Couric, Katie. Interview of J.K. Rowling, NBC Today Show, 20 October 2000

Today Show's Katie Couric: J.K. Rowling, author of the bestselling Harry Potter books - the most recent is "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" - joins us for the second time this week. She's back to answer some of the more than 1,500 email questions you (the viewers) sent to our website. Hey Jo, welcome back. Nice to see you.

J.K. Rowling: Hi, nice to be back.

Katie Couric: Looking very stylish this morning I might add.

J.K. Rowling: Thank you.

Katie Couric: Listen, as I said, we got over 1,500 emails and a lot of people really wanted to know - and I know you're sick of this question...

J.K. Rowling: When's book five...

Katie Couric: Exactly.

J.K. Rowling: Yes, I knew it. Probably not next July because I've just finished a very long and complex book. But book five is underway. I'm not taking a break from the writing - I still love the writing. But it will be done when it's done.

Katie Couric: Right. Can I ask you sort of an annoying question? How far along are you in book five?

J.K. Rowling: Not that far. I have started but I'm not that far at all.

Katie Couric: So people may have to wait...?

J.K. Rowling: A little bit.

Katie Couric: A little they're going to have to be patient. They're going to have to read like one through four for the 27th time.

J.K. Rowling: (Laughs) Right. Or read something else. The world is not only Harry Potter.

Katie Couric: Exactly, that's a very good point. Alright, let me tell you some of the email questions that we selected. Emma, who's age 11, says "Dear J.K. Rowling, when you were a little girl, what were your favorite books?"

J.K. Rowling: My favorite books...when I was about eight, my favorite book was a book called "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge, which is a very magical book.

Katie Couric: Is that an English author?

J.K. Rowling: She's an English author. I wouldn't advise boys to read her.

Katie Couric: Why?

J.K. Rowling: Because there's a lot in it about the heroine stresses, which I really enjoyed but I would imagine most boys won't enjoy.

Katie Couric: Well I don't know...maybe they'd be enlightened.

J.K. Rowling: Maybe, but I'm just trying to be true to my readers here. What else do I like? E. Nesbit is a really great writer. She's a favorite of mine. And Paul Gallico - I'm sorry he's not more fashionable now - he's a great writer.

Katie Couric: And what did he write that you enjoy?

J.K. Rowling: My favorite one of his is a book called "Manx Mouse," which is a very quirky little book. I loved it.

Katie Couric: Here's Sarah, she's nine. (Reading next email) "I'm nine years old. I live in Rhode Island. My question for Ms. Rowling is: Will you keep writing Harry Potter books that will take him through his adult life? He could be a teacher at Hogwarts!"

J.K. Rowling: I'm intrigued because everyone seems very confident I'm not going to kill him.

Katie Couric: Well good! I hope you're not! (Both laugh.)

J.K. Rowling: I'm not saying either way.

Katie Couric: That would make big news here this morning.

J.K. Rowling: Everyone assumes that there will be an adult life and maybe they're right. But no, I think I'm going to stop at seven. I'm not going to say "never another one." If I had a burning desire to do another one, I'd do it. But at the moment, I'm planning to stop at seven.

Katie Couric: Kathy from Georgia says: "In all four books, Hermione constantly refers to the book 'Hogwarts, a History'. Are you considering compiling and publishing such a book?"

J.K. Rowling: Not "Hogwarts, a History" but I have written two of the books that appear as titles only within the novels and that's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" and "Quidditch Through the Ages". And they will be available in March.

Katie Couric: And the proceeds will go to Comic Relief?

J.K. Rowling: All proceeds are going to Comic Relief UK, which is a wonderful charity that's existed since 1985 - it's a spin-off from Live Aid. All proceeds go to famine relief and so on in Africa.

Katie Couric: And also a charity in the U.S. that's yet to be named? Or just basically those two right now?

J.K. Rowling: Comic Relief asked me to do the books so I'd really like them to get the proceeds.

Katie Couric: Jennifer and her son, Paul, have a joint question: "Who is your favorite teacher or staff member at Hogwarts and why?"

J.K. Rowling: It's a tie really between Dumbledore and Hagrid. But I also love Professor McGonagall. She's a great teacher.

Katie Couric: From Casey, who's nine from Annapolis: "Are any of the characters based on anyone you knew or know in real life?"

J.K. Rowling: Yes but obviously I have to be careful because some of my characters are pretty unpleasant. Hermione is a lot like me when I was younger - a kind of caricature of me when I was younger. Ron's a lot like my oldest friend who was a boy I was at school with. And Gilderoy Lockhart was based on someone I knew but I'm saying no more about that. And I barely had to exagerate him.

Katie Couric: I'm not sure if we should bite this off but I'm going to. Tammy in Kansas was wondering: "What would encourage you to write books for children that are supporting the devil, witchcraft and anything that has to do with Satan?" You've heard that before.

J.K. Rowling: Well nothing would encourage me to do that because I haven't done it so far so why would I start doing it now?

Katie Couric: You have heard criticism along those lines ever since the beginning, and I think it also grew since more and more books came out.

J.K. Rowling: A very famous writer once said: "A book is like a mirror. If a fool looks in, you can't expect a genius to look out." People tend to find in books what they want to find and I think my books are very moral. I know they have absolutely nothing to do with what this lady's writing about. So, can't give her much help there.

Katie Couric: We've got some more emails that we're going to do in a moment and then we've got a reading with Jim Dale, which I know everyone's excited about. So Jo, we'll see you in a minute. But first, this is Today on NBC.

(Cut to break. After the break, we see the show has moved outside where there are crowds, kids - some dressed in wizard capes, dry ice in "Goblet of Fire" type goblets, a real snowy owl. Excellent Harry Potter atmosphere.)

Katie Couric: One again J.K. Rowling or Jo Rowling is back and she's brought a few of her very good friends here and some dry ice as well. Also here is Jim Dale, who's going to read from "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." Jim is the voice of Harry Potter and 124 other characters on the audio book version of all four Harry Potter books. And also 10 children who won the Scholastic/USA Today essay contest on "How Harry Potter Books Changed My Life." (To the kids in the audience) Hi everybody, how are you? Good? I feel like a teacher...I'm so glad you're here. Nice to see you. You like my cape? I'm kind of getting into the act.

Katie Couric: Alright Jo, we have another email question that we didn't have time for. And one is about the pronunciation of all of the characters in the book. She says how in the world can you expect her to pronounce all these different characters and how are you sure that you're getting it right yourself, and she adds that they sound very funny with a Texas accent.

J.K. Rowling: (Laughs) Erm, people will notice I put in how to pronounce Hermione in book four.

Katie Couric: Did you have a lot of people asking?

J.K. Rowling: Yeh, I introduced Hermione to a Bulgarian (in book four) who couldn't say her name and so then she explains it, so that was my get-out-of-jail card on that one.

Katie Couric: But they are pretty fanciful names. How do you come up with them?

J.K. Rowling: Most of them are made up. Some of them are taken from maps mainly...I like old place names.

Katie Couric: Meanwhile, as I said, 10 kids are here who won a Scholastic/USA Today essay contest. Were you moved at some of the essays about how Harry Potter changed their lives?

J.K. Rowling: I was bowled over. They were really, really great essays...the greatest.

Katie Couric: Are you overwhelmed as you travel the world and hear from so many children you have influenced?

J.K. Rowling: It's wonderful...nothing better than that....really wonderful.

Katie Couric: Meanwhile, let me ask Jim... hi Jim, how are you? How much fun are you having recording these books?

Jim Dale: Well I was given the book on Saturday night and I was in the studio on Monday recording it, so I didn't really read the book the whole way through. I read 100 pages a night, invented the voices, recorded them the next day, and read another 100. So I didn't quite know where the book was going or who the villain was going to be.

Katie Couric: So you had as much fun reading the story...?

Jim Dale: I had more fun than the children, I'll tell you that.

Katie Couric: Well I know a lot of children these days recognize your voice even if they don't recognize your face. You're going to be reading what for us this morning?

Jim Dale: I'm going to be reading from the last book, book four, "Harry and the Goblet of Fire".

Katie Couric: Alright, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls...Jim Dale.

Jim Dale: (To the kids in the audience) Are you ready? Are you sitting comfortably? Here we go....

(Jim Dale, sitting in a Gothic-looking carved wood and red-cushioned chair, reads a lengthy passage from "Goblet of Fire" complete with all the character voices.)

Katie Couric: Jim Dale reading from "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' Thanks Jim. Thanks kids. We'll be back in a moment. This is Today on NBC.

(Cut to break. After the break, the show remains outside.)

Katie Couric: (To kids in crowd) We're back at 9:00 on this Friday morning, the 20th day of October, the year 2000. We're having a great Friday morning here on Rockefeller Plaza cause we have a lot of terrific friends who have shown up to help us start our morning. Nice to see you again kids, how are you? Are you having fun?

Kids in audience: Yes!!!!!!!!!!!

Katie Couric: They're having a great time because J.K., Jo Rowling is here, who of course is the author of the fabulously successful Harry Potter books, as well as Jim Dale, whose wonderful voice narrates the books. (Looks at Jim Dale) And you are a variety of characters on the audio tape version.

Jim Dale: (Looks at J.K. Rowling) She's opened the floodgates on characters for this book. So far, there's 127 I think.

J.K. Rowling: (Amid laughter) Sorry Jim.

Katie Couric: Do you think you're going to have more characters?

J.K. Rowling: I know I am, so you should have advance warning, sorry.

Katie Couric: But you're having a terrific time, as you said, recording these books, aren't you?

Jim Dale: Oh, it's the greatest fun I've had...the second best fun I've ever had, yes.

Katie Couric: And I mentioned earlier, Jim, I really didn't get a chance to elaborate, but when you travel around the country and people hear your voice, they say "hey!"

Jim Dale: Oh I get muggled, I get muggled, yes absolutely.

Katie Couric: Which is terrific. Well some of these kids have questions for J.K. Rowling about Harry Potter. What's your name and what's your question?

Wide-eyed boy: My question is how did you get the Harry Potter started?

J.K. Rowling: How did I get Harry Potter started? On a train. I was on this train ride and I guess the idea just popped into my head.... it just came...great feeling.

Today Show's Matt Lauer: K, what's your name?

Red-headed, freckled kid: Alfred Dale.

Matt Lauer: What's your question?

Red-headed, freckled kid: What is your favorite Harry Potter book?

J.K. Rowling: My favorite's normally the one you've just finished. So at the moment, my favorite book is number four. Even though it half killed was the most difficult to write so far...but it's my favorite.

Katie Couric: We should probably mention that Alfred is Jim Dale's grandson.

Matt Lauer: He's not from Brooklyn. We can hear that.

Katie Couric: (Laughs) Definitely not. Who else has a about you?

Kid with ballcap: Hi my name's Sam and I was wondering why did you want to write Harry Potter?

J.K. Rowling: Why did I want to write Harry Potter? I've always wanted to be a writer.

Kid with ballcap: Cause I like it. But I don't like writing. I like to read stuff...I don't like writing.

J.K. Rowling: You don't like writing? Some days I don't like writing either. Some days I just wish I worked in a cafe or something.

Blonde kid dressed as Harry Potter: How did you think of that name Hermione?

J.K. Rowling:'s a Shakespearean name. I got it out of Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale." I just thought it was an unusual name. If I'd known how difficult people would find it to pronounce, I would have called her Jane.

Katie Couric: How about some girls in here... what's your question?

Teen-aged girl: When is the fifth book going to be coming out?

Katie Couric: Oh, there it is again, sorry Jo.

J.K. Rowling: The most often-asked question. I don't know. I am writing it and when it's done, you'll have it, I promise you.

Katie Couric: What's your name?

Dark-haired girl: My name is Rio and in the first book, what did she mean by they frog-marched Percy around the room?

J.K. Rowling: That's when two people stand on either side of the third person and they force them to walk along. It's like you're under arrest.

Blonde boy: How did you get the name of the school?

J.K. Rowling: I don't know...I just tried several names and Hogwarts was my favorite....just sounds witchy.

Katie Couric: What about you...what's your question?

Wee blonde girl: How did you make all those books?

J.K. Rowling: How did I make them...with a lot of effort and sometimes ten-hour days.

Matt Lauer: One more here...

Brown-eyed, dimple-cheeked boy: What is the fifth book's name going to be?

J.K. Rowling: Ummm, should I?

Matt Lauer: Ah go ahead, it'd be a great scoop for the Today Show.

J.K. Rowling: (Laughs) I actually... I can't really say because there are two titles I'm choosing between and last time I did this, it was all over the Internet and confused people.

Brown-eyed, dimple-cheeked boy: What are the two titles?

Matt Lauer: (Laughs) He's a true journalist...he said give me the two (titles).

J.K. Rowling: It's probably going to be called "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix".

Katie Couric: The Order of the Phoenix? Well there you go!

J.K. Rowling: You got a massive piece of information.

Matt Lauer: (To brown-eyed, dimple-cheeked boy) Nice going!

J.K. Rowling: (Gives brown-eyed, dimple-cheeked boy a thumbs-up) Right up!

Katie Couric: Jo Rowling, thanks so much for coming by. Jim Dale, thanks for reading to us this morning. Kids, thank you all. We're out of time but maybe Jo will stick around and answer a few more of your questions. And by the way, the people in the capes, with the exception of me, the young men and women are the winners of the Scholastic/USA Today essay contest. We want to recognize you and say congratulations kids. Way to go.