Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Time Out for HP: Transcript of Interview with JK Rowling

NOTE: The Leaky Cauldron (TLC) reader Roonwit has produced this transcript for Part One of the interview with Jo on the Richard & Judy Show, which you can read below. The Richard & Judy Show is from England. Stay tuned for Part Two.

Richard: And Jo joins us now. And I love that clip because it epitomises for me what is really good about the later of your books. We just left this valley of pain and distress which is bringing up adolescents, you're about to enter it.

Jo: Oh Good. Something to look forward to then.

Richard: It is just as bad as you think its going to be, I can tell you. But that's what's lovely about the sequence of books. You can see Harry turning into a grumpy adolescent and all those around him going through those adolescent pains. You draw it very accurately, and you don't have adolescent kids yourself. Is that just based on friends and conversations with friends who have got them?

Jo: Well I taught teenagers for a while. They were my favourite age group to teach in fact. So I think I drew a bit on that, and I drew on memories of how grumpy we all were when we were teenagers. We weren't the ... My sister's here to watch this and she was very grumpy so I drew a lot on her.

Judy: Is she older than you?

Jo: She's two years younger than me.

Judy: I know what I want to happen at the end of the whole Harry Potter thing, I want Harry to marry Ginny Weasley and I want Ron to marry Hermione - no I don't - yes I do, I want Ron to marry Hermione and I will be so upset if it doesn't happen. But of course the last one at the moment is residing in your safe?

Jo: The final chapter is hidden away, although it has now changed very sightly. One character got a reprieve, but I have to say two die that I didn't intend to die ...

Judy: Two much loved ones?

Jo: Well, you know. A price has to be paid. We are dealing with pure evil. They don't target the extras do they? They go for the main characters, or I do.

Richard: We don't care about the extras. You told your husband, obviously you confide in him all things ...

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

Richard: That would be stupid, lets be honest. You did tell him which ones were for the chop and apparently he shuddered and said "No, not that one"
Jo: He did on one of them, yeah.

Richard: All the papers that have been promoting this interview today clearlywant us to ask you do you kill off Harry Potter, which is a ridiculous question because are you likely to say yes or no? Obviously not. You couldn't possibly answer that, but have you ever been tempted to do him a little more harm than he has suffered

Judy: He's suffered enough, he's been though the mill.

Jo: How could I? Every year of his adolescence and childhood he saved the wizarding world and then no-one believes him - he spends his entire life saving the world, and next term he is back at school being bullied.

Judy: There is this great Harry Potter who has just saved your entire school and all your skins ...

Jo: And everyone just thinks he is a bit annoying.

Richard: I was dodging around the death bit, because I know you can't answer that queestion, But you know how Conan-Doyle got sick up to there of Sherlock Holmes ...

Jo: Yeah
Richard: so pushed him off the cliff at the Reichenbech falls, I'm not asking if you have done that obviously, but have you ever been tempted to bump him off because it is such a huge thing in your life.

Jo: I've never been tempted to kill him off before the end of book 7. I have always planned seven books and that is where I want to go, where I want to finish on seven books. But I can completely understand the mentality of an author who thinks well I am going to kill them off because that means there can be no non-author written sequels as they call them, so it will end with me and after I am dead and gone, they would be able to bring back the character and right a load of ...

Richard: That never stuck me before. I thought it would free you up.

Jo: Agatha Christe did that with Poirot, didn't she, she wanted to finish him off herself.

Judy: Well you say you can completely understand it, but you are not going to commit yourself to whether ...

Jo: No, I am not going to commit myself. I don't what the hate mail, apart from anything else.

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

Jo: I read a few when I was younger.

Judy: Angela Brazil?

Jo: I never read Angela Brazil, I read some Mallory towers and they don't bear re-reading but 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 without knowing he was a wizard, that was it, that was the premise, and then I worked backwards from there - how could he not know, so that is where all the back story came and there is a lot of back story as you know, and in fact now I am in book seven, I realise just how much back story there is because there is still a lot to explain and a lot find out.

Richard: You must have had to invent the back story further, further down the line, you couldn't possibly have started with this massive ...

Jo: Oh no, of course I didn't. I've got I don't know how many characters in play, but I've got a lot of 200 or something ridiculous

Richard: But did you think as you were writing the subsequent books - Oh why did I write that ...

Jo: Yes.

Richard: ... in Book 2 that screwed me and I can't write such and such now ...

Jo: Yeah. Never - I don't think I have ever done that on a really major plot point, but certainly a couple of things I have hit a snag, and I have thought well I have boxed myself in - if only I had left something open earlier then there would be an easier way to wriggle through that hole, but I have always found a way

Richard: Like chess.

Jo: Well it is a complicated plot, and the resolution is ...

Judy: Yeah, keeping it all in your mind ...

Richard: But is the last book finished now? Judy says it was in your safe, I know the last chapter ...

Jo: No, the last book is not finished, though I am well into it now

Richard: But you have written the finale already ..

Jo: I wrote the final chapter in something like 1990? oh hang on, I wrote the final chapter in something like 1990

Judy: really, so you knew exactly how the series was going to end

Jo: Well pretty much yeah.

Judy: Gosh

Jo: I've been lambasted for 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 had ever heard of me, but when you have got absolutely nothing you can plan whatever you like can't you, who cares?

Judy: Absolutely, and before we ask how you started writing the other thing that stuck all of us including our son who is a megafan was when the books started to get darker, the whole evil-good thing started to get much stronger and I think that was - well it was a bit darker with the mudbloodsin the second book, but in the Prisoner of Azkaban that's when it got really heavy ...

Jo: The dementors

Judy: With the dementors, yeah, all of that, and was that something you intended all along, or did it just develop?

Jo: I did intend it all along, because as Harry grows up, these parallel things are happening aren't they, Harry's getting older and older and more and more skilled, and simultaneously Voldemort is getting more and more powerful and he is returning to a physical form, because of couse in the first book he isn't a physical entity really, but people have always said that to me, and I agree that the books have got a lot darker. 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 have ever written - I really do - and also the image of the cloaked figure drinking the unicorn blood this thing slithering across the ground which they did very well in the film of 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 were some pretty nasty things happen.

Judy: Yes I know that but what I am saying is that what I started to see was parallels with things like racism and

Jo: Yes, definitely

Judy: aparteid and genocide and all that sort of stuff.

Jo: That was very conscious, that Harry entered this world that a lot of us would fanticize would be wonderful, I've got a magic wand and everything will be fabulous, and the point being that human nature is human nature, whatever special powers and talents you have, so he walks though, well you could say the looking glass couldn't you, he walks into this amazing world, and it is amazing, and he immediately encounters all the problems you think he would have left behind and they are in an even more extravagent form because everything is exacerbated by magic.

Richard: You can run but you can't hide.

Jo: Definitely yes. Richard: You have talked about having a game plan of seven books from the word go, before you even had a publisher, and you must have been doing back-handsprings of delight when the Philosopher's Stone got published.

Jo: Yes, I was.

Richard: any author, to have their first book published,br> Jo: an unbelievable moment yeah

Richard: What pleasure, and optimisism

Jo: You could pretty much say that nothing since has come close, but that is testimony to what a moment of euphoria that was.

Richard: When did the euphoria change to something ...

Jo: to terror?

Richard: Well maybe it was terror, but at what point in the books did you think, well hold on, this isn't just a best seller, this isn't just quite a nice series where I am enjoying and the readers are, this is unprecedented. It has been said that if you put all the books that have been bought, that you have written about Harry Potter, end to end they 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 is historic, you will go down in publishing history, over probably the next three centuries

Jo: I honestly don't think of it in those terms, although for the first books I was in real denial, about, I really lived in denial for a long time.

Judy: about the fame?

Jo: Yeah, totally. And I think that is where my reputation for being somewhat

Richard: recluse?

Jo: Po-faced came from, because I was like a rabbit caught in the headlights, and the only way I could cope was it's small not really that big a deal, you know, and things keep on happening, journalists start doorstepping you and you pick up a paper and there are causal references to Harry Potter, that's the freakiest thing, is that it permiates odd stories and it becomes - that's more of an indication to me how big it has become than anything else, I remember there was a phase where I didn't buy the papers, because it was becoming a bit strange to me, and normally I devour newspapers, and then, it was Wimbledon - this was a few years back - and I thought, it is safe to read Wimbledon, stop being so ... get over yourself, so I picked up this paper andI turn to this account of a match with Venus Williams and they said, I just saw Harry Potter staring up at me, and they were talking about bludgers, you know the balls in Quidditch, and they were saying that 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: But that's the fame thing. That's entering the lexicon of ordinarydialogue, what they call water cooler conversation, and that's not just to do with reading the latest book, its a continuous thing with you now. What about the wealth? And I don't mean to be prurient about that because it is just want it is, but you are unbelievably wealthy, beyond the dreams of avarice, really. How has that changed life for you?

Jo: Well, it's great!

Richard: Thank you for saying that.

Jo: Frankly, 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 romanticised, but it is dismissed in half a sentence, oh starving in a garret, and occasionally I have thought well you try it pal, you go there and see, it wasn't a publicity stunt, it was my life, and at that time I didn't know there was going to be this amazing resolution, I thought this would be life for twenty years.

Richard: But did you ever fell guilty about the amount of money, because ...

Jo: Yeah, I did, I absolutely did. There came a point where, because initially I have to say that initially people were reporting, and they still do frequently report much more than I have got - I am not pretending I am not hugely wealthy because I am - but sometimes they print figures that certainly my accountant wouldn't recognize. But in the early days they were saying I was a millionaire and I was nowhere near a millionaire. So that's weird and mind-warping when you are used to counting every penny Richard: Seventy quid a week you were on?

Jo: Yeah

Judy: So, What was happening to you was that basically, there was you the same as you had ever been, writing this book that you were thinking about andwriting for ages.

Jo: for donkeys years

Judy: and suddenly it took off, just this one book, and the next book, and you suddenly realised that this person, you, actually had taken on a life of her own, which wasn't you at all, and you were completely

Jo: I think that is completely accurate and think that you sit there thinking but I am still the same idiot I was yesterday, but suddenly people are interested in what I have got to say and my response to that was to clam up a lot because I felt that suddenly this light had been shone on me, underneath my stone, and it was a time of real turmoil when I first became subjected to that kind of scuntiny, because I felt a loyalty to the person I had been yesterday, and I didn't want to say oh it was dreadful because it really hadn't been dreadful and we'd been doing okay and I'd been teaching and my daughter would still say, said to me yesterday in fact, that we were happy, so I didn't want to sit there and say oh it was all dreadful, and now it is fabulous darling because I have got a bit of money

Judy: And is your daughter - your two new ones are still too little but Jessicawho has been with you right from the beginning really and she adapted to it okay?

Jo: She's been phenomenal, and it hasn't always been easy for her because, well you can imagine, your mother being J.K. Rowling. At one point I can remember her being pretty, metaphorically speaking, up against the school railings, tell us what the title of the next book is, isn't not terribly easy

Judy: Up against the school railing by?

Jo: By other children, trying to get titles out of her and things, but she was amazing, she was very cool.

Richard: And what about - its not so much to do with the weatlh, though it might have been actually, but certainly the fame thing - before you met your lovely husband, your incredibly lovely husband

Jo: Yes he is a lovely husband

Richard: Rock star looks, before that the dating

Judy: [picture] There he is

Richard: between the relationship that led to your lovely daughter, and him, there was a period where you found this immense weatlh and success, and you have 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

Jo: It wasn't so much that. To be perfectly honest with you, dating is just tricky if you are a single mother. That's it. And the other business was a vaguely complicating factor, but by the time you have got a baby sitter, the reality of life was, and I didn't have a nanny for quite a long time, I didn't have properly organised child care because I think I was just - again I was in denial about it, that I needed it, and then there came a point where 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.

Jo: 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.

Richard: Well we are all like that

Judy: So coming back, looking to where you are now personally as well as career wise professionally and all that, you are in a very good place, touch wood

Jo: Yeah

Judy: Not that there is any wood around he to touch but - You are very happy, you have a lovely family ...

Jo: I am 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 will take a break in a couple minutesbut then you're back and we've got some children in with questions but before they arrive - as you've said yourself, the theme of the books is death isn't it,

Jo: Largely Richard: It is a hugely powerful theme, and you were writing the first one when your mother died, she was 45, and you were very close to her and had you invisaged that death would be such a powerful theme before her death, or did it inform that sense of loss

Jo: Definitely informed it. In the first draft - I had only been writing Harry for 6 months bfore she died - and in the first draft I finished off his parents in a rather flippant way - and then mum died, and I just couldn't finish off his parents in that flippant way, I couldn't, not now knowing what it felt like to lose a parent. That's very, very different.

Judy: So that is why Harry's parents maintain this presence

Jo: They do maintain, yeah.

Judy: In the photographs

Richard: And in the mirror, of course

Jo: And in the mirror, yeah

Richard: And when you wrote that, I would be surprised if you were say that perhaps you shed a few tears, when you wrote those sequences, when Harry sits there lost in reflections

Jo: That is my favourite chapter of the first book

Richard: It's a lovely chapter

Jo: It's one of my favourite chapters in the whole series.

Judy: That's what so reassuring about the books, they do deal with straight forward evil and death, you always seem to leave a thread somewhere, even though they're inside ... I love all the headmasters, the past headmasters and teachers in their little frames ... Just to end this particular section: I always loved that - what was his name - the one who was always putting his hair in curlers, the Professor

Jo: Gilderoy

Judy: I love that idea of him, in the evenings sitting in that thing, taking his curlers out, putting them in and everything. There is a great deal of humour in the book as well, and presumably that is just part of your character?

Jo: Yeah, I think so, though you wouldn't always imagine it from the way I am described, would you, the old curmudgeon, But yes, I think so.

Richard: Well, as you say, the last chapter is in the safe, you are tidying up the rest of the manuscript, but this is the last of the books, that's it?

Jo: Yeah, well I have always said I might do a kind of encyclopaedia of the world for charity, just to round it off.
Richard: But that's not the same as the creative ...

Jo: No, absolutely not. It is not the same as a story.

Richard: Can you live without Harry?

Jo: Well, I am going to have to learn, its going to be tough.

Richard: Why not extend it to nine then, seriously why stick to the seven? Is it too much to ask to do ...

Jo: Because I think you have got to go out, when you've

Richard: when you have done it?

Jo: Yeah, I think 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 am also told, well actually I read this in Tatler, maybe it is an ungaurded comment you made, that you have already completed another children's book for younger children.

Jo: Oh yeah. Its not completed, but its pretty far on, about half way

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

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

Richard: And are you happy with it?

Jo: I really like it. It's for younger children, it's a kind of a fairy tale, it's a much smaller book, so that would probably be a nice thing to go to after Harry, not another huge tome.

Richard: Is that the future then, can you envisage yourself picking up another huge idea like Harry Potter and running it over ...

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

Judy: Well, I think most people are hoping that in some point in your life that you will come back to him in some way, shape or form there will be something, you will have generations ...

Jo: Harry Potter's mid-life crisis?

Richard: Should he survive to see one?

Jo: Should he survive to see one.

1 comment:

Chip Johnson+, SF, CoJ said...

Fantastic interview, bb. Thank you for sharing. And it does get one's mind off of the nastiness of the past few weeks, what?