Adler, Margot. "Harry Potter," Morning Edition, NPR Radio, 27 October, 2000

Transcript courtesy of Sugarquill's Transcription Project
Audio: Offsite NPR Radio

BOB EDWARDS, host: Harry Potter has cast a magic spell on the publishing industry. The latest book about the young wizard in training, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," still is a best-seller, even though it came out over the summer. "Goblet of Fire" and the first three books in the series have sold more than 40 million copies in the U.S. A Harry Potter movie is due out next year. Author J.K. Rowling already is working on the next installment of the seven-part series. She spoke with NPR's Margot Adler.

MARGOT ADLER reporting:

I know that when I read books as a kid, the characters became part of my fantasy life. And you've lived with Harry Potter for more than 10 years.

Ms. J.K. ROWLING (Author): Yeah.

ADLER: And I'm wondering, is he less with you now, more with you now? Does he sit on your shoulder? You know what I'm talking about.

Ms. ROWLING: Still very with me, always. Of course. I mean, this is a very, very all-consuming project, a seven-novel series. I have 127 characters. That's a lot of characters to keep in play. It's an increasingly complex plot, as I always planned it. Obviously it's the focus of an enormous amount of my time and energy and a huge part of my life.

ADLER: I keep on being at war with a desperate desire to see the movie...

Ms. ROWLING: I know. I think, you know...

ADLER: ...and that feeling of, `Oh, will they destroy my own imagination, my own Harry Potter in my head?' You know...

Ms. ROWLING: It's my belief, you know, people who have stayed with Harry for four years now, I doubt that seeing the movie could harm their imagined Harry or Hogwarts. But I know what you mean. I mean, I think a lot of people are going to feel that. They really want to see it. I met a really clever reader the other day, and this is what's wonderful about books; she said to me, `I really know what Neville looks like.' And I said, `Describe Neville for me.' And she said, `Well, he's short and he's black, and he's got dreadlocks.' Now, to me, Neville's short and plump and blond, but that's what's great about books. You know, she's just seeing something different. People bring their own imagination to it. They have to collaborate with the author on creating the world.

ADLER: Now you still have at least three years to go to write five, six and seven of the series.

Ms. ROWLING: Yeah.

ADLER: And given that Harry Potter was--What?--10 years in the making, are there other projects that are beginning to percolate? I'm not saying you have to tell us those, but that are beginning to sort of percolate in your head for sort of beyond Harry?

Ms. ROWLING: There are ideas, but as I say, it's 127 characters in this very long--I'm not eager to finish Harry. I don't want to lose the momentum, so I'm not about to take time off from writing it, in the sense that I don't want to walk away from it and come back. It's going to be like a bereavement to finish the books; they've been such a huge part of my life. And I neither want to hasten towards it, nor do I want to extend the series unnecessarily.

ADLER: And you said that with book five, you're going to be a little more relaxed about it, right?

Ms. ROWLING: A little bit more, and I'm only saying that because book four--and this was no one's fault. It wasn't my publisher's fault, and it wasn't my fault. It was one of the--blame my muse. My muse went wrong. She led me up a blind alleyway, and I had to scrap out of the book, and I went back and I rewrote and I still loved the writing of it, but it was very pressured at one point. And that was really pressure I was putting on myself. Obviously I wanted to finish the book to my satisfaction, and I also didn't want to disappoint people by missing the deadline. We made the deadline, but I did do that by putting in very, very long days and working in a far more pressured way than I normally work. You know, I'm writing book five now. It will be ready when it's ready.

ADLER: Is there anything about book five, any little piece, that you can relate to our audience?

Ms. ROWLING: I could give you the title.

ADLER: Mm-hmm.

Ms. ROWLING: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

ADLER: "The Order of the Phoenix."

Ms. ROWLING: Uh-huh. But I'm not telling you anything else.

ADLER: That's fine. How are you protecting yourself from all the celebrity in order to have time to write?

Ms. ROWLING: Mostly, it's really not that difficult. You know, people ask me, "Can you still walk down the street without being recognized?" Very easily. The more difficult aspect is that you do find everyone wants something, and loads of the people who want something want it for very, very good causes, but there has to be a cut-off point because I will not produce any more work if I do everything that people are asking of me. So there are charities I do work for, but obviously I have to turn a lot of it down. Quite apart from wanting to continue to be a novelist, I want to see my daughter. I don't want to--you know, she comes first, Harry comes second.

ADLER: You want to have a life.

Ms. ROWLING: Yeah, a life would be nice. I didn't even think of that. I remember having a life. I was right...

ADLER: You remember having a life?

Ms. ROWLING: Yes. It was fun.

ADLER: But has there been an upside for all this renown?

Ms. ROWLING: Oh, huge upside. The huge upside is meeting kids and meeting readers. That's hugely enjoyable. There's absolutely no negative in meeting the readers, none. Really none. I mean, I've never met a child who was anything less than delightful, really. It's wonderful. I love giving readings. I love answering kids' questions. In fact, this is very difficult, but journalists have been asking me for the title of book five, and I finally--this morning, I cracked and told an eight-year-old boy because I just wanted to see the look on his face when I told him. But only occasionally do I think, "What have you done?" And normally that's on a day when some journalist has come and banged on my front door, and I never expected that, and I can't say I particularly enjoy that. But most of the time, it is really wonderful.

ADLER: Knowing what you know now about the last four years you've experienced, is there anything that you'd do differently?

Ms. ROWLING: In retrospect, only fairly trivial things. Overall, no, not really. In terms of the writing, you always look back at your work, your books, and think, "Why did I say it that way? Why did I do it that way?" I think the urge to tinker remains even after the books are in print. In other ways, in sort of handling everything that's happened, I'm still learning on the job. But by and large, you know, I'm a happy person. I think I'd be enormously ungrateful if I said I wasn't. This morning I met the winners of a competition Scholastic ran. They had set essays: "How Harry Potter changed my life." They had 10,000 entries. Can you believe that?

ADLER: Ten thousand?

Ms. ROWLING: Mm-hmm. That was a humbling experience. You go through an experience like that, suddenly the journalist banging on your front door doesn't seem that important anymore.