Original page date 21 September 2006; last updated 10 February, 2007.
JK Rowling Chat, AOL Live, May 4, 2000
Big thanks to Analía who found this chat and sent it to us!
JK Rowling, the creator of the literary phenomenon, hooked up with AOL Live from Edinburgh. AOL members literally bombarded her with juicy questions. Here are a few, and Jo's answers...
UKMCLive: Good evening everyone and
welcome to AOL Live. This evening the UK's best-selling author of 1999,
J K Rowling, drops in to talk about her magical creation of Harry Potter.
To ask Joanne a question, please click on Send in a question. Many of you
have sent in questions in advance and we will try to include as many as
possible in the event.
J K Rowling needs little introduction with a glut of prizes other writers would kill for, a Harry Potter feature film in the pipeline and a fourth Harry Potter title due to take the world by storm this summer. In short, Joanne Kathleen Rowling is the hottest name in the literary world. And so, without further ...
JKR Live: Here I am
UKMCLive: Hello Joanne and a huge welcome to AOL Live. Before we take a look at the first of many, many questions, would you like say a few words?
JKR Live: Erm.... nitwick, oddment, blubber & tweak, for example? That's an in-Harry Potter joke by the way
UKMCLive: Our first question/s come from LLevey6890,LAUFRE, Oundjian, DavisPeterWDavis, GA576, MJCINHH, JSEAST217571113, Caz2432, SPLODGE124, HBairu (and many more!) ask where did you get your inspiration and ideas for the Harry Potter Books?
JKR Live: Aaaaaaaaargh...... the most difficult question because the honest & boring answer is, I don't know. I've got no idea where inspiration comes from it just does. In this case, it came on a train, if that's any help.
UKMCLive: JWAOLLJazz would like to know...How long, from start to finish, did it take you to develop your characters and produce the finished product?
JKR Live: Between having the idea for the books and finishing the first book was five years but that included the plotting of the whole seven book series and the invention of the magical world - or my magical world also, I was working full-time mostly as a teacher at the same time, so limited writing time!
UKMCLive: MeglHopkins asks...Why did you focus on magic?
JKR Live: It chose me. I never really sat down & thought 'what shall I focus on' and in fact, I don't really read fantasy it's not my favourite genre.
UKMCLive: LAYZAR would like to know (and we will come back to this) ...Your first Harry Potter book will be made into a movie, how much control will you have over how Harry is portrayed?
JKR Live: Warner Bros. are giving me a great deal of input :o) in fact I've just come back from LA.
UKMCLive: Dizzy1287 asks..Did you model any of your characters after people you know?
JKR Live: Hmmmm..... on thin ice here.... Ron is a lot like my oldest friend, a boy I was at school with (now man, obviously) that's Sean Harris, to whom Chamber of Secrets is dedicated. Gilderoy Lockhart had his roots in a real person too but I'll say no more there and Hermione is a kind of caricature of me when I was younger.
UKMCLive: RMT711 would like to say...Thank you for allowing me to enter in a child's world of make believe. I thought that was a side of me long gone. Did you realize that stories would touch as many adults as it has?
JKR Live: I didn't expect it...I didn't really expect anything. I looked as far as publication & no further, but I wrote the books for me and I was 30 when Philosopher's Stone was published so I wasn't shocked that adults liked them.
UKMCLive: ShaeDC2000 asks (as we all do)...what is your next book called?
JKR Live: Aaaaaaaaah, the BIG question, and you know what...
UKMCLive: Come on - spill the beans :)
JKR Live: I'm not going to tell you, sorry. Nah, can't spill the beans, I like a mystery, as you might have guessed.
UKMCLive: Susan Paynter asks...What made you start writing?
JKR Live: I've wanted to be a writer since I was six years old. I couldn't think of any better way to make a living and truthfully, I think it's the only thing I'm any good at, so it's a relief I turned out not to be deluded.
UKMCLive: Tell us about 'Rabbit'
JKR Live: Hehehehehe. Rabbit was a rabbit who got the measles and was visited by his animal friends who I seem to remember were a bee, a pig and a fox. I'm negotiating the film rights now, not.
UKMCLive: Dizzy1287 would like to know...In the American books, Dean Thomas loves soccer. Is it talking about American soccer or football? I can't tell.
JKR Live: Football, naturally...is there an American soccer team called 'West Ham'?!
UKMCLive: Dudetgirl asks...Does all of this fame affect your home life?
JKR Live: In patches. The first time a journalist turned up on my doorstep was a horrible experience but it's been quiet for a while now (touch wood).
UKMCLive: PatandAnne would like to know about the film...Where can I audition for the Harry Potter film?? Who do I contact?
JKR Live: You contact Warner Bros, but I've got to warn you... you're in a long queue! Warners are really looking for British actors on the other hand, if you can do a really good British accent...
UKMCLive: We are still quizzing you on the fourth title and MegMcGonagall asks... Is it true that the title of the fourth book will be "Harry Potter and the Doomspell Tournament?"
JKR Live: Ooooooo, you're not really called MegMcGonagall?! No, it's not true. The book's working title was Doomspell Tournament but that is not the title of the finished book. Chamber of Secrets was called something different until I had almost finished, too.
UKMCLive: Oracles2 would like to say...Hi, I shamelessly love your books! How many Harry Potter books do you envision writing before the series ends, and how old will he and his friends get?
JKR Live: There will be seven books one for each of his years at Hogwarts and he'll turn seventeen at the start of book seven.
UKMCLive: Pophamp asks...I'm a big fan of Harry's adventures, and have just finished reading The Prisoner of Azkaban. Besides all the other Harry Potter books this is the best book I have read. Here's my question, do you believe in witches and wizards and magical happenings, which so often Harry finds himself getting stuck in the middle of?
JKR Live: I don't believe in magic in the way I describe it in my books. I mean, I don't believe in the wand waving sort of magic but I'd like to... I'd love it to be real...and the starting point for the whole of Harry's world is 'what if it WAS real?' and I work from there.
UKMCLive: InMizzour asks...Do you plan on writting more childrens books after the Harry Potter series?
JKR Live: I might write more children's books. I really don't know. I should say, however, that I do not feel I have to write my 'serious' adult book to be a 'proper' author! The idea comes first, not the target audience.
UKMCLive: BittzactBix asks...If you had one wish what would it be?
JKR Live: Let's see...I'd probably try & protect the health & happiness of everyone I love, but I wouldn't mind being able to drive (I can't) without having to learn or take the test.
UKMCLive: Just like Harry Potter :)
JKR Live: Lol
UKMCLive: SAOCIO asks...Is it true that Harry Potter will be made into a movie for the theaters?
JKR Live: Yes, it is true!
UKMCLive: MADKingLudwigll would like to know about the American promotion...Will you be doing a book signing tour in the US anytime soon?
JKR Live: I don't know whether I'll be signing next time I'm in the US things got a bit crazy last time...weight of numbers & too many people disappointed
UKMCLive: Elphaba99 asks...Do you feel that with the incredible success of the Harry Potter series thus far, that you will be able to end the series with just seven books?
JKR Live: Yep, definitely. I always said there would be seven if there's ever an eighth, it will be because ten years down the line I had a burning desire to do just one more, but I don't presently think that will happen, However, I think I might write a kind of Harry Potter Encyclopaedia & give the royalties to charity so ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES!
UKMCLive: Bitzatbrix also asked...Did any writers inspire you to write the books? If so who?
JKR Live: Well, I read a lot, but I can't think of anyone who directly influenced the Harry Potters perhaps Elizabeth Goudge she wrote 'The Little White Horse' which was my favourite book when I was about eight and which is also a blend of magic with the workaday.
UKMCLive: Asthmatics wants to know if your name is a secret...What do your initials J. K. stand for?
JKR Live: no, not a secret! Joanne Kathleen, but everyone calls me Jo except my bank manager, who calls me Joanna, for some reason.
UKMCLive: And asks further...Is Harry Potter anything like you?
JKR Live: A bit like me in some ways and better than me in a lot of ways. I identify with his close relationship with his friends. I would be lost without mine, but Hermione is probably closest to me as I was when younger.
UKMCLive: To go back to the books, VIKINGCMI asks... Do you think young people like your books because the stories are full of mysterious and inventive people and creatures, and/or is it the basic plot that is intriguing?
JKR Live: I know it sounds disingenuous, but I never analyse my books in that way I think if you go down that route, you are perilously close to trying to find the 'formula' and I don't think good books are written to a formula judging from their letters, I would say the primary attraction is the characters closely followed by plot.
UKMCLive: PuppyCKL is asking about pets... I have five jirds (large gerbils) and have named three of them after the characters Harry, Hermione and Hagrid in the Harry Potter books. Do you have any pets? If you do, are they named after any characters?
JKR Live: I am VERY flattered to think Harry, Hermione & Hagrid have gerbil namesakes. I have a very friendly guinea pig called Jasmine (not my fault, he was named when he came) and a mad and violent black rabbit called, very inappropriately, Jemima. I blame my daughter for that one. And I've got some great tropical fish.
UKMCLive: Gabstwin is digging deep...In a past interview, you said that the only way to show how evil it is to take a life is to kill someone the reader cares about.....does this mean someone will die in the 4th book?
JKR Live: Erm....well.....yes there are going to be deaths - sorry, sorry, sorry - and they start in book four. Sorry.
UKMCLive: Goldhook is looking to the future... Ms. Rowling, can you discuss the possiblity of a central character dying? AND as Harry mature's does a love interest develop between he and Hermonine? Thank you.
JKR Live: Well, as I said, there will be deaths, but I am giving nothing away there, as for Harry & Hermione... d'you really think they're suited?
UKMCLive: Beanie6426 asks... Why did you pick a "lightning bolt" to be the symbol on Harry's forehead?
JKR Live: It had to be something that suggested the intensity of the pain that Voldemort was trying to inflict upon him but a simple and plausible shape for a scar.
UKMCLive: PainfulBread asks... Hi, Joanne! :-) I was wondering after all the rumours about Ravenclaw's ghost being not there are true? Or has she/he not appeared yet?
JKR Live: PainfulBread... cool name. Actually, she has appeared, but you haven't noticed :o) She's The Grey Lady and she walked past Harry once. I'm not telling you where, find it yourselves!
UKMCLive: Going back to the Rabitt - Gabstwin would like to know... You have also talked about books you wrote when you were young, will we ever see those books in print? (Especially the one about seven cursed diamonds!)
JKR Live: God, Gabstwin, did I really talk about that?! No, you will definitely not be reading the novel about the 7 cursed diamonds. I wrote it when I was twelve and it lacks a certain something, like any believable characters or anything in terms of plot.
UKMCLive: Sezmesiter asks...Out of the three books that have been published, which is your...favourite?
JKR Live: It's a real cliche, but that is just like being asked to choose between your children. Philosopher's Stone will always be very dear to me it was the first thing I ever got published. I prefer Chamber of Secrets as a novel, though, and I love Professor Lupin, so I was looking forward to writing Azkaban for ages.
UKMCLive: Can we go back to the beginning, Jo, with a question from Garzooka90...Why did you want to make a Harry Potter book series?
JKR Live: Because I thought it would be incredible fun to write, and I was right.
UKMCLive: Beanie6425 asks...Do you ever go to elementary schools to visit?
JKR Live: I've done a lot of school visits but the last year has been so busy mainly with writing HP4 that I haven't done any. You see, Harry 4 is by far the longest book and I was working very long hours for months.
UKMCLive: And Kee229 wants to know...Did you enjoy writing at school?
JKR Live: I loved it. It was my favourite subject by far. My least favourite was metalwork. I was terrible
UKMCLive: Ado1998 asks...Are any of the characters based on family members or friends?
JKR Live: As I said earlier, Ron is a lot like my oldest friend, Sean and Firenze was inspired by another friend.
UKMCLive: LadyTorri2 touches on a previous question...what age were the books supposed to be geared for and I think you are a great inspiration
JKR Live: Thank you, LadyTorri2. My publishers in Britain said the books were appropriate for children of eight years and older.
UKMCLive: CarpW123 asks...Do you find that the words come rushing out onto the paper, or ...do you have to think hard?
JKR Live: Both! Sometimes the ideas come so fast I can't write fast enough. Other days I feel as though my brain is bleeding as I pore over the paper and produce nothing but doodles. There doesn't seem to be a happy medium.
UKMCLive: Beeleabc asks...Did you go to boarding school like Harry?
JKR Live: No, I didn't go to boarding school. I went to a comprehensive, which means a state school.
UKMCLive: Raw3Pete asks...I have read a few articles saying Christians object to the occultic themes weaved into your stories. I was just wondering, what are your spiritual beliefs?
JKR Live: Well, as it happens, I believe in God, but there's no pleasing some people!
UKMCLive: Dingo8mebb asks about the secretive HP4...Has the new book been released in the UK at this time, or is the release date the same as the US, July 8?
JKR Live: The US and UK publication date is the same: July 8th.
UKMCLive: Odette1213 is still digging... Will something happen to the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher again this year?
JKR Live: Dig away, Odette. Hmmm, well, a number of things happen to the DADA teacher, as you would expect :o)
UKMCLive: Kissa371 asks...Your Harry Potter books remind me of JRR Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings triology. (My niece is borrowing my Tolkien books to keep her busy until your next book.) Are you a Tolkien fan? Did his work influence the Harry Potter series?
JKR Live: Well, I love the Hobbit, but I think, if you set aside the fact that the books overlap in terms of dragons & wands & wizards, the Harry Potter books are very different, especially in tone. Tolkien created a whole mythology, I don't think anyone could claim that I have done that. On the other hand...he didn't have Dudley ;o)
UKMCLive: Sishygirl asks...where do you get your most inspiration in writing?
JKR Live: Let's see... cafes, usually but I can write anywhere. I came up with the names of the Hogwarts houses on an aeroplane. I've still got the sickbag I wrote them on. Empty, I need hardly add
UKMCLive: Kawnie2004 asked about your inspiriation, Jo...
JKR Live: Aaaaaaah, so she did. lol. I am suffering from severe lack of sleep here. Well, it goes back to... I don't know where inspiration comes from, I'm afraid!
UKMCLive: Our last question comes from RS33221100...Is it true that Harry Potter started out as a bed time story for your children?
JKR Live: Er... no! I started writing the Harry books four years before I had a child...and I've still only got one daughter!
UKMCLive: Thank you very much for joining us this evening, Joanne.
JKR Live: I've really enjoyed it
UKMCLive: Thank you to J K Rowling and to you all for your questions. We apologise if your question wasn't answered as we've simply run out of time. So, from J K Rowling and all of us at ...AOL Live, it is goodnight.
JKR Live: Sorry if I couldn't answer your question hope you all enjoy Harry Potter and the...still not telling ;o) Night