Toronto Press Conference, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 22 October 2007.
Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Interviewer: Toronto reporters
Context: Toronto was the last stop on Rowling's 2007 "Open Book Tour." A few days previously Rowling had told fans in New York that Dumbledore was gay, so this dominated the questions. This press conference took place just before the reading at the Winter Garden Theatre and was was also where Jo was given the "Order of the Forest" Award for encouraging publishers to print books on paper from sustainable sources [more award info here].
Transcription credit: Meann and roonwit for Accio Quote!
Q: [unintelligible, something about Dumbledore]
JKR: Ummm... because I was asked a very direct question at Carnegie Hall and the question was, which I have never been asked before... do you... given that one of the biggest themes in the books is love, did Albus Dumbledore ever find love? And the girl who asked it, I have to say, prefaced it with these wonderful statements about how the Harry Potter books have helped her be more fully herself. She's a teenager. So I answered honestly. I suppose the other half of that answer is that Dumbledore's ill-fated infatuation was a key part of the plot of book 7. You know, often with writing the Harry Potter books I felt like a salmon swimming upstream, there were so many theories and people wanted so much information in advance of the story that I... just to keep my sanity and keep my eye on my own plot, did not give masses away ahead of time because I needed to remain focused. So it's been very freeing, really, to finish and be able to be honest about the hinterland of the characters whether it's directly relevant to the plot or not.
Q: [unintelligible] why the Harry Potter saga is such a huge success [unintelligible]
JKR: I've been asked that question a lot and I've always found it very difficult to answer. I feel that I should... there's an expectation I should know what the magical formula was but in truth I wrote what I liked reading. I wrote a complex plot with plenty of mysteries and surprises because that's what I liked and I wrote about characters that I was deeply interested in and engaged with so I assumed there are lots of readers out there like me. That's my answer.
Q: At what stage in the [unintelligible] in writing the Harry Potter books did you conceive the notion of Dumbledore's [unintelligible] sexuality
JKR: Ummm, really, early on. I would say... all of the characters... I was writing for 7 years before the first book was published. The characters became, almost came, more and more into focus as I worked and... I can't honestly say there was a moment when I decided that, that was just something I knew or I came to know... so, umm, from very early on. Probably before the first book was published.
Stacy Bolton: [unintelligible] what did you do to become successful as an author [unintelligible]
JKR: They should read a lot. Which is not me trying to sell more books. Because it's the only way to enlarge your vocabulary and to decide what makes good writing, what makes bad writing. And then they'll go through the phase of imitating their favorite authors, which is fine, because it's a good learning process. Then they need to decide themselves, I'm afraid, wasting a lot of trees. But [laughter] make sure their books are always printed on ancient forest-friendly paper. [laughter]
Gloria Martin: Did you ever consider writing as a prequel to the Harry Potter series focusing on Harry Potter's parents? - Show quoted text -
JKR: I have been asked that a couple of times and I've always said "is that not a little bit 'Star Wars Episode I'?" [laughter] Umm... I probably won't. But I'm gonna keep the 'probably' in there because I've said all the way through I think as early as book two or three, I was asked, why not more than seven? And I've always said "I'm not going to say 'never' because 'never' in my life has always acted as a red rag to a bull and I've immediately wanted to do whatever it is I said never to. So I'm going to say 'probably not'.
Q: What would you say to some of the readers who were taken aback by the revelation that Dumbledore [unintelligible] not the kind of information they expected to find or change the way they feel about the [unintelligible]
JKR: Well, I suppose I would say that it certainly have never been news to me that a brave and brilliant man could love other men. So, ummm... I know that [chuckles] I know that it was a positive thing that I've said for at least one person because one man came out at Carnegie Hall. [chuckles] I'm not kidding. There you are. That's really all that I can say.
Q: Harry Potter has a universal appeal [unintelligible]
JKR: Very possibly. I see no reason why I wouldn't write a book with a female protagonist. It was simply that Harry arrived as Harry and I never at any point consider changing him into Harriet. I did, after I've been writing a while, I did stop and think "It's a boy." But by then Hermione was so real to me, and I think that Hermione, for me, is a fantastic character. She's so bright, she's so essential to the plot and so crucial in the way that they succeed ultimately in the seven books that I don't feel I've let the feminists down, personally.
Q: [unintelligible] political ramifications of Dumbledore coming out. Can you see that on a world wide scale, [unintelligible] for other countries not a tolerant to a gay lifestyle?
JKR: Ummm... I can't really answer that at the moment, you know, it's something that I said recently. I can't really answer that. It is what it is. He is my character and as my character, I have the right to know what I know about him and say what I say about him. There you go.
Q: I'm just wondering why you've waited until now to [unintelligible]
JKR: I actually answered that, first question.
JKR: How much I had to tweak in the Epilogue? The changes I... Not so much, actually. Most of the tweaking was done to reveal less information, rather than more. As originally conceived, the Epilogue pretty much crowbarred in every possible piece of information I could give you about their future lives just because that was where I always knew I was heading. So I knew I had a lot of information and I when I first wrote that all down, that was the point I'm saying it for. The big tweak, I suppose, was Lupin's son. Because until the 5th book in the series, Order of the Phoenix, I had intended Lupin to stay alive. So then it became a focus of the epilogue - one of the focuses - to make sure that he knew, even if he doesn't physically appear, that he was okay.
Q: If not in book form, do you plan on continuing the franchise in any other medium? Last month the biggest entertainment launch in history was for a video game, and there are Harry Potter video games and other mediums. Do you plan on being a part of that and writing more sections of your world's story?
JKR: The only way, and the only plan I have, and it's a possibility that I have, is possibly to write an encyclopedia, which would be the way of putting in all the information, the extra information I have on all these characters. And I've always said, and I stand by that, that if ever I do that, the proceeds will be for charity and I'm not planning on producing that to milk the phenomenon as it were. So, yeah, I've said that all along, and I still may do that, but I've made no start on that. And it's certainly not something I plan on being my next project. I'd like to take a little time away from Harry's world before I go into that. I miss it. I really miss the world. But it's healthy. It's like the breakup of a marriage not to see each other for a while, and then maybe you can be friends afterwards.
Q: In honour of the international festival of authors, I was curious, considering all the authors that have done works for kids as well as adults, who would Harry's ultimate favourite author be? Ron's? Hermione's?
JKR: Well Hermione I think would be into Margaret Attwood. [all laugh] You know what, let's be honest, Harry didn't do a lot of reading except when he had to. [laughs] So I think to pick authors for either Harry and Ron if I'm absolutely honest, would be stretching a point a little bit, and it would be me being Hermioneish rather than truly reflective of their literatary tastes. Sorry.
Q: The last time you were here was before the first Harry Potter film had been shot and at the time you expressed some worry about it. What do you think has been the success ... has been key to the success of your books and made into films?
JKR: Well, I probably would say this, I'm very proud of the fact that we managed to keep the cast all British. I think that has lent a certain tone to the films that is authentic and has kept them very grounded in the books. They are also made in Britain... well on a tangential note that is less about the faithfulness of the translation that been great for the British film industry so I'm proud of that. Overall, its been great, it's been really, really wonderful, and Dan, Rupert and Emma particularly, who play the three main characters have grown so much as actors I think anyone watching the films would agree that. I'm very fond of the three of them, they feel like godchildren really. It's been a really wonderful experience actually.
Q: Back to the outing of Dumbledore, I understand you said it's your character and you were asked about it which is why you revealed it, I guess I'm just curious about why not just write about it in the book? Why not reveal it in the book when you started?
JKR: Because it's ... I really think that is self evident. He's ... The plot is what it is, and he did have, as I say this rather tragic infatuation, but that is a key part of the ending of the story. So there it is, why would I put the key part of my ending of my story in book one? It's about the construction of the story. It's not ... It is what it is.
Q: Why not later then?
JKR: What do you mean?
Q: Why not in book 5, 6 or 7? Why not reveal it in the book?
JKR: Because if you were an author, you would understand, that when you write the ending, it comes at the end. [all laugh]
Q: So the ending was at the news conference I gather for you, when you revealed it publicly?
JKR: Not at all. No. This wasn't a news conference, this was a question and answer with a fan, and ... why is that the ending of the book? It is in the book he had ... it's very clear in the book he that he ... absolutely, a child will see a friendship, and I think a sensitive adult may well understand that it was an infatuation. I knew it was an infatuation.
Original page date 20 Sept 2007; last updated 20 Sept 2007.