LONDON – With a record-breaking print run of over 5 million copies, the fourth installment in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, The Goblet of Fire, finally arrived on July 8. (Seven books are planned for the series.)
In an exclusive interview, Evan Solomon, the host of CBC Newsworld's Hot Type, recently talked to Joanne Kathleen Rowling about everything from the origins of Harry Potter to her life as a welfare mother to her views about censorship and God. Solomon spoke to Rowling during a cross-Britain book tour aboard a vintage train, the Hogwarts Express, which was nicknamed after the train in her books.
Moderator: Evan Solomon
EVAN: This is the legend: that it all came to you at once.
J.K. ROWLING: No, no, no, no, no. No, Harry came to me. Hogwarts came to me, not in its entirety but many of the characters did come in a kind of…rush.
E: Was it like an epiphany?
JK: It kind of was actually, yes, it really was. So, I had this four-hour train journey. It shouldn't have been four hours; it was delayed. And Harry was there. People like Nearly Headless Nick and Peaves, the inhabitants of the castle, were there. Harry's scar was there and I kind of knew how that had happened. It's a very strange thing, but I know I'm not alone in this among writers. It was as though I was given a piece of information and I just had to find out the rest of the information. It wasn't really as though I were inventing it. I was working backwards and working forwards to see what must have happened.
E: Almost pulling back the curtain to see what was…
JK: Yeah. Yeah. But no, it didn't all come to me at once. It's quite a lot of work, to work out plots. I mean, they're fairly complex plots at times, and that took a couple of years, to work out the whole thing properly.
E: When you're thinking of these ideas, because some of the best parts are the ideas like Quidditch, which is…
JK: Yeah, I loved Quidditch.
E: Did you? Where do you think of these ideas? Tell me about the origins of Quidditch.
JK: I can talk wildly about those. I had a blazing row with an ex-boyfriend. I had been writing Harry Potter books about…about a year I think I'd been working on Harry at that point, maybe slightly less, and I had decided that one of the unifying characteristics of any given society is sport, you know. Almost any society you can think of, they will have their own games and sports. And I decided I wanted to…and then we had this blazing row. I don't know whether it was cause and effect. I doubt it. But I actually walked out of the flat and I booked into a hotel for a night and rather than sit there and mope about this row, I sat there and invented Quidditch.
E: Are you forever stashing ideas? Writers are forever scribbling and saying 'This is the perfect idea.' Is that your method?
JK: Yeah. I actually had an idea this morning on the train. As I got out of bed this morning, I suddenly thought 'Oh, that's how we could do it in Book Five.' So, yeah, it's wonderful when that happens, when it just comes to you.
E: Is there a sense that some people say good characters are boring and evil characters are always the more interesting. And there's the famous line about Milton and of course he writes Paradise Lost and God is a bore and the devil is interesting.
JK: Well, you see, Harry is good. And I personally do not find Harry boring at all. I mean, he has his faults. Ron and Hermione are both very good characters but they're… My voice sounds incredibly loud when we stop this train. (Laughs)
E: (Laughing) No, it's lovely.
JK: No, I'm not bored by goodness. I'm not bored by goodness.
E: Do you have more fun writing the evil characters? Because Voldemort [the sinister wizard who killed Harry's parents] is the quintessential evil character.
JK: Yeah, he's a bad one. Do I have more fun? I loved writing Dumbledore and Dumbledore is the epitome of goodness. But I loved writing Gilderoy and I loved writing Rita. Because I just find them comic characters.
E: So you don't have a favourite?
JK: No, actually, I don't think I do. I really enjoyed writing Dudley as well. Dudley's great fun to write.
E: You know, characters take on their own lives. They have their own stories. Writers often say, 'I loved that character and the most tragic part of my year last year was having to kill them off.'
JK: Well that's coming.
E: Do you know already who is going to die in the next books?
JK: I know all of them who are going to die, yeah.
E: And some characters we might love and you might love?
JK: I'm definitely killing people I love, yeah. (Waves to fans outside) It's horrible, isn't it? (Laughs) It is actually. I cried during the writing of that one [Book Four] for the first time ever. I cried doing the actual writing of it. It really upset me.
E: It opens with a murder and then there's one at the end, which I won't say who it is. And you cried then?
E: But in the future there's even more…
JK: (Laughs deeply) There's worse coming.
E: Is there? There's even worse coming, isn't there?
JK: I don't know why I'm laughing. It's mild hysteria. (Looks at camera) I've got all these children peering in at me [from outside the train]. If they knew I was talking about slaughtering their favourite characters. (Waves vigorously to fans) Hallo!
E: People love Ron, for example. Kids think you're going to knock off Ron because he's the best friend.
JK: Kids do, exactly, because they're sharp and they've seen so many films where the hero's best friend gets it. So they think I'm going to make it personal by killing Ron. But maybe that's a double bluff… (Laughs)
E: Now that you know they expect it, do you give it to them?
JK: No, I decided…It's not that I sat down with a list and decided to write, 'You're going, you're going, you're going.' There are reasons for the deaths in each case, in terms of the story. So that's why I'm doing it.
E: Is this book as suitable for the six- and seven-year-old who loved Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone?
JK: It depends on the kid, but I have to say that from the word 'go', I have never said these books were…you see, I knew what was coming. So I have proud mothers saying to me 'He's six and he loves them,' and I'm thinking, I personally wouldn't have said 'go for it' with a six-year-old. I personally wouldn't, because I knew what was coming, I knew they would get darker. The story is about a world that's getting darker. So it depends on the child. My daughter is coming up to seven. She absolutely adores them.
E: Even this one?
JK: She's not all the way through it yet.
E: This is the crucial book, because after this book, everything changes. The whole world seems to go through a radical transformation.
JK: Well, it's the end of an era. Book Four is the end of an era for Harry.
E: He's grown up. This is a right of passage.
JK: Exactly. He's no longer protected. He's been very protected until now. But he's very young to have that experience. Most of us don't get that until a bit later in life. He's only just coming up to 15 and that's it now. (A photographer sticks his camera against the window and snaps off a bunch of pictures.) He's very exposed now, as you know if you've read the book. If you haven't read the book, I'm not going to give it away.
E: But there's definitely a right of passage about being an adult… (A scuffle ensues between the photographer and security. The man shouts 'Don't push me. Don't you push me.')
JK: Uh-oh. God.
E: This is really getting tough. (The photographer angrily pleads his case to security.)
JK: My worst nightmare is that children are going to get hurt in some scramble. We've come close to that before now. Apparently the local press at our last stop, where we stopped to put water in the engine, had printed that I would be signing books there. So there's 200 kids waiting there, and we weren't signing books there. There was no security or anything. (Many fans, both young and old, are milling about outside the train. A middle-aged man presses a note against the window, which reads 'Please spare us 5 minutes.')
JK: Please spare us five minutes. (She covers her face with her hands and sighs.)
E: Why don't you take five?
JK: (To an assistant) Have we got any book plates? We could sign some, we could hand them out if people have been misled. (A human chain of assistants passes an endless stream of books from the crowd to Rowling who signs them with lightning proficiency.) Thanks a lot, that's better. Now we're going. In America, I went to this store and they said they'd seen one person sign faster than me, 'cause they counted how many copies I did in two hours, and it was Jimmy Carter.
JK: (The train's whistle blows.) Oh no, is that us? (The train pulls slowly out of the station as Rowling waves exuberantly to a long line of fans. An elderly woman waves and wipes a mock tear from her cheek. A young girl runs along with the train, waving with all her might.) Oh God, this is heartbreaking, isn't it? This is like a long torture. It's always the little freckly girls, 'cause I was a little freckly girl. They warm my heart.
E: Unbelievable. That is tough stuff.
JK: Yeah, it is. It is. It's horrible actually. It's really horrible. Well, you saw, it's really nasty. So 10-year-old kids there have been told by a local paper that I'm getting out to sign. And then you have the police on the platform saying 'Don't get out. It'll cause trouble.' So it's torturous as I'm just sitting there staring at crying children. It's horrible. Yeah, so that's not much fun.
E: But there are highs in this…
JK: Yeah, massive highs. The flipside of that is a massive high, when they're so excited. Actually, the best thing, the very best thing is mothers walking up to me and saying 'He never read before. He never used to read.' That's the best. It's normally 'he,' I have to say. It's not often 'she.' Normally boys, yeah.
E: This is the thing, that Harry Potter books have started boys reading. That's pretty gratifying.
JK: That's the best, yeah.
EVAN: You used to work for Amnesty International. Two years.
J.K. ROWLING: I did, yeah. Research assistant. Human rights abuses in Francophone Africa. It made me very fascinating at dinner parties. I knew everything about the political situation in Togo and Burkina Faso.
E: And you still do.
JK: No I don't. Not anymore.
E: But here's where it shows up: Hermione and the rights of elves. Civil rights becomes a theme in Goblet of Fire.
JK: Oh yeah. Yeah.
E: This is a real issue.
JK: Yeah, that was fairly autobiographical. My sister and I both, we were that kind of teenager. (Dripping with drama) We were that kind of, 'I'm the only one who really feels these injustices. No one else understands the way I feel.' I think a lot of teenagers go through that.
E: In Britain they call it 'Right On' or something.
JK: Exactly. Well, she's fun to write because Hermione, with the best of intentions, becomes quite self-righteous. My heart is entirely with her as she goes through this. She develops her political conscience. My heart is completely with her. But my brain tells me, which is a growing-up thing, that in fact she blunders towards the very people she's trying to help. She offends them. She's not very sensitive to their…
E: She's somewhat condescending to the elves who don't have rights.
JK: She thinks it's so easy. It's part of what I was saying before about the growing process, of realizing you don't have quite as much power as you think you might have and having to accept that. Then you learn that it's hard work to change things and that it doesn't happen overnight. Hermione thinks she's going to lead them to glorious rebellion in one afternoon and then finds out the reality is very different, but that was fun to write.
E: And you're working in these issues that, for you as a person, are obviously crucial to your life. I mean, these issues about race relations and civil rights.
JK: You know, children are interested in those things. They are. It's not just me. I think they are.
E: So, are we protecting our kids too often from those kinds of things? Because certainly in North America, there is a sense that we ought to protect our kids from…
JK: On my last tour I was there over Halloween. And I was stunned that on my hotel television…you see, my daughter was in this hotel room, and three programs in a row were concerned with 'how do we stop our children being frightened by Halloween.' Three in a row. These daytime chat shows. 'Well, make sure you watch them putting up the decorations, so they can see it's not real. Explain to them it's all for fun.' And I'm sitting there and I'm thinking, you are trying to protect children from their own imaginations, and you can't do that. That's how you turn out frightened children, in my opinion. You turn out frightened children by saying, 'It's not scary. There's nothing there to frighten you.' Kids will get scared and they've got to live through that and then to deal with that. You can't stop them being frightened. A happy child is not one who has never experienced fear or who has never been allowed to experience fear.
E: Fear is a healthy thing?
JK: It is a healthy thing. It's a survival thing. What then happens to the child who has been so protected that their age…I mean how could a child grow to age 14 never having experienced fear, but let's say that were possible? It would be a destroying experience for that boy or girl the first time they felt fear. You have to learn that.
E: What ought we to protect our kids from, then?
JK: We're trying to protect them from our own fears, I think, and that's not healthy. That's not good.
E: What is healthy to protect them from?
JK: Right. Obviously we want them physically safe. That's a very natural instinct. I'm the same with my daughter. My reaction to a scary book or a scary film with my daughter would be to watch it with her and discuss it with her, to be with her as she experienced it. But don't get me wrong. There are things I do not want my nearly seven-year-old daughter exposed to. There are definitely things, such as explicit sex. No, she's too young. That's like giving a seven-year-old child a loaded gun and saying 'play with that.' No, that's another issue. I mean, sex is something we do discuss but I don't want her watching certain films. I don't want her watching films where people blow each other's heads off at random. No, absolutely not. But when it comes to something that is…
E: Because it's hard to draw the line here, isn't it? Because someone could read your book and say 'well, there's murder…'
JK: People die, but do you care when they die? Do you absolutely have a sense of how evil it is to take another person's life? Yes, I think in my book you do. I think you do. I think you see that is a horrific thing. I have enormous respect for human life. I do not think that you would read either of the deaths in that book and think, yeah, well, he's gone, off we go. Not at all. I think it's very clear where my sympathies lie. And here we are dealing with someone, I'm dealing with a villain who does hold human life incredibly cheap. That's how it happens: one squeeze of the trigger. Gone. Forever. That's evil. It's a terrible, terrible thing but you're right, I know where I draw the line. Other people will draw the line in a different place and they will disagree with me.
E: But this is the author with a sense of moral responsibility. Should authors have a sense of moral responsibility?
JK: When it comes to writing the books, I operate to a different set of rules. In fact, I write what I want to write. Because of the nature of the discussion we are having, I have to analyze these rules, but when I'm writing I do not sit down and think of it like, there's my line, and here's the moral lessons we are going to teach our children. None of that ever enters my head. I write what I want to write.
E: But the story has to be written.
JK: Exactly. I write what the story is. Yes. I write what I feel I have to say.
E: It's a hard line, right? Because the story may demand something that may challenge the things, personally, that you hold dear. People have asked, 'Well, Harry's faced death and Harry's an orphan. Now that he's growing up, will he face other challenges?' Sexual challenges? There are, in fact, crushes in this book. What else? Are we going to see drugs? The issues that teens see: drugs, teenage pregnancy. These are real teen issues.
JK: Right. Drugs and teenage pregnancy, should they be discussed in children's literature? Yeah, definitely. I think there's very little that shouldn't be discussed in children's literature. Off the top of my head, actually, I can't think of anything, if it's dealt with properly. I can't think of a single topic. However, in the Harry Potter books, I don't think it's going to be very faithful to the tone of the books if Hermione goes off and finds herself pregnant at age 13. No. Because they're not that kind of books. Frankly, Harry, Ron and Hermione have quite enough to deal with without starting to dabble with illegal substances. You know, they're up against other things.
E: Wiccans, who have said 'Oh, this is fabulous. She's an apologist and she's a champion of white witches…'
JK: No, I'm not.
E: And boarding school people are saying 'See? This is why boarding schools are good.' Are you a champion of these causes?
JK: I've said this before. The only two groups of people who seem to think that I'm wholeheartedly on their side are practicing wiccans and apologists for boarding schools, and I'm not part of either group.
E: You wouldn't send your kid to a boarding school, would you?
JK: No, I wouldn't. No. There are circumstances in which I can understand a family doing it. But you might know that my daughter won't be going to a boarding school. I'll sit on her before I let her go to a boarding school. I want to keep her at home for as long as I can.
E: Some of the people that you satirize most in this book, the evil people, the Malfoys, they're very classist, they're racist against the Mudbloods. Is it fair to say that these are neo-Conservative or Thatcherite? (JK nods.) Is there a real political axe you're grinding there?
JK: I think in this book too, you fully understand… With Voldemort, I didn't want to create this cardboard cutout of a baddie, where you put a black hat on him and you say 'Right, now you shoot at that guy because he's bad.'
E: Like the Dursleys are more of a cutout bad people?
JK: Yes and no. You will meet Dursleys, in Britain. You will. I've barely exaggerated them. Yeah, Voldemort. In the second book, Chamber of Secrets, in fact he's exactly what I've said before. He takes what he perceives to be a defect in himself, in other words the non-purity of his blood, and he projects it onto others. It's like Hitler and the Arian ideal, to which he did not conform at all, himself. And so Voldemort is doing this also. He takes his own inferiority, and turns it back on other people and attempts to exterminate in them what he hates in himself.
EVAN: Jo, there is the myth that you are the welfare mom living in an unheated apartment in Edinburgh. You're scratching out Harry Potter for two hours a day.
J.K. ROWLING: On napkins, allegedly. (Laughs) I had an American journalist say to me, 'Is it true you wrote the whole of the first novel on napkins?' I really wanted to say, 'No, on teabags. I used to save them.'
E: What is the proper story here?
JK: The real story, like most of what appears in the press, there is an element of truth and there is an element of huge exaggeration.
E: (With a mock British accent) My God!
JK: (Laughs) So, for six months…it's not that far removed from it, but certain things have been glossed over.
E: Were you on the dole?
E: Were you living in an unheated apartment?
JK: No. We had heat. Yes, we had heat. We had mice as well, but we had heat. For six months I lived exclusively on welfare. That was horrible. I got myself a part-time clerical secretary job. I mean really part-time, like a couple of hours a week. But at that point the law was you could only earn up to 15 pounds a week in excess of your benefit, which doesn't make you a great deal richer, but at that point 15 pounds was a lot of money. Well, I needed it. So then I did that job and we were still living mostly on welfare. Then I went back to college to get a teaching qualification, that meant I could teach French in Scotland. So we were still broke, but we were not actually living on the dole because I had a grant. And then thereafter, although I was partly on benefits for a while again, because I didn't have a full-time teaching job, we never were as broke as we had been for certainly the first 18 months in Edinburgh. We were very, very broke then.
E: Jo, why did you decide to write during that period? Most single mothers who are broke and they've got a kid; they just want to make money. Forget their ambition to write, forget their dream. They have to be a little more practical.
JK: Well, I felt guilty about continuing to write, actually, very guilty.
E: Did you feel that as a mother you weren't…?
JK: In the first year I didn't, because I tried extremely hard to get paid work. And the bottom line was no state nursery was going to take such a young baby, unless she was at risk. Once I'd been qualified as a teacher, I did feel guilty about continuing to write. I thought, maybe you should just relocate. Maybe you should just come back down to London, where I had lived before, and get a full-time teaching job down there and give up this. I wondered, was I chasing rainbows and sacrificing my daughter's…not well-being because she was a very happy little girl. But maybe she could have had more toys and more clothes, I felt.
E: As a mom, did you feel like a failure? You're broke. Suddenly you have this kid.
JK: I felt very angry. I don't know that I felt a failure, even when I first came back in life it was fairly grim. I felt very angry at myself. For a very long time I was very angry at myself.
E: As if you had, what, let down the side?
JK: Yeah. And yet at the same time I was proud of myself, and this is the truth. And there will be people watching this, women watching this, in exactly the situation I was, and I've got to say to them, 'I do not look back at myself then and think what a loser.' I look back on myself then, and I'm very proud, because I was doing the work of three people. I was doing a paid job. I was the only bread-winner, and I was being mother and I was being father. If anyone thinks that's easy, try it sometime. And I was writing a novel. So I don't look back at all and think what a loser. You know, you're not a loser to be living on that little money, and managing that little money to make sure you get to the end of the week. And keeping your child well fed, cheaply. And just always putting your child first.
E: There's the legend now that you're reclusive or the press has gone to your head, and now you're saying 'No more interviews.'
JK: No. It doesn't even annoy me. It makes me laugh, it really makes me laugh. It makes friends of mine laugh. I'm not reclusive. There are two reasons why I haven't done a lot of interviews recently. One is as I say, I wanted to be working. An interview knocks out half a working day for me, and I was working 10-hour days on this book. I could not afford the time. To me, it was a waste of energy. I would rather be writing the book. And the other thing, which in my experience people tend to forget, is I'm still a single parent. The expectation seems to be that once you've made some money, you will hand over your child to a battalion of nannies and then you'll go off and do what you want to do. Well, the fact is that I want to bring up my daughter and that means I want to spend time with my daughter. There's no way I'm going to be able to do that if I give promotional tours to every country that publishes me. So it's for very prosaic reasons that I've been keeping a relatively low profile lately.
E: And yet fame encroaches. I mean we're on the train and every stop there's hundreds of kids and parents...
JK: That's the nice thing, though.
E: Those are the things you like.
JK: I really, really, really love meeting the kids, because that's like teaching without the pain, you see. I used to be a teacher and I enjoyed teaching. Meeting loads of kids in the context in which I meet them now, it's fun. I don't have to discipline. They want to riot, I can join in if I want to. It's fun. I never expected to be in the papers. I personally never expected to be in the papers. The height of my ambition for these books was, well frankly, to get reviewed. A lot of children's books don'' even get reviewed - forget good review, bad review. Personally, no, I never expected to be in the papers so it's an odd experience when it happens to you.
E: People always ask does fame change you? How are you different? I don't mean that's the question but do you guard yourself against change? As you say, you still want to be a single mom, but how can you do it now when everybody knows you?
JK: Actually, I'm not a very recognizable person. I have no problem at all walking anywhere or doing normal stuff and people don't recognize me a lot, at all. On the rare occasion when I'm recognized, people are extremely nice. I've never once had someone march up to me in public and be unpleasant to me, quite the reverse. So it's entirely possible for me to lead a very normal life. And please God, may it always remain so. Because you know, I really wouldn't like the reverse. I would hate it, in fact.
E: There's the famous line that you write in cafes. Can you still write in cafes? With 35 million books?
E: No one just bugs you? 'Can I have your autograph?' when you're in the middle of a great sentence?
JK: Very rare.
E: Is there a difference in the American response and the British response? In the sense that in America you're a celebrity and Americans treat their celebrities in perhaps a different way than you've been treated here.
JK: I don't like the idea of myself being a celebrity. I really don't. I'm so uncomfortable with that.
E: Is it naive to pretend that you're not?
Rowling: On a certain level, I think it's realistic, because kids don't turn up to see me for me. I think I could be man, woman, old, young. As long as I had written the books, they would be interested in seeing who had written the Harry Potter books, but I don't think the appeal is me personally. I know for a fact the appeal isn't me personally, you know, what I look like or what I'm like to speak to. They are just curious to find out who wrote the books. So I hope and believe that the books are the attraction rather than me personally.
E: This morning I read in the Daily Mail…
JK: (Winces) Oh. What were you doing reading that?
E: Because it's at the hotel. It's the only paper they handed to us.
JK: Right. Pitiful excuse.
E: I know but it's the best one I have. It really is.
JK: (Dramatically) All right then, what are the Daily Mail saying now?
E: The Daily Mail said that there was a stalker. Is this the dark side of fame?
JK: You know, they really might want to get in touch with me and tell me about this alleged stalker, because I think I'd probably know if I was being stalked. This is not a nice thing, ok, but I sometimes get a feeling of almost, 'Oh, come on, someone stalk her! We've run out of stories. Where's your initiative? Come on, surely she's worth stalking?' Well, no, no one is stalking me. So I'd like to thank the Daily Mail for inviting them to do it because it's very sweet of them.
EVAN: Time to talk about the Dementors.
J.K. ROWLING: Ah, the Dementors, yeah.
E: The Dementors, um, they are the personification of depression. (JK - Mmm hmm.) Now, I hate making biographical links between characters and authors but that's (laughing)…
JK: You might as well. (Laughs) Go for it.
E: But there is a biographical link and we've talked about it, about a depression in your life being, not just obviously a horrible time, but something in the end that was important to your life.
JK: Um, I was depressed, um, I'd say - would it be 1994 - I did suffer a spell of what I was told was clinical depression. I don't know, I was told it was. Yeah, I was depressed for a while. I'm not ashamed of that, plenty of people get depressed and I've never suffered from it again and I got through it. But the Dementors, uh, it's so hard to trace the origin of something. I saw these things and I knew what I wanted them to do, but they became, as I really thought about what they did, I realized that's what I was doing. That's normally the way it happens with me. I don't consciously think 'And now, I will create the personification of depression' but as I'm creating them I realize what I'm doing. You know, what unconsciously is going on. So they create an absence of feeling, which is my experience of depression. It is an absence…
E: That is your definition of it.
JK: (Nods) Mmm.
E: Now, would you say for you, you know, every, lives have so many crucial moments in them, but that for you, was that a crucial moment in your life, a turning point in your life?
JK: Having a depression?
E: Yeah, I mean, was that sort of rock bottom? (JK pauses in thought.) What happened? Now this is after your marriage, right?
JK: Yeah. Yeah. It was, I think it was what you would call a reactionary depression, as in certain things happen to you, and that was your reaction, obviously. I think a lot of, I had a very turbulent few years. I moved country twice. My mother died. That was the big thing. Nothing was bigger than my mother dying.
E: Right. And you were 25?
JK: I was 25. That started this sort of train of mishaps and misadventures. I got married. We got separated. We got divorced. Having my daughter was a wonderful thing, but it's an enormous responsibility, and I was worried. I was continually worried about being that broke and, you know, and bringing up a daughter.
E: This was the thing, that your mother passed away, when you were 25, of MS.
JK: Yeah, and she was very young. She was 45.
E: And that was…
JK: That wasn't good.
E: That was the worst, obviously.
JK: That's the worst thing that ever happened to me. For sure. Yep. Yeah. It was a huge shock. In retrospect, you see, I felt guilty. I felt, well, how could you have been shocked, you could see how ill she was. But I didn't expect it to be right round the corner. It was something about the fact that she was still very young. I just thought that she'd be around for years more, and, um, she wasn't. So that was a real shock. That was horrible.
E: And that started?
JK: Well I think in fact, which is, or was, quite typical of me, although I did grieve, I almost, um, I didn't want to stay still and grieve. I mean, I think that's a good way of getting yourself into a proper depression. You know, refusing to feel it, just let's keep going and keep moving. So I went abroad. I actually had a wonderful time teaching abroad. It was one of the best jobs I ever did, in terms of day jobs, because I always knew that none of these were really for me. I always knew I was going to write. And I met my ex-husband and ecetera. I had a beautiful daughter. But it all kind of caught up with me when I'd left my ex-husband, because almost I had to sit still and think about what had happened. There I was, I was very broke, I didn't have a job. The first time in my adult life I wasn't working. Very worried about money, and how I'm going to raise my daughter. And everything kind of folded in at once. So yes, I did get quite depressed.
E: It seems like almost through your books you miss your mom and you're dealing with that conversation like Harry, just seeing the shadow but it can never come back.
JK: Dealing with bereavement is a strong part of the books. Dealing with loss. Yes. I can't elaborate as much as I'd like to on that because I have three more books to go and this is not a sales pitch, you can get them out of the library and you don't have to buy them, I'm just saying that I will ruin future blocks if I elaborate on that too much. But it's a strong central theme - dealing with death, yeah, and facing up to death.
E: In one of the books Dumbledore says "Death is just the next step to a great mystery, the next great adventure" I think is the quote.
JK: I would like to…I'm not as wise as him. I would like to see it that way. And I do see it that way, in many ways. Death still frightens me, as it frightens most people. Because there's still lots I want to do, and I don't want to leave my daughter early.
E: That's a hard one to accept.
JK: (Nods) Mmm hmm. It's leaving people. I think it's particularly leaving your children. It's a hard thing.
E: When you talk about dealing with death and loss in the books, does this come out of your own - you've had loss with the loss of your mother - did it come out of a personal spirituality? I mean, are you are religious person? Does your spirituality come from a certain place?
JK: I do believe in God. That seems to offend the South Carolinians more than almost anything else. I think they would find it…well that is my limited experience, that they have more of a problem with me believing in God than they would have if I was an unrepentant atheist.
E: You do believe in God.
JK: Yeah. Yeah.
E: In magic and…
JK: Magic in the sense in which it happens in my books, no, I don't believe. I don't believe in that. No. No. This is so frustrating. Again, there is so much I would like to say, and come back when I've written book seven. But then maybe you won't need to even say it 'cause you'll have found it out anyway. You'll have read it.
E: But in your own life, I mean, are you a churchgoer?
JK: (Nods) Mmm hmm. Well I go more than to weddings and christenings. Yes, I do.
E: And in your own life, would the church and that kind of spirituality help you deal with the loss of your mum?
JK: No, actually it didn't at the time. No. (Shakes her head)
E: So you've come back to it.
JK: Yeah, I would say so. I have some problems with conventional organized religion. Some problems. (Long pause) But…but, yes, it's a place I would go to in a time of trouble. It probably is a place I would go to in a time of trouble. I wouldn't expect it to provide all the answers, 'cause I would expect to find some of those within me.
E: Right, but the institutional side of it, you know, the rules…
JK: I have certain problems with some aspects of that. Yes I do.
E: And people have asked me to ask you…one of the most common things…how did she believe in herself? She's down and out. She's a single mother. Was there a moment where you just thought 'I'm going to do it no matter what' or was this a strength of yours?
JK: This was something I was always going to do. You know, I was always going to try and get a book published. This wasn't the first book I'd written. I mean, Philosopher's Stone wasn't the first book I'd written, though I never tried to get either of the other two published. They were novels for adults.
E: They were novels for adults?
JK: Mmm hmm. But in my heart, I really felt that they were not up to scratch and I think I was entirely right about that. That wasn't me being modest. Harry, on the other hand, I believed in far more than I believed in either of those and I was just determined to do it. It wasn't so much as…well there must have been self-belief there. There just must have been, mustn't there?
E: Did anyone else believe in you?
JK: No. Well, I suppose…bit of a cruel thing to say about my friends. Um, did anyone else? Certainly one person, one friend, at that time I told her I was writing a novel. See, I was always very secretive about my writing and she, I think, definitely thought, you know, deluded.
E: Was it a sign of 'Oh God, here she goes and last straw?'
JK: Yeah. (Sarcastically) And now I'll write a novel, 'cause that'll make me loads of money. I think it is very ironic when I say these things because I think that's how she saw me at the time. The reality is I never expected to make money out of writing. I thought teaching was going to make us enough money to live on and I felt guilty, even after the book got taken for publication, at not really trying that hard to get a full-time teaching job. I was building up my hours, but always hoping that I could find an excuse just to leave one day a week free to write.
E: Did you think you had talent?
JK: Well I hoped I had. It was a real relief to find…I suspected there was one thing that I could do ok, and it was write.
E: Are you good at anything else?
JK: No. No, I'm embarrassingly bad at most other things, I think. Very disorganized person. I was hell in offices. I was good at teaching English as a foreign language. I loved doing that. I think I was ok at that. I'm good at keeping tropical fish. Can't think of much else, actually, I really can't.
E: Do you remember that moment where you got…you found out after the rejections, that this is it, you've got a publisher?
JK: It was the best…this sounds very, well, it's the truth. After my daughter being born, the happiest moment of my life is having my daughter handed to me in the hospital. Indescribable feeling. Second only to that moment was the moment when my agent phoned me up and said 'We've got a deal with Bloomsbury.' Nothing that has happened since, and I include the sales figures and the New York Times best seller list and all of that, which has, don't get me wrong, it has been fabulous, nothing has equaled the moment when I knew my book was going to be published. It was, ahh, what a moment. Walked on air for days, can't tell you.
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