Editor: The author visit described here probably happened in October during Jo's vist to the Boston area. For the full transcript of this event, see "The Magical World of J.K. Rowling." Many thanks to AQ staffer Jules who was able to discover the connection between this interview and the video.
Standing Room Only
She was due any minute. The cluster of kids outside the main school entrance bobbed in anticipation, their Harry Potter books clutched tightly. Dotting the crowd were a handful of police officers. They were brought in as a precaution amidst rumors of a parental protest in this affluent Boston suburb over a lack of tickets.
Inside, moments later, the capacity crowd was ready. One of a dozen handlers from the publishing company stepped forth to announce "the rules" for book signings by J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter series. Two books only for signing, no personalization of autographs, and no questions.
"There won't be time to talk to her, to tell her all the things you want to tell her," a woman at the podium warned gently, as some young fans groaned.
But then, there she was, walking on stage as flashbulbs popped and cheers went up. The author of what is likely the most sensational children's book series in publishing history leaned against the podium chewing gum, fashionably dressed in a long charcoal gray blazer and knee-high black boots with stacked heels.
J.K. Rowling on the Record
As she stepped up to the podium, the creator of Harry Potter said with a touch of regret, "I'm afraid we haven't got a lot of time today. So what if you ask me questions, and I answer them? All right, then?" Rowling then fielded the following questions:
Q: How many words in the first Harry Potter book?
A: Eighty six thousand, nine hundred and something. See, I DO know! It wasn't a bad question; it was a perfectly good one!
Q: How many Harry Potter books will there be?
A: There will be seven in total. Oh, you look happy to hear that. I'm so glad! Harry will come of age at 17 in the final book.
Q: What are you going to call the fourth book?
A: If you've been on the Internet and seen that it's called Harry Potter and the Quidditch World Cup, that's a lie. But I don't want to give it away.
Q: Why did you sell the movie rights?
A: The reason I sold it to Warner is that they've given me quite a lot of input, and the way they're talking about doing it now, it'll be a really good film. I am, of course, still nervous they're going to make my characters do things I don't want them to do.
Q: Who's your favorite character besides Harry Potter?
A: It's very hard to choose. It's fun to write about Snape because he's a deeply horrible person. Hagrid is someone I'd love to meet.
Q: How do you come up with names?
A: Some I make up. Some mean something. Dumbledore is olde English for bumblebee. I thought I made up Hogwarts, but recently a friend said, 'Remember we saw lilies in Kew gardens (a garden in London.)' Apparently there are lilies there called Hogwarts. I'd forgotten!
Q: Will there be a Harry Potter TV show?
A: No, that's just a rumor. At the moment there's only going to be a film. I've had some very weird offers. A margarine company wanted to put Harry on its margarine if you can believe it.
Harry Potter's Fans and Foes
"I think it's just as exciting as meeting Pedro Martinez, and I'm a baseball fan!" said 11 year-old Zach, immediately following his close encounter with J.K. Rowling. 10 year-old Olivia was equally thrilled.
"She blew a kiss at me," she beamed.
"This beats Pokémon any day," said one mother of two.
But in several Southern states, the tales of wizardry that have captivated kids have alarmed some parents. In South Carolina, the State Board of Education has been asked to review whether Potter books belong in the classroom.
"The books have a serious tone of death, hate and lack of respect," one parent told the board.
In Marietta, Georgia, an elementary school principal has removed the Potter series from a fifth grade classroom, questioning their appropriateness. But elsewhere, the majority of parents seemed delighted to find their children hooked to a book in the age of Nintendo.
"This is a kid's phenomenon," said Gladys, mother of two avid Potter fans. "That matters, because it shows that when left to their own devices, children chose a piece of literature that embodies great values!"