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"Harry Potter and Me" (BBC Christmas Special, British

version), BBC, 28 December 2001

Transcribed by 'Marvelous Marvolo' and Jimmi Thgersen.

This television show was broadcast by the BBC in the UK and

Canada, and by the A&E cable channel in the U.S. The editing and
narrators are different. This transcription is of the British version; the
sections of the program not broadcast in the American version are
in BOLD.

STEPHEN FRY [SF], reader of the British books on audiotape:

[Excerpt from PS/SS:] He'll be famous -- a legend -- I wouldn't be
surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in the future -- there
will be books written about Harry -- every child in our world will know
his name!

NARRATOR [NAR]: When J.K. Rowling wrote these words in the

opening pages of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," she
never in her wildest dreams thought they'd come true. Harry Potter has
become the biggest publishing success the world has ever seen. Since
1997 more than 135 million copies have been sold in 48 different
languages. Only the Bible has more translations. Every thirty seconds
someone somewhere in the world begins a Harry Potter story.

JO ROWLING [JKR]: I think I would have been clinically insane to have

expected what's happened. Who could have predicted this? No one
knew. And I certainly didn't.

NAR: Just a few years ago, J.K. Rowling was broke and jobless -- a
single mother who spent her afternoons writing in Edinburgh coffee
shops while her baby slept. Today, she is famous and rich; the most
celebrated children's author in the world. She's created four
international best-sellers. The first Harry Potter movie is a blockbuster
success, and legions of fans are desperate for the next installment of
the boy wizard's adventures. But it's J.K. Rowling's story that's the
most amazing of all. Only now has she agreed to tell it, in her own

JKR: A lot of rubbish has been written. Not necessarily malicious

rubbish. But things get exaggerated and distorted. And I just thought,
maybe the moment has come just to -- just to say how it happened --
truthfully -- and then I can at least go easy to my bed and think "well,
the truth's out there and people can take it or leave it".
NAR: Harry's arrival on the doorstep of his Muggle relatives, the
Dursleys, in the first book, is the start of an epic, magical journey. Harry
grows up thinking he's just an ordinary boy until he finds out that in the
wizard world his name is legendary and he's destined to attend
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Then Harry's adventures
really begin as he and his classmates, Hermione and Ron, battle with
the dark forces of magic. A story J.K. Rowling has meticulously
planned to tell over seven books; one for each school year. It was a
journey that began back in 1990.

JKR: I was going by train from Manchester to London, sitting there

thinking of nothing to do with writing, and the idea came out of
nowhere. I could see Harry very clearly: this scrawny little boy, and it
was the most physical rush of excitement -- I'd never felt that excited
about anything to do with writing. I'd never had an idea that gave me
such a physical response. So I'm rummaging through this bag to try
and find a pen or a pencil or anything. I didn't even have an eye-liner
on me, so I just had to sit and think, and for four hours -- 'cause the
train was delayed -- I had all these ideas bubbling up through my head.

SF: [Excerpt from PS/SS: description of Harry, visualized with images

of Harry and Hedwig (not from the PS/SS film)]

JKR [riding on a train]: I can't describe the excitement to someone who

doesn't write books except to say it was that incredibly elated feeling
you get when you've just met someone with whom you might
eventually fall in love. That... that was ... that was the kind of feeling I
had getting off the train. As though I'd just met someone wonderful,
and we were about to embark on this wonderful affair. That kind of
elation, that light-headedness, and the excitement, and so I got back to
my flat in Clapping Junction and started writing, and I've now been
writing for ten years so it's been a good affair.

JKR [at King's Cross]: For me, King's Cross is a very very romantic
place. Probably the most romantic station, purely because my parents
met here, so that's always been part of my childhood folklore. My dad
had just joined the navy, my mom had just joined the R.E.N.'s, they
were both traveling up to Arbroth in Scotland -- from London -- and
they met on the train pulling out of King's Cross. So I wanted Harry to
go to Hogwarts by train; I just love trains, I'm a bit nerdy like that. And
obviously therefore it had to be King's Cross.

[excerpt from PS/SS film: Harry asking for Platform 9 3/4]

JKR: Like a lot in the Harry Potter books it was reality with a twist I
wanted to find another entrance to the magical world, but I didn't want
a kind of time-warp thing, I like the entrances to be places that you can
only find if you have the knowledge. So anyone who ran at the barrier
with enough confidence would be able to break through onto this
platform between platform 9 -- platform 10.

[Excerpt from PS/SS film: The portal to Platform 9 3/4]

JKR: I wrote Platform 9 3/4 when I was living in Manchester, and I

wrongly visualized the platforms, and I was actually thinking of Euston,
so anyone who's actually been to the real platforms 9 and 10 in King's
Cross will realize they don't bear a great resemblance to the platforms
9 and 10 as described in the book. So that's just me coming clean,
there. I was in Manchester, I couldn't check.

JKR [in her office]: It was five years from the train journey, where I had
the original idea, to finishing the book. And during those five years this
massive material was generated -- some of which will never find its
way into the book, will never need to be in the book. It's just stuff I
need to know for my own pleasure -- partly for my own pleasure and
partly because, I like reading a book where I have the sense that the
author knows everything. They might not be telling me everything, but
you have that confidence that the author really knows everything.

JKR [on the floor with all her papers everywhere]: Okay, so this is -- to
the untrained eye might look like a pile of wastepaper but this is ten
years' work. As you can see I file meticulously and I know where every
single piece of paper is -- hem-hem -- but I've dragged out for you bits
and pieces So this is the name of everyone in Harry's year [holds up
piece of paper] and all these little symbols mean what house they're in,
how magical they are, what their parentage is, because I needed this
later for the Death Eaters and so on, and the various allegiances that
will be set up within the school. [Hogwarts-Library's info on the chart]

I like this: this was ages ... this was '98 and this was me trying to find
words for the dementors so I've all these Latin words written all over
the inside of my diary. I used to cover just about anything with writing,
as you can see. This is my application for housing benefit in 28
Gardner's Crescent, which is where I ... the first place I first lived,
obviously, when I was in Edinburgh ... treated with a complete lack of
respect by me [she wrote all over it].

Discarded first chapters of book one: I reckon I must've got through

fifteen different alternative chapters of book one. The reason for which
I discarded each of them were: They all gave too much away. And in
fact if you put all those discarded first chapters together, almost the
whole plot is explained. This is an old notebook in which I worked out --
and again, I don't want you to come too close on this -- [flashes paper]
That is the history of the Death Eaters! Where's my Portuguese diary?
God... There it is! So this is a Portuguese diary, as you can see. Not
filled in, because I've never filled in a diary in my life, but it had paper in
it to write on, so we have another draft of book one, chapter one.

I drew a lot of pictures. I drew them for no one but me -- I just wanted
to know what the characters looked like. [shows several drawings] So,
anyway, that was Argus Filch; No prizes! Snape, obviously; That is
Harry arriving in Privet Drive with Professor McGonagall and Hagrid
and Dumbledore; There's a Gringotts' cart; Mirror of Erised; That's the
Weasleys; Professor Sprout. And I like this one -- I thought I'd lost this
picture, actually, because I was gonna show it to Chris Columbus, and
true to form I only found it when it was no use and they'd already they'd
already filmed that bit anyway... This is how the entrance to Diagon
Alley works in my imagination. So Chris is gonna murder me when he
finds out I had it there all along, and he was asking me how it worked,
but it was buried in a box.

[Excerpt from PS/SS film: The brick wall entrance to Diagon Alley]

JKR: It felt as though I was carving a book out of this mess of

notes. And that's in effect what I did. It was a question of
condensing, and editing, and sculpting a book out of this mass of
stuff that I had on Harry. And I thought that if this got published, I
really thought -- it's a book for obsessives. It's a book for the kind
of people who enjoy every little tiny detail about a world. Because
I have every little tiny detail about the world.

SF: [Excerpt from PS/SS: the list of Hogwarts students'

requirements, visualized by a travelling chest being magically
packed -- to the music of Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"]

NAR: As J.K. Rowling continued to build Harry's world, her own fell
apart. She arrived in Edinburgh in 1993 after a brief spell teaching
English in Portugal -- There she'd married, had a baby and then left her
husband. She had no job, no money and a tiny daughter to support.

JKR: That was the phase where the "penniless single mother" sort of
tag to my name came along -- which was true, but it wasn't enough I
was a penniless single mother. I had to write on napkins, 'cause I
couldn't afford paper, and then we started straying into the realms of
the ridiculous. Let's not exaggerate here, let's not pretend I had to write
on napkins because I didn't. They started sort of adding little bits and
pieces that just weren't necessary, because the stark reality was bad

JKR [outside her old apartment]: Haven't been back here since 1994
when I moved out. And I don't like being back here which is no offense
to the place but I've -- I've kind of avoided this place since I moved out
in -- just in deference to the fact that it was a pretty unhappy six
months. I did a lot of writing here I would say it's here that really the
first book became a book as opposed to three chapters and a
collection of notes. So are we going to go in then? Off we go.

You couldn't really objectively speaking look around and say "Well
you've made a success of your life." I was 28, I was living on benefit, I
was living on about seventy pounds a week, I had no work... And to
suddenly be in a position where actually I couldn't support myself
because obviously anyone who's tried to get state childcare will know
that you'll be very lucky to get the kind of childcare that means you can
work even part-time. So it's all a real shock to the system.

JKR [inside her old apartment]: Oh my god! Huh. This is -- this is so

different. This -- oh my gosh... Hum. Oh wow. This is so so different to
how it was when I was here -- this is nice, this is really nice. And I'm
really glad! You just expect time to stand still when you've walked away
from the place, and I should know better, but I have just been -- every
time I've come anywhere near this place or passed it in a bus or a taxi,
I've imagined it exactly as it was when I -- when I lived here and it's --
it's all been -- I would've been delighted to live here! This is great,
actually, it is -- it's like an exorcism. Everything was just very very
dilapidated and always filthy which wasn't the flat's fault -- it was
normally my fault because people very often say to me, "How did you
do it? How did you raise a baby and write a book?" and the answer is, I
didn't do housework for four years! I'm not Superwoman, and living in
squalor that was the answer.

JKR: Memories of this time definitely created the dementors.

SF: [Excerpt from POA: Description of dementors, visualized by

shadows in a dark alley]

JKR: They are kind of depression personified. I was quite

depressed at that point. I still think they are the most frightening
thing I've written.
JKR [in her office]: During the day I was writing in cafes as everyone
famously knows, but could I just say for the record once and for
all 'cause it's really irritating me: I did not write in cafes to escape my
unheated flat, because I am not stupid enough to rent an unheated flat
in Edinburgh in midwinter. It had heating. I went out and wrote in cafes
because the way to make Jessica fall asleep was to keep her moving
-- in the pushchair. So I used to take her out, tie her out, put her in the
pushchair, walk her along -- the moment she fall asleep, into the
nearest caf and write.

JKR [in caf]: So this is Nicholson's. Where I wrote huge parts of the
book. This was a really great place to write, because there were so
many tables around here that I didn't feel too guilty about taking a table
up too long and that was my favorite table. I always wanted to try and
get that one because it was out of the way in the corner.

It was just great to look up when you were writing and stop and think
about things and be able to look out on the street which was quite
busy. They were pretty tolerant of me in here partly because one of the
owners is my brother-in-law. And I used to say to them "Well you know
it gets published, and I'll try and get you loads of publicity" and it was
all just a big Joke. No-one ever dreamt for a moment that was going to

To muster the willpower to keep going with no promise of publication...

Obviously I must've really believed in the story and I did -- I really
believed in it. But it was more a feeling of I have to do right by this
book. I have to give it my best shot. But at the same time my realistic
side was reminding me that a completely unknown author always has
a struggle to get published, and who knew? Just because I thought it
was so great was no guarantee that anyone else would like it.

[We see a draft of her letter she sent to her agent. Here it is:

"June 30, 1994 [*year uncertain*]

Dear Mr. Little,
I enclose a synopsis and sample chapters of a book intended for
children aged 9-12. I would be very grateful if you would tell me if you
would be interested in seeing the full manuscript."
Yours sincerely,
Joanne Rowling ]

NAR: J.K. Rowling sent off her manuscript and got herself a literary
agent -- only to find that publishing houses threw Harry on the reject
CHRISTOPHER LITTLE [CL], literary agent: At the very beginning we
were very excited about it in the agency, but it was a very difficult book
to sell, and quite a large number of publishers turned it down -- it was
too long, it dealt with going away to school, which is something that
was regarded as being not politically correct.

BARRY CUNNINGHAM [BC], former editor of Bloomsbury: Well, of

course, everybody now denies turning it down and -- and want to
distance themselves from this -- from this terrible terrible error.

JKR [in office]: Is it nice to name names? You're nodding, but I don't
think it's very nice to name names.

CL: It was all the major publishers we know.

BC: Among them Puffin & Collins, for for for sure. It's like turning down
the Beatles, isn't it? The very first question she asked me was "How do
you feel about sequels?" [Listen to this!] And then she told me the
entire story of Harry Potter -- all through the entire series [He knows!!!].
I realized, of course, that she knew exactly about this world and where
it was going, who it was going to include, how the character would
develop, and of course it was fascinating because this doesn't normally
happen, Children's book characters don't grow up in real time,
normally, you know. They're locked in the time they are, and the
sequels are endless reruns of the same kind of adventures. But to
have a character developing! -- in real time as his age developed --
was a really interesting idea. I gave Jo one memorable piece of advice.
After our first lunch together, we were -- we were sitting down, and I
said "The important thing, Jo, is for you to --

JKR: -- keep your real job". He said -- Barry said and Christopher my
agent also said to me --

CL: -- Children's authors, you know, really don't make any money

JKR: They both of them were at pains to say to me, you know, "We
really like the book but, you know, it's not that commercial".

NAR: Bloomsbury publishing acquired what would become the biggest

phenomenon in modern literature for just two thousand five-hundred

JKR: That was -- second to the birth of my daughter -- the best

moment of my life. Christopher phoned me up on a Friday afternoon
and he said it so matter-of-factly --
CL: She was speechless, certainly, for at least the period of time it
takes to build up enough steam for a big scream, I think

JKR: And he said, "Are you all right? Are you still there?" And I said,
well, it's just that my only lifetime ambition has just been fulfilled and I
was -- I -- that was the best, the best moment, nothing since has come
anywhere close to the fact that I was actually gonna be in print It was
going to be an actual book in a bookshop. The best moment, oh my

I went into Waterstone's on Prince's Street in Edinburgh, and

there I was! Between Ronson and -- someone else. You know, I
was just there! -- on the "R" shelf, just like any other author!
Incredible. And I had this urge to sneak one off and sign it, and
put it back on. But I thought, you know, someone would tell me
off for graffiti-ing the books, and... I didn't have a credit card or
anything at that point, you see, these practical things, so I had no
proof I was me. So, I couldn't think how I would explain it away, so
I didn't.

NAR: "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" tells of Harry's

introduction to the magical world. Not only is he a wizard, but a famous
one at that. He's renowned as the miraculous survivor of a brutal attack
by the evil wizard Voldemort, who murdered his parents. Through his
adventures at Hogwarts, he begins to find out the mysteries of his past.

PHILIP PULLMAN [PP], writer: The orphan is an excellent protagonist

for any story because they're free and yet they're bereft. They're bereft
of what gives a child most of the sense of who he or she is and where
they come from and where they belong. So they're cut adrift in some
strange way. They have this great need. 'Cause we all need to know
where we come from, and we need to find where we will eventually

[Excerpt from PS/SS film: The Sorting Hat]

JKR: When he first arrives at school he's totally unsure. He has the
feelings we all have -- as adults as well -- when you enter a new place
and you don't know what's going on. But greatly exaggerated obviously
by the fact that he is set apart even there by his fame and his ancestry,
and this curious quirk that meant that he survived this what should
have been a fatal attack. He's every boy... but with a twist.

NAR: J.K. Rowling's mixture of the everyday and the magical, the
matter-of-fact and the mystical, permeates her books.
JKR: I think that the world of Hogwarts, or my magical world, my
community of wizards -- it's like the real world in a very distorted
mirror. We're not going off to a different planet, we're not going
through timewarps. It is a fantastic world that has to live
shoulder-by-shoulder with the real world.

SF: I think what I liked at first about Harry Potter was that mix
of ... I won't say fantasy 'cause I always think that is a dirty word.
And fantasy doesn't really work, and this is grounded in reality,
and it's the reality that appealed to me in a sense.

What's woven into them is a true history of the English folkloric

tradition of magic. She hasn't made up a magic world which is
simply a great wishlist -- a Disney-esque fantasy of "what, if she
had a dream, it's gonna come true!," because Harry Potter doesn't
present a world like that. It's connected and it comes out of the
whole fabric of English history and folkloric mythology. And I'm
not in any way trying to push them into a high literary genre, that
she herself, I'm sure, wouldn't claim to belong to. It's merely that
that's why it works, because things don't work if they are a result
of a feeble-minded fantasy.

JKR: Magic is perennially fascinating. There will always be books

about magic, because it's deeply deeply deeply ingrained in all of
us. In all societies, the world over, magic came first. And we
still ... sophisticated as we think ourselves now, I think the appeal
of the idea that "I can do something that will influence this large
scary environment in which I have to exist." The dream of being
able to become a wizard and control the environment is
still enormous -- for adults as well as children.

SF: [Excerpt from PS/SS: Snape's monologue in "The Potions Master,"

visualized by various liquids in every colour, bubbling in vials, tubes
and bottles]

JKR: I don't believe in witchcraft. Though I've lost count of the number
of times I've been told I'm a practicing witch. Nine...ty... let's say ninety-
five percent, at least, of the magic in the books, is entirely invented by
me. And I've used things from folklore, and I've used bits of what
people used to believe worked, magically, just to add a certain flavor --
but I've always twisted them to suit my own ends; I mean I've taken
liberties with folklore to suit my plot. Witches and wizards are
a huge part of children's literature, it'll never go away. I don't think it will
ever ever ever go away. Hundred years, two hundred years' time
there'll be another kind of wizard story.
NAR: By 1997, J.K. Rowling had moved on to the second book in the
series, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." Book One was
doing well, but nowhere near its popularity today. And J.K. Rowling
was still making her living as a teacher. Then something happened that
would change her world forever. Harry cast a spell across the Atlantic,
and American publishers got caught up in a bidding war for the book.

ARTHUR A. LEVINE, Vice President, Scholastic Publishing: My boss

would say, "OK, do you love it?" And I'd say, "Yes, I love it." "OK, stay
in the auction." "Do you love it this many dollars?" "Uh... yeah!"
[nervous laugh] I kept saying "Yes." I just was getting more and more
nervous because at the end of the day this is more money than I had
ever paid any author as an advance, let alone an advance for a first
novel. It was unprecedented. She says, "Do you love it a Hundred and
five thousand dollars?" And I said "Yes, yes!" She said, "Well go ahead
and make that offer" and that was it!

NAR: The deal with Scholastic meant that at last J.K. Rowling could
fulfill her lifelong ambition to become a fulltime writer.

JKR: As soon as I knew that people wrote books -- they didn't just
arrive -- I don't know... out of nowhere -- like plants -- I knew that's
what I wanted to do. I can't ever remember not wanting to be a writer.
It's a bit mysterious to me as well, but.... And yet, it isn't mysterious to
me. You see, I can't honestly understand why you don't want to be a
writer. I can't understand why the whole world doesn't want to be a
writer. What's better than it?

Unless you can really really really remember what it felt like to be a
child, you've really got no business writing for children. Even if people
hate the books, and I qualify on no other account, then I definitely
qualify on that one, because I remember so vividly what it felt like to be
that age.

NAR: J.K. Rowling's memories of her childhood have had a big

influence her writing. She was born in 1965 in Chipping Sodbury and
grew up near Bristol with her parents Anne and Peter and her younger
sister Di. She admits to being bookish and bossy as a child, not unlike
one of Harry's best friends....

[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Ron trying to do levitation spell]

JKR: When I started to write Hermione -- when I actually got hold of a

pen -- she came incredibly easily, largely because she's me.
[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Hermione doing levitation spell]

JKR: I was swotty and I had that you know sense of insecurity
underneath, trying to compensate for that by getting everything right all
the time, and like Hermione I projected a false confidence, which I
know was very irritating to people at times, but underneath it all I felt
completely and utterly inadequate, which is why I completely
understand Hermione.

NAR: Even as a very young child J.K. Rowling loved to write,

completing her first book at the age of six.

JKR: The first finished book I did was a book called Rabbit about a
rabbit called 'Rabbit,' thereby revealing the imaginative approach to
names that has stood me in such good stead ever since. And I wrote
the rabbit stories for ages to the point where a series -- a series of
books about Rabbit which were very dull -- illustrated by the author.

The one book I could say that specifically influenced my work was "The
Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge. She always listed the exact
food they were eating. Wherever you were in the book, whenever they
had a meal, you knew exactly what was in the sandwiches, and I just
remember finding that so satisfying as a child.

SF: [Excerpt from PoA: Description of candy in Hogsmeade, visualized

by closeups of various candy]

JKR: As I moved into my teens I was into very dramatic gritty realism
entirely influenced by Barry Hines and Kes. Unfortunately I didn't live in
a Northern town. My urban landscape wasn't very developed, because
I lived in Chepstow in the middle of a lot of fields and it's quite hard to
be a disaffected urban youth in the middle of a muddy field.

JKR [at her childhood home]: So this is our cottage, obviously, where I
lived from the age of 9. My bedroom's furthest on the right, and I spent
an awful lot of time in that bedroom writing. I have very happy
memories of this place, it's quite emotional being back here, actually,
because I've only once been ... because my dad left this house shortly
after my mother died. So I've only once been back here since my mum
died. I remember hanging out of my bedroom window smoking behind
the curtains late at night. My father will not be happy to hear that. I
wasn't very clever about that, either, because, you know, I used to
leave the cigarette the cigarette ends were, you know, below the
window, I mean, "Oh yeah someone from the pub, dad, has been
throwing them into the garden again."
You've got our house, the church and the school, in a little row.
Tutshill is not a very big place at all -- it's tiny. So it was a very
short walk, obviously, from home to school every morning. I was
still late, to my mother's eternal despair. I'm late for absolutely

TEACHER: Put your hand up if you've read one of the Harry Potter
books. [gasps] All those people! Now, this morning, we have a
very special guest in school with us today. Her name is J.K.
Rowling, and she's here to talk to us.

JKR [enters classroom, saying hello to children sitting on the

floor as she passes them]: I don't want to step on you. Stay
exactly where you are. [stepping over the boy] nnggg... Hello!

CLASS: Hello!

JKR: How are you?

CLASS: Fine!

JKR: This is absolutely amazing for me to be back here, because,

you know, this is where I went to school. It's been really really
wonderful to come back.

JKR [voice-over]: Nothing is more fun to me than meeting the

children who read the books, What could possibly make me
happier than to think that children started reading for the first
time with Harry Potter? Some children, obviously there are still
huge bookworms out there, for whom Harry is another book. But I
have met a lot of children, actually, who said that Harry
introduced them, really, to the pleasures of reading.

CHILD: What advice could you give us young authors?

JKR: Would you like to be an author? [Girl shrugs] Maybe. Read

as much as you can. I'd say, read anything. The more you read the
better, because it'll teach you what you like and what you think
makes good writing, and it will increase your vocabulary. And
then you'll just have to keep on and on writing, and you'll find that
you hate most of what you write at first. But sooner or later you'll
write something you quite like. And lots of trees will have to die.
Because you'll be crumbling everything up.

CHILD: And... What Hogwarts house would you like to be in?

JKR: I'd definitely want to be in Gryffindor. That's why I put Harry
there. Definitely.

CHILD: What were your memories of being at Tutshill School?

JKR: I really liked it here, but my first teacher really really

frightened me. Her name was Mrs. Morgan. And she used to sit us
all in class according to how clever she thought we were. And my
first day at school, she had a 2-minute chat with me, and she put
me in the "stupid row". Which is about the nastiest thing I can
think of a teacher doing. She was not my favorite teacher, Mrs.
Morgan. And then I went on to Wydean -- down the road. Where
half of you've got brothers and sisters, haven't you?

It was at Wydean that I met Sean, which has been a very important
friendship in my life. Huge friendship in my life. I always felt a bit of an
outsider and that might perhaps explain why Sean and I were so close,
because he came in late and like me he didn't have the local accent,
and so I think to an extent we both felt like outsiders in the place, and
that probably formed quite a big bond between us.

JKR [standing with Sean, a bridge in the background (Angharad

suspects this is the Severn Bridge)]: So this is Sean to whom the
second Harry Potter book is dedicated. And Ron owes a fair bit to

[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Ron goes "Woah!" at Harry's invisibility


JKR: I never set out to describe Sean in Ron, but Ron has a Sean-ish
turn of phrase.

[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Harry and Ron late for transfiguration]

SEAN HARRIS [SH], friend : I suppose the similarities are that

he's not ... he's never quite first-eleven but he's on the verges of
being first-eleven. And I think...

JKR: Well, if I may joke -- sorry.

SH: I was gonna say, academically, for example, in school, it was

quite clear that Jo was ... I'm not being ... embarrassment aside ...
was first-eleven. And I was very definitely hanging on the coattails
there. Borrowing essays, occationally, and uh ...
SH: I think with the ... the Ron character, I think what comes through to
me anyway, maybe I've misinterpreted it, is that he's he's always there
or thereabouts well-intentioned.

JKR: He's always there when you need him, that's Ron Weasley!...
Sean was the first of my friends to pass his driving test and he had this
old Ford Anglia -- claptop Ford Anglia turquoise, some white, which is
now quite famous as the car that the Weasleys drive -- I was obviously
going to give the Weasleys Sean's old car. And that car was freedom to
us. My heart still lifts when I see an old Ford Anglia, which is a bit sad...

SF: [Excerpt from CoS: Flying in the Ford Anglia, visualized by a Ford
Anglia driving on a road, and images of trees flying past]

JKR: He was the coolest man in school, he had a turquoise [they're

laughing] Ford Anglia, and you were pretty cutting edge, I think.

SH: I was in those days yeah.

JKR: Yeah.

SH: It's all gone horribly wrong since, but --

JKR: Spandau Ballet haircut. Sorry.

SH: And -- of an evening she'd phone up and say Come pick me up,
and I'd drive down there, and we'd head off somewhere else in the car,
so the car became --

JKR: -- and sit under the Severn Bridge.

SH: Sit under Severn Bridge, or or elsewhere.

JKR: And discuss Life! And drink.

SH: Absolutely.

JKR: It's a very sad life, isn't it? This, this is what we thought was
exciting when we were seventeen. We used to sit down here in a Ford
Anglia. Yeah, those urban kids, they don't know what they miss!

NAR: J.K. Rowling escaped to University in Exeter, earning a degree in

French and Classics before moving to London. Then a bombshell hit.
Her mother, Anne, had been battling with Multiple Sclerosis for a
decade, when the disease took her life.
JKR: Mum dying was like this depth-charge in my life. The pain of her
-- of her going, and just missing such a huge part of her life -- she was
forty-five when she died, which is far too young to die, far too young to
leave your family, never knew what we all ended up doing and so on.
For mom there would have been a particular glory in being a writer,
because she was the real booklover. And so it does add a little bit of
poison to the knife, if you like, that the one thing that I think she really
would have prized, she never knew.

Perhaps two or three days after I had the idea for Harry, I disposed of
his parents in a in quite a brutal way, not a cr -- not cru -- it didn't read
in a cruel way, but I mean it was very cut and dry, nothing lingering, no
debate about how it had happened or -- and at that stage no real
discussion of how painful that was going to be. Well of course, mum
died six months after I'd written my first attempt at an opening chapter.
And that made an enormous difference because I was living it, I was
living what I had just -- what I had just written.

The Mirror of Erised is absolutely entirely drawn from my own

experience of losing a parent. "Five more minutes, just, please, God,
give me five more minutes". It'll never be enough.

[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Harry at Mirror of Erised]

After five minutes of telling her all about Jessie and, you know, she has
a grandchild who obviously she never saw and then I'd be trying to tell
her about the books and then I'd realize that I hadn't asked her "What's
it like to be dead?" Fairly significant question. But I can well imagine
that happening. But it would never be long enough, that was the point
of chapter ten, you know. It's tougher on the living, and you've just got
to get past it.

[Excerpt from PS/SS film: Confrontation with Quirrel/Voldemort]

Death is an extremely important theme throughout all seven books. I

would say possibly the most important theme. If you are writing about
Evil, which I am, and if you are writing about someone who is
essentially a psychopath, you have a duty to show the real evil of
taking human life.

JKR in Nicholson's Caf: More people are going to die. And ... they ...
well, there's at least one death that I'm ... that ... that is going to be
horri ... horrible to write. To rewrite, actually, because it's already
written. But -- It has to be!
NAR: Some parents have questioned whether children can cope with
the darker side of the books.

JKR: It's very interesting how parents think that they have the right to
dictate to you because you're writing reading material for their children.
I got a horrible letter on book two, very very stuffy letter, from a mother
saying, "This was a very disturbing ending, and I'm sure a writer of
your ability will be able to think of a better way to end the next book,"
so basically, "Liked it two thirds of the way through, but if you could
really address this issue in future, and I'll be back in touch if I find you
unacceptable". And it was at that point where I snapped and I wrote
back and said, "Don't read the rest of the books. Yours sincerely, Jo
Rowling." There's no point, I mean, there's no point, I'm not taking
dictation here.

Do I care about my readers? Profoundly, and deeply, but... Do I

ultimately think that they should dictate a single word of what I write?
No. No, I'm the only one who should be in control of that. And I'm not
writing to make anyone's children feel safe.

SF: She's a tough writer. She won't compromise on what she sees
as being right, just in order to worry about what might frighten
children. I think it's a function of literature to give children
nightmares, just as it's a function of, you know, the biological
world to give them measles. Because if they don't get their
nightmares when they're 12, [if] they don't wrestle with the dread
of the unknown, then, when it comes later in life, that's ... that's
when you're really in for trouble, just as mumps at 30 is a much
bigger deal than mumps at 8. So, you're kind of doing the children
a favor!

Child 1 [discussing with other children]: Once, I was in bed

reading -- and it's quite scary, when, Voldemort's, like, appearing,
and I was like all hunched up in bed. I'm like [makes tiny voice]
"What's gonna happen? What's gonna happen?" And I'm really --
quite scared.
Child 2: It's like, when it gets really tense, and you're reading in
bed, and then your dad comes in and goes "Oh you're gonna
have to stop reading that. Bedtime." And you've got on to this
really exciting bit, and you're like "Oooooh! I must read the next
Child 3: It's cool that adults actually read it as well, and not just
Child 4: I wonder what they think of it.
Child 4: They're really into Harry Potter.
Child 5: 'Cause it's for all age groups. Everyone likes it.

PP: One mistake that adults used to make about children's books,
is to think that children's books deal with trivial things. Little
things that please little minds, and little concerns about little
people. And, so, nothing could be further from the truth. Quite the
contrary, it's been my observation that a lot of highly praised
adult books, or highly successful adult books, in recent years
have dealt with the trivial things. Such as "Does my bun look big
in this?" or "Will my favorite football team win the cup?" and "Oh
dear, my girlfriend's left me, whatever am I going to do?".
Whereas the children's books have dealt with ultimate questions:
"Where do we come from?," "What's the nature of being a human
being?," "What must I do to be good?" These are profound
questions, very deeply important questions. And they're being
dealt with. Largely, not in the books that adults read, but in the
books that children read.

NAR: The launch of Book Three, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of
Azkaban" in 1999 marked J.K. Rowling's transformation from popular
author to international superstar. For the first time ever, three books by
the same author topped the New York Times' Bestseller List, and her
book-signings began to resemble rock concerts.

JKR: I have no idea how many books I have signed, but it's got to
be in the tens of thousands now. So, if anyone wants to own the
very last unsigned Harry Potter in existence, I sometimes feel like
I should be "Don't get it signed! It'll be valuable someday. I never
touched it!"

The fun when all the international editions started coming in, was
to see how differently they interpreted Harry. This is a funny one,
because this is my Italian publisher. And in the very early
"Philosopher's Stone"s that they did, they'd taken Harry's glasses
off [on the cover], which really annoyed me. It was as though, in
Italy, you couldn't be a hero and wear glasses, but they've put
them back on now. Slightly bizarre, the rat head [shows Italian
cover, with Harry wearing a hat that looks like the head of a rat,
nose pointing upwards] ... don't quite understand why he's
wearing a rat hat, but that's ... fine.

[Excerpts from PS/SS being read by children in various

languages: British, English, Swedish, Hebrew, Spanish, French,
German, Turkish, Italian, Japanese, Greek, American, English]
NAR: By the time book four was published in Summer 2000, J.K.
Rowling had bewitched readers the world over. "Harry Potter and the
Goblet of Fire" was launched at the stroke of midnight on July 8th, and
Pottermania took hold as thousands of fans queued for hours for a

[Boy is reading the back of GoF] A LADY: Don't read the ending before
the beginning -- don't do that!

GIRL: Oh God this is definitely not the way it's supposed to start! [she
objects to GoF, apparently]

NAR: In Toronto an audience of twelve thousand gathered for the

biggest book reading ever. J.K. Rowling was terrified.

JKR: I've never been good at speaking in public. In fact it's a borderline
phobic. And I thought, "What have I done?"


gentlemen, boys and girls, J.K. Rowling! [he cedes the podium to her.
Out she steps.]

JKR: And I felt so pathetically, woefully inadequate for the task ahead.
Just me with my book, shaking. And I had two ear-plugs. So I could
only very distantly hear the noise of the crowd.

JKR [speaking at podium]: Morning! [thunderous applause] I am

delighted and terrified to be here, to be honest with you.

JKR [voice-over]: So I did my reading and once I was up there I was

actually okay

JKR [podium]: "... but Dudley kept running his hand nervously over his
backside, and walking..."

JKR: ... And then I finished and I said, "Thank you very much," that's --
whatever I said, and I just wanted to hear what it actually sounded like
so I took out one of the plugs and it was as though my eardrum
exploded. [Very loud applause] I actually heard the noise that everyone
else could hear in the stadium. It was unbelievable.

JKR [podium]: Thank you, thank you! [waves, exits]

JKR: If you could take me back and you were able to tell me exactly
what has happened, first off I wouldn't believe you -- at all. Then if you
managed to convince me of the truth, then I don't know what I would've
done, because I would've thought "Well, I won't be able to handle that.
I won't be able to cope with that". So I don't know what I would've
done. And there'll be people watching this who will never believe that,
because of the money, but the reality of it has been a strange and
terrible thing at times.

NAR: With fame and success came the relentless attention of the
world's media. Harry has to deal with the same problem in book
four, when he meets a ruthless journalist called Rita Skeeter.

SF: [excerpt of GoF: Rita Skeeter prepares to interview Harry,

visualized with an actress playing Skeeter -- quite scary]

JKR: Originally Rita Skeeter turned up in book one. Harry enters

the Leaky Cauldron, which is the place where he gets his very
first taste of how famous he is. For the first time it hits him. And
there's a very early draft of that chapter, in which Rita made a
beeline for him. But this gutter journalist fits better in book four,
which is when the pain of fame starts to drag at Harry. Little did I
know, that when I came to write book four, there was a very good
chance that people were gonna think "Aha! We know why you put
Rita in there, 'cause you've met this kind of person now," but I
mean, how ironic is it that I spent five years imagining myself into the
mind of a boy who became suddenly famous? I mean, I spent five
years doing that -- imagining what it would be like to live in total
obscurity and suddenly be famous.

[We see flashes of headlines... She's "Rowling" in it etc.]

JKR: It's never pleasant when they go digging in areas that have
absolutely no relevance to your work. I mean there's a lot of my life that
has absolutely nothing to do with Harry Potter. Journalists who shall
remain nameless, but I can't really think why, 'cause I think these
people should pay for their crimes -- went after my father, and pursued
a very horrible line of questioning with him along the lines of "Why
does your daughter hate you?," which was a bit of a shock for my dad,
as I'd just got off the phone with him. Fairly upsetting. And they came
and "doorstepped" me: They came to my front door and started
banging on the front door. And I ... that really wrongfooted me
completely, because in my total naivety I thought "Oh, if I just stay at
home and work," you know... So ... and it ... I think then I realized this
isn't going to go away.

NAR: And in some places the books have sparked controversy. J.K.
Rowling has become the center of a witch hunt, with some Christian
groups claiming the books promote the occult. In the American state of
South Carolina, parents even tried to ban Harry from the classroom.
[Cut to School Board hearing in South Carolina]

CAROLINIAN #1: The books, we believe, promote the religion of

witchcraft, Wicca.

CAROLINIAN #2: I'm deeply concerned. I've spent a lot of time in

prayer crying because I've seen the affects of putting negative
thoughts into the minds of our children.

JKR [does a look]: The pause is due to all of the very rude things I'd
like to say to these people bubbling up -- and now I'll say the polite
version, and the polite version is: That's not true. Not once has a child
come up to me and said, "Due to you I've decided to devote my life to
the occult." People underestimate children so hugely. They know it's
fiction. When people are arguing from that kind of standpoint, I don't
think reason works tremendously well. But I would be surprised if some
of them had read the books at all.

NAR: So far nothing can cloud J.K. Rowling's success. And the long-
awaited Harry Potter movie achieved the biggest opening weekend in
film history.

JKR: The closer the viewing came, the more frightened I became, to
the point where where I actually sat down to watch the film I was
terrified, because I just thought, "Oh, please don't do anything that's
not in the book, please don't take horrible liberties with the plot." I liked
it, which was a relief, if you can imagine. Yeah, I'm -- I'm happy.

NAR: And Harry's journey is far from over. Fans are desperate to get
their hands on the fifth book -- "Harry Potter and the Order of the

JKR [in Nicholson's caf]: I am loving writing Book Five. Harry gets to
go to places in the magical world we haven't yet visited. More boy-girl
stuff, inevitably. They're fifteen now; hormones working overtime. And
Harry has to ask some questions that I hope the reader will think,
"Well, why hasn't he asked that before?" Harry finds out a lot more,
a lot more, in this book about his past.

NAR: But the mystery won't finally unfold until book seven. J.K.
Rowling has already written the ending.
JKR [laying in her pile of notes]: This is the thing that I was very
dubious about showing you, and I don't really know why because what
does this give away? [It's a big folder] But this is the Final Chapter of
book seven. Um ... [laughs] which I'm still dubious about showing you, I
don't know what I feel like, the camera's gonna be able to see through
the folder. So this is it, and I'm not opening it for obvious reasons. This
is really where I wrap everything up, it's the Epilogue, and I basically
say what happens to everyone after they leave school -- those who
survive, because there are deaths, more deaths, coming. It was a way
of saying to myself, Well, "you will get here, you will get to book seven,
one day. And ... then you'll need this!" So I'd just like to remind all the
children I know who come round my house and start sneaking into
cupboards that it's not there, anymore. I don't keep it at home any
more for very very very obvious reasons. So there it is.