Harry Potter author proud of new novel she knows some won’t like
BY CAROL MEMMOTT September 25, 2012 12:00PM
FILE - A Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010 photo from files showing British author J K Rowling arriving at a cinema in Londonís Leicester Square for the World Premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. She may not be able to match the phenomenal success of the Harry Potter series, but J.K. Rowling has high hopes for "The Casual Vacancy," her first novel for adults. The title was announced Thursday, April 12, 2012, by Little, Brown & Co. along with a brief plot synopsis for the book.The publisher said it will be available worldwide on Sept. 27. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan, File)
Updated: October 28, 2012 6:48AM
EDINBURGH, Scotland — Surely, somewhere at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry lies a dusty, never-before-noticed spell book. In that book, J.K. Rowling, the celebrated creator of Harry Potter, could find the formula that would transform her into a critically acclaimed writer of adult fiction.
Rowling isn’t relying on magic for as the Thursday release date arrives for her adult novel, The Casual Vacancy (Little, Brown, $35). She believes her reputation for creating great characters and compelling stories will trump any spell that Harry or his mentor, the all-powerful Professor Dumbledore, could ever conjure.
“Of course this might change tomorrow, but I thought I would feel more nervous because it’s been five years [since the final Potter book was released] and this is a very different kind of book, but actually, I feel quite excited,” says Rowling in a sit-down interview in the Scottish capital, where she lives.
“I don’t think that everyone will like the book,” she says, “but I’m proud of this book. I like this book. It is what it’s meant it to be. As an author, you really can’t say more than that, and I don’t mean this arrogantly, but if people don’t like it, well, that’s how it should be, isn’t it? That’s art. It’s all subjective. And I can live with that.”
In a wide-ranging interview, Rowling, 47, offers an intimate look into her life as a writer whose books have sold 450 million copies around the world.
Her vivid imaginings of the life and adventures of a boy wizard, published between 1997 and 2007, have spawned amusement parks, toys, video games, blockbuster movies and Pottermore, her fan site for everything Harry Potter.
Because Pottermania is so deeply rooted in our pop-culture landscape, Rowling says she understands and accepts that many readers would rather she just keep writing about the boy wizard. “Yes, I understand that point of view. If you love something — and there are things that I love —you do want more and more and more of it, but that’s not the way to produce good work. So as an author, I need to write what I need to write. And I needed to write this book.”
Patricia Bostelman, Barnes & Noble’s marketing vice president, says The Casual Vacancy could be the year’s biggest book. “We’re very optimistic about this book. She’s a gifted storyteller and very skilled at creating characters and creating worlds.”
While the Harry Potter idea came to her as she was traveling on a train in England, the idea for The Casual Vacancy, she says, came to her five years ago aboard a plane over the U.S. on her way to a promotional event for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the series.
“It’s hard to sum up the idea,” she says, “but it was for a disrupted local election, and I could see immediately that that was a perfect way to get into a small community, of examining a lot of different characters of different ages. I’m very drawn to that type of book. I like to get in among a set of people and get to know them very well.”
In the novel, the tiny fictional British village of Pagford is turned upside down after one of its parish councilmen, Barry Fairbrother, dies. Rowling uses his death as a way to examine the inner workings of the village government and, more importantly, the lives of its residents.
“It was also an appealing idea because I could see that I could set it in the kind of town that I knew,” Rowling says. The Casual Vacancy takes a microscopic view of a handful of families in Pagford, including that of Krystal Weedon, a somewhat out-of-control teenager living in poverty with her toddler brother, Robbie, and her mother, Terri, who’s struggling to overcome drug addiction.
“In some sense, the whole plot can be summed up with ‘what do we do about Krystal?’ and, by extension, ‘what do we do about all those people who are in a poverty trap?’ But for Krystal, it’s more than that, isn’t it?” Rowling says. “Krystal is dealing with addiction in her family, she’s dealing with decades of increasing poverty in her family with everything that means.”
Rowling has been married since 2001 to Neil Murray, a doctor. They have three children: Jessica, 19, from her previous marriage, is now a university student. Their son, David, is 9, and their daughter, Mackenzie, is 7.
One of her happier public appearances this year included her participation in the tribute to children’s literature during the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics.
While watching a rehearsal, she recalled that “when that section arrived and the huge Voldemort grew up out of the middle of the stage, I had one of these moments that I have every so often, when my entire body goes cold and I think, ‘How the hell did this happen?’ and I’m staring at this 18-meter-high Voldemort, or whatever he was, and I was thinking, ‘That was once an idea in my head that no one knew about.’ It was a few scribbled lines on the back of an envelope, and now it’s represented on arguably the biggest stage in the world.”
Gannett News Service