Transcript of National Press Club author's luncheon, NPR Radio, October 20, 1999

Transcript courtesy of Hogwarts Library; Transcribed by Loriba; special thanks to Earwax and Troels Forchhammer for proofreading.

Audio: Quick Quotes Quill [RealAudio 27:01 min.]

Numbers in curly brackets are the time in minutes:seconds of the original interview as it is available on audio.

1. Part 1. {00:00}
2. Part 2. {13:20}
3. Part 3. {19:26}
4. Part 4. {23:26}

Part 1 {00:00}

Sean Bullard (Bowler?): Hello everyone! May I have your attention for a moment please? Hi, I'm Sean Bullard. I am chairman of the book and author committee here at the National Press Club. I wanna thank everyone for coming out today, er ... it's greatly appreciated. I see that there are a lot of kids here, out in the balcony, playing hookie today , and er ... if you need a, er, an explanation for your teacher; Larry Lipman, the president of the Press Club, is a very good writer .

Following custom, I will introduce our guest. She will then offer us some magical insight into her new book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And then I would like to encourage those of you who have questions to point ... print them on the index cards provided at each table and then pass them forward. Following questions, I will wrap up the event promptly, so that our guest has time to sign books ... and I believe also to catch a plane. Um ... please, please, please, um, be respective of this fact. Um ... we are going to allow, um ... one signed book per person at the very beginning and if there's time allowed, we will then um, sign additional books; but please ... er, she needs to be out of here, um, by two o'clock today. And finally, I would like to remind you of next week's book and author rap at the National Press Club: on the evening of October the 26th the Book and Author Committee will present 'The New, New Thing: the Silicon Valley Story' by Michael Lewis.

A while ago, I read in the New York Times that Harry Potter was destined for greatness. Forgive me for my ignorance but, um, earlier this year I had no idea who Harry Potter was. Um, my wife and I had twins about 5 months ago, um ... I did know one thing: JK Rowling and her young wizard with the lightening bolt scar was taking America by storm. Whether on the train to work, in the bookstore, or on the phone with my 12 year old nephew, everyone was raving about this bespeckled [sic] kid named Harry Potter. I kid you not, recently a complete stranger on the train begged me to take his business card and get it signed by our guest so that he could give it to his son, and I do have it in my pocket and it is signed . So that PR executive from New Jersey will have it in the mail in the next couple of days .

It's only appropriate that as if by magic, Harry Potter seems to have appeared out of nowhere. It is as if one day we were without the centuries-old Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the next America couldn't imagine life without Harry Potter. And as if having over 5 million books in circulation isn't enough, and both kids and adults clambering for her books, our guest has captured the triple crown of publishing. Harry Potter and the Sourcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and today's book, have rocketed to the top three best-seller slots in recent weeks. In short, Harry Potters' hocus-pocus has catapulted our guest near legendary status. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, best-selling children's author, winner of rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, and creator of Harry Potter, JK Rowling!

J.K. Rowling {3.43}: Thank you very much. Thank you very much, it's really wonderful to be here. Um, I'm going to do a short reading for you and then take questions. [1] I like them best, I'm sorry, I know you're the people ... I like them best. I'm playing to the gallery today.

Um ... so a brief reading now ... I, I'm actually going to do a reading from the first book, Sorcerer's Stone, there's a very practical reason for this, I have a good short reading in this one and we really don't have that much time and I'd like to spend the time answering questions, I think that would be better. So, um, this is the moment when Harry buys his most important piece of equipment for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which is of course his wand, what else? This is what happens in the wand shop, um ... Harry had gone there with Hagrid, who is one of my favourite characters, you know the giant gamekeeper from the school? And he's about to meet Mr Olivander, the famed wand maker ...

"'Good Afternoon' said a soft voice ... " [reads from PS/SS Chapter 5 Diagon Alley]
" ... when its brother, why its brother gave you that scar."
*lets out gasp and closes book* [everyone laughs and applauds]

J.K. Rowling {9.40}: Okay. Right we're doing questions ...

Sean Bullard question01: Yes. You know, it sounds so much better when you're reading it. The first question ... "did you write the book for children or adults"?

J.K. Rowling: Um ... I wrote it for me. Er ... so both. Because ... er ... I wrote something that I knew I would like to read now, but I also wrote something that I knew I would have liked to have read aged 10. So I, I never really wrote with um, with anyone in mind. I ... I ... I still don't write with an imaginary focus group in mind. I have been asked time without number 'why are the books so popular?', and the tru ... I, and ... I don't want to analyse that. I ... I don't want to decide that there's a formula; I really don't want to look at that too closely, 'cos I want to carry on writing them the way I want to write them and not um, you know, start trying to put ingredient X in there. It's for other people to decide that, not me I think.

Sean Bullardquestion02 {10.50}: Several have asked: "How did you come up with Quidditch?"

J.K. Rowling: Oh Quidditch ... the irony of me inventing a sport! I managed to break my arm playing netball, which as you know is *not* a famous contact sport. Um ... I decided that if the wizards had this whole secret society thing going on ... I was thinking of things that unified society, and I decided that one thing would have to be a sport, and that would be an opportunity for the wizards to meet in secret, and all, you know, congregate together, and it would just be too difficult for them to congregate and watch baseball or something. We'd notice! They'd get upset. They'd fire their wands off and stuff in the crowd. That wouldn't work so they'd have to have their own sport. So I had a lot of fun making up the rules of Quidditch. It's a violent and dangerous game and I'd be appalling at it, but it's fun to think about.

Sean Bullardquestion03 {11.42}: "When did you start writing the books?"

J.K. Rowling: Um ... I star- ... I had the idea for Harry in 1990, so I've now been writing about him for 9 years, and by the time I've finished the 7 books I'll have been writing about him for 13 years. So ... and that will ... it's going to feel like a bereavement, I know that already. When I write the end, on [sic] book 7, it's going to be a really ... I'm going to be heartbroken, but ... um ... that's what I planned and that's what I'm going to do. So ...

Sean Bullardquestion04: "Where do you get the inspiration?"

J.K. Rowling: Well if I knew I'd go and live there! But I have no idea and I get asked that a lot, and I ... sometimes I have to say 'where do you get your ideas from?', and it's real ... re ... re ... the problem with turning it around like that is, sometimes people know. So that one doesn't work. You think you're being really clever doing that ... "well ... here's what inspires" ... oh no! So er, in truth, most of the ideas just come. Um ... some of, I have to work hard for some of them.
Normally it's a process of kinda twisted logic. Ideas like Platform 9 3/4 ... I wanted it to be a secret place in a real station and if you follow that thought through you, you think 'hidden platform', and if you follow that thought through it's gotta be between two real platforms and you end up with a fraction. And I picked 9 3/4 because it sounded like a, you know, cool number. That's ... so, you know, sometimes I remember the thought process I followed to get somewhere, but other things just do, just 'pop up'. (13.20)

Part 2 {13:20}

Sean Bullardquestion05: Several have asked about the movie ...

J.K. Rowling: Er ... right ... the positio ... the, the, where we are on the movie is: um ... the script is nearly finished, um ... director should be chosen by the end of the year; the film should be ready ... summer of 2001, they're telling me. So ... um ... I can't wait to see Quidditch ... that's the bit I'm really, really looking forward to seeing. I told them that. They grinned nervously.

Sean Bullardquestion06 {13.55}: Can you imagine Harry ever growing up?

J.K. Rowling: Um ... eerrrrrrr ... always ... I, you see I have this ... see, for five years I was writing about Harry and I never spoke about it to anyone except my sister. I told her the story of the first book, but she never read it. So all this stuff's going on in my head, so it's, it's, it's such an incredible thing for me now to be somewhere like this and for people to be interested in talking about it because I didn't have that opportunity at all for 5 or 6 years. But the frustrating thing is, I can't tell you ... stuff because it will ruin the rest of the books. So I'm going to have to pass on that question because I do know exactly what's going to happen to Harry in book 7, but I'm not going to tell you.

Sean Bullardquestion07 {14.37}: This one is obviously from one of our guests in the peanut gallery there because it's 'X'd out' words and letters but it says "Have you written your next book? What happens next? Please tell me."

J.K. Rowling: I think you should be very offended by that 'peanut gallery' remark ... frankly. Um ... my ... book 4 is, I'm going to be finishing when I get home. It's ... er ... it's not too far off completion, and I do know what happens, and I'm not going to tell you that either. Um ... er ... I'm trying to think of something I can ... er, you see the Quidditch world cup in book 4, which is er, Ireland versus Bulgaria ... which I like. England got knocked out by Transylvania ... ... which is a bit upsetting. Um, I actually said this in Scotland, this boy put up his hand and said 'what happened to Scotland?' and I said well you were slaughtered by Luxembourg, and he wasn't happy. . They take it really seriousl ... 'but Luxenbourg are rubbish!' How do you know what they're like at Quidditch? .

Um ... yes ... you ... you ... see ... see that, but ... um ... if you saw on the Internet, because evil wizards have infiltrated the Internet and have put on there that the title of book 4 is Harry Potter and the Quidditch World Cup, and that's not true. They're just messing with your mind! It's not true at all, but I'm not gonna tell you the title because I'm a bit superstitious about that; I like to keep it a secret until the book's finished.

Sean Bullardquestion08 {16.06}: One of our teachers has asked "My students are I wonder if there is any significance to you signing your books with just your initials?"

J.K. Rowling: Er ... yeah ... this is a funny one. That wasn't my choice. When I finished my ... er ... .my copy of the manuscript, I put Joanne Rowling on there, that being my name an' all. An' ... er ... then my publisher ... my British publisher phoned me up, er two months before the first book was published and said "We'd like you to use your initials.", and I said, and to be frank I would let them call me Enid Snodgrass if they published the book, so I really wasn't that bothered with it. My gratitude was such that ... so I said 'okay, fine, but why?', and they sai ... .first of all they said "we think it looks more striking", and I said 'why? really?', and they said "well, we think boys will like this book but we're not sure that they'd pick it up if they think a woman wrote it". Hahhhhhh ... mmmmmmm ... and the funny thing is that it was a completely pointless thing to do because two months after the book was published I was on national television; and I wasn't wearing a false beard or anything . So *everyone* now knows that I'm a wo ... well, everyone that I kno ... I've met ... no-one has gone 'where is he?' I mean, and no-one seems remotely bothered, which I think is really encouraging. So that's why ... it was my British publisher ... so write and yell at them, not me.

Sean Bullardquestion09 {17.29}: One of our young visitors asks "Do you have any imaginary friends and who are they?"

J.K. Rowling: Well you know them! This is ... they're in here! That's who they are! Um ... I did have imaginary friends when I was younger, I think a lot of children do. I had a very ... er ... vivid fantasy life, I think, when I was a child, which is not uncommon. It's a bit, er, worrying that maybe I didn't outgrow it better, but um, yeah I think I always will have. No I don't have imaginary friends now in the sense that I'm pretending someone called Peewee is standing next to me. No, no I don't.

Sean Bullardquestion10 {18.06}: "What advice would you give to young people who have an interest in writing? And also to their parents?"

J.K. Rowling: Um ... I often get asked by, by, by, um ... younger readers what I would advise, I would give if you want to be a writer. This is the way I did it, so that's the only advice I can give. You've got to read as much as you possibly can because that's the best way to recognise good writing and to learn what makes bad writing, and those are very good things. You probably go through a phase where you imitate your favourite writers. That's perfectly okay, that's another learning process. You resign yourself to writing lots and lots of rubbish. You've just got to write that out of your system and sooner or later you'll hit your, what, what, you know, you really should be doing and what is your genre. Annndddd ... .perseverance, you've got to persevere, because it is er, it's a, a career with a lot of knock-backs but the rewards are huge. I don't mean ... In the sense that if it's what you really want to do ... To be able to do it, life-long, is the best thing in the world. Very rewarding, but it's not a career for people who are easily discouraged that's for sure. And for their parents ... um ... don't tell them it's unrealistic. Never, never say that, because even if they're not published, writing ... well, writing is the passion of my life, so it's an important thing to do. (19.26)

Part 3 {19:26}

Sean Bullard: You probably should read this one because they're asking how to pronounce one of Harry's friends' name ...

J.K. Rowlingquestion11: This is the question I get asked more than any other and I'm starting to wish I'd called her Jane! "What is the girl who is Harry ... who is Harry's friend's name?". Her — my- o-nee, Her-my- o-nee!. Hermoyne is really common, I hear that a lot, but my favourite one's still Her-me-won! And the wicked part of me, when I heard Her-me-won, wanted to say "that's exactly right! Well done!" But then, I thought that was too cruel because one of these kids would grow up and name their child Her-me-won! So, we didn't want that. So, it's Her — my- o-nee!

Sean Bullardquestion12: The next one is: "How did you come up with her name?"

J.K. Rowling: Um ... it just seemed to suit her somehow. It's a name from Shakespeare. It's in 'A Winter's Tale'. Um ... although my Hermione bears very little relation to *that* Hermione, but it just seemed the sort of name that a pair of professional dentists, who liked to prove how clever they were ... do you know what I mean ... gave their daughter a nice, unusual name that no-one could pronounce! I mean, parents do that! Um ... and I ... and I did want in, in truth, I wanted quite an unusual name for her because I think there are quite a lot of girls like Hermione, I was a girl like Hermione, and I, it crossed my mind as I was writing that without ever, knowing that I was ever going to be published, that if I ever was published I didn't want to give her a common name, you know, just in case somewhere out there, there was a Jane with big front teeth who was really swotty and annoying. Just thought, just thought that might not be a good idea.

Sean Bullardquestion13 {21.09}: "Why is a Higgograf [sic] a half eagle and a half horse?"

J.K. Rowling: Why is a Hippogriff a half eagle and a half horse? Um ... I didn't invent the Hippogriff. The er, mediaeval European people genuinely believed they existed. We won't go into the reasons that might be, but ... um ... it's a mythical creature. It's an unusual mythical creature, it's not as famous as a unicorn or a, or a griffin. So ... um ... I don't really know, you'd have to ask the mediaeval monks who did those beautiful illuminations and they drew them on there. Um ... I, I'm very fond of my Hippogriffs. I like Buckbeak. If you've read book 3 you'll know who that is, if you haven't then that will be gobbledegook to you, so sorry.

Sean Bullardquestion14 {21.50}: Several people have asked "Are you stopping at seven?".

J.K. Rowling: Um, at the moment I, I, I definitely think I'm going to stop at seven, and as I say, that will be really heartbreaking. Um, the only reason you'll ever see an eighth Harry Potter book is if I really, in ten years time, burn to do another one, but at the moment I think that's unlikely. But I try never to say 'never anything', because at the moment if I say 'I will never', I do it next month! So I just, I, but I think not. I just think we're gonna stop at seven.

Sean Bullardquestion15: "How many points does Quidditch have? How many is it played up to?" Someone's obviously keeping score.

J.K. Rowling: Oh I see, now I understand. Okay ... you ... infinity! You can go on forever, because, it, it, it said it book one, the longest ever match went on for about 3 months, continuously. So that was a lot of points. So you, you, you, you never stop at a certain amount of points. The only thing that can stop a Quidditch match is the Golden Snitch being caught and if no-one catches the Snitch, you can keep playing for years. 'Well she seemed alright, but she was quite sadistic'.

J.K. Rowlingquestion16 (22.59): "Did Voldemort go to school with Lily and James?" Lily and James being Harry's parents. Er ... no. Voldemort is quite a bit older than them. He was at school with Hagrid. Hagrid is qui ... Hagrid doesn't seem that old, but he's in fact in his sixties. But he's just, you know, he's a strong man, so he doesn't seem that old. So Voldemort's around, that, that, that kind of age. (23.26)

Part 4 {23:26}

Sean Bullardquestion17: "What other books would you recommend for a nine-year old?"

J.K. Rowling: Um ... oh, loads of books, er ... anything by Phillip Pullman, of modern writers. There's the book called 'Skellig', by an English author, David Almond, which I think is absolutely magnificent. Um ... stuff that I enjoyed when I was a child, I loved E. Nesbitt. I ... she ... I'd really like to see a come-back of E Nesbit's books, I think she is a genius. Um ... what else, Paul Galico, he's, he's out of print a lot now and I, I really loved his work too. Any of those people.

Sean Bullardquestion18: "Why, in the first book, does Harry's lightening scar flash, when, or when he gets his lightening scar flash ... um when Snap* [sic], looks at him ..."

J.K. Rowling: *Snape!
Okay, now this is ... um ...

Sean Bullard: Snape! I have a problem as well.

J.K. Rowling: He's sleep-deprived, he's got five month old twins!
Um ... argh ... if anyone hasn't finished reading book one will they please put their fingers really tightly in their ears now, if they don't want the ending ruined. Really tightly now, this is a question about the ending.
Um ... sni ... *Quirrel* has the back of his head to Harry at the point when Harry looked at Snape, so someone else was looking at Harry through a certain turban. See what I mean? If you've read it you understand. If you haven't read it, you're going 'what?' But that's okay.

Sean Bullardquestion19 {24.56}: We're going to take a few more questions and um, the next one is: "Will Harry ever turn into a *shape-changer* like his father?"

J.K. Rowling: No, Harry's not in training to be an animagus. If you ... unless you've read book 3, you won't know ... that's a wizard that ... it's very, very difficult to do. They, they ... learn to turn themselves into animals. No, Harry is not ... Harry's energies are going to be concentrated elsewhere and he's not going to have time to do that. He's got quite a full agenda coming up, poor, poor boy.

Sean Bullardquestion20 {25.24}: Very good. One more question, "Are we going to learn more about Harry's mom in the next book?"

J.K. Rowling: Um ... this is one of those questions, see some of the best questions I get are about, people have clearly read the books so well and they're sensing that there's more to be told about certain people but I can't ever answer them very fully because I will end up giving things away. There is something very important about Harry's mother that he hasn't yet discovered but he's not going to find it out in the next book. It's too important for book four, he finds it out later in the series. That was interesting.

Sean Bullardquestion21 {25.58}: I'm going to ask one more. There were a lot of groans when I said we were going to wrap it up, so one more; "What happened to Harry's grandparents?"

J.K. Rowling: Um ... various interesting things, but again, I'm not gonna share. Sorry, but that's okay because we have time for another question because I didn't answer that one!

Sean Bullard: Okay, that's a good excuse to write more books ... ?

J.K. Rowling: True!

Sean Bullard: Um, is there anything that you'd wanna add?

J.K. Rowling: No, I'll take one more question because they didn't really get an answer to that.

Sean Bullard: Very good.

J.K. Rowlingquestion22: Nah ... don't like that one.[2] Oh I like this one: "Do Harry and Hermione have a date?"
No! They're, they're very platonic friends. But I won't answer for anyone else, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Sean Bullard: Very good. We want to thank our guest.

J.K. Rowling: Thank you very much, thank you.

©1999 National Press Club

[1] I think they've actually cut a bit out here.
[2] J.K. Rowling is looking over the questions herself here.

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