Vieira, Meredith. "JK Rowling One-On-One: Part Two." Today Show (NBC) , 27 July 2007
Interviewer: Meredith Vieira
Context: This is the second part of one of the first interviews after the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so Jo could finally answer some questions she was reluctant to answer before.
Transcription credit: Meann for Accio Quote!
Related transcript: Part One.
Meredith Vieira: And we are back now, at 7:38, with part 2 of our exclusive interview with Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling. The final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was the most highly-anticipated book in history. Earlier this week, I sat down with Rowling at the Edinburgh Castle in Scotland to talk about success, fame, and saying goodbye to Harry. A warning now, if you're not finished with the book, this interview does contain some sensitive information about the plot.
(MV and Jo are walking outside Edinburgh Castle)
MV: Jo, when you look out over Edinburgh, you wrote so much of the beginning of your book at a cafe...
MV: And the last chapter of your book in the Balmoral.
Jo: *nods* Mmm-hmmm.
MV: Beautiful hotel. Talk about where your life has come over all these years. What goes through your mind?
Jo: Finishing has certainly made me look back a lot, and it is almost incredible to me at times, what's happened. And there's certainly moments when I imagined that I've dreamt it all.
(MV and Jo are seated inside the Castle)
MV: You know, this is an interesting experience for you 'cause you've never had a chance, after a book, to talk.
Jo: It's just really liberating.
MV: And now, I'm reading the book sales for this book. In America, 5,000 a minute.
Jo: Is that right, really? My God. That's... oh my God. See, I can't really comprehend that.
MV: Could you ever have imagined back then what this would turn into?
Jo: No, I haven't. Harry saved us, security wise, he turned my life around completely. It's been phenomenal and so unexpected.
MV: What's next for you?
Jo: I'm gonna take a break, definitely. And I'm just gonna savor, for a while, the feeling that I don't have a deadline. It's just really liberating to think I can almost return to the beginning and write any old thing and see where it goes and I don't have any pressure on me. And there's no particular expectation that anything will get finished.
MV: 17 years, 7 books. What do you want people to take away from all this?
Jo: If it's true that Harry got people reading -- anyone who wouldn't otherwise have enjoyed books or started to enjoy books, then that's the best thing anyone could say to me.
MV: Did you feel, in writing the seventh book, a sense of responsibility to those... fans.
Jo: It always... Yes, I definitely feel a sense of responsibility in that I wanted to make it the very very very best book I could. I am often asked, "Well, don't you feel guilty killing people, characters that kids love..." and, ummm, it sounds horrible and heartless to say "No." But the truth is that when you're writing, you have to think only of what you're writing. Even my nearest and dearest, my sister, I showed her the book and she looked at me over the top of it and said "If you kill Hagrid, I'll never forgive you."
MV: Oh, lucky, you didn't kill Hagrid.
Jo: Yeah. (laughs) But I never planned to kill Hagrid, so...
MV: The end of the book... I had read that the last word was supposed to be "scar"...
Jo: And it was, for a long, long time. For a long time, the last line was something like "Only those whom he loved could see the lightning scar." And that was a reference to the fact that Harry was kind of flanked by his loved ones...
MV: To "All was well."
Jo: All was well.
MV: And you know when you came up with that line, that was it.
Jo: It just felt... I felt a kind of [sighs] and that felt right.
MV: I want to talk a little bit about the movies, because I know when that first was presented to you, you said no.
Jo: (nods) Yeah.
MV: You weren't interested.
MV: What changed your mind?
Jo: Well, the biggest thing, by far, was that I was looking for an agreement that said they would follow my story even though the rest of the books weren't written [yet] by me.
MV: Are you happy with them?
Jo: I'm really, really happy with them. It's so close to being indistinguishable, particularly Hogwarts.
MV: And Daniel and Emma and Rupert who play the three leads have nothing but wonderful things to say about you. How do you feel about them? You know, they're all your main characters...
Jo: Yeah, they're all amazing, and I told all three of them -- all three main ones, Emma, Daniel and Rupert, knew more than they've ever let on.
MV: Did any of them ask, "are you gonna off me?"
Jo: Yeah, Dan did, yeah.
MV: Daniel did? And did you tell him?
Jo: At one point, he said, "I just gotta ask you, do I die?" And I thought quick, and I whispered so no one else could hear, "You'd get a death scene" But Dan's very smart and I'm pretty sure he would have walked away from that dinner thinking "Yeaaahh, I'd get a death scene, but what does that mean?" I didn't say, "Yes, you die," so, I hope he's happy.
MV: And NBC-Universal, our parent company, has started on the theme park.
MV: Yes, Universal Studios.
MV: Are you looking forward to that or...
Jo: I'm looking forward to it 100 percent. I'm gonna be first on the ride.
MV: One of my favorite scenes is in the first book, it's the Mirror.
Jo: Yeah, that's my favorite chapter of the first book
MV: Oh, it is as well? I don't know, there's something about that, when he looks at that Mirror...
MV: And he sees his family. That is so moving to me. If I had that Mirror here and you looked into that Mirror, what do you think you would see?
Jo: I would definitely see what Harry sees. Ummm, I would have seen my Mother, I would be able to have a conversation with my Mother, I...
MV: She had battled MS for 10 years.
Jo: 10 years, yeah.
MV: How did that shape you as a young woman, and how did her departure, her death, affect this book?
Jo: Definitely, Mum dying had a profound influence on the books, because I had been writing about Harry for 6 months when she died. And on the first draft, his parents were disposed off really quiet and at an almost cavalier fashion. 6 months, and my mother dies, and I really think from that moment on, Death became a central, if not the central theme of the seven books. And, ummm, in many ways, all of my characters are defined by their attitude to death and the possibility of death.
MV: Did your Mom ever know that you were writing this book?
Jo: It's one of my biggest regrets. She never knew. She would have loved this, I mean, just in the sense that any mother wants to know her child is successful. She would've been in every event I did, she would have so much vicarious pleasure in meeting who I met, and would have been fascinated and interested... And it was a massive regret that I did not at least tell her.
MV: Had you been one of these students who had ended up at Hogwarts and they put the Sorting Hat on you, which one of the Houses would you think you would've ended up in?
Jo: The virtue that I prize among all others, and I think is patently obvious in the books, is courage. Ummm... so I would hope to be in Gryffindor. Whether I would be judged worthy or not, I don't know.
MV: Do you think that most people in this world are more like the Harrys or most people in this world are more like the Dracos or...
Jo: I'm reasonably optimistic about human nature, but most people are decent. What's interesting to examine is what happens to decent people when they're frightened...
MV: Like Stephen King said, these characters is right up there with some of the greats.
Jo: That's very kind of him.
MV: Frodo and Dorothy and Huckleberry Finn...
MV: I suppose it's mind-boggling to think that your book is up on that, that same shelf...
Jo: It is. And ultimately, if the books deserve to survive, they will survive, and if they don't deserve to survive, they won't. That's it. History will judge. That ultimately is what matters, and it really helps you put everything else into perspective.
Original page date 28 July 2007; last updated 28 July 2007.