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Old 10-11-2012, 09:40 PM
masterofmystery masterofmystery is offline
Post JK Rowling full Harry Potter Reading Club webchat discussion transcript now available

JK Rowling took part in a webchat early Thursday to discuss her work of the Harry Potter book series and Pottermore innovation as part of the Harry Potter Reading Club for Scholastic. The video, which can be watched at any time now, can be viewed here.

SnitchSeeker has written up the full transcript of Rowling's talk, from her deep analysis of Harry, Ron, and Hermione's relationship, Remus Lupin's full story, her support of Hufflepuff, and her Hogwarts House on Pottermore (Gryffindor), can be read below.

Interior of the Knight Bus from Pottermore

Scholastic: How much did this beautiful city and its rich history influence your writing?
J.K. Rowling:
It had some influence. There are some small things that wouldn’t have happened in the books if I hadn’t been living in Edinburgh. For example, when I was looking for the surname of a certain particularly arrogant and annoying character whose first name was Gilderoy, I happened to be in a church and saw the surname Lockhart, which is a beautiful surname – a church here in Edinburgh, I’m talking about, of course. And that’s how Gilderoy got his surname.

So there were small things like that. Names, sometimes street names, gave me detail in the books. But I have to say I’m a writer who can write pretty much anywhere. So it was wonderful to be writing in such a beautiful city – and this is a place that’s got great coffee shops, which is where I did a huge amount of writing so that helped a lot. I would say that people here are very respectful of your privacy, so I was able to write in cafes for a long time – even when Harry Potter was quite well-known. I’m very grateful to Edinburghfor that.

Scholastic: Do you have any idea why these books have and continue to enchant readers, young and old, in such epic proportions?
J.K. Rowling:
I have thought about this. I used to say, because it was an easy answer, “You should ask the readers. They know what they like.” But over the years, I have come to understand the appeal a little better – mainly through talking to readers, I have to say. I think primarily the people fell in love with the characters. Even though the magic is so much fun, and the idea of this hidden world is so appealing – it’s appealing to me as the author and as an adult - the idea that there’s somewhere special you can belong. I still think that it was the characters fundamentally that made people fall in love with the world, and above all, Harry, Ron and Hermione probably.

Scholastic: Was it always your dream to write?
J.K. Rowling:
Always. I literally cannot remember a time when I knew that you had to earn your living in some way and I didn’t want to be a writer. I was not very honest about that. My parents wouldn’t have seen that as a very stable way to make a living, but it was always what I wanted to do. In my heart of hearts, I knew that I was going to try as hard as I possibly could to write.

Scholastic: Were you concocting stories even as a [child]?
J.K. Rowling:
Yeah, definitely. The first ‘book’ I ever wrote, I was 6 years old. It was about a rabbit called Rabbit.

Scholastic: I’d like to see that.
J.K. Rowling:
It’s not very good. But, in retrospect, what’s impressive about it to me is that I finished it. I think that is the mark of someone who really wants to write because beginning stories is often very easy; finishing them, not so much.

Young student: While you were growing up, did you have teachers who encouraged you to express yourself creatively?
J.K. Rowling:
I had several teachers who did encourage me to write. I had a couple of primary school teachers who, in reading out my work to the class, made me feel very special. They really did, and that sticks out in my memory. The pride I felt at my work read out to other students was a very big deal to me. I had a teacher when I was a little older called Lucy Shepard, and her name springs very readily to my lips because I’ve just met her. I just did an event and she came along to it.

She was teaching me when I was in my teens. She was a fantastic English teacher. Like Dumbledore and McGonagall in the books, she taught me things in addition to what she was teaching me about literature. Things about life. She was just a very good example of a woman who was very smart, and someone who would stick up for herself and her principles – and that was a great role model.

Scholastic: And that kind of validation, too, at a young age …
J.K. Rowling:
Completely. You never forget the teachers who said to you, “You can do this.”

Scholastic: Do you remember the first sentence you wrote in the series, and the last, and how much time between?
J.K. Rowling:
Well, I know that it was 17 years between the two. I know that I finished writing Deathly Hallows in 2007 – I finished editing it, I should say. I couldn’t tell you what was the very last word I wrote because when you’re editing, you’re darting around a lot. The first sentence I wrote, I do still have – if we’re setting aside the preliminary notes that I made. It was so different to the first sentence that appeared in the printed books. I can’t quote it exactly, but it was to do with a place called Dark's Hollow, and Dark's Hollow became Godric’s Hollow. So in the very first ever version of chapter one of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone you saw what happened in Godric’s Hollow whereas in the finished series you don’t get to see exactly what happened in Godric’s Hollow until much later.

Scholastic: One of your favorite moments along the way of the 17 years?
There were so many. Within the books, if we’re talking about what happens in the stories, I know that I’m about to read one of them – one of my very favorite pieces from the first book – but there are many. Luna’s first appearance because I love Luna Lovegood so much and I was looking forward to writing her. The graveyard scene – I have to be very careful for people who haven’t finished the series – but the graveyard scene in Goblet of Fire for different reasons was great to write because I’d been aiming for that point for quite a few years by the time I got to write it. So that felt very satisfying. Some just really small things but I still remember enjoying writing like stupid jingles and things that Peeves said. They were always fun to do.

Scholastic: How about a personal favorite moment in those 17 years?
J.K. Rowling:
For me personally, as a writer there have been so many, but I think the second American tour that I did was unbelievable. Because at that point the books had become very popular and I hadn’t been exposed to how popular they’d become – physically exposed to it. I can remember traveling in a car towards my first signing. There were blocks and blocks of people queuing, and I said to Kris Moran, who was working for Scholastic and has become a friend, and we’re sitting in the car and I said, “Kris, is there a sale on?” And she just looked at me, “Are you mad? This is for you.” I will never forget that moment. That was the first time I really understood what has happened. It was extraordinary, and also terrifying. It was scary as well because I just hadn’t expected that. The previous tour, although we’d had maybe a couple of hundred people turn up occasionally, it hadn’t been that crazy.

Young student: How did you first imagine Harry, Ron and Hermione’s relationship, and how did it change as you got deeper into the books?
J.K. Rowling:
That’s an excellent question because it goes to the heart of writing a long series. Some writers say ‘character is plot’ and to a large extent I think they’re right. So I gave Harry two friends. Two very, very different friends. Ron is all about the fun. But Ron is a very loyal person. He’s a very human person – in some ways, more human than Harry, who is someone who is a hero. A hero is often slightly set apart; not so much inhuman as a purified form of a human. They are the one who must fulfill the quest.

So Ron is there as maybe slightly more real boy with his faults and his flaws. Ron gets scared and wonders, “Really, are we gonna have to do this again?” But he’s always there by Harry’s side. Ron’s one problem – which is Ron’s problem and sometimes his friends’ problem – is insecurity. Ron feels that he’s maybe not as good as his brothers. He comes from a very big family, and then he goes and makes friends with the most famous boy in the wizarding world, so Ron’s got some issues of his own to work through. In doing so, Ron goes on his own emotional journey – so that’s Ron’s character and that’s Ron’s plot, as it were. I did know those things about Ron from the start. I did know that was going to be the issue within that friendship.

So Harry is a boy who needs some fun and gets that from Ron. Harry is also a boy who, even though he’s been marked out for this strange destiny, he’s someone who doesn’t know a lot. And that’s where Hermione comes in. Now Hermione is all about knowing stuff. So I’ve given him these two friends that bring to Harry what he needs. Hermione is very clever. She not only knows a lot of stuff, she knows where to find out a lot of stuff. But she, too, goes through a journey through the books. So Hermione learns to loosen up quite a lot, largely through the influence of Ron. Hermione learns that there is more to life than book learning. A lesson that really she learns quite early on, and then she grows a lot as a person.

I did know those things about the characters, even from the first book, and I think I needed to because I would’ve run out of steam quite early on if I hadn’t given them the potential to grow as people.

Scholastic: Ron and Hermione challenge Harry.
J.K. Rowling:
Very much so and that’s what keeps the relationship interesting in that there is conflict within it – as there is with all human relationships. Even the deepest and warmest friendships will be subject to trials, and what marks out a truly great friendship is not that it never had an argument or never saw any conflict, is how you deal with those things. Because you have to be honest and find a way of coping with those difficulties.

Scholastic: As a reader, we feel like we’re experiencing the journey alongside them, and that journey is actually more than just about magic, isn’t it?
J.K. Rowling:
Completely because, as we’re saying, these are three characters who - without wishing to be corny or cheesy - what they really need to learn about is themselves. They, of course, need to learn about each other, but self-knowledge is key. Without giving too much away again, when we get to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, what the hallows are and what they represent reveals a lot about the people who seek them, want to use them, and being drawn to a particular hallow tells us something about the kind of person you are. By the time they get there, Harry, Ron and Hermione are equipped to come near such objects, and that was an emotion journey – that had very little to do with magic.

Scholastic: So you’re writing these three characters over an extended period of time – how much of you ends up in all three of them?
J.K. Rowling:
I envision a good argument that says that an author is in every single character they write. They have to be. You have to understand from the inside what someone’s going through, which means that you have to put yourself in a lot of different heads. But Harry, Ron and Hermione, I am absolutely in all three of them. Harry is a curious character. He’s not the most popular character in the book for a good reason, because he has to be this questing person.

Often that person is slightly less easy to love because their flaws tend not to be run-of-the-mill flaws. But Harry is often the by-stander – the eyes onto the world – and that gives him a particular power. He is slightly detached, which isn’t a very lovable quality. But often people who have that detachment are rather unusual and are able to do things. And most writers have a degree of detachment, so if I stand right back from those three characters, I can say that is the part of me that maybe is in Harry. Hermione is easy.

Hermione is an exaggerated version of myself at that age. She’s not exactly like me, but I was certainly a very bookish girl and I was the girl who would’ve gone to the library to look it up. That’s how I would’ve reacted to the challenges of Hogwarts. I would’ve gone to find a book.And there’s a lot of me in Ron. A lot of Ron’s most base humor would make me laugh. I’m not saying that’s the only stuff that makes me laugh, but I love Ron’s humor – and obviously that comes from me. I’m making up the jokes.

Scholastic: As readers, we identify with all of them, and largely because, in some ways, they’re dealing with the same things that we’re struggling with.
J.K. Rowling:
Absolutely. One of my favorite ever comments from a very early reader, like back in ’97-98, was a small boy, he was about 10 years old and looked at me and he said, “I really like this book.” I said, “Thank you so much.” He said, “Harry often doesn’t know what’s going on, and nor do I.” And that spoke to me so much because I think at that age – he was fairly joking, but he meant it at the same time. And I thought, “That’s perfect. You’ve just summed it up.” All of us having this sense of, “Am I the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on?” We all felt that. I think when you’re young, starting a new school, that those feelings are never as acute as at that time.

Young student: Did you know when you were writing the books that reading about Harry, Ron and Hermione’s experience would help us face our challenges?
J.K. Rowling:
I probably didn’t know because when you’re writing, you’re so inside the world – you’re living it, you’re feeling it – it’s, to be honest, the last thing on your mind: How will someone read this? You’re too busy creating it. It was only later that I thought, “Wow,” when I started to get letters, particularly about things like bullying. I got so many letters from boys saying, “There’s a Draco Malfoy at in my class,” or girls saying, “I know some Pansy Parkinsons.” That meant the world to me in the sense that I hope that people dealing with those issues would think, “Well, I’m not alone. Some people just are mean, and it’s nothing to do with me. I’ve got to find a way to navigate around this.” So that was a great thing to hear.

Young student: How did you come up with
J.K. Rowling:
The initial idea was: It’s time. A lot of fans were saying, “When are we going to get ebooks? When are we going to be able to read in a different form?” It felt like it was the right time to do it. I had time to concentrate on doing it right. So that’s really where the idea for Pottermore came. But then I wanted it to be more than that because, as you see, the Internet has amazing possibilities. No one dreamt of, in 1997, when the first Harry Potter book was published. So I saw it as a way to create an environment where you could see extra tidbits.

You could go inside illustrations a little bit. It’s making a book, in that world. Just putting a book in that world. You can do some wonderful things there. It’s still a reading experience. You still need to be able to read the books, but I was excited about the fact that we could put a really good reading experience online. I think it’s very important to say that you can get a whole load of extra stuff on Pottermore completely for free. It isn’t just about selling books. You can buy the ebooks there if you want to, but the really exciting thing for me was I had a way of putting extra material that I had crafted over the years – or that I still wanted to find out about myself, so some little bits and pieces I’ve invented since – and I could put it online. It was a way of making sure that any fan could access it. They could just play with it - it was the kind of thing I would love. If I loved a series of books, to be able to go and find more about a character, a little bit of extra backstory, I would’ve adored. It was a chance to do all that.

We had an amazing team working on it, we really did. And I’ve been so involved. In fact, you saw a hint of what’s really fun. You get your wand, you get Sorted into your House, and I think that’s been really popular with users. I devised all of that. I had so much fun with that. I think there are 30,000 and something wand combinations you can get, so you get a really personalized wand.

Devising the definitive questions for the different Houses was a lot of fun. Because there have been so many pale imitations online. It was time for me to do it.

Young student: What are your favorite moments from Sorcerer’s Stone on Pottermore?
J.K. Rowling:
Diagon Alley being the moment you go into the magical world is a great moment on Pottermore, I think. I love the illustrations. Just to be able to move through the shops, pick things up. It’s like, at my age, pop-up books were really exciting. So this is like the ultimate pop-up, isn’t it? With the illustrations, there’s that slightly 3-D effect that you can move through. That was very conscious. I wanted the style of the site to remain very book-like. So the illustrations aren’t filmic, they look much more like book illustrations – like pop-up illustrations – which I love.

Young student: Have any of the characters come back and surprised you?
J.K. Rowling:
First of all, returning to Harry’s story … I don’t honestly feel like I ever left. I’m never going to leave. It was 17 years of my life. I was quite heartbroken to finish writing. It was tough, very tough. Going back [through Pottermore] is so easy – it’s ridiculously easy for me. I feel like I’m just unlocking a door back into my own house. I love that. I love having the ongoing contact. Pulling things out of boxes or inventing a little bit more for Pottermore is just fun. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to the world and to fans of Harry’s. So that’s been great.

Has a character come back and surprised me? I wouldn’t exactly say surprised because I did know them all pretty well. Having said that, I recently completed a biography for Remus Lupin, who is one of my favorite characters in the series. He’s a teacher that Harry has in the third book, Azkaban. In writing Remus’s biography – even though it was in my head I’d never written it down – I kind of knew some, but in writing it I found myself getting very upset. That’s all I can say because I don’t want to give anything away, but I did find myself getting quite emotional. I felt very connected to that character and it was hard going back through his life again.

Scholastic: It’s got to be a thrill seeing this [the book series] come to life.
J.K. Rowling:
It is. It’s been such a thrill. It’s taken a long time. We – I say we because it’s taken a big team of creators who worked on this project. It’s been a few years. People kept saying, “When are you going to do ebooks?” and I couldn’t say because we were working on what we hoped would be a really great reading experience online. And [to] finally see it come to life has been wonderful. I am logged on as a normal participant. I want to have the experience just like everyone else, so I’m on there.

Scholastic: We polled some of your fans and we asked them what question they most wanted you to answer. Close to 40,000 people voted and the question they selected with 40 percent of the vote: Which Pottermore House are you in?
J.K. Rowling:
Well as I say, I know how it works. So I logged on, and I’m now on Pottermore as a regular user – that’s how I go check what’s going on – although I’m not going to give my user name. So I went through the Sorting, and I am a Gryffindor. But I had a moment as I clicked the answer to the last question – and bear in mind, I wrote the questions – I thought, “Hey, I’m not sure if I’ve answered to get Gryffindor.” I answered them completely honestly, and I knew that I’d answered a couple for different Houses so I thought, “I wonder how they’re going to work this out.” Yes, I am in Gryffindor.

Young student: What would you say to people who are disappointed that they’ve been Sorted into Hufflepuff on Pottermore?
J.K. Rowling:
That is actually my favorite question so far because this is a very sore point for me. This may surprise people, but it is the truth. In many, many ways, Hufflepuff is my favorite House. Here’s my reasoning. Bear with me. Again, I don’t want to spoil things too much for people who haven’t read the whole series, so I’m going to say what I’m about to say quite carefully. There comes a point in the final book where each House has the choice whether or not to rise to a certain challenge – and that’s everyone in the House.

The Slytherins, for reasons that are understandable, decide they’d rather not play. The Ravenclaws: some decide they will, some decide they won’t. The Hufflepuffs, virtually to a person, stay – as do the Gryffindors. Now, the Gryffindors comprise a lot of fool-hardy and show-offy people. That’s just the way it is. I’m a Gryffindor, I’m allowed to say it. There’s bravery and there’s also showboating, and sometimes the two go together. The Hufflepuffs stayed for a different reason. They weren’t trying to show off. They weren’t being reckless.

That’s the essence of Hufflepuff House. Now my oldest child, my daughter Jessica, said something very profound to me not very many days ago actually. She said to me – and she, by the way, was not Sorted into Hufflepuff House – but she said to me, “I think we should all want to be Hufflepuffs.” I can only say to you that I would not be at all disappointed to be Sorted into Hufflepuff House. So I’m a little upset that anyone does feel that way.

Scholastic: But you’re a Gryffindor.
J.K. Rowling:
Yeah, I am a Gryffindor, but that’s not all good. I know Harry’s a Gryffindor, but Harry’s a Gryffindor for the same reason I’m a Gryffindor. I’ve got a short temper. Harry’s got his issues. I’m just saying. Also Gryffindor hasn’t , despite the way it thinks of itself, it’s turned out the odd dark wizard. Hufflepuff’s got pretty much a clean record. As, indeed, Slytherin has turned out more than one hero.

Scholastic: What’s next for you? What are you working on?
J.K. Rowling:
More books (laughs). Definitely more books, yes. Right now I’m still promoting, and will be for a few more days, the last book I published which is a book for adults. But I think that the next thing I publish is likely to be a book for children. The reason I’m not committing myself wholeheartedly is because after 15 years of being a writer for Harry Potter where you’d say something and someone would seize on it and say, “She’s definitely doing that now”, and you kind of felt you weren’t allowed to change your mind. It all got a little intense. So I try not to commit myself too much with my plans. So I’m not a hundred percent sure about doing it next, but I think it will be a book for slightly younger children. I think that will be the next thing I publish.

Scholastic: First thing that comes to your mind because this is going to go fast. Here we go.
J.K. Rowling
: Okay. Gosh that is scary.

Scholastic: Favorite color?
J.K. Rowling:
Favorite food?
Least favorite food?
Tripe, which I have eaten ‘cause I’ll try anything. It’s as bad as it looks.
Favorite sound?
The sea, or my husband snoring.
Least favorite sound?
My husband snoring when I want to go to sleep.
Favorite sport?
Quidditch, obviously.
Favorite thing to do when you’re not working?Take my kids out somewhere fun or – I’m quite a creative person – I like to draw, listen to music. Not very exciting answers, are they? But that’s the truth. Oh, and I love cooking. I love to cook. I love to bake.
Quality you most admire in a person?
If I wasn’t a writer, I would be …
Depressed. There’s nothing else I would want to do. My youngest daughter said to me, not very long ago, she said, “Mummy, if you had to choose between us and writing, what would you choose?” And I said, “I would choose you, but I would be very grumpy.”

Scholastic: You’ve said many times that getting kids reading has been one of the most gratifying outcomes of writing the Harry Potter series. So 20, 50, 100 years from now, when they’re still being read, what do you most hope that children will take away with them from the experience of reading Harry?
J.K. Rowling:
What I would most like to think they take away, is what I take away from my favorite books, which is the knowledge that it’s always somewhere you can go that you love and where you’re safe. That’s how I feel about my favorite books. That wherever I am, if I’ve got that book with me, I have got a place I can go and be happy. So if that place is Hogwarts for anyone, them I couldn’t be more honored or more humbled.
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Old 10-12-2012, 12:02 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Yeah for Lupin's bio. He is my favorite adult and teacher in the series. I am proud to be Hufflepuff. :-D
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Old 10-12-2012, 07:33 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I can't wait to read Lupin's bio! Except now I'm worried that it's going to be really, really sad.

And I'm glad she said something about Hufflepuff. I love the Puffs! And though I'm an Eagle on Pottermore, I still love me some Badgers!

Thanks, Kitakins <3
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Old 10-13-2012, 01:16 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I looooooved this interview!!! <3

Such great questions, and even better answers!!!
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Old 10-15-2012, 03:57 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Can't wait to read Lupin's bio! Such an awesome interview
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Old 11-01-2012, 02:26 PM   #6 (permalink)
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What an amazing interview. I really enjoyed that!
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