A fan’s dream: meeting J.K. Rowling
at Lennoxlove Book Festival
Yesterday, November 2, 2012, I was lucky enough to be one of the few to meet JK Rowling as she attended a small book festival on the outskirts of Edinburgh, during the last stop of her The Casual Vacancy promotional tour.
The setting couldn’t have been more perfect. Set in an illuminated 13th century house estate, complete with gargoyles peering down at us from the large iron gates, I couldn’t help but think of Hogwarts. It was magical.
After having gaped and awed at the surrounding building, we made our way towards the garden, where we would witness JK Rowling in all her splendour. Well, I say that, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to get tickets to the actual event, so I had to slum it with all the other peasants in a nearby marquee and watch Jo on the big screen. Not that I’m complaining though, we had a great time.
Muriel Gray, Scottish journalist, was the interviewer for the evening and as she welcomed Jo on stage, there was an eruption of cheers from the peasant tent. Throughout the evening, Jo was up to her usual standard of being witty, funny and just generally a joy to listen to. She is so refreshingly frank and open, willing to share past experiences with the audience, like how she was bullied as a child and how this made her understand and emphasis with Sukhvinder’s problem of self-image in the novel.
When discussing the process of writing The Casual Vacancy, she commented on how liberated she felt about not having to commit to deadlines. Gray was quick to mention how the concept of the book would really make a great series, to which Jo proceeded to jokingly scold her, and tell her not to give anyone any ideas! However, she did say that she still followed the same plan of structure as Harry Potter: writing page after page of background stories for her characters.
She even wrote passages in the first person narrative of her characters, in order to get a better feel for their voice. During the Q&A session, when asked what advice she would give budding authors, she answered simply “structure”, explaining that planning is everything.
Probably one of the most iconic quotes of the night was spurred from a question regarding the change of genre in The Casual Vacancy. Jo mentioned how you can’t follow the same rules in fantasy as you can in other genres, there are certain things you don’t do, and concluding, “You don’t have sex near unicorns”. We’ll bear that piece of advice in mind, Jo.
There were numerous funny incidents during the evening, of which my personal favourite was the following: when Jo decided to read a passage from the disastrous dinner scene in the book and asked to be handed her glasses, she was unfortunately handed the wrong pair, exclaiming, “These aren’t mine!” Following this, she decided to try on Muriel Gray’s but, alas, they wouldn’t do. Jo then suggested going through all the audience members in order to find the perfect pair! She must have been remembering that important Ollivander wisdom; The glasses choose the reader, Harry. Or something along those lines…
Because my memory is patchy due to the emotions of the evening, I will just casually mention a few random facts about Jo that we learnt during the evening: Jo is not attracted to younger boys (not even Chris Hemsworth, who she hasn’t heard of incidentally), her biggest inspiration as a writer is French novelist Colette and her favourite character to write about in the Harry Potter series was Albus Dumbledore.
Following the screening, I joined the queue for the book signing. Snaking around inside the beautiful house adorned with many portraits on the wall that were unfortunately static, the queue seemed to be the length of at least Basilisks. Eventually we entered the aptly named Great Hall, where Jo was signing the books. I don’t think I could really ever describe the surreal sensation I felt standing in front of her. I thanked her for the Potter books and she told me I was very welcome. She then looked up at me from signing the book, peeking over her reading glasses, and noticed the Alohomora! T-shirt I had on, saying ‘I like your t-shirt’.