Old school! For the first time in years, J.K. Rowling hosted a discussion exclusively about Harry Potter and it was broadcast live online.
The event was held to kick off Scholastic’s Harry Potter Reading Club for children, but for us it’s a way to hear our favorite author speak about her beloved book series.
Our recap notes:
– On Edinburgh: Jo says some things in the books wouldn’t have happened without living in the town. Names and street names came out of the books. The town also has great coffee shops and is respectful of her privacy.
– Jo says she’s come to understand the appeal of Harry Potter over the years. People fell in love with the characters, and the idea of the hidden world was so appealing. Fundamentally it was the characters that made people fall in love.
– Jo always wanted to be a writer in her heart of hearts. She’d always been writing up stories.
– Jo had great teacher role models who inspired her.
– The first sentence Jo wrote in Potter (in Philosopher’s Stone), you saw what happened in Godric’s Hollow. In the final version, you don’t know what happens until much later in the story.
– One of Jo’s favorite moments from the books was Luna’s appearance, the Graveyard scene in Goblet of Fire, and some small moments: “stupid jingles that Peeves says” were fun to do.
– The second American tour Jo did was “unbelievable” – she can remember traveling in a car towards her first signing and there were blocks of people queuing. She thought a sale was going on, but they were actually in line for Jo.
– Jo reads an excerpt from Sorcerer’s Stone: Harry meeting Ollivander.
– She does a great Hagrid voice!
– On the trio’s changing relationship: “Some writers say character is plot, to a large extent I think they’re right. I gave Harry two very different friends. In some ways Ron is more human than Harry. Ron is there as a maybe slightly more real boy with his faults and flaws. But he’s always there by Harry’s side. Ron’s one problem is insecurity. He feels he’s not as good as his brothers, he comes from a poor family, and then makes friends with the most famous boy in the Wizarding World. I did know those things about Ron from the start.”
“Then with Hermione. Harry is a boy who needs fun and gets that from Ron. Hermione is all about knowing stuff. I give him these two friends who brings him things he needs. Hermione is very clever, she knows a lot of stuff and where to find a lot of stuff. Hermione learns to loosen up quite a lot. Hermione learns that there is more to life than book learning. So, I did know these things even from the first book. I needed to because I would’ve run out of steam quite early.”
– The journey is about more than magic. “What they really need to learn about themselves, and of course each other, but self knowledge is key. When we get to Deathly Hallows, what the Hallows are and what they represent tells you something about the kind of person you are. By the time we get to that point of the story, Harry, Ron, and Hermione are equipped to handle them.”
– On how much of the characters are within Jo: “There’s an argument that an author is the characters they write. Harry, Ron, and Hermione absolutely – I am in all three of them. Hermione is an exaggeration of myself at that age. I was the bookish girl, and finding books would’ve been how I answered a challenge when I was in school.”
– One of my favorite ever comments from a very early reader, in 1999, about 10 years old, he said to me: “Harry doesn’t often ever know what’s going on, and nor do I.” That reader was semi-joking, but he meant it at the same time. We all had the feeling of, ‘I’m not sure what’s going on.’ We all felt that at school.”
– How did she come up with Pottermore: “The initial idea was, it’s time. People were asking for eBooks. It felt like it was the right time to do it. Then I wanted it to be more than that, because as you say, the internet offers amazing possibilities. I saw it as a way to create an environment where you could see extra tidbits, we can go inside illustrations. It’s making a book – it’s putting a book in that world. It’s still a reading experience – you still need to be able to read the books. But I was excited that we could put a really good reading experience online. I think it’s important to say that this is completely free. But the REALLY exciting thing for me – again, for free – is I had a way to put extra material online. It was a way of making sure any fan could access it. If I loved a series of books, to be able to learn more about a character – it’d be a great experience.”
– They’re playing a Pottermore trailer.
– Pulling things out of boxes or inventing more for Pottermore is just fun. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to the world. Has a character come back and surprised me? No, but I recently completed a biography for Remus Lupin. In writing his biography, even though it was in my head and I had never written it down, I found myself getting very upset – that’s all I can say because I don’t want to give anything away. I can’t say anymore than that. I felt very connected to the character.
A look at the Knight Bus in Pottermore (presumably in Prisoner of Azkaban) was exclusively revealed:
– Jo revealed which house she was sorted in in Pottermore – read her answer in this story.
– Jo says her next book is likely to be a book for children. She’s hesitant to commit herself fully because she still wants the freedom to decide.
– The event is over!