a…

JKR: [laughs] Yeah, but I do’n’t want to ruin that person’s life.

Richard: Okay, that was a great question, George, and a great answer.

Judy: And you’re a Ron Weasley fan, aren’t you?

Richard: Who’s next? Sian?

Kian: Kian.

Richard: Kian, sorry. I do beg your pardon. How old are you?

Kian: Ten.

Richard: What’s your question?

Kian: After Harry Potter, what are you going to write next?

JKR: Well, I answered that one before the break. I think I will finish another book for children but for slightly younger children that I’ve got knocking around me.

Richard: It’s a shorter book, you say?

JKR: Much, much, much shorter, yes.

Judy: And will you be sorry when the last book comes out of Harry?

Kian: Yeah.

JKR: Yeah, I’m going to really, really miss it.

Judy: Right, we’re going to Elly, not Ella but Elly. Hello, Elly. You’re thirteen, aren’t you?

Elly: Yeah.

Judy: What did you want to ask Jo?

Elly: Who did you write Harry Potter for? Was there someone special that inspired you, or… ?

Richard: Good question.

JKR: I wish I could say something more in response, but it was me. [laughs] It was just something I really wanted to write. When I had the idea I thought that it would be such fun to write, and it has been.

Richard: Did the idea just fall out the clear blue sky?

JKR: It really did.

Richard: Did you just wake up one morning… ?

JKR: No, I was on the train from Manchester to London, and it just came. It just came.

Richard: It just came, fully formed?

JKR: Pretty formed. Not the whole thing.

Richard: Yeah, of course not.

JKR: Yeah, the essential idea came. Then with age, I kept adding bits in my mind, and by the time I got off the train I had a lot there. I really had a lot there.

Judy: I love the… the puns are great. Like Diagon Alley. Don’t you love that? Diagon Alley?

JKR: I love Diagon Alley.

Judy: Right, Juliet.

Richard: Hang on. I’ve got one more quick question on that. Oh, damn. It’s gone out my head. Go to Juliet, and I’ll think about it.

Judy: Okay, Juliet.

Juliet: Have you always wanted to be an author?

JKR: Always. Since literally as soon as I knew – I realized – that books didn’t just pop up out of nowhere and that people made the stories I’ve always wanted to do it. I can remember being extremely young, copying words without knowing what the words meant, so I think it’s just my nature, but I’ve always wanted to do it.

Judy: You loved words?

JKR: Yeah.

Judy: You used to write, when you were about five or six, little stories.

JKR: Yeah.

Richard: I remember what that question was. You’re obviously, because of the penury that you lived in, in that initial period. You were writing famously in cafés to keep warm, while the baby was asleep in the pushchair. So you still write in cafés?

JKR: Mm, I won’t be saying where I go, but…

Richard: No, of course not. But you do still go? Just to get the buzz, the vibe?

JKR: It’s habit. It’s so deeply engrained I write best when…

Richard: Right, who’s next?

Judy: Okay, who hasn’t asked a question? Nathan, Aaron and George? Okay, Aaron, very quickly. What’s yours?

Aaron: How did you think up the rules of Quidditch?

JKR: I did it all in about half an hour after a row with my then-boyfriend, and I think that’s where the Bludgers came in. [laughs]

Richard: And Nathan?

Nathan: What inspired you to make such creative animals?

JKR: Well, some of the animals I make up, like the Blast-Ended Skrewts, are mine, but many of them exist in folklore and mythology, and I’ve twisted them a bit to suit my own end. Hippogriffs: There’s not a lot if you go looking; I just created my own.

Judy: And George, you’re the only one left, but quickly tell us your favorite character.

George: My favorite character is Hermione.

Judy: Hermione?

JKR: No. You are the first boy I’ve ever met whose favourite character is Hermione.

Judy and Richard: Really?

JKR: But did you like her before Emma Watson started playing her?

[George pulls face as if to say that he didn’t]

JKR: Don’t worry. Lots of people like Emma Watson playing her.

Richard: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is now out in paperback. We’re so glad you came on. Thank you very much. It’s been nice talking to you.

JKR: Thank you.

Richard: See you tomorrow, guys. Bye bye.

Judy: Bye bye. Thanks, kids.