Coad, Emma. One-on-one interview with J.K. Rowling, ITV, 17 July 2005
Transcript by Deborah Skinner
Emma: Why did you start writing the series?
JK: Well, the idea hit me on this train journey, when I was travelling from Manchester to London in England. And it just came out of nowhere, the idea of a boy who didn't know he was a wizard and received a letter telling him he had a place at a wizards' school, and from that lots of the plot that appears in the seven books evolved on that train journey, so that by the time I got off the train I was so excited at the idea of writing this book that I just couldn't wait to get home, and that's how it started.
Emma: What was the very first thing that inspired you to write the books?
JK: Well, I think that first idea was one that engaged me so much, it made me so excited about the possibilities of that plot, that it gave me the motivation to persevere with it. I think that most people, erm ... it can be quite discouraging writing when you haven't got a publishing deal, you've got to have a lot of faith in what you're writing just to keep going and finishing the novel and I just love the story so much so that's what kept me going really.
Emma: Are any of the characters in the story like some of the people you met at school or when you were a kid?
JK: Not, ummmm, not, not very obviously. I think, I think the exception would be I've often said Ron Weasley is a lot like a boy I was at school with called Sean, who is now obviously a grown man and he's, he's an...Ron isn't really Sean. I mean they're not the same, but I noticed as I wrote Philosopher's Stone, the first book, that he sounded like Sean and that certainly wasn't a coincidence. Some of his humour is very Sean-ish.
Emma: Do you think you'll be writing more books featuring some of the other characters from the Harry Potter series, like Snape and what he did before?
JK: I don't think so, no, I'm pretty sure I won't. My feeling is that I planned the, this series as a seven book series, that in book seven I think your questions will be answered. People will always have a few unanswered questions that they wonder, things about the characters and those things will probably be answered in fan fiction, you know, people get a lot of enjoyment writing their own stories about my characters and good luck to them. If they enjoy it then that's fantastic, and some of it's very good!
Emma: [Question unintelligible]
JK: Yeah, definitely. I think we've all met people like Draco Malfoy. In fact, nearly every reader of your age I've ever met has said 'I know someone just like Draco Malfoy' and sometimes it's a girl. Many of my hopes and fears are Harry's hopes and fears, in that we all want to just, we're anxious about the same kind of things, although we'd rarely admit it. So we're anxious about fitting in, we're anxious about coping with work and we're anxious about friendships and being made fun of and all of these things. Sometimes you want to be different, sometimes you want to be just like everyone else. So I think Harry goes through all of those things.
So I was very influenced by ... I was also influenced by fantasies I'd had in my childhood. I had a fantasy about flying horses and a flying coach and eventually I used that in Goblet of Fire, as you know.
Emma: How do you think of the names in all the books like Gringotts and Hogwarts?
JK: Erm, Gringotts, really, I think, came from Ingots. you know you get ingots of gold, those bars? So I just liked the sound of it, so to me it sounded, 'gr' words can sound quite aggressive or quite, erm, or even sinister. So I really combined Gringotts. I just thought it sounded that little bit intimidating, but it had that allusion to gold in it.
Hogwarts, I always wanted Hog to be there, for some reason. I messed around with various different versions of Hogwarts until I settled on Hogwarts. I like it. I think it sounds comical and inviting at the same time. So you think about words like that and you try lots of different things and then suddenly one fits and you're happy with it.
Emma: What one spell would you like to bring to life and why?
JK: Ooh, there are so many, aren't there? So many. Erm, I think for me there ... the outstanding spell is 'Expecto Patronum', and you know what that does don't you? It creates the Patronus, it creates a kind of spirit guardian in a way. And that's partly because of what it does. It's the protector, and you could protect yourself and other people that you cared about with a Patronus, but it's also because it's such a beautiful spell. you know, the image of the silver Patronus emerging from a wand. I really like that.
Emma: How do you keep inspired as there be so much pressure on you trying to make each nook better than/of the one before it?
JK: Well there is pressure but I'm lucky in that I planned all the books so long ago now that, erm, I can't really be deflected by much. I mean, I know what I've got to do next. It would be much harder if I didn't really know what the next book would be about and I had a lot of pressure on me to as you say, make it good or make it exciting and I was sitting there think 'Oh God, *gasps*, what do I make him do this time?' well, luckily for me, my plans are there and I know what he's going to do next time, so I really just have to sit down and do the whole book and make it into a book.
Emma: Will Harry and Hermione start dating, or will it be Ron and Hermione?
JK: What do you think?
Emma: Harry and Hermione.
JK: You will get more clues on that in this book (indicates HBP). In fact you'll half of it, half of your answer is will come in this book.
Emma: Do you ever get writers' block?
JK: Very, very, very rarely.
JK: Yeah, Erm, I once..I think I've only actually had one case of what I would call true writers' block, and that was during the writing of Chamber of Secrets, and that was related entirely to the fact that Philosopher's Stone had a lot of success which really took me aback and temporarily paralysed me so I didn't...I was just plain scared I think, you know, I thought 'I can't keep this up, I can never keep this going'. I felt very insecure an very frightened by what was happening around me and that got me temporarily. And I can't now remember how long that lasted for, I think a couple of weeks. That's a very long time for someone like me, who writes pretty easily on a day-to-day basis.
Emma: Do you enjoy going to the movies to see your books come to life?
JK: I do enjoy it. It's a funny feeling. One of the most disturbing feelings, and yet wonderful as well, was the first time I visited the film set. They were showing me around the set, just incredible, and there were two things. I walked into the great hall, and I'd drawn the director, Chris Columbus, sort of a rough diagram of how I saw the great hall and we'd really discussed, and the production design manager had just done the most astonishingly good job, and that felt like walking into my own head. I just walked into this place that I had imagined for so long and there it was and it really looked exactly as I imagined it and it was astonishing. And then later that day they showed me the chamber where Quirrell faces Harry at the end of Philosopher's Stone, and there was a spooky, spooky moment when I was stood in front of the Mirror of Erised seeing myself, of course, exactly as I am -- and you know what that means in the book. And so I was seeing myself as a successful, published author. Wow, so that was a very, almost embarrassingly symbolic moment, you can imagine.
Emma: Did you ever expect your books to be so popular with adults and children?
JK: No, I, I never dreamed that I would be where I am now, it's just been incredible. I never dreamt that people would like the book so much. Erm, I often get asked the question about adults and all I can say in that is that I ... I ... I write these books and I don't sit down and think 'right, now what would an eight year old like to read and what would a twelve year old like?' I really do write what I'd quite like to read. So from that point of view it doesn't surprise me that other adults like them because I'm an adult, obviously, and I like them, but the scale of it obviously, is breathtaking.
Emma: the story seems to be drawing to a close, how will you feel when the books actually stop?
JK: I'll have very mixed feelings, because, I'll certainly have a big sense of loss and it will almost be like a bereavement because I've been living with Harry since 1990, so it's 15 years so far and that's a very, very long time to be with anyone and certainly longer than a lot of marriages, so it's, erm, that'll be painful, the idea that I won't write about him anymore. On the other hand, you've just mentioned there is a certain amount of pressure that comes with being the writer of Harry Potter, and it would be nice to write something without any of that pressure. Although, I don't really feel the pressure when I'm writing Harry Potter, then at some point I have to emerge from writing the book and then I really, I feel the weight of it a little bit. Erm, so there are things connected with the whole world of Harry Potter that I won't miss so much.
Emma: What is your favourite wizards' sweet?
JK: Oh, my favourite wizards' sweet? I have a very soft place in my heart for Cockroach cluster. I enjoyed inventing that and yeah, I do like that!
Emma: What makes a good writer?
JK: Oooh, there's a question. Erm, many many many different things make a good writer. For me, I like books but, erm, if you combine characters that you care about with a really intriguing story than I think, then you've generally got something I'd like to read. So, those are things I appreciate in other writers. Erm, but I like a number of very different writers and you could find very few things that they had in common, so it's one of those...it's so subjective because your favourite writer, someone else would loathe.