New Interview with J.K.Rowling on Deathly Hallows Pt.2

July 30, 2007

Part 2

Meredith Vieira: Ending this series for you, is it a relief, or is there a sense of mourning?  Or maybe a combination of the two?
J.K. Rowling: Definitely both.
Meredith Vieira: Yeah?
J.K. Rowling: Whole bundle of emotions wrapped up into one. Immediately after finishing writing, I was very {upset}.  The first two days were terrible.  Terrible.
Meredith Vieira: In what way?  Tell me what you did.
J.K. Rowling: Just I was incredibly low. What is probably hard for people to imagine is how wrapped up the 17 years’ work is with what was going on in my life at the time.

Her often-told life story sounds almost as magical as the books  she conjured up.

But what’s not as well known is the magic was tempered by sorrow and loss, which played a key role in the creation of the Harry Potter books.

In a foreshadowing of events in her own life, her parents met and got engaged on a train traveling through the English countryside.

And Joanne Rowling was born in a village in the west of England 42 years ago this week.

Her father, Peter, was a factory manager; her mother, Ann, a lab technician.

As a little girl, “Jo” amused herself and little sister “Di” with early attempts at hare-raising stories…

J.K. Rowling: I wrote this little book about a rabbit called Rabbit and His Adventures.  And I illustrated it myself, too, and showed it to my mother, who, as mothers do, was rhapsodized and said how wonderful it was.  And what’s interesting to me is I was six years old.  And I thought, “Well, are we going to get it published?” And– so I– I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Fast-forward 20 years, to 1990, and Jo Rowling came up with a very different type of story. She had been visiting a boyfriend in Manchester, England and was traveling back to London on a train when inspiration struck.

J.K. Rowling: Absolutely true. Yeah. I was on the train from Manchester to London. And it came.  Just came.
Meredith Vieira: Had something like that ever happened to you before?
J.K. Rowling: Yes. Truthfully. (LAUGHTER) I mean, other ideas have just come to me because I think if you’re a writer and that’s what you spend a huge amount of time doing, you do– ideas do come to you.  But nothing had ever come so– with such a– I had this, “God, I’d love to write that.” When I got off the train I went home and started writing.

Then living in London, she kept her story about a boy wizard to herself.

Her mother was gravely ill, and then died six months after her daughter began writing the Potter story.

J.K. Rowling: One of my biggest regrets.  She never knew.  I never told her.
Meredith Vieira: She had been sick for quite awhile.  She had battled MS for ten years.
J.K. Rowling: Yeah.
Meredith Vieira: How did her departure, her death affect this book?
J.K. Rowling: Definitely Mom dying had a profound influence on the books because … in the first draft, his parents were disposed really in quite … in the most cavalier fashion.  I didn’t really dwell on it.  Six months in my mother died and I simply {couldn’t kill off the fictional} mother.  That callously.  Not– it wasn’t callous, but it’s– it wasn’t what it became … And I really think from that moment on, death became a central, if not the central, theme of the seven books.
Meredith Vieira: You mean death in terms of loss, not just the killing of people but–
J.K. Rowling: Yeah … The theme of how we react to death, how much we fear it.  Of course, I think which is a key part of the book because Voldemort is someone who will do anything not to die.  He’s terrified of death.  And in many ways, all of my characters are defined by their attitude to death and the possibility of death.

The loss of her mother affected Jo Rowling in another way.  It was time to move away — to say goodbye to the British isles.

Meredith Vieira: You decide to leave.  Get rid of the– the old boyfriend, move to Portugal.  In that time, married, have a new baby.  Jessica.
J.K. Rowling: I have a baby.  Jessica.
Meredith Vieira: Divorce.  And you come back.
J.K. Rowling: Yeah.
Meredith Vieira: To a kind of a different world.  You’re on public assistance–
J.K. Rowling: Really different.
Meredith Vieira: –at that point?
J.K. Rowling: That was– yeah, that was a– obviously a very, very tough time because I’d been working always up to that point. I never meant to live in Edinburgh … it was clearly because my sister was here and I was staying here for Christmas with her.

She wrote about “Harry” at an Edinburgh cafe with baby Jessica napping by her side.  She lived in a small upstairs apartment. Then, after a publisher saw the first three chapters of the story and asked to see more, she rushed to finish it.

J.K. Rowling: I was determined to try because, frankly, my life was such a mess at this point, what– what was the worst that could happen?  Everyone turn me down?  Big deal.

But the tough times were about to end.  “Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone,” the U.K. title, was eventually bought by small British publisher Bloomsbury, for $4,000.

About a year later, in 1997, her agent called to say American publisher scholastic was bidding for “Harry Potter.”

J.K. Rowling: He phoned me and said, “There’s an auction going on in New York.”  And, again, I’m so clueless.  I thought, “Why’s he telling me about that?” (LAUGHTER) I was like, you know, he had to be quite specific.  “An auction for your book.  Why would I be telling you about a furniture sale?”
Meredith Vieira: God, you can be so dense– Jo (OVERTALK)
J.K. Rowling: You know, I always– to be honest, life had battered me around so much in the previous two years that when you start receiving good news, you’re quite distrustful. (LAUGHTER) And so–
Meredith Vieira: It wasn’t good news.  It was pretty great news. They’d never offered that kind of money for a children’s book–over $1 million.
J.K. Rowling: Unbelievable.  It was unbelievable … I started to think, “We can buy a house.”  Now, it was all security for me.

Since then, her financial success has become legendary.

Forbes estimated her fortune at more than $1 billion.

But publishing seven long books in such a short time took a toll.

J.K. Rowling: And that was my fault.

But now her life is a lot less stressful and a lot less lonely.

After nine years as a single mom….

J.K. Rowling: Which I never in a million years expected.  I never (thought) I would marry again and– I really didn’t.  I (was) sometimes lonely. I hadn’t met anyone that I wanted to be with long term … So I just thought, well, this is my life.  I’m not meant to have that.  And then, of course, the moment I’d accepted that comes Neil.

The couple has a son and daughter together.

Oh, and by the way: When Jo and Neil got engaged another train figured in the story, and it wasn’t the Hogwarts express…

J.K. Rowling: My husband proposed to me on a train.
Meredith Vieira: You probably thought, “Oh, this is so romantic.”
J.K. Rowling: Well, I did.  It was the Orient Express.  I’d always wanted to go on the Orient Express.

Now she’s devoting her time to her family and her favorite causes, such as helping single mothers and finding a cure for multiple sclerosis, the disease that took her mother’s life.

And now she has a chance to reflect.

J.K. Rowling: Finishing has certainly made me look back a lot. It is almost incredible to me at times what’s happened. And there are certainly moments when I imagine that I dreamt it all.


Continue: Pt.3


One comment

  1. About A Boy – new movie on http://www.dvdipodmovies.com

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