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Video: JK Rowling talks writing "Harry Potter" series with Australia's ABC1
JK Rowling's interview with Australia's ABC1 network - the only exclusive chat they got with the Harry Potter author in the nation - was telecast hours ago, where she did indeed delve a bit into her work about writing Harry Potter more than Thursday's release of The Casual Vacancy.
Part of the interview was released online for all to view, however the full special can be watched here for Australian natives only. Rowling spoke to Jennifer Byrne about how her mother's life and death intermingled with writing Harry Potter, and how far back she wanted to become an author.
JENNIFER BYRNE, : You grew up writing basically, didn't you?, ...
J.K. ROWLING, AUTHOR: Mh-hmm.
JENNIFER BYRNE: ... and your first audience ...
J.K. ROWLING: Yeah.
JENNIFER BYRNE: ... was your sister, ...
J.K. ROWLING: Yeah.
JENNIFER BYRNE: ... Dianne.
J.K. ROWLING: Sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly, yeah.
JENNIFER BYRNE: That's the role of a sister. And your first story, I believe, involved a rabbit?
J.K. ROWLING: A rabbit called Rabbit, yes. Rabbit did quite lot of un-rabbity things, but it was serious. Rabbit had lots of different adventures and they were complete little stories. And I - yeah, from that time onwards - I literally think as soon as I realised that books were written, as soon as I grasped the concept of writing a story, that's all I wanted to do and I can't remember ever - I'm convinced, I'm sure, I know, I never wanted to do nothing else. I can't remember ever wanting to do anything else.
JENNIFER BYRNE: And how old would you have been?
J.K. ROWLING: Well I know that I wrote Rabbit when I was about six.
JENNIFER BYRNE: Can we talk a bit about your mother?
J.K. ROWLING: Mm..
JENNIFER BYRNE: 'Cause you were 15 when your mother ...
J.K. ROWLING: When she was diagnosed, yeah.
JENNIFER BYRNE: ... was diagnosed with - I mean, and multiple sclerosis was - it's little understood today, but it was even more mysterious then.
J.K. ROWLING: Definitely worse then. I mean, the outlook these days, thankfully, I think is much better. There are drugs available, people understand the process and the progress of the disease much better, so there are certainly therapies available now that weren't there when my mother was diagnosed at all.
There was no drug therapy whatsoever. And she was very unlucky. She was one of the relatively - you know, the smaller number of people who had primary progressive MS and she went downhill very, very fast. She was very young. She had me at 20, so she was the youngest mother I knew. So from every conceivable angle it was shocking and horrible, horrifying actually, latterly, how quickly she became very, very ill. I had started Harry before she died, six months before she died, but, I don't mean this in a morbid sense. I think I've always been - always, before my mother died - death, mortality has been a preoccupation of mine for a long time.
It's many people's preoccupation. After all, it's what faces all of us. After my mother died so shockingly young - she was only 45 - that bled into Harry at every level - the awareness of mortality, what death means, what it means to the people who are left behind, what it might mean to want to never die. So, yeah, it informed Harry Potter hugely. So although I think probably I would have written the books, I don't think they would be anything like they are. A central theme would probably have been missing or be treated much less seriously.
I did Harvard partly in the spirit of: if I can do this, I can do bloody anything. I used to be almost phobic about public speaking.
JENNIFER BYRNE: It was a brave thing to do to though, to go and to stand up at Harvard University and say, "I am an epic failure."
J.K. ROWLING: At Harvard, where they're all celebrating the brightest of the bright and say on this day that you are celebrating your almighty success. "Let's talk about failure." But I think it's relevant, you know. And I said in the - you cannot live without failing. You can't.
JENNIFER BYRNE: You are very much fated for inducting a whole generation into reading, or boosting it. There's a lovely quote from Christopher Hitchens where he says that for decades there will be a million adults who remember their initiation to reading as a little touch of Harry in the night, and it's true.
J.K. ROWLING: There could be nothing better than to hear that someone came to books through Harry. And I found that when - in the time when I was still in the middle of the series, particularly boys, parents were often delighted that their sons had found things that they - something that they wanted to read, because for whatever reason - we can discuss that, that's a whole separate program - boys have found it - reading harder.
I know that as a teacher. Or less enjoyable - not necessarily harder, but they've come to it less naturally than girls normally. So that was a great feeling: to have boys come up to me and say how much they loved the books, and often to have mothers prodding them: "Go tell her! Go tell her how much you liked it!"
JENNIFER BYRNE: I was going to ask whether it's been hard to keep a grip on reality through all the massive success and the changes you've been through, but it sounds to me like you've kept a pretty good grip.
J.K. ROWLING: Well, this may sound utterly bizarre. I often think the benchmark is: do you still go to the post office yourself?
JENNIFER BYRNE: And do you, J.K. Rowling?
J.K. ROWLING: Yeah. Yeah, definitely I go to the post office myself. I like cooking, I like doing stuff with my kids. I have charities I'm involved with now. I love to read, obviously. We can afford to take great holidays now. Love travelling and always have, so that's just a gift to be able to do that. But day-to-day it's a pretty ...
JENNIFER BYRNE: You're a mum.
J.K. ROWLING: Yeah, exactly. I'm at home with the family, which is really what I like doing.