Osmond, Donny & Marie. Interview of J.K. Rowling, Donny & Marie Show (ABC), November 1999
Transcript courtesy of Laurel Carmer.
Donny: Welcome back.
Marie: It's so amazing. Our next guest is a publishing phenomenon. Now she has brought a new magic to children's literature, but she is read by everyone from eight-year-olds to 80. It's a story about a young wizard named Harry Potter, and she's making publishing history as all three of her books are currently at the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list. This is the newest one of her books, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, would you please welcome the author, JK Rowling!
Jo comes out, much applause.
Marie: It's such a pleasure to meet you.
Donny: Nice to have you on the show.
Jo: Thank you.
Donny: First of all, can I call you Joanne?
Jo: Jo, call me Jo.
Donny: Why do you call yourself JK Rowling, instead of Jo?
Jo: That was my British publishers. They called me two months before publication and said would I mind if they used my initials? 'Cause they felt that boys would like the book, but boys might not want to read a book written by a girl.
Marie: How did that make you feel?
Jo: Well, to be honest with you, I was so grateful they were publishing my book that they could have called me Enid Snodgrass. So I was like, "You can call me what you like," but it completely was blown out of the water, that strategy, by the fact that two months after the book was published I was on television, 'cause the book started to do very well, and then all the boys knew I was a girl, and it didn't seem to matter at all.
Marie: They just liked the story.
Donny: You're a publishing phenomenon, as Marie said in the intro, and man, you're a publisher's dream.
Jo, laughing: My editor's here somewhere. Am I your dream, Arthur? There he is!
Donny: You're a woman that was on welfare, and now you're at the top of the New York Times Best Seller's List, number one, number two, and number three -- how does that feel?
Jo: I'm still in shock.
Marie: Are you in shock?
Jo: Yeah, 'cause when I hear you say it, then I think wow, yeah, but most of the time I don't think I take it in because my wildest fantasy was that the book would be published -- and that's where my fantasy stopped. I just fantasized about going into a book shop and seeing it on a shelf. So everything that's happened has been -- unexpected -- to say the least.
Donny: Very surreal almost?
Jo: Very surreal.
Marie: You say you were on welfare. Did you write these books when you were on welfare?
Jo: For part of the time -- it took me five years to finish the first book -- four of those years I was working full time. One of those years -- I was, for nine months, a single mother on welfare. Then I started working again.
Marie: Did you just come up with all of these -- I mean, you know how it's going to continue?
Jo: Yeah, during those five years I plotted all seven books, there are going to be seven Harry books in total. And I've written the final chapter of book seven, so I know exactly where I'm going.
Donny: They're all written?
Jo: They're not all written, they're all plotted. And I have the last chapter set aside.
Marie: Tell us about Harry Potter, who is he exactly?
Jo: Okay, so he's this boy of eleven when the book starts, and he's magic but doesn't know it, he's a wizard but doesn't know it, he finds out on his eleventh birthday. That's what's odd about him, that's why he's been able to make all this strange stuff happen all his life, and then he goes off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and that's where the good stuff starts happening.
Donny: What kind of good stuff?
Jo: Just wild stuff. This is a castle full of ghosts and pictures that move and talk, and just some very adventurous and exciting and scary things.
Marie: Were you always creative as a child?
Jo: All I've ever wanted to do was be a writer, since the age of six.
Marie: So why do you think people are so in love with Harry?
Jo: It's really difficult for me to answer that. I think you need to ask them. Because I write these books entirely for me. This is like my little private world, and I wrote them for me, I never had any audience in mind. And I really don't want to analyze it too much because I think if I decide, oh, that's the formula, then I might start trying to put a bit more "factor X" in the next book, and I just want to keep doing it the way I'm doing it.
Donny: It won't be as organic.
Jo: No, exactly.
Donny: Are you surprised at all the success, Jo?
Jo: Yep. (laughs) Yeah, of course I am, because this is something I never planned for, I never expected to be on the Donny and Marie show. (everyone laughs)
Marie: That's so cute. Did you like Donny when you were younger?
Jo: Well, I did want to tell you that we were actually engaged, though you never knew that. (everyone laughs)
Donny: We were engaged? Is that going to be in a future Harry Potter book?
Jo: Yeah, this rude and bitter woman is going to confront you with breach of promise.
Donny: With wizardry and sorcery...
Jo: Yeah, you wanna watch out.
Donny: That brings up an interesting point, with the wizardry and sorcery and the witches and goblins and all that stuff. This book has caused a lot of controversy with a lot of parents --
Jo: Some parents.
Donny: -- and they say, "We don't want our children reading these kinds of things." How do you react to that?
Jo: Well, for me that's a censorship issue, and I don't like censorship. And my answer is, you have a perfect right, of course, as every parent does, and I'm a parent, to decide what your child is exposed to. You do not have the right to decide what everyone else's children are exposed to. So that's how I feel about it.
Donny: That's great. (audience applauds) Because I was reading the Los Angeles Times, the Mike Downy article, and I don't know if you've read this, but he says, "I was just beginning to appreciate this Harry Potter phenomenon when I read that certain parents don't want children reading books about witchcraft and wizardry. It goes on to say -- "
Marie: What about the Wizard of Oz?
Donny: Yeah, he said, "then we're going to have to throw out the Wizard of Oz, the seven dwarves, things like The Hobbit --"
Jo: They're going to have to get rid of an awful lot of children's classics.
Marie: Is there a dark side to these books?
Jo: There is -- but there's -- they are basically as most fantasies are about the battle between good and evil. And I make it perfectly clear to every child I've met, and indeed to every adult I've met, who's side I'm on. So yes, I am showing the darker side, but it's a battle.
Donny: You mention children and their opinions. We're going to do something very interesting. We have some kids who are just dying to talk to you about this, about this whole Harry Potter phenomenon.
Donny: So when we come back we'll have more with Jo, or JK Rowling, and some of her youngest fans right after this, so don't go away.
Donny: We are back, with Harry Potter author JK Rowling, and we have here Mrs. Borkis' 4th Grade class from Will Rogers Elementary School here in Los Angeles. Hello, kids!
Donny: How you doing?
Marie: Doesn't it feel good to be out of school?
Donny: Have you guys read the Harry Potter books?
Donny: Do you love 'em?
Donny: Okay, who's your favorite character?
Donny (to Jo) Now, who is Ron?
Jo: Ron is Harry's best friend.
Donny: What about you?
Girl: Harry Potter.
Donny: Harry Potter, of course.
Donny: I was reading it last night, Jo, I started volume three, and I couldn't put it down. Who is your favorite character?
Jo: Harry, Ron and Hermione, the three central children. But I'm also very, very fond of Hagrid. Do you like Hagrid?
Jo: Hagrid's the gamekeeper at school, he's part giant, and I like him a lot.
Donny: Do you guys have questions?
Boy: When's (or what's) the fourth book going to be?
Marie: What's the fourth book going to be? Only a mommy could understand that.
Jo: (to Marie): Yeah, that was good.
Marie (to boy): You're so cute!
Jo: He is very cute. Umm... I don't want to give too much away.
Donny: Can you give just the title of the book?
Jo: NO! No, I'm very superstitious about giving out titles. On the internet at the moment is says it's called Harry Potter and the Quidditch World Cup. That's not true. That's a lie spread by evil wizards. But you do see the Quidditch World Cup in book four, so that's quite an important part of it.
Boy: What's the seventh book going to be about?
Jo: The seventh book? I can't tell you that! I've got seven books here, I can't mess them all up by telling you the ending!
Donny: Can I ask you how old Harry is going to be?
Jo: Yeah, he'll be 17. In book seven he turns 17, so he comes of age and then he's allowed to use magic outside the school.
Girl: How did you think of the characters names?
Jo: I like unusual names. You've got to be very careful about telling me your name if you have an unusual name, 'cause you might turn up in book six.
Marie (to girl) What's your name?
Jo: Nice name.
Donny: I've got a very interesting alias name.
Jo: Which would be what?
Donny: Grundune Fartquart. (laughter)
Marie: I wonder if he wears purple socks?
Donny: Do you think Grundune could show up?
Jo (who is laughing): That could work, yeah, that could work.
Jo: I collect unusual names, generally.
Donny: Do we have time for one more question?
Girl: How did Here-me-own-ee get into Hogwarts if she was Muggle born?
Jo: Okay, so Hermione is one of Harry's two best friends, and her parents are normal and normal people -- non-magic people are called Muggles in the book as you all know -- and because magic can just happen, you don't have to have a witch or a wizard as a parent, it can just come out of nowhere, like a genetic abnormality.
Donny: See, this is so exciting, I can hardly wait to finish volumne three.
Marie: Now, let me ask you a question, too. You talk about this controversy, it's almost, kind of like Star Wars isn't it, with the dark side and the light side?
Jo: There are parellels, yes.
Donny: Will there be a movie, quickly, before we go to commercial?
Jo: Yes, Warner Brothers...
Marie: Now, the rumor is, who's going to direct it?
Jo: Oh, I don't know, I genuinely don't know -- there are people --
Donny and Marie both: Steven Spielberg, that's the rumor.
Jo: I heard that rumor, too.
Donny: Okay, JK Rowling, the book's called Harry Potter and ... the new one's called the Prince of Oz or Az?
Jo: Prisoner of Azkaban.
Donny: Prisoner of Azkaban.
Marie: Now, just so you guys know, she is going to be giving all of you a signed book.
Donny: That's great!
Marie: That's for being here today, and I think it is fantastic that Jo is doing all that for you guys.
Donny: It's from Scholastic Books, is that right?
Marie: Jo and Scholastic Books are going to do that. Jo, thank you so much for being here.
Jo: Thank you very much.
Donny: And guys, thank you very much, and tell your teacher thanks for letting you out of school. We will be right back after this, don't go away.
Original page date 2 June 2007; last updated 2 June 2007.