J.K. Rowling Press Conference in New York City
Transcribed by Becky, Lei, and Natalie
Dick Robinson: I’m Dick Robinson of Scholastic, the lucky US publisher of Harry Potter, —the best known, best-loved character on planet Earth, —and of J.K. Rowling, Harry’s brilliant creator. From the moment I met Jo, then unknown eight years ago, I was touched by her graceful confidence, born I think now of her sure [unintelligible] knowledge that Harry Potter would be one of literature’s great characters. I was also struck by her [unintelligible] gift of magic’s consecration, the mind [unintelligible] that at all times absorbed in the consistency of the whole seven-book story that she had imagined from the beginning. And not only was her commitment to the developing story [unintelligible], but it was [also] accompanied by a parallel of readers. Her story and its readers have been linked in her mind from the beginning, even as the readers grow older, and the story artfully unfolds over the years. Our company [unintelligible] teachers, parents, and children [unintelligible] a place to find good stories and great books to help you read and learn. Something we have done in eighty-six years [unintelligible], Harry Potter opening millions of minds to a great story and making reading the best way to learn about yourself. For all of this, thank you, Jo Rowling.
Q: Do you have any surprises in store for us in Book 7?
J.K. Rowling: Surprises about Book 7? Um…… [sigh]
JKR: If anything, I wouldn’t want to share it. I’m well into it; I’m well into the writing a bit now. To an extent the pressure is off, I suppose, because this is the last book, so I feel quite liberated. I would just dissolve the story now, and it’s fun. It’s fun in a way [that] it hasn’t been before because finally I’m doing my resolution. I think some people loathe it; some will love it. It’s actually really good.
Q: What would your advice be for kids who want to be authors?
JKR: Advice for kids who want to be authors? Read. The first thing you should do is read, and the most important thing you should do is read. Initially, I think you’ll imitate the writers you enjoy most, and I think that’s a most important learning process. And by reading, you’ll not only increase your vocabulary but you’ll [also] learn what works and what doesn’t work, what you like, what kind of writing you’ll like, and you’ll learn to analyze it, so I think that’s the most important thing to do. And the other thing is to accept that you’ll waste a lot of trees, I’m telling you. Finally, come up with something that you enjoy.
Q: What will you miss most about the Harry Potter series?
JKR: Everything. I loved writing, and I’ve always been a huge [unintelligible], but I’ve always planned seven books, and I’ve planned this particular ending, and if I get through it and do what I was meant to do when I first invented the story, then I’ll be proud. Then I’ll probably go through a mourning period, and then I’ll think of something else to write.
Q: Given that your children have grown up with the whole Harry Potter thing, have they started exhibiting any magical qualities that you’ve noticed?
JKR: [laughs] Magical? Well…, young witches and wizards in my books are very destructive in their own phase, and I believe they got that. But otherwise, I would say, probably not. My eldest daughter is very scientific, very logical, which I think is great
Q: Jo, Stephen, do you want to add to that?
JKR: I understand why someone would kill a character, from the point of view of not allowing others to continue writing it after the original author is dead. I don’t always enjoy killing my characters. I didn’t enjoy killing the character who died at the end of Book 6 (I’m being discreet just in case anyone hasn’t finished the book). I really didn’t enjoy doing that, but I had been planning that for years, so as John [Irving] says, it wasn’t quite as poignant as you might imagine; I’d already done my grieving when I actually came to write it.
Q: Firstly, your six-year absence… is [doing interviews] tougher than last time around? [unintelligible] And secondly, are you designating any fraction of the proceeds to the victims of the war in Lebanon?
JKR: To answer the second part of the question, the reason that I wanted to nominate Médecins Sans Frontières [Doctors Without Borders] is because I used to work for Amnesty International, and that’s where I first came across the organization. I noticed that every time there was a situation, like the war in Lebanon, Doctors Without Borders were some of the first people on the ground. It’s a very, very effective organization, and as the name clearly states, it doesn’t matter what your religious affiliation is, it doesn’t matter what your ethnic group is, it doesn’t matter what your circumstance is, if you are physically in need they will help you. They will do everything they can to help you. So since having made money, it’s an organization I’ve supported financially, and I thought that we were doing one great charity that deals with a specific group of people, and therefore I thought it would be great if we did a charity that deals with, literally, the world. Wherever there is need. So that’s why I chose that. The first one with my six-year absence… you didn’t say anything wrong. I absolutely love coming here, and I particularly love coming to New York. It’s one of my favorite cities. During those six years I’ve been pregnant twice and had small children so that’s why I’ve not been doing the tours, and they’re old enough to travel now, so it’s great to be back. [Unintelligible]
JKR: I did an interview last year in which I was asked this question. In the genre in which I’m writing, you usually find that the hero has to go on alone, and there comes a point where he falls away and truly has to act heroic. Harry is not completely alone. He still has his two faithful sidekicks. This was summarized for me by the person who asked the question, “You mean the old wizard always gets it?”” [laughs] and that is fundamentally… what I was saying. So that’s why in these sort of epic sagas, the hero, eventually, has to fight alone.
Q: Have there been any changes to what you initially planned out?
JKR: It is different to an extent. The essential plot is what I always planned. When working toward the end I planned from the beginning, but a couple of characters [whom] I expected to survive have died, and one character got a reprieve, so there have been some fairly major changes.
Q: How comfortable or uncomfortable do you feel reading your own work?
JKR: To tell you the truth I’m not that comfortable reading my own work, and that’s why I’m going to be doing a shorter reading tonight, – and I do think that the people [who] have come tonight would rather ask questions than hear me doing a long reading. I would like to think so anyway because I’m not very comfortable doing it, and I don’t think I’m particularly good at reading.
Q: How do you feel about fans accusing you of cruelty for killing off characters, and secondly, how do you feel about the future, when the series is over?
JKR: When fans accuse me of sadism, which doesn’t happen that often, but I feel I’m toughening them up to going on to read John and Stephen’s books. [laughs] They’ve got to be toughened up somehow; it’s a cruel literary world out there. I’m doing them a favor! And how do I feel about the series ending? On the one hand I feel sad. Harry has been an enormous part of my life, and it’s been quite a turning point in the face of my life, and he’s always been the constant, so there will be a sense of bereavement, but there will also be a sense of liberation because there are pressures involved for something as popular, and as wonder as it’s been, there will be a certain freedom in escaping that particular part of writing Harry Potter.
Q: Do you have any ideas already about what you’re going to be working on next?
JKR: A shorter, mercifully, book for children. It’s kind of half written, so I’ll probably go to that next.