Gollum, Mark. "20,000 Fans making Rowling a bit nervous," National Post (Toronto), 23 October 2000

20,000 fans making Rowling a bit nervous: "This was purely a way of satisfying a lot of people in one go," says writer of SkyDome appeareance

J.K. Rowling was a little overwhelmed when she heard about the seating capacity of the SkyDome, the venue of her book reading tomorrow.

"I thought, 'Oh my God. I'm not The Rolling Stones. How's that going to work," she said at a press conference yesterday afternoon at the Royal York Hotel.

At least 20,000 fans are expected to be at the stadium to hear Ms. Rowling read from her fourth and latest in the Harry Potter book series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was published in July.

The 35-year-old writer is in Toronto as part of the International Festival of Authors.

"I'm trying not to focus on that at the moment. Thanks for reminding me," the British author joked with one reporter, adding that her largest audience to date has been 2,000 in Germany.

"This was purely a way of satisfying a lot of people in one go, hopefully. I hope that's how it's going to work out.

"Obviously, this is very new territory for me, too. You won't see me playing Wembley [stadium], though."

The first three Harry Potter books, which focus on the adventures of a boy wizard, have appeared in 200 countries (in 39 languages), and have sold more than 35 million copies worldwide.

She calls the attention odd, claiming she leads a "very, very, very quiet dull life. Entirely by choice, I should say.

"Then I come out and I am exposed to this for two weeks and then I go home and the normal life is resumed."

A typical day in her Edinburgh home consists of getting her seven-year-old daughter off to school (she is a single parent), a trip to the local cafe, writing until her daughter returns, "feed her and do all the mommy stuff," and more writing in the evening.

She refuses to spend time analyzing the mass appeal of the books, fearing that it force her into formulaic writing.

Despite being overwhelmed by the attention, she still finds it touching to meet her young readers.

"They feel these [characters] are mutual friends of ours [who] I happen to know better. It's a magical experience speaking to children."

Die-hard readers are constantly writing her with minor discrepancies --like the four-legged special stool in one book that has three legs in another book. But she gets a kick out of her young critics.

"It proves they must have read the book several times in order to pick up on some of these things."

To the oft-asked question, "How do you come up with your ideas," she replied: "I don't know. They just come out of my head, which is a dull answer but a truthful one.

"Just give me a pen and note pad and put me in a cafe somewhere. As long as I have enough caffeine in my system, I will write something for you."

Ms. Rowling was also asked yesterday about those critics who worry about witchcraft in her books.

(Recently, Durham Region school officials insisted children get parental permission before using Harry Potter books in class assignments. They have since lifted the requirement.)

"If people think that witchcraft should not be in books for children per se then there's no point in engaging in a debate because a lot of children's books are going to be off the library shelves." She pointed to The Wizard of Oz as one classic that contains witchcraft.

After the press conference, about 280 adults and children attended a $500-a-plate charity luncheon featuring Ms. Rowling.

Each person got a free pair of Harry Potter glasses and an autographed book.

"It was great. I've read her books four times each," said 10-year-old Connor Soye.

Despite a no-autograph policy, many of her young fans went up to Ms. Rowling's table to grab an autograph. Ms. Rowling happily obliged until organizers put an end to it.

But Arielle Kaplan was lucky enough to snatch an autograph when she bumped into the author in the washroom.

"Sometimes it pays to be a woman," said her mother, Merle.