"World Exclusive Interview with J K Rowling," South West News Service, 8 July 2000

Her favourite Simpsons character is Lisa, she supports Spurs Football Club and she thought your questions helped to make this ''the best interview yet''. Enjoy our (and your) WORLD EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH JK ROWLING

Your webmaster and young Alfie met JK Rowling in the London office of her publishers, Bloomsbury, at 9.15am on July 8 - the publication date of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Because of her hectic schedule, we were allowed only 10-15 minutes with 'Jo' but we didn't waste a single moment - and thanks to your questions, she described the interview as ''the best yet''.

So without further ado, here is our long-awaited and much-enjoyed exclusive interview with JKR, in a Q&A format.

Q: Are you going to get a part in the forthcoming Harry Potter movie? (Suzanne Ovens)
A: No! The last thing I'd want!

Q: Can American kids go to Hogwarts ? (Kelly)
A: No, they have their own school. You'll find out in Book 4. Hogwarts just serves Britain and Ireland.

Q: What do you think of the Harry Potter fiction on the websites ? Have you been on the internet to have a look?
A: I've only ever been into it twice. A friend of mine told me what was out there and I skimmed through it and it scared me so much -- there's some weird stuff out there. I thought, well, no, I didn't want to delve too deeply.

Q: Can Muggles see Hogwarts ? (Melinda, 11, CA)
A: Aaah - who asked that? Smart Melinda! You find out in Book 4. When they look towards it, as a safety precaution, they see a ruin with a sign saying it's unsafe. . .they mustn't enter. They can't see it as it really is.

Q: Since Hagrid's name was cleared in Book 2, will he ever be allowed to do magic openly again ? (Jan Campbell)
A: He is allowed. He has been allowed to do magic openly ever since he became a teacher but because he was never fully trained his magic is never going to be what it should be. He is always going to be a bit inept.

Q: It seems that the wizards and witches at Hogwarts are able to conjure up many things, such as food for the feasts, chairs and sleeping bags. . .if this is so, why does the wizarding world need money ? What are the limitations on the material objects you can conjure up ? It seems unnecessary that the Weasleys would be in such need of money. . . (Jan Campbell)
A: Very good question (well done, Jan!!). There is legislation about what you can conjure and what you can't. Something that you conjure out of thin air will not last. This is a rule I set down for myself early on. I love these logical questions!

Q: Talking about rules. . .I watched this TV programme about the making of The Simpsons (''I LOVE The Simpsons!'' she interjects) and Matt Groening was talking about rules - like you never see any of the characters going cross-eyed like you do in other cartoons - the characters show quite normal behaviour, by cartoon standards. When you started all this off, did you have a set of rules ?
A: Yes. Absolutely. The five years I spent on HP and the Philosopher's Stone were spent constructing The Rules. I had to lay down all my parameters. The most important thing to decide when you're creating a fantasy world is what the characters CAN'T do. . .you can tell with The Simpsons. It's a work of genius. You can tell that they've structured it in such a way that they're never at a loss for what their characters can and can't do. That's why they're so believable - even though they're little yellow people.

Q: Who's your favourite character ?
A: Lisa. I love Marge as well. It's a close-run thing, but I think Lisa is a fabulous character.

Q: You mentioned something in a recent interview about a flaw in Book 4. . .
A: Did I? Oh yes. . .I repaired it! This is why Book 4 nearly caused me a nervous breakdown - because for the first time ever I lost my careful plot - which I've had since 1994, I think. I really should have gone through it with a fine toothcomb before I started writing and I didn't. I had a false sense of security because all my other plans had held up so well. So I sailed straight into the writing of Four, having just finished Azkaban. I had written what I thought at the time was half the book - it turns out now to have been about a third of the book - and I realised there was this big hole in the middle of the plot and I had to go back and unpick and redo. That's part of the reason it's longer than I thought it was going to be.

Q: Can you say what the flaw was, or would that spoil things ?
A: No, because that would ruin it.

Q: How do write ? Do you stick to certain hours ?
A: I write longhand, as much as I can in the time available to me - basically I write when my daughter's at school and when she comes home I down tools for the day. Sometimes I don't down tools for the day, sometimes I go back to it in the evening.

Q: How many hours roughly per day ?
A: It varies. Three to four hours would not be a very productive day. On Book 4 I was working 10-hour days.

Q: If Harry had a magic duel with Hermione, who would win ? (Doyle Srader, Nacogdoches, TX)
A: Very good question! Because until about halfway through Azkaban, Hermione would have won. But Harry - without anyone really noticing it - is becoming exceptionally good at Defence Against the Dark Arts. So that's the one area in which, almost instinctively, he is particularly talented. Apart from Quidditch.

Q: You mention Quidditch - that's something that we like. Do you like sport in general ?
A: I like watching it. I'm a lousy sportsperson.

Q: What's your favourite game ?
A: I quite like watching football. . .

Q: Who do you support ?
A: Spurs.

Q: SPURS ??!! Alfie's a Chelsea fan.
A: I'm sorry. An ex-boyfriend of mine was a Chelsea fan and our relationship completely followed Chelsea's fortunes. They got relegated and we split up - then they had a fantastic season and got promoted and we got back together again. I try and think that was coincidence but I fear not. No, Spurs. . .it's a family thing, my dad's side of the family are all Spurs supporters. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a very passionate supporter and I certainly don't get very depressed if they're not doing very well but if I was to turn up to watch anyone it would be Spurs.

Q: Did you watch any of Euro 2000 ?
A: No, I haven't been watching much recently. I watched bits of it.

Q: Do you assist with the vernacular, idiomatic expression and other vocabulary changes between the UK and the US versions of the HP series ? (Jenny Lando)
A: Do I assist ? I do it all! A lot has been made of this but I have to say too much has been made of it. The word changes were miniscule. I don't think it would be as much as one per cent. And they were literally words that meant something utterly different - like 'jumper', which means 'pinafore dress' in America. I didn't want people to think Harry was walking around in a pinafore dress. They have enough problems without going into drag as well.

Q: What do you do when you have writer's block (Boggart)
A: I got it during Chamber of Secrets but that was the only book in which I've had writer's block. In fact I doubt whether it was true writer's block. I think it was panic because I got this big burst of publicity for Philosopher's Stone and I froze. I thought Chamber of Secrets would never be as good. I think it was panic rather than actual lack of ideas. The publicity happened when the American deal happened. Before that, sales of Philosopher's Stone had been climbing very healthily for a completely unknown book so people were getting interested, but only in the book trade. Then Arthur Levine in America bought Philosopher's Stone for the American market for what I think may have been an unprecedented amount of money for a completely unknown children's book. And then people sat up and looked around and thought 'Well, what happened there ? Why is that worth all that money ?' and then I had a lot of press interest - it seemed like a lot to me at the time. Looking back, it probably wasn't that much.

Q: Do you believe in witchcraft and have you ever done any witchcraft ?
A: No.

Q: What are your feelings towards the people who say your books are to do with cults and telling people to become witches ? (reader's question, didn't give name)
A: Alfie. Over to you. Do you feel a burning desire to become a witch ?
Alfie: No.
A: I thought not. I think this is a case of people grossly underestimating children. Again.

Q: Where do the Hogwarts teachers live during the school holidays ? Do they stay at Hogwarts ? (Andrew Zimmer)
A: No, they don't. Filch, the caretaker, stays.

Q: What happened to Parvati Patil's twin (Carol Thayer and about ten million other readers asked this question!)
A: Read Book 4!

Q: Will HP and his friends discover the other house common rooms in future books ? (Kio Rustleweed/Kate)
A: (Teasingly) Maybe. . .

Q: Do Hogwarts chefs accommodate vegetarians ? (Alexandra, from http://www.hpfactsandfun.com/)

A: If you ask them very nicely. You'll find out something about that in Book Four as well. . .these are all very good questions.

Q: Is it harder to write the books now that you and Harry are world famous and you know everyone is waiting with baited breath to hear you your next words or are you having more fun with it as you go along ? (Jan Campbell)
A: The writing itself has never stopped being completely joyful. That's the truth of it. So no, I don't feel pressure in that sense because I've never really thought of it in that way.

(Jo's assistant Ros de la Hey pops her head round the door and tells us - for the second time - that we've got to stop the interview because others are waiting. Jo leans forward and whispers into the tape recorder 'Best one so far, that one!')