J.K. Rowling BBC Interview

Dec 10, 2005

Posted by: Melissa Anelli


JKR’s radio interview with Stephen Fry will air again here on Christmas Eve, but you can also download it in the meantime right here.
Click below for bits that were transcribed as the interview went on:

UPDATE: Thanks to our friends at MuggleNet and Micah and Jess, you can now read the entire transcript, here. Thanks guys!
Stephen Fry asks which character she identifies with most:

Jo: Probably Harry, really, because I have to think myself into his head more than any of the others…I think it’s impossible not to put a little of yourself into any of your characters.

Jo: The adventure would fall down every second day if they went home and spoke to their parents.

Jo: Young ladies 200 years ago weren’t allowed to read novels because it would enflame them and excite them…I remember being quite distressed to read Virginia Woolf being told she couldn’t write…That beautiful image in C.S. Lewis where there are pools…to me that was…what a beautiful place. That to me is what literature should be. Whether you love Hogwarts or loathe it I don’t think you can criticize it for being a world you can enjoy.

Jo: [Was flattered to see Stephen Fry compare her world to Sherlock Holmes’]

I feel very strongly that there is a move to sanitize literature because we’re trying to protect children, not necessarily from the gritty facts of life, but from their own imaginations…what are we saying to children who do have scary and disturbing thoughts? We’re saying that’s wrong, and that that’s not natural…we’re saying they’re old or ill.

Jo: A question I was asked a lot early on was was Voldemort really Harry’s father? … No, he is not, he is not in a biological sense related to him at all.
SF: …[a leading fan theory about the end of the series] Harry will finally defeat Voldemort at the expense of his own powers…
Jo: [gasps] It’s a good ending. [Jokes about using that ending and being sued for plagiarism by 13 million children.]

SF: Do you actually trawl through books of rare words or OED?
Jo: I don’t really trawl books. They tend to be things I’ve collected or stumbled across… the exception was Gilderoy…the name Lockhart, I found on a war memorial. … I was leafing through the dictionary of phrase and fable one night, and I saw Gilderoy. … Gilderoy Lockhart, it just sounded perfect.

SF: I wondered if the way I have read the books has altered your writing of them.
Jo: There was a time when I was writing Goblet of Fire when I would settle down to work in the evening and I could hear you reading from [Jessica]’s bedroom, which was a really mind-warping experience…I couldn’t escape Harry Potter, I could hear him and I could see him and I was writing about him.

[SF uses a CD to remind himself of the voices he’s used for each characters.]
[Jessica Rowling wants to know how SF got Hermione’s voice]
SF: It’s a sort of softening.
Jo: I do remember being there to see you record and you said to me, “It’s very hard to hiss something with no sibilant in it.” Someone had hissed, “Don’t do that.” [There’s no ‘s’ sound.]

SF: For generations now, the ideal child’s hero is Harry Potter. … because was the one you went hunting with?
Jo: Loads and loads. I liked the heroine of the Little White Horse becuase she was quite plain and I was plain…She was freckly and had reddish hair and I identified with her a lot. I loved E. Nesbit. She is still probably the children’s writer I most identify with. … I think the female writers are less sentimental about childhood.

[Illustrations weren’t put in the first book because it was big enough without the added expense of art. Jo likes the chapter headings in the American editions.]

SF: I remember you telling me about your first signing queue in America. …. You had a woman in gilt.
Jo: I had a woman who dressed up as the Fat Lady, complete with frame hung around her neck. And that is the closest I will ever get to being a pop star… I didn’t know where I was. I was completely disoriented. As a defensive mechanism, when those events are over I kind of shut down…and then I have to return to my office and return to my world.

Jo: Is there any character with whom you identify particularly?
SF: [Dumbledore].

Jo: Dumbledore does express the regret that he always had to be the one who knew, and had to be the burden of knowing. He would rather not know.

My favorite comment about Harry at the time of the first book was abut a schoolboy who was interviewed…he said, ‘He doesn’t seem to know what’s going on a lot of the time, and nor do I.'”

Jo: In self-defense, Harry had to, because of what I’m trying to say about Harry as a hero, because he’s a very human hero…Harry therefore did have to reach a point where he did almost breakdown and say he didn’t want to play anymore, he didn’t want to be the hero anymore and he’d lost too much and he didn’t want to lose anything. So Phoenix was the point at which I decided he had to have his breakdown. And now he will rise from the ashes, strengthened.

Jo: What I really enjoy about your reading is, the accents aren’t intrusive. I don’t sense as though you’re giving a sort of virtuoso performance…you don’t form a big barrier. … I don’t feel I should push you that much further but are there any scenes you can remember enjoying reading?

SF: The whole creepy stuff at the climax of Order of the Phoenix, in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic, I loved the fact that it was so frightening and scary and dramatic.

Jo: There were a few people who told me that they took it better when you read it to them. … I’ve had readers say to me, I’ve read it again, and there’s a lot more there.

Jo: [on it all being planned] Occasionally I get cold shivers when someone guesses at something that’s very close…I always leave myself latitude to go on a little stroll off the path. So much that happens in six relates to what happens in seven, and you really skid off the end of six into seven. It’s not the discrete adventure the others have been. … For the first time I’m very aware that I’m finishing. The end is in sight.

SF: Will you write for children next…

Jo: Truthfully I don’t know. [moldering in cupboard quote…] I’m very frightened, you can imagine, of the unbearable hype that would attend a post Harry Potter book. Not sure I look forward to that at all.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.