An Evening with Harry, Carrie and Garp:
Readings and questions #1 (partial transcript)

J.K. Rowling at Radio City Music Hall, 2006Date: 1 August 2006.
Location: Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY.
Context: benefit reading to raise money for Doctors Without Borders and the Haven Foundation.
Source: fan recordings.
Transcription credits: Dissendium member Starmom.
Note: this is a partial transcript; full text is here.

After Jo read from Chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the audience was invited to ask questions.

Q: What would Hermione see if she looked into the Mirror of Erised?

Rowling: Well… (big grin from Jo, with some eye rolling) At the moment, as you know, Harry, Ron and Hermione have just finished their penultimate year at Hogwarts and Hermione & Ron have told Harry they are going to go with him, wherever he goes next. So, at the moment, I think that Hermione would be most likely to see the three of them alive and unscathed and Voldemort finished. But I think that Hermione would also see herself closely entwined… with… another… person. I think you can probably guess who.

Q: Can Muggles brew potions if they follow the exact instructions and they have all the ingredients?

Rowling: Well, I’d have to say no, because there is always ... there is a magical component to the potion, not just the ingredients. So, at some point you’re going to have to use a wand. I been asked what would happen if a Muggle picked up a magic wand in my world. And the answer would probably be something accidental ... possibly quite violent. Because a wand, in my world, is merely a vehicle -- a vessel for what lies inside the person.

There’s a very close relationship -- as you know -- between the wand that each wizard uses and themselves. In fact, we’ll find out more about that in Book 7. You need the ability to make these things work properly. But, you’re right. Potions seems, on the face of it, to be the most Muggle-friendly subject. But there does come a point where you need to do more than stir.

Q: In a previous interview you’ve said that Snape ("SNAPE!" she echoes mischievously) had some redemptive qualities about Is there any chance that Draco Malfoy might redeem himself?

Rowling: Oh you girls and Draco Malfoy! (She shakes her head) You must start to get past this… I believe that almost anyone can redeem themselves; however, in some cases … as we know from reality … I mean … Voldemort … if psychologists were ever to get Lord Voldemort in a room, pin him down and take the wand away, I think he would be classified as a psychopath. So there are people, for whom, whatever you’re going to call it -- personality disorder or an illness -- I don’t think redemption is not possible. They’re rare.

So I would say my characters, in the main, there is the possibility of redemption for all of them. Draco, I think -- in Harry’s view, even given unlimited time, would not have killed (I assume all of you have finished the book? I don’t wish to deprive some kid who’s got 5 pages to go. They’ve been in a coma all this time.) Harry believes that Draco would not have murdered the person in question. What that means for Draco’s future? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Q: In the wizarding world, there are many wand makers, Ollivander's being the one we’re most familiar with. How come Ollivander chose the three magical cores for the wands he makes and decided these are the most powerful cores instead of other cores, such as Veela hair?

Rowling: It is true there are several wand makers. And in my notes I have many different cores for wands. Essentially, I decided Ollivander's was going to use my three favourites.. So Ollivander has decided those are the three most powerful substances. Other wand makers would choose things that are particular to their country. Because countries in my world have their own particular indigenous magical species. So Veela hair is kind of obvious for Fleur’s wand.

Q: How do you know when to stop writing and (begin) editing?

Rowling: How do I know when to stop? Well, I think some of the reviews of Phoenix suggested I didn’t know when to stop! Well, I decided 16 years ago where I was going. I will say, I’m quite a long way into writing Book 7 now. and, there’s a lot still to explain! I hadn’t really realized…There’s a lot to find, to sort out… and I’ll probably leave some loose ends hanging, that you’ll be able to say, "Well, in Book 8, she’ll explain why" "You mentioned the Toad!" No, that’s NOT significant by the way, just to save myself 500 letters! But I do know where I’m going. I’m really going to really miss writing Harry Potter, I will miss it fiendishly. [Book] 27? Any thoughts on 27? No.. I think you’ll see that I’ve run out of plot if I go past this.

Q: As one of the first authors to become famous during the internet age, how has online communication and fan interaction influenced your experience as a writer?

Rowling: You really have to resist, when you’re struggling for ideas, to go onto Amazon to read your bad reviews … It’s kind of masochistic … For a long time I never looked -- people used to ask me, do I ever look at the fan sites or go to what they say about me online and I was truthful, I said I didn’t.

And then one day I googled "Harry Potter"… oh.. my.. God.. I had NO idea… no idea. The shipping wars? For people who are over the age of 18 who may not know about this, I certainly didn’t. It’s like cyber gang warfare. People really wanted Harry and Hermione to end up together. (CHEERS) They’re still out there! Get over it! People wanting Hermione and Ron (CHEERS). And some other weird couplings as well, but we will not go anywhere near there. So I imagine Jane Austin had a little less feedback. But overall, I think it’s an exciting thing, for readers being able to share … cyber book groups … I think its an interesting and exciting thing … if used wisely!

Q: When you started writing and faced rejection, did you ever think of giving up? And if you had, what do you think you’d be doing now?

Rowling: There was quite a lot of rejection, but it was squeezed into a relatively short period of time. I got an agent on my second attempt, but then it was a couple of years before it was accepted by a publisher. And during that time … did I ever feel like giving up? No, truthfully, I didn’t. Because I really believed in the story. And I really loved the story.

Iris Murdoch, who is a British writer, now deceased, once said: "Writing a novel is a lot like getting married. You should never commit yourself until you can’t believe your luck." And I really couldn’t believe my luck having had had this idea and I was determined to push on with it until the last publisher had rejected it. Which at one point looked likely.

Would I have stopped writing? Definitely not. But if I’d never been published in the 16 years between having the idea of Harry and now? I think I’d probably would’ve accepted that. I think you’d have to have a lot of self belief after 16 years. I’m sure I’d still be writing, but I think I’d stop sending the manuscript around. And what would I be doing? I’d be teaching. That’s what I was doing.

See also: